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1996 was one of the most tumultuous years in hip hop. With the East Coast vs. West Coast beef in full swing, by the end the year, we would lose one of our most important voices with the death of Tupac Shakur.

But before his death, Pac went on a recording rampage not seen until the likes of Lil Wayne a decade later. With the release of All Eyez on Me and The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, the West Coast rapper would cement his position as the best rapper of the ’90s.

While this was happening, we also had Nas becoming a major commercial force as he went full mainstream with his sophomore album, It Was Written, Jay-Z making his debut after a decade of hustling to get put on, and releases from OutKast and Fugees that would impact generations of rappers to come.

From Mobb Deep’s Hell on Earth to OutKast’s ATLiens and UGK’s Ridin’ Dirty, here are the top 25 best hip hop albums of 1996.

25. Heltah Skeltah – Nocturnal

Released: June 18, 1996

Label: Duck Down, Priority

Singles: “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka”, “Operation Lock Down”, “Therapy”

Features: Originoo Gunn Clappaz, Illa Noyz, Representativz and Vinia Mojica.

24. Ras Kass – Soul on Ice

Released: October 1, 1996

Label: Patchwerk/Priority

Singles: “Miami Life”, “Anything Goes”, “Soul on Ice”

Features: Coolio

23. Jeru the Damaja – Wrath of the Math

Released: October 15, 1996

Label: Payday/FFRR/PolyGram Records

Singles: “Ya Playin’ Yaself”, “Me or the Papes”

Features: Afu-Ra

22. Xzibit – At the Speed of Life

Released: October 15, 1996

Label: Loud, RCA

Singles: “Paparazzi”, “Eyes May Shine”, “The Foundation”

Features: Hurricane G, J-Ro, King Tee, Tha Alkaholiks, Ras Kass, Saafir

21. Snoop Dogg – Tha Doggfather

Released: November 12, 1996

Label: Death Row, Interscope

Singles: “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head”, “Vapors”, “Doggfather”

Features: Charlie Wilson, Kurupt, Tray Dee and Warren G.

20. Busta Rhymes – The Coming

Released: March 26, 1996

Label: Elektra

Singles: “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”, “It’s a Party”

Features: Redman, Keith Murray, and Jamal, Q-Tip, Zhané, Leaders of the New School

19. M.O.P. – Firing Squad

Released: October 22, 1996

Label: Relativity

Singles: “Dead & Gone”, “World Famous”

Features: Kool G Rap, Teflon, Battle

18. Keith Murray – Enigma

Released: November 26, 1996

Label: Jive

Singles: “The Rhyme”

Features: 50 Grand, Kel-Vicious, Erick Sermon, Busta Rhymes, Dave Hollister, Jamal and Redman

17. A Tribe Called Quest – Beats, Rhymes and Life

Released: July 30, 1996

Label: Jive

Singles: “1nce Again”, “Stressed Out”

Features: Tammy Lucas, Faith Evans

16. Poor Righteous Teachers – The New World Order

Released: October 15, 1996

Label: Profile

Singles: “Conscious Style”, “Word Iz Life”

Features: Fugees, KRS-One, Nine, Brother J of X-Clan and Junior Reid

15. Dr. Octagon – Dr. Octagonecologyst

Released: May 7, 1996

Label: Bulk, Mo’ Wax

Singles: “Earth People”, “3000”, “Blue Flowers”

Features: Sir Menelik

14. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing…..

Released: September 16, 1996

Label: Mo’ Wax

Singles: “Midnight in a Perfect World”, “Stem”, “What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1)”, “The Number Song” / “Painkiller”

Features: N/A

13. De La Soul – Stakes Is High

Released: July 2, 1996

Label: Tommy Boy, Warner Bros.

