Another day, another excessively long list from a media publication boasting about their deep knowledge of a genre to create conversation and profit. Yes, Rolling Stone released their 200 Greatest Rap Albums of All Time list yesterday (6/7) and just as planned, everyone lost their minds. The comment sections are a blaze with “Where is this album?” “Why isn’t this ranked higher”, is typical banter that comes from a list like this. It’s fun to debate and discuss but what is the overall point of these articles? And why choose a number like 200? Let’s talk about it.
Let’s start off with the number 200. A list of 200 anything is excessive but in terms of ranking albums, it’s a safety net. They picked hundreds of albums to avoid any controversies of missing classics. With such a long list they can also include artists like Lil Uzi Vert and the City Girls, two amazing examples of modern day Rap but if they weren’t ranked in the 140s the “90s were the golden age of rap” purists would dismiss the list before getting to the double digits. This also allows them to cover underground classic acts like KMD and Handsome Boy Modeling Schools, two acts that arguably wouldn’t be mentioned by a publication like Rolling Stone unless in this context.
Rolling Stone’s top five rap albums of all time is very good though. They chose albums that not only changed Rap but changed music as a whole, albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly (listed at number 5) and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint (number 3) are albums that not only impacted Rap at the time of their release but continue to influence music across genres to this day. Number 4 was Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back landed respectfully at number 4 while one of Outkast’s most underrated albums, 2000’s Stankonia was listed as the second-best Rap album ever. Number 1 was given to an album that changed everything, Ready To Die by The Notorious B.I.G., an album so dense with charisma and talent putting it anywhere else on this list would be criminal.
With all that being said, a list like this is more positive than negative. While the list is ultimately to garner clicks and revenue for Rolling Stone, artists like The Jacka and Lyrics Born appearing on this list put them at the forefront of a genre that they have dedicated their lives to. A list like this creates a widespread conversation about a misunderstood genre that has taken over pop culture and achieved more than any of the genre’s founders could have expected. Whether your favorite album made the final cut or not, fans of the genre should rejoice those unsung heroes of the genre are getting the spotlight they deserve. Bandana by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib is ranked too low though.