Since its beginnings in the 1970s, hip-hop has evolved, becoming a global cultural phenomenon affecting music, fashion, and popular culture.
Numerous ground-breaking hip-hop albums have received critical praise and financial success over the years, leaving a lasting impression on the music business.
This article examines the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time that have sold the most copies worldwide.
1. The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem (2000)
In 2000, The Marshall Mathers LP was released.
It solidified Eminem’s position as one of his generation’s most accomplished and forward-thinking rappers thanks to its bold lyrics and divisive subjects.
Hit singles, including “The Real Slim Shady” and “Stan,” as well as collaborations with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Dido, are all included on the album.
The album was a critical and commercial success thanks to its unadulterated, uncensored lyrics and aggressive delivery.
It sold over 21 million copies worldwide and won multiple awards, including the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
See also: Best White Rappers
2. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by OutKast
The album is split into two parts: ‘Speakerboxxx,’ which features Big Boi’s intense Southern-style rap, and ‘The Love Below,’ which showcases Andre 3000’s experimental and cross-genre musical approach.
The album was also a critical commercial success, earning three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
With an innovative sound, catchy hooks, and thought-provoking lyrics, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below continues to be a hugely influential album in hip-hop and beyond.
3. Greatest Hits by Tupac Shakur
This album includes timeless favorites like “Changes,” “Dear Mama,” and “California Love,” among others.
The album is a must-have for any fan of hip-hop music because Tupac’s distinctive blend of poetic lyrics and socially conscious messaging is present throughout.
The Greatest Hits was released in 1998, two years after Tupac’s passing.
The album showcased Tupac’s effect on the hip-hop scene and his enduring legacy long after passing.
4. Life After Death by Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G.’s reputation as one of the greatest rappers of all time was solidified with this timeless hip-hop album.
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding its release, Life After Death had tremendous commercial success, debuting at the top of the Billboard 200 and selling more than 10 million copies globally.
The production of the album is a flawless fusion of funk, soul, and R&B influences with vintage East Coast hip-hop beats and samples.
Biggie frequently uses colorful storytelling and wordplay to address themes of riches, fame, and street life throughout the album’s songs.
Only a few weeks had passed since Biggie’s death when the album was released on March 25, 1997.
5. The Chronic by Dr. Dre
After leaving N.W.A, The Chronic was Dre’s solo debut and it is still regarded as one of the most important and highly regarded rap albums ever.
This is due to the high production value and Dre’s expert sampling techniques.
“The Chronic (Intro),” the album’s well-known opening track, establishes the mood with Dre’s criticism of the state of hip hop and his own troubles in the business.
Fans and critics alike continue to adore this record, and its influence can still be heard in contemporary music.
See also: Best Dr. Dre Songs
6. The Eminem Show by Eminem
The fourth studio album by Eminem, The Eminem Show, was released in 2002.
Over 10 million copies of The Eminem Show were sold in the US alone, and it was honored with multiple accolades, including the Grammy for Best Rap Album.
Artists like D12, Obie Trice, and Nate Dogg all make cameo appearances on the album.
“Without Me,” one of the album’s highlight tracks, was a huge hit and contributed to the album’s popularity.
Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Jeff Bass worked together to produce the album, and the result was a distinctive sound that cemented Eminem’s status as a key figure in hip-hop history.
7. Illmatic by Nas
This album is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
Nas has been recognized as one of his generation’s most important and influential rappers due to Illmatic’s critical and commercial success.
Some of hip-hop’s most famous producers, including DJ Premier, The Large Professor, and Pete Rock, contributed to the album’s production, but this is just as important.
With just 39 minutes of music, ‘Illmatic’ is a short album that still packs much punch.
His unique flow and phrasing shine through on songs like “N.Y. State of Mind” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.”
8. Get Rich or Die Tryin by 50 Cent
This album sold over 8 million copies in the US and it’s filled with great singles.
Some of the most notable singles include “In Da Club” and “P.I.M.P.” which became massive hits and contributed to the renewal of gangsta rap in the public consciousness.
50 Cent weaves in grisly street tales and contemplative ideas that provide listeners with a peek into his life experiences.
Hard-hitting beats and appealing hooks were also mixed into the album’s production to provide a distinctive sound that connected with listeners.
