50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 2): 2Pac, The Notorious BIG, Eric B & Rakim, MF Doom, Salt-N-Pepa, and more

50 Years Of Hip-Hop (Part 2): 2Pac, The Notorious BIG, Eric B & Rakim, MF Doom, Salt-N-Pepa, and more

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with a legendary DJ Kool Herc party in the Bronx on August 11, 1973 commonly cited as its glorious moment of inception. To celebrate for a special edition of Music Week, we asked over 100 names – featuring everyone from Chuck D and Kanya King to top executives, broadcasters, managers, producers and more – to pick and salute one album that impacted their lives and pushed hip-hop culture forward…



“My reasons are very personal. I was still living in Zimbabwe, I just finished high school and was waiting for the results of my O-Level exams. I had borrowed some cassettes from my boy General Ntshalintshali and popped this one in my ‘jute’ – which is OG Zimbabwean slang for boombox – while I was making my parents’ waterbed as part of my chores. That album at that time was the most passionate shit I had ever heard in my life. I thought I discovered Tupac as if I was an A&R. I didn’t even know how to pronounce his name properly, I thought it was ‘Two Pack’, that’s how little context I had. Juice hadn’t been released in Zim yet. When I played Brenda’s Got A Baby for my sister she cried. I ended up learning every word to most of the songs. I knew in my heart that it would blow up and when he did become a superstar, it gave me confidence for the future.” Tuma Basa (YouTube) 


“I’m going to select Me Against The World, which was an album that really impacted me due to the rawness of the emotional content and the way in which it felt like Tupac was poetically expressing the thoughts of myself and many young men at this time. Tupac really explored the contradictions of a young Black male in the early to mid-’90s and all the contradictory thoughts and behaviours of a young man at a crossroads in life. From the rebellious title track, to the vulnerable Dear Mama, the haunting If I Die 2Nite and the gangster of Young N****z, as well as the homage of Old School and the promiscuity of Temptations, this was a brilliant album that was so relatable and for me doesn’t get spoken about enough.” Ben Wynter (Unstoppable Music/Power Up)

ALL EYEZ ON ME (1996) 

“All Eyez On Me is my favourite hip-hop album – this record hit hard when I was a teenager. I just love how he told his truth through his songs, and I loved the gospel and hip-hop fusion in songs like I Ain’t Mad At Cha and Life Goes On. It also features one of my favourite singers: K-Ci Hailey from Jodeci.” Carla Marie Williams (songwriter/Girls I Rate) 


“One of my most vivid hip-hop memories is being introduced to 2Pac by my mum! This was a critical album as it included songs he wasn’t able to release [Changes, Unconditional Love, God Bless The Dead, Troublesome ’96], and the message and motivation behind the music was challenging, defiant and powerful. It feels even more relevant today. Changes was constantly on repeat in the car, and listening to it formed some of my early understanding of the war on drugs, racism and systemic injustice, and exposed me to themes of activism and the experience of being Black in America. The fusion between hip-hop and a record like Bruce Hornsby And The Range’s song The Way It Is [on Changes] was an ingenious creative decision. Basically, we have my mum to thank for the West Coast having a special place in my heart, I can’t hear 2Pac without thinking of her.” Whitney Asomani (Twenty: Two Agency)


“Rakim is the GOAT. Rhymes that flow like a Coltrane solo. Eric B knew how to cut beats in a way that kept your head nodding. Eric B was no DJ Premier, who for me is the DJ GOAT, but the combination of Eric B and Rakim was dope. This album kicked hip-hop into another space.” Raye Cosbert (Metropolis Music)


“There were several amazing hip-hop albums in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but this is my absolute fave – every single track is killer. Brilliant MCs, amazing lyrics, incredible beats and a wavy, lysergic production that, for me, has never been bettered.” Howard Corner (ADA)


“I first heard Concrete Schoolyard when I was 16, growing up in Philly in the US. Jurassic 5 became my soundtrack for learning how to drive and, once I was allowed, driving my friends around the city, singing Without A Doubt.” Jillian Gerngross (Amazon Music)


“My favourite hip-hop album is Rick Ross – Teflon Don, I was lucky enough to be outside for B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast) and Aston Martin Music. This album was my first real experience of luxury rap and it featured all of my favourite rappers.” Whitney Boateng (WME)

MF DOOM – MM..FOOD (2004)

“Mm..Food is a hip-hop classic. Its cohesive concept, exceptional lyricism and innovative production has left a lasting influence on the culture. Any day one fan of hip-hop has Mm..Food in their collection.” Fredua Boakye (Bad Rabbits)


“My first intro to Salt-N-Pepa was when I heard their song Push It. That sound was different from all the hip-hop I’d heard up to that point, especially growing up with older brothers and cousins, this alone made me want to hear what these women had to say, which led me to their first album. Much of the music I grew up hearing, whether that be inside or outside of my household, had a social or political edge or message to it. At the time I heard Hot, Cool And Vicious I didn’t realise it had the same quality, but years later I now recognise that women daring to take up space in hip-hop is itself an act of defiance.” Sheryl Nwosu (Black Music Coalition)



“There are so many incredible rappers and life-changing hip-hop albums to draw
from, but Ready To Die was the game-changer for me – the lyricism, rawness, effortless, flawless flow and conversational narrative Biggie infused with melody and personality. The storytelling, alongside such cinematic production and clever sample use, pulled me right in because I am a visceral creator. At the time, I was in R&B girl group Truce and spending summers in NYC, meeting these artists and going to places B.I.G. described in his songs. New York is a very different city now, but the music is a cultural account etched into our memories forever.” Michelle Escoffery (PRS For Music/artist) 

“The most iconic hip-hop album to change my life had to be Ready To Die. The beautiful thing about this body of work is that it was an entire experience right from the jump, with the intro taking us through his birth, right up to his successes, trials and tribulations, relationships, money and more. He covers every form of emotion for a Black man coming from nothing to getting everything and dealing with it in 19 songs. There were so many relatable songs on there that even in 2023 I refer back and think, ‘Damn, Biggie was ahead of his time.’” Kenny Allstar (BBC Radio 1/1Xtra)

“Best hip-hop album is a generational choice and for me it’s Ready To Die. Christopher George Latore Wallace made it when he was 21 – 21! His tone, his turn of phrase, his daring, still take your breath away and remind you that hip-hop is an inspired African American art form given to planet earth, like jazz, blues, rock, pop and everything else.” Felix Howard (BMG)

“It came out at a time where we needed a new hero of hip-hop and Biggie was that hero. All the jams were dope and all the bars were classics. It was the culmination of how hip-hop had developed and was riding the crest of the wave that made the ’90s the golden age of hip-hop.” Huey Morgan (BBC Radio 6 Music)


“Life After Death by Notorious B.I.G. is my fave hip-hop album of all time. It was a record that really stood out for me – after stealing my friend Winny’s copy – because at the time UK garage was on the rise and I didn’t listen to much else. Life After Death is class from start to finish: the features from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony [Notorious Thugs], Angela Winbush and Jay-Z on I Love The Dough, the samples, the iconic Ten Crack Commandments and him holding court on I Got A Story To Tell. It has everything.” DJ Spoony (BBC Radio 2)

Click here to read more about our special edition of Music Week celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.

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