Singles: “Stakes Is High”, “Itzsoweezee (Hot)”, “4 More”

Features: Common, Mos Def, Truth Enola

12. Lil’ Kim – Hard Core

Released: November 12, 1996

Label: Undeas, Big Beat, Atlantic

Singles: “No Time”, “Crush on You (Remix)”, “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)”

Features: Lil’ Cease, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, Jermaine Dupri

11. The Roots – Illadelph Halflife

Released: September 24, 1996

Label: DGC, Geffen

Singles: “Clones”, “Concerto of the Desperado”, “What They Do”

Features: Dice Raw, Bahamadia, Raphael Saadiq, M.A.R.S., Common, D’Angelo, Q-TIp, Joshua Redman, Cassandra Wilson, Ursula Rucker

10. Redman – Muddy Waters

Released: December 10, 1996

Label: Def Jam

Singles: “It’s Like That (My Big Brother)”, “Whateva Man”, “Pick It Up”, “Smoke Buddah”

Features: Xross-Breed, Erick Sermon, Method Man, K-Solo, Keith Murray, Jamal

9. Ghostface Killah – Ironman

Released: October 29, 1996

Label: Epic, Razor Sharp

Singles: “All That I Got Is You”, “Daytona 500”, “Motherless Child”

Features: Raekwon, Cappadonna, Inspectah Deck, RZA, Masta Killa, U-God, Method Man, The Delfonics, Mary J. Blige, Force MDs

8. 2Pac – All Eyez on Me

Released: February 13, 1996

Label: Death Row, Interscope

Singles: “California Love”, “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”, “How Do U Want It”, “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”

Features: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Nate Dogg, Dru Down, Dat Nigga Daz, Kurupt, Redman, Method Man, K-Ci & JoJo, Rappin’ 4-Tay, Dramacydal, C-Bo, Storm, Dr. Dre, Roger Troutman, Danny Boy, George Clinton, Outlaw Immortalz, Jewell, Richie Rich, Syke, E-40

7. Nas – It Was Written

Released: July 2, 1996

Label: Columbia

Singles: “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”, “Street Dreams”

Features: AZ, Cormega, Foxy Brown, Dr. Dre, Havoc, Mobb Deep, JoJo, Lauryn Hill

6. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt

Released: June 25, 1996

Label: Priority, Roc-A-Fella

Singles: “Dead Presidents”, “Ain’t No Nigga”, “Can’t Knock the Hustle”, “Feelin’ It”

Features: Memphis Bleek, Mary J. Blige, Jaz-O and The Notorious B.I.G.

5. UGK – Ridin’ Dirty

Released: July 30, 1996

Label: Jive

Singles: “One Day”

Features: Smoke D, 3-2, Ronnie Spencer, C-Note, Big Smokin’ Mitch, N.O. Joe

4. Fugees – The Score

Released: February 13, 1996

Label: Ruffhouse, Columbia

Singles: “Fu-Gee-La”, “Killing Me Softly”, “Ready or Not”, “No Woman, No Cry”

Features: Rah Digga, Young Zee, Pacewon, Omega, John Forté, and Diamond D

3. Mobb Deep – Hell on Earth

Released: November 19, 1996

Label: Loud, RCA

Singles: “Still Shinin'”, “Drop a Gem on ‘Em”, “Front Lines (Hell on Earth)”, “G.O.D. Pt. III”

Features: Nas, Raekwon, Method Man, Big Noyd, Twin Gambino, Ty Nitty, Illa Ghee

2. OutKast – ATLiens

Released: August 27, 1996

Label: Arista, LaFace

Singles: “Elevators (Me & You)”, “ATLiens”, “Jazzy Belle”

Features: Witchdoctor, T-Mo, Khujo, Big Gipp and Cool Breeze

1. 2Pac – The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory

Released: November 5, 1996

Label: Death Row, Interscope

Singles: “Toss It Up”, “To Live & Die in L.A.”, “Hail Mary”

Features: Outlawz, Bad Azz, Aaron Hall, Danny Boy, K-Ci & JoJo, Val Young, Tyrone Wrice, Prince Ital Joe.

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