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What Does Rolling Stone Know About Hip-Hop?

I don’t know what’s worse – the rankings or the omissions

“Fuck The Source, I’m on the cover of Rolling Stone!”

– 50 Cent

Lists and rankings are easy ways to create attention and chatter, especially in the internet era.

We all know this. There are countless terrible rap lists floating around online and I’ve been as guilty as anyone (my first book, The Hip-Hop 10 is always available for purchase!), but there are levels to this.

Sites like Ranker create their lists based on fan votes and other sites do it for clicks. In theory, esteemed publications should be above those tactics, but, of course, nothing should surprise us any longer.

In early June, 2022, Rolling Stone dropped its 200 Greatest Hip Hop Albums of All Time like an atom bomb. It immediately caused a wave of controversy in the hip-hop community, with baffling rankings, weird writeups, and glaring omissions.

The difference between this list and virtually every other rap ranking is that this was not coming from a random website or blog. This is Rolling Stone, once the most venerated music publication in America that is far from its height but still carries a certain amount of cultural currency and impact.

Rolling Stone has done some incredible work over the past half-century and they have boasted some all-time great writers, but this list is a travesty and it’s why, along with what often happens at the Grammys, true hip-hop heads feel like those institutions just don’t understand.

So, what was so bad? Let’s take a look. I’m far from the first person to take a flamethrower to this list, but I wanted to walk through the ashes a bit. If you’re reading this and your birth year begins with a 2, I’m letting you know now that this is screed is being written by an old man yelling at the rap clouds so feel free to move on.

I don’t know what is worse, the rankings or the omissions, so let’s take them separately, beginning with the rankings, which include mixtapes and soundtracks along with traditional album LPs.

  • The Great Adventures of Slick Rick should be far higher than 82
  • No Migos album (Culture at 54) is better than Midnight Marauders (55), AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanter (58), The Diary (61), and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (64)
  • There have not been 39 hip-hop albums better than The Chronic (40)
  • Mach-Hommy’s Pray for Haiti (168) is not the best Griselda album [Westside Gunn’s FLYGOD (176) is the only other GxFR release on the list]
  • In no universe is City Girls’ PERIOD (138) and Doja Cat’s Planet Her (136) better than MC Lyte’s Lyte as a Rock (185), Camp Lo’s Uptown Saturday Night (183), E-40’s In a Major Way (178), Gravediggaz‘s 6 Feet Deep (177), Common’s Be (144), Black Moon’s Enta da Stage (141), and It Was Written (140)
  • Dr. Dre’s 2001 (13) is not better than The Chronic (40), as I outlined a few years ago
  • Clipse’s Lord Willin’ is not the 12th best hip-hop album ever
  • By no measure – rhymes, musicality, concept – is Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap (36) better than Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (37)
  • Drake’s Take Care is not the 11th best hip-hop album ever
  • There certainly have not been 23 hip-hop albums better than Illmatic (24)
  • Lil Kim’s Hard Core is not a top twenty album ever (19)
  • Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy (16) was surprisingly good, but it is not close to being better than all but 15 hip-hop albums ever created
  • The Blueprint (3) is a classic, but it’s not better than It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (4)
  • I don’t even think Azealia Banks’s parents would agree that Broke With Expensive Taste (78) is better than Eric B. & Rakim’s Follow the Leader (79) or Ice Cube’s Death Certificate (93)
  • From any perspective, Eazy’-E’s Eazy-Duz-It (153) should be higher than Rae Sremmurd’s SremmLife (152)
  • Ready to Die is crowned as the best album ever, but it was not even the best album released in 1994

I could go on and on…

If an argument is to made that this list is purposefully trolling, there is no better evidence than the fact that several times an artist or group’s best work is not the one that is rated highest

  • Lord Willin’ by Clipse is 12th but that album is not as good as the one that followed it, Hell Hath no Fury (97)
  • The Divine Feminine (173) is the only album by Mac Miller on the list but it’s not his best project…it may not even be in his top three
  • Outkast’s Stankonia landed at number two but it is not even better than the group’s own Aquemini (27)

Let’s move to the omissions, of which there are many.

AZ’s debut, Doe or Die, did not reach the heights of Illmatic, but is still a mid-’90s NYC classic.

Tyler, the Creator has two entries on the list, but Flower Boy is better than Bastard (118).

