As complicated as it was creative, as contradictory as it was all-conquering, the story of hip-hop's eventual aesthetic takeover starts in the '80s. From Slick Rick to the Fresh Prince, Public Enemy to the 2Live Crew, N.W.A to BDP, Salt-N-Pepa to Queen Latifah, The Fat Boys to De La Soul—this is where rap's various ideologies and innovations begin spinning outwards, spreading geographically and, culturally. Early on, it wasn't an album genre; hip-hop was all about parties and park jams, preserved and propagated via bootleg cassette. Soon after it was about stars and singles, disco loops and breakbeats, drum machines, and ultimately, albums. The art of the hip-hop album was perfected by the close of this remarkable decade. All these years later some discs sound dated while others feel fresher than ever. Which records have stood the test of time? Which one embodies hip-hop best? See if you can guess—or just start clicking.
'Escape combined state-of-the-art studio tech, effortless melodicism, and Ecstasy and Jalil's streetwise Brooklyn swag into an early high watermark of party rap.'
'Kind of remarkable that a full 25 years later, you're hard pressed to find gangsta rap any more horrifically vile, misogynistic or violent in its lyric content.'