The ’90s rap era was a golden age for hip hop. From game-changing rappers and groundbreaking producers to timeless tracks and classic albums, that decade had it all. Out of all the rap record labels that sprung up around that time, Bad Boy Records was one of the brightest shining stars.

The brainchild of impresario Sean “Puffy” Combs, the label carved a unique path, fusing the gritty street narratives of East Coast rap with irresistible pop sensibilities. Bad Boy was a juggernaut, a powerhouse that elevated the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Mase, The LOX and others into cultural icons.

The albums birthed under the Bad Boy banner epitomise the stronghold Puffy and his team held over hip hop. Biggie’s Ready to Die and Life After Death became cornerstones, their influence reverberating through the decades. The two albums not only set a high bar for lyrical mastery but also pushed the boundaries of what a hip-hop album could be, with cinematic narratives and chart-topping production. Equally impactful were Puffy’s own releases, particularly his debut No Way Out, which showcased his uncanny knack for crafting hits and his vision of hip-hop as a universal language that transcended regional boundaries.

So let’s get into it. From The Notorious B.I.G.’s landmark debut Ready to Die to The LOX’s Money, Power & Respect and Mase’s Harlem World, we rank the top 10 best Bad Boy Records albums of all time.

12. Notorious B.I.G. – Born Again (1999)

The posthumous release that dropped in ’99. This album wasn’t just about revisiting Biggie’s legacy; it was about continuing his conversation with the world. An amalgamation of previously unheard verses from Biggie coupled with new instrumentals and guest features. “Dead Wrong” with Eminem, for instance, was pure fire, showcasing both lyricists in a fierce back-and-forth. Then there’s “N***as” with Lil’ Kim, reminding us of Biggie’s unshakable presence and style.

While it might not have the same cohesiveness as “Ready to Die” or “Life After Death,” “Born Again” is an important piece in the Biggie puzzle. It gives fans a glimpse into what could’ve been, further cementing Biggie’s status as one of the all-time greats. Some purists might’ve preferred the raw, unaltered Biggie, but “Born Again” served a purpose. It bridged the gap between the ’90s and the 2000s, and for a new generation, it was an introduction to the lyrical prowess of the Notorious B.I.G. Always remembered, forever revered.

11. Eightball & MJG – Living Legends (2004)

This was a declaration from two of the South’s OGs, a reminder that they’ve been laying down hits and putting on for their city way before it was the in-thing. The beats were dripping with that Southern sauce, and the lyricism? Pure Eightball & MJG.

“Forever” stands out – a track where they flex their legacy in the game, backed by a powerful Luther Vandross sample. And let’s not even get started on “You Don’t Want Drama.” That track had clubs lit, with its thundering bass and braggadocious bars. While the duo had been in the game since the early ’90s, “Living Legends” was a standout moment, a union of the classic and the contemporary.

10. G. Dep – Child of the Ghetto

Released: November 20, 2001

Singles: “Special Delivery”

Features: Black Rob, Joe Hooker, P. Diddy, Carl Thomas, Kool G Rap, Lady May, Loon, Mark Curry, Rakim and Shyne.

Representing the grittier side of Bad Boy Records’ polished roster, G. Dep’s Child of the Ghetto stood out as an unapologetically street-oriented project. This 2001 debut album was a picture-perfect snapshot of NYC at the time, with G. Dep bringing us into his world with a laid-back delivery and intricate storytelling ability. Highlights like “Special Delivery” and “Let’s Get It” showcased Dep’s knack for infectious hooks and sharp lyrics over hard-hitting beats, with a palpable sense of authenticity that resonated with the hip-hop audience.

9. Puff Daddy & The Family – MMM (Money Making Mitch)

Released: December 18, 2015

Singles: “Auction”, “Workin”, “Blow a Check”, “You Could Be My Lover”

Features: Big Sean, French Montana, Future, Jadakiss, Lil’ Kim, Pusha T, Styles P, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla Sign, Wiz Khalifa

Puffy’s MMM (Money Making Mitch) was an homage to the hustle and the allure of the almighty dollar. Released in 2015, the Bad Boy head honcho’s experimental project blended R&B elements with luxury rap and trap production to great effect. As a toast to opulence, the record was a clear reflection of Puff Daddy’s notorious high-life approach to music, filled with opulent production and high-profile features, including Big Sean, French Montana, Future, Jadakiss, Lil’ Kim, Pusha T, Styles P, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla Sign, and Wiz Khalifa. With tracks like “Everyday (Amor)” and “Auction,” Puff managed to replicate the ’90s energy of Bad Boy Records and create a new-age blueprint for the movers and shakers of the world.

8. Black Rob – Life Story

Released: March 7, 2000

Singles: “Whoa!”, “Espacio”

Features: Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Racquel, Cee-Lo, Puff Daddy, Mark Curry, Ma$e, G-Dep, Lil’ Kim, Joe Hooker, the LOX, Jennifer Lopez, Carl Thomas

Released in 2000, Black Rob’s debut album, Life Story, was a breath of fresh air amidst the label’s glossier output. The East Harlem rapper’s gruff voice and evocative storytelling brought a certain street credibility to Bad Boy, with “Whoa!” being an undeniable classic that resonated far beyond the borders of hip-hop. With its blend of bruising production and graphic lyricism, Life Story encapsulated the essence of New York’s street narrative during Bad Boy’s reign.

7. Craig Mack – Project Funk da World

Released: September 20, 1994

Singles: “Flava In Ya Ear”, “Get Down”

Features: Puff Daddy

Many people forget that before Biggie became the face of Bad Boy Records, it was Craig Mack who was the first star off the label. Stepping into the game with the unforgettable single “Flava In Ya Ear,” Mack’s debut Project Funk da World released in 1994, helped lay the foundation for the Bad Boy empire along with Big’s Ready to Die. The eccentric rapper’s signature flow and distinct delivery, paired nicely with the innovative production from Puff Daddy and Easy Mo Bee, set a new standard for East Coast hip-hop. It might’ve been Craig Mack’s only album under Bad Boy, but its impact is undeniable, reminding us why his voice was instrumental to the label’s early success.

