10 classic 90s hip-hop albums by so-called ’80s rappers’


No. 1 Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J (1990)

“Don’t call it a comeback.” But that’s exactly what it was. Though James Todd Smith hadn’t ever really gone anywhere, he certainly wasn’t the most fashionable rapper at the dawn of the 1990s. With quirky alt-rappers, raging political rappers and harder-than-thou gangsta rappers dominating the landscape, his previous effort, the radio-friendly and somewhat cheesy Walking With A Panther had been derided in hip-hop circles. His answer was this:  a 14-song set (mostly produced by the legendary Marley Marl) that featured Uncle L doing everything in his repertoire. Topical songs about police harassment and spiritual faith are mixed with aggressive battle raps and loverman balladry. His 1985 debut may be more important, but this album is his broadest and most accomplished.

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