However, the album’s popularity wasn’t without controversy, as some people took issue with 50 Cent’s violent lyrics.
9. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy
The album features political and socially conscious lyrics that explore race, poverty, and oppression against a backdrop of intense and innovative work.
Produced primarily by the group’s production team, The Bomb Squad, the album features a complex sound combining samples, live instruments, and electronic beats.
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was a commercial success as it sold over one million copies in the United States alone and received critical acclaim upon release.
10. Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.
“Straight Outta Compton” was released in 1988 as the lead single from N.W.A.’s debut studio album of the same name.
The song is known for its controversial lyrics and political commentary on police brutality and racial profiling.
Straight Outta Compton was also commercially successful, reaching 38 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and 20 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
11. Licensed to Ill by Beastie Boys
The American hip-hop group Beastie Boys’ first studio album, Licenced to Ill, was released by Def Jam Recordings on November 15, 1986.
It features notable songs like “Fight for Your Right,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” and “Brass Monkey” that contributed to the mainstream success of hip-hop and rap music.
The album is now regarded as a seminal work of hip-hop music, and many other musicians have been influenced by it.
12. Wu-Tang Forever by Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Clan, a pioneering hip-hop group from Staten Island, New York, released their second studio album, Wu-Tang Forever, which has received positive reviews.
On June 3, 1997, Loud/RCA Records released the album, produced by the group’s other member RZA.
The name of the group and its unique sound, which combines street lyricism, spirituality, and martial arts, are reflected in the album’s title.
13. Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg
Doggystyle is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential hip-hop albums of all time due to its groundbreaking sound, style, and lyrics.
Snoop Dogg’s flow and expression on the album are also distinctive, along with his playful humor, and vivid storytelling.
The album’s lyrical content explores issues as diverse as his street life, gang culture, sex, and drugs, as well as moments of introspection and social commentary.
Since then, the album has sold over 11 million copies worldwide, making it one of his best-selling hip-hop albums of all time.
Doggystyle was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 800,000 copies in its first week.
14. All Eyez on Me by Tupac Shakur
All Eyez on Me is the fourth studio album by American rapper Tupac Shakur, released on February 13, 1996, via Death Row Records and Interscope Records.
The album’s title describes the scrutiny and attention Tupac received as one of hip-hop music’s most prominent and controversial figures.
Tupac’s flow and expression on the album are equally distinctive, marked by smooth, rhythmic expressions, vivid imagery, and introspective thinking.
All Eyez on Me was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 566,000 copies in its opening week.
Since then, the album has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of his best-selling hip-hop albums of all time.
15. The Black Album by Jay-Z
The album was produced by many notable producers, including Neptune, Timbaland, and Kanye West.
The album was also touted as Jay-Z’s last album before retiring from music.
The album features numerous guest appearances, including Pharrell Williams and Rick Rubin.
The Black Album was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 463,000 copies in its first week of release.
16. The College Dropout by Kanye West
The College Dropout is the debut studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West.
The album delves into social issues, self-consciousness, and materialism.
Music critics widely praised the album, which has since been considered a seminal release in hip-hop music.
The album’s singles include “Through the Wire,” “All Falls,” and “Jesus Walks,” all of which received significant radio airplay.
The College Dropout was also nominated for 10 Grammy Awards.
17. The Slim Shady LP by Eminem
This album has a darker and more humorous tone than Eminem’s debut album, Infinite.
It features his alter ego, Slim Shady, who is portrayed as a violent drug addict and morally ambiguous character.
The album’s singles included “My Name Is, “Guilty Conscience,” and “Role Model,” all of which received significant radio airplay and music video rotation.
The Slim Shady LP also earned Eminem his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Album
18. 2001 by Dr. Dre
This album is a sequel to Dr. Dre’s debut album, The Chronic.
2001 features collaborations with various artists, including Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Xzibit.
The album explores issues such as violence, gang culture, and the music industry.
The album includes big singles such as “Still D.R.E.,” “Forgot About Dre,” and “The Next Episode,” all of which received significant radio airplay.
19. The Score by Fugees
The Fugees include Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras Michel.
Their album, The Score, delves into faith, love, and societal issues.
Fugees received two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
“Fu-Gee-La,” “Killing Me Softly,” and “Ready or Not,” are among the album’s popular songs.