6. Shyne – Shyne

Released: September 26, 2000

Singles: “Bad Boyz”, “That’s Gangsta”, “Bonnie & Shyne”

Features: Barrington Levy, Slim of 112

When Shyne dropped his self-titled debut in 2000, he brought a much-needed grittiness and star-power to the Bad Boy roster. Harking back to Biggie’s presence on the label, Shyne’s husky voice and street-oriented edge, especially on tracks like “Bad Boyz” and “Bonnie & Shyne,” carved a niche for the Belizean rapper. Despite the legal troubles that overshadowed the album’s release, Shyne remains a hard-hitting documentation of street tales from a rapper who held his own amidst the label’s all-star roster.

5. The LOX – Money, Power & Respect

Released: January 28, 1998

Singles: “If You Think I’m Jiggy”, “Money, Power & Respect”

Features: DMX, Lil’ Kim, Puff Daddy, Kelly Price

Money, Power & Respect by the legendary Yonkers trio, dropped in 1998, was a perfect embodiment of Bad Boy’s marriage of street rhymes and commercial appeal. The LOX — Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch — proved to be some of the fiercest lyricists on the Bad Boy lineup. The title track remains a hip-hop anthem, and cuts like “If You Think I’m Jiggy” showcased the trio’s ability to cater to the clubs without losing their hardcore edge. While Kiss, Styles and Sheek would eventually have a falling out with Puffy and leave bad Boy, Money, Power & Respect will forever be a reminder of this golden New York rap era.

4. Ma$e – Harlem World

Released: October 28, 1997

Singles: “Feel So Good”, “What You Want”, “24 Hrs. to Live, “Lookin’ At Me”

Features: Kelly Price, DMX, Puff Daddy, Lil’ Kim, Pharrell Williams, Billy Lawrence, 8Ball, MJG, Busta Rhymes, Total, Lil’ Cease, Jay-Z, 112, Monifah

Harlem World, the debut album by Mase, stands as one of Bad Boy Records’ defining moments. Released in 1997 at the height of the label’s reign, the superstar Harlem rapper delivered an album that was as catchy as it was street-wise. Tracks like “Feel So Good” and “What You Want” showcased his slick flow and smooth delivery, making it easy for the music to cross over into the mainstream. Mase’s brand of flossy, laid-back rap was a perfect fit for the Bad Boy ethos, creating an album that captured the flamboyant confidence of the late ’90s rap game while catering to the hardcore heads.

3. Puff Daddy & the Family – No Way Out

Released: July 1, 1997

Singles: “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”, “I’ll Be Missing You”, “It’s All About the Benjamins (Remix)”, “Been Around the World”, “Victory”

Features: The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, Mase, Lil’ Kim, Carl Thomas, Jay-Z, Black Rob, the LOX, Ginuwine, Twista, Foxy Brown, Faith Evans, and 112.

In 1997, in the wake of Notorious B.I.G.’s tragic death, Puff Daddy & the Family released No Way Out. The album was an emotional roller coaster, featuring the Grammy-winning tribute to the late Brooklyn rapper, “I’ll Be Missing You,” while also serving up party anthems like “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” and “Been Around The World.” No Way Out embodies the essence of Bad Boy’s ability to triumph in the face of adversity, channeling grief into a chart-topping masterpiece that further solidified the label’s legacy.

2. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die

Released: September 13, 1994

Singles: “Juicy”, “Big Poppa”, “Warning”, “One More Chance”

Features: Method Man

The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die is not only one of the best albums from Bad Boy Records, but it’s also one of the most iconic debuts in hip-hop history. Released in 1994, this masterpiece presented Biggie’s storytelling prowess and lyrical dexterity like never before. From tales of his hustler lifestyle in “Everyday Struggle” to the soul-baring vulnerability of “Suicidal Thoughts,” the Bed-Stuy MC painted vivid pictures of life in the concrete jungle. The album’s hit singles, like “Juicy” and “Big Poppa,” showcased Big’s incredible flow and ability to craft irresistible hooks, making them timeless classics. The juxtaposition of raw, unfiltered street narratives with radio-friendly anthems solidified Ready to Die as a landmark album, not only within the Bad Boy catalog but in the entire landscape of ’90s hip hop.

1. The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death

Released: March 25, 1997

Singles: “Hypnotize”, “Mo Money Mo Problems”, “Sky’s the Limit”

Features: 112, Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Mase, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Too $hort, Angela Winbush, D.M.C. of Run-D.M.C., R. Kelly, The Lox, and Puff Daddy.

Standing at the pinnacle of Bad Boy Records’ illustrious discography, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death is an immortal testament to the extraordinary talent of the late Christopher Wallace. Dropping posthumously in 1997, this double-disc epic is the grand opus of Biggie’s career, an album that only solidified his status as one of the greatest MCs of all time. It’s not just the massive hits like “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” that make this album a timeless classic. The project is flush with moments of narrative brilliance, from the crime saga “Ni**as Bleed” to the introspective “Sky’s the Limit.” Whether he was painting dark street tales or spinning playful party jams, the Brooklyn rapper’s inimitable flow and cinematic lyrical imagery made every track hit. At once haunting and celebratory, Life After Death is not just the crown jewel of Bad Boy Records, but a defining monument of hip-hop culture, a testament to a life and talent cut tragically short, forever leaving listeners pondering what heights The Notorious B.I.G. could have ascended to.