XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this feature.
There is no doubt that since the days of DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow, hip-hop dating back to the 1970s has produced some of the most culturally impactful albums in music history. LPs can be measured in quality metrics like verses, production and originality. However, few qualities can boost the legend of one like record sales. The role of moving units within rap is significant because it showcases the past five decades of evolution. And while the number of products shipped does not tell the entire story, these numerical milestones represent the growth of the genre’s popularity.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), less than 10 rap albums have received diamond recognition. Some of those celebrated efforts include legendary projects such as The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death, the sophomore double-disc masterpiece by the Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn MC. And Tupac Shakur’s magnum opus, All Eyez On Me, the first double-disc album of original material in hip-hop history. However, it’s also important to recognize multiplatinum projects on this list, like 50 Cent’s hard-hitting, critically acclaimed debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
In today’s digital age, measuring the importance of record sales in hip-hop is difficult because sometimes sales do not match impact. For example, respected artists such as Mos Def has failed to reach a million record sales, even on revered projects like The New Danger. Plus, legendary albums like MF Doom and Madlib’s hip-hop masterpiece Madvillainy didn’t even earn gold status. But for this list, we’ll celebrate those that set global sales numbers and elevated the genre of hip-hop.
Every day, tens of thousands of rappers produce music, but only a few have made it to the higher echelon of commercial success. So in celebration of rap’s 50-year anniversary this summer, here are the 20 highest-selling hip-hop albums of all time.—Antonio Cooper
See 20 of the Best-Selling Hip-Hop Albums of All Time
This editorial is presented by McDonald’s.