Complex ranked the 90 best Rap albums of the 1990s in a recent list. The publication ranks Nas’ Illmatic the greatest of the decade.
“Lists such as the one you’re reading inevitably lead to disagreements, if not full-on arguments,” Complex says when discussing Nas’ Illmatic placement. “Fair-minded fans can disagree about whether the ’90s was indeed rap’s greatest decade. As Jigga once put it, folks will ‘argue all day about who’s the best MC, Biggie, Jay Z, or Nas.’ One thing they don’t argue much about: who made the best album. Because it would be extremely difficult to make the case that Nas’s Illmatic isn’t the greatest rap album of the decade, if not all time.”
Nas’ Illmatic saw a boost in sales this week. The Queensbridge, New York emcee’s debut album, released April 19, 1994, sold 14,987 copies this week. It experienced an 844 percent increase in sales from the previous week. Overall, the project has sold 1,686,232 copies in its 20 years.
Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which was released in 1992, A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 album, The Low End Theory, Raekwon’s 1995 effort, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 release, Ready to Die, make up the list’s remaining efforts in the Top 5, mentioned here in order from the list’s highest to lowest.
“Nas and Big remain two of the greatest MCs in history, and their debuts stand as pillars of New York Hip Hop,” Complex says when discussing Ready to Die. “Where Nas followed his debut with a 20-year career and a rich and varied body of work, Biggie’s debut album ended with a song depicting his own suicide. The fact that he did not live to see the release of his masterpiece, Life After Death, says more about Hip Hop in the 1990s than 10,000 thinkpieces, and underscores the realness that oozes from every pore of this remarkable album.”
The full list, which features Mos Def’s 1999 album, Black On Both Sides, at #90, is available via Complex.