Top 9 Rap Vinyl Records
Listening to music on vinyl delivers a whole new experience with added nuance to lyrics and instrumentation that can be missed when listening to the same album digitally. Fans of rap vinyl can hear the subtle beats and intonations that artists take time and creativity to craft for their audience.
Rap music may seem like something reserved for blasting from a car stereo or keeping the good times rolling at a backyard BBQ. But music lovers know, listening to rap vinyl is just as an enjoyable experience with friends. Of course, everyone has their favorite artists and albums when it comes to any genre of music. Here are nine rap vinyl records we at Victrola believe should your next record store purchase.
#1: Original Hip Hop Classics Presented by Sugar Hill
Every musical artist started as a fan themselves, with icons who have influenced their own style and careers. That’s why rap or hip hop vinyl records like Original Hip Hop Classics Presented by Sugar Hill are a must-have for many. This album includes several of the industry’s top throwback rap artists that have paved the way for the sounds of today and inspired new talent throughout the decades.
The Sugarhill Gang kicks off the album with their hit “Rapper’s Delight,” which was the first rap single to become a Top 40 hit on the Billboard 100. They’re joined by other veterans, including Grandmaster Flash, Positive Force, and other rap artists of the early ‘80s that made a lasting impression on the world of hip-hop.
#2: N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton: 20th Anniversary Edition
The Sugarhill Gang was the quintessential rap group to jumpstart the ‘80s. The decade was rounded out by equally iconic West Coast hip hop group, N.W.A.. Their debut studio album introduced the world to Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Listening to and celebrating the 20th-anniversary release of Straight Outta Compton pays homage to the beginnings of “gangsta rap.”
The original album’s title track leads a lineup of 13 songs, with five additional tracks added to the anniversary rap vinyl record. With intense lyrics and musical delivery, N.W.A. painted a picture, based in reality, of life in the streets of Compton, California.
Members of the group contributed a DJ-style approach to the music, layered with a more hardcore sound that put Los Angeles on the map, creating artistic rivals and sounds separating West Coast hip hop from East Coast rap. Many went on to have successful solo careers. And most rappers today credit N.W.A. in some way for influencing their sound and style.
#3: Notorious B.I.G. - The Golden Voice
The ongoing rap battle between West Coast vs. East Coast was a significant part of the music culture in the 1990s. Tupac Shakur was the main face of California hip-hop, while Notorious B.I.G. represented NYC. Biggie’s impactful but short-lived rap career left him with a legacy as one of the greatest rappers of all time.
The Golden Voice (Instrumentals) double LP rap vinyl album gives fans a different perspective on the songs they know so well. With all tracks presented as instrumental or as a capella versions, this record is a pared-down experience that still packs a punch. The album contains all of Biggie’s biggest hits, including “Hypnotize,” “Juicy,” and “Big Poppa.” Although known for his laid-back lyrical delivery set against harsh, semi-autobiographical content, the sound of his music is instantly recognizable even when there are no words.
#4: The Fugees: The Score
Another hip-hop group of notable success is The Fugees, who dominated the music scene in the mid-late 1990s. Their mix of rap lyrics and soulful instrumentation created a sound that set this trio apart from others in the space. Their best-selling album, The Score, went to number one on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts, with singles including “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not” leading the pack of fan favorites.
Experiencing the subtleties of sound on this prolific rap vinyl record will bring new appreciation for Fugees fans, as well as those hearing the music for the first time. The Score has won award after award throughout the years and has been noted by numerous critics in the industry as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. And, all three members of the group went on to build successful solo music, producing, and acting careers.
#5: Busta Rhymes: Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God
Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God is considered more a rap vinyl experience rather than just an album. The double black-and-white vinyl LP pressing comes in gatefold packaging and is the first album from renowned hip hop artist Busta Rhymes in 11 years. It is a collaboration record, featuring popular artists, including Bell Biv Devoe, Q-Tip, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey.
Busta Rhymes blends old and new sounds, hip hop and R&B to create a 22-track thoughtfully curated rap vinyl record. Songs include, “Outta My Mind,” “Slow Flow,” “The Young God Speaks,” and “Freedom.” This rap vinyl record is a must-add for the collection for fans who appreciate a throwback to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
#6: Outkast: Stankonia
In addition to rap music dominating the coasts, the genre has also evolved in other regions that put their own signature spin on traditional hip hop sounds and styles. In the late ‘90s and into the 2000s, Outkast led the way for Southern hip hop. Stankonia was released in 2000 and includes the hit singles “Ms. Jackson” and “B.O.B.,” which played in heavy rotation on radios across the nation.
Atlanta-based rappers Andre 3000 and Big Boi offered a sound stylistically unique to the stream of hits being played on the radio at the time. Fast-paced rhythms, high-energy tempos, and laid-back lyrics mixed together to create a sound that’s instantly recognizable within the first few chords and lyrics. The album has been certified platinum worldwide and is on the list of greatest hip hop albums of all time.
#7: Ludacris: The Red Light District
Outkast wasn’t the only main rap act hailing from Atlanta at the turn of the century. Ludacris also emerged as one of the best-selling artists from the state of Georgia, differentiating his style from other southern artists emerging at the time. His “Dirty South”representation remained strong on his fifth studio album, The Red Light District, which went straight to number one on the Billboard 200.
Ludacris’ artistry reflects a relaxed, wisecrack-filled approach to lyrics and song delivery. The Red Light District is an album that doesn’t take itself too seriously and focuses on the party vibe of hip hop music. Radio hits off the album include “Get Back,” “Number One Spot,” and “Pimpin All Over the World,” which exemplifies his larger-than-life attitude delivered with a knowing wink of what it’s like to be recognized as one of the best rappers alive.
#8: Nelly: Country Grammar
Paving the way in his own area of the U.S., Nelly placed the Midwest on the rap map by paying homage to his St. Louis roots. His debut album, Country Grammar was released in 2000 and introduced a pop-style approach with a Midwest twang that separated his hip hop style from others. With lyrics that were easy to sing along with and a performance demeanor that was easy to like, Nelly quickly became one of the most sought after rap acts at the time.
Singles like “Ride Wit Me,” “E.I.,” and the title track, “Country Grammar,” were played on radio stations across the country and are still popular throwback jams enjoyed today. It’s the kind of rap vinyl record to play when you want an instant energy boost on a summer day. Since its debut, it’s gone nine times platinum and has sold nearly nine million copies.
#9: Mac Miller: Swimming in Circles
A young and talented Mac Miller made an impact among the hip hop scene as a favorite of fans and fellow artists alike. Though his earthly presence was cut short, his family released a double-disc vinyl box set of his albums in January 2020. Swimming in Circles debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 and marked the sixth consecutive Top 5 debut.
The rap vinyl record includes the two final studio albums Mac Miller conceived as companion albums prior to his passing, which fans can now listen to on the same record. It encompases the artistry of his music and the exploration of where his music was headed with songs like “Small Worlds, “So It Goes,” “Circles,” and “Floating.”
Rap Vinyl Records Lets the Music Live On
When it comes to building the quintessential rap vinyl collection, the artistry is in the eye of the beholder. Starting with classics creates a foundation to build upon as new artists emerge. It provides a strong sense of where hip-hop has been and where it’s going.
Listening to these legendary records on vinyl adds another layer to the music appreciation experience that allows these artists and songs to live on forever. To learn more about vinyl records, visit us at Victrola. Find out what rap vinyl is included under the best movie soundtracks to own on vinyl or test your vinyl knowledge with does color vinyl sound worse than black vinyl? Join the music community today!