The era of the hip-hop soundtrack has come and gone, but during that time, there were some absolute classics. 8 Mile absolutely deserves to be included in any best rap albums list and arguments could be made for the soundtracks to the films for Juice, Menace II Society, Street Fighter, Sunset Park, and more.

In 2019, Rapsody released Eve, a focused and emotional love letter to strong women that will be studied in the years and decades to come.

Before a car accident took his incredible vocal abilities, The D.O.C.’s debut, No One Can Do It Better, combined the sound and vibe of N.W.A via some of Dr. Dre’s strongest production with top-tier lyricism that made an impact coast to coast for its skill rather than controversy.

1996 is in the conversation as the greatest year in hip-hop history, in which a flood of classics were unleashed, some of which were neglected by Rolling Stone. Mobb Deep’s Hell on Earth, 2Pac’s vitriolic release (under the alias Makaveli), The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, and Outkast’s ATLiens all deserved to be included.

Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves is one of the most inventive and original projects rap has ever seen.

Common’s Resurrection and The Game’s The Documentary are classics that were somehow overlooked.

Finally, Wu-Tang Forever may not have met its galactic expectations, but it’s still an incredible project and there is no doubt that it is one of the 200 greatest hip-hop albums in history.

If Rolling Stone‘s mission was to create a trending topic and get people angry, then mission accomplished. If the mission was to create an accurate and insightful listing of the most important projects in the history of hip-hop, then the mission failed spectacularly.


If you would like to ruin your day, I have taken the time to put together the entire list below:

Rolling Stone‘s 200 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All Time

200. Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD
199. Juice WRLD – Goodbye & Good Riddance
198. KMD – Mr. Hood
197. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana
196. The Jacka – Tear Gas
195. cupcakKe – Ephorize
194. K’Naan – The Dusty Foot Philosopher
193. A$AP Rocky – Live. Love. A$AP
192. Pop Smoke – Meet The Woo
191. Lyrics Born – Later That Day
190. Drakeo The Ruler – Cold Devil
189. Nipsey Hussle – Crenshaw
188. Various Artists – Wild Style Soundtrack
187. Capone-N-Noreaga – The War Report
186. Too $hort – Life is…Too Short
185. MC Lyte – Lyte as a Rock
184. Saba – CARE FOR ME
183. Camp Lo – Uptown Saturday Night
182. Gucci Mane – Chicken Talk
181. Various Artists – Rawkus Presents Soundbombing II
180. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
179. Freestyle Fellowship – To Whom It May Concern…
178. E-40- In a Major Way
177. Gravediggaz – 6 Feet Deep
176. Westside Gunn – FLYGOD
175. Roxanne Shanté – Bad Sister
174. Cam’ron – Purple Haze
173. Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine
172. Flo Milli – Ho, Why Is You Here?
171. Marley Marl – In Control, Volume 1
170. Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
169. Goodie Mob – Soul Food
168. Mach-Hommy – Pray For Haiti
167. Above The Law – Black Mafia Life
166. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
165. Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein
164. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
163. UGK – Super Tight
162. Tierra Whack – Whack World
161. Polo G – Die a Legend
160. Big L – Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
159. Handsome Boy Modeling School – So…How’s Your Girl?
158. Devin The Dude – Just Tryin’ ta Live
157. Danny Brown – XXX
156. DJ Quik – Quik Is the Name
155. Jeru The Damaja – The Sun Rises in the East
154. Steinski – What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective
153. Eazy-E – Eazy-Duz-It
152. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife
151. Lil Nas X – MONTERO
150. The Roots – How I Got Over
149. DJ Screw – 3 ‘n the Mornin’: Part Two [Blue]
148. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
147. LL Cool J – Radio
146. Black Sheep – A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
145. Common – Be
144. Roc Marciano – Reloaded
143. Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
142. Little Brother – The Listening
141. Black Moon – Enta da Stage
140. Nas – It Was Written
139. The Streets – Original Pirate Material
138. City Girls – PERIOD
137. Slum Village – Fantastic, Vol. 2
136. Doja Cat – Planet Her
135. Rick Ross – Teflon Don
134. 2Pac – Me Against the World
133. Killer Mike – R.A.P.
132. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
131. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
130. Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Mecca and the Soul Brother
129. Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red
128. Big Pun – Capital Punishment
127. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony- E. 1999 Eternal
126. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin – Savage Mode
125. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
124. OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
123. Souls of Mischief – 93 ’til Infinity
122. N.E.R.D – In Search of…
121. A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm
120. Young Thug – Barter 6
119. The Coup – Party
118. Tyler, the Creator – Bastard
117. Missy Elliott – Under Construction
116. Jungle Brothers – Straight out the Jungle
115. Afrika Bambaataa – Looking for the Perfect Beat: 1980–1985
114. Digital Underground – Sex Packets
113. Jay-Z- The Black Album
112. Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom
111. Boogie Down Productions – By All Means Necessary
110. Biz Markie – Goin’ Off
109. Main Source – Breaking Atoms
108. Pusha T – Daytona
107. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Wanted: Dead or Alive
106. Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
105. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
104. Eve – Scorpion
103. Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
102. Rich Gang – Tha Tour Part 1
101. Young Jeezy – Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101
100. Run-D.M.C.-Raising Hell
99. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter II
98. Company Flow – Funcrusher Plus
97. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
96. Ice-T – Power
95. T.I. – Trap Muzik
94. De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
93. Ice Cube – Death Certificate
92. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…
91. Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
90. Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon: The End Of Day
89. Brand Nubian – One for All
88. Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
87. Ultramagnetic MCs – Critical Beatdown
86. Common – Like Water for Chocolate
85. Eminem – The Slim Shady LP
84. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
83. M.I.A. – Kala
82. Slick Rick – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
81. Digable Planets – Blowout Comb
80. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
79. Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader
78. Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste
77. Kanye West & Jay-Z- Watch the Throne
76. Gang Starr – Hard to Earn
75. Megan Thee Stallion – Fever
74. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet
73. The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
72. Dr. Octagon – Dr. Octagonecologyst
71. Queen Latifah – All Hail the Queen
70. Fugees – The Score
69. Ghostface Killah – Ironman
68. Juvenile – 400 Degreez
67. Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped
66. Three 6 Mafia – Mystic Stylez
65. De La Soul – Buhloone Mindstate
64. 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’
63. Black Star – Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
62. MF DOOM – Operation: Doomsday
61. Scarface – The Diary
60. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
59. The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
58. Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
57. Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill
56. Noname – Room 25
55. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
54. Migos – Culture
53. Salt-n-Pepa- Hot, Cool & Vicious
52. Kanye West – The College Dropout
51. The Roots – Things Fall Apart
50. EPMD – Strictly Business
49. N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton
48. J Dilla – Donuts
47. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott – Supa Dupa Fly
46. Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost
45. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
44. Genius/GZA – Liquid Swords
43. Run-D.M.C.- Run-D.M.C.
42. Big Daddy Kane – Long Live the Kane
41. Kanye West – Late Registration
40. Dr. Dre – The Chronic
39. Lil Wayne – The Carter III
38. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
37. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
36. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
35. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle
34. Various Artists – The Sugar Hill Records Story
33. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
32. Chief Keef – Finally Rich
31. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
30. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
29. 2Pac – All Eyez on Me
28. Mobb Deep – The Infamous
27. Outkast – Aquemini
26. Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt
25. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
24. Nas – Illmatic
23. UGK – Ridin‘ Dirty
22. DMX – It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot
21. Lil Wayne – Da Drought 3
20. Future – DS2
19. Lil Kim – Hard Core
18. Madvillain – Madvillainy
17. Kanye West – Yeezus
16. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
15. Eric B. and Rakim – Paid in Full
14. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele
13. Dr. Dre – 2001
12. Clipse – Lord Willin
11. Drake – Take Care
10. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
9. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
8. Wu-Tang Clan- Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
7. Missy Elliott – Miss E… So Addictive
6. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
4. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
3. Jay-Z- The Blueprint
2. Outkast – Stankonia
1. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die

Do better next time, Rolling Stone.


Christopher Pierznik is a longtime hip-hop scholar and the worst-selling author of nine books. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Please feel free to get in touch at CPierznik99@gmail.com.

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By Christopher Pierznik

Christopher Pierznik is the author of 9 books and has contributed to numerous websites on a variety of topics including music, sports, movies, TV, personal finance, and life. He works in corporate finance and lives in northern New Jersey with his family. His dream is to one day be a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

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