20. The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
The Heist is the debut album by American rapper Macklemore and producer Ryan Lewis.
It examines social issues, addiction, and personal struggles.
The album’s singles included “Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us,” and “Same Love,” all of which received significant radio play.
The Heist is widely regarded as a seminal release in the hip-hop genre, especially for its socially conscious themes.
21. Doggy Bag by Lil’ Bow Wow
This album follows the success of Lil’ Bow Wow’s debut album Beware of Dog.
Featuring collaborations with various artists such as Jagged Edge and Fundisha, the album explores themes of success, fame, and youth.
The album’s singles included “Take Ya Home” and “Thank You,” which received considerable radio play.
Doggy Bag also helped establish Lil’ Bow Wow as a prominent figure in the hip-hop industry at an early age.
22. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick by Slick Rick
This album features storytelling and humor that combines Slick Rick’s unique vocal style with the use of samples from Soul and R&B.
The album also helped establish Slick Rick as one of the most influential and innovative rappers of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
23. Death Certificate by Ice Cube
The album is split into two halves, with the first half focusing on issues within the black community and the second half delving into broader political and social issues.
The album was a huge success and was praised for its bold and uncompromising stance on issues facing black Americans.
The album’s hit singles include “Steady Mobbin’,” “True to the Game,” and “Alive on Arrival”.
24. Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em by MC Hammer
This album is a fusion of hip-hop, pop, and R&B with catchy beats and memorable hooks.
Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em was the first hip-hop album to receive the diamond certification by the RIAA.
“U Can’t Touch This” was one of the album’s biggest songs which won Best R&B Song and Best Rap Solo Performance at the 33rd Annual Grammy prizes.
25. Recovery by Eminem
The album explores recovery, redemption, and introspection, with Eminem grappling with addiction, personal relationships, and his struggles with the music industry.
The album earned him ten nominations at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, winning Best Rap Album.
The album’s biggest singles include “Not Afraid,” “Love the Way You Lie,” and “Space Bound.”
26. The Massacre by 50 Cent
The Massacre includes collaborations with artists such as Eminem, Olivia, and The Game.
The album was a commercial success, debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200 and eventually earning him RIAA Diamond certification, selling over 10 million copies worldwide.
The album’s aggressive and confrontational style and commercial appeal made it a standout release in mid-2000s hip-hop.
27. Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z
Notable producers, including Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, and Swizz Beatz, all contributed to this album.
Jay-Z reflects on his career and the condition of hip-hop culture while exploring the topics of riches, celebrity, and legacy on the album.
The album’s title refers to the Holy Grail, a legendary item of enormous value in Christian history, and the Magna Carta, a medieval document that established the fundamentals of English law.
28. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City by Kendrick Lamar
The album was a critical and commercial success, debuting at number two on the US Billboard 200 and eventually being certified triple platinum by the RIAA.
Kendrick Lamar gives listeners an insight into his upbringing in Compton, California, and explores themes of gang violence, poverty, spirituality, and the quest for redemption.
The album’s hit singles include “Swimming Pool,” “Bitch, My Don’t Kill My Vibe”, and “Poetic Justice.”
29. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly explores themes of African-American culture and systemic oppression.
The album features collaborations with several notable musicians, including George Clinton, Thundercat, and Bilal.
Its biggest tracks include “King Kunta,” “Alright,” and “The Blacker the Berry.”
The album won several awards, including the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2016.
30. Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G.
The album’s themes explore the harsh realities of inner-city life, including poverty, violence, and drug addiction.
The album was produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs, aka Diddy, and features several other notable producers, including Easy Mo Bee, DJ Premier, and The Trackmasters.
In addition to critical acclaim and commercial success, “Ready to Die” is credited with influencing his 1990s East Coast and West Coast hip-hop rivalry.
Best-Selling Hip-Hop Albums of All Time – Final Thoughts
Hip-hop has been one of the world’s most popular and influential music genres for decades, and the best-selling albums listed here are a testament to that influence.
These albums broke records and introduced new sounds and styles, paving the way for the next generation of hip-hop artists.
From the old-school legend’s groundbreaking work to today’s superstar’s modern classics, these albums represent the soul of hip-hop, a legacy that will resonate with fans for generations.
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