There may be a lot of classic rap albums, but there are even more rappers who have dope catalogs with no definitive classic. Remember when Robert De Niro's character in A Bronx Tale said, "The saddest thing in life is wasted talent"? Well, get that out of your head. That's not what we're saying at all. Every artist on this list has had a relatively great career, filled with many highlights. It's just that none of them have a cohesive, borderline perfect project that has absolutely stood the test of time.
If anything, this entire ordeal is just frustrating for the listeners. Every rapper on this list is probably fairly content with the status of their career. Between these artists, them are dozens of hits, plaques, and chart-topping singles. But even so, it's a bit disappointing that none of have been able to release that full-length masterpiece during their time in the game. Many of these MCs still have a chance to make it happen, but in the meantime, we're venting. Here are 11 great rappers who, surprisingly, never had a classic album.
Albums: The Coming (1996), When Disaster Strikes... (1997), E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front (1998), Anarchy (2000), Genesis (2001), It Ain't Safe No More... (2002), The Big Bang (2006), Back On My B.S. (2009), Year Of The Dragon (2012)
Throughout the highs and lows of his career, Busta Rhymes always seems to find a way to be relevant, mostly because he’s one of the most idiosyncratic characters rap has ever seen. He’s a true original, not a novelty act. He’s spent the last 20 years making a ton of classic singles and memorable videos by filling tracks with his signature manic energy.
Unfortunately, even though a few of his albums are considered pretty good, none of them are classics because they often had with too much filler (five of his first six albums clock in at over an hour). Busta is still incredible on the mic, but we’ve basically seen his bag of tricks.
Albums: Ghetto Fabolous (2001), Street Dreams (2003), Real Talk (2004), From Nothin' To Somethin' (2007), Loso's Way (2009)
Fab is a streetwise rapper who can flow forever and he’s had legendary moments in the mixtape game, and he’s never struggled with scoring pop hits. In the last 10 years he’s had eight Top 40 hits, including the unforgettable Just Blaze produced classic, “Breathe.”
The problem for Fab isn’t that he lacks diversity, it’s that he’s always overestimated his diversity and would usually just spread himself too thin on albums. Worse yet, what the Brooklyn rhymer has always sorely lacked is emotional delivery.
Nearly all of Fab’s rhymes sound like they’re coming from a slick playboy, which is great sometimes but tiresome, too. And finally, few of Fab’s tracks (save for the aforementioned “Breathe”) have ever been mindblowing, even if they were great in the club. Fab might be known for his one of a kind punchlines, but he’s not known for his one of a kind albums.
Albums: Back For The First Time (2000), Word of Mouf (2001), Chicken-n-Beer (2003), The Red Light District (2004), Release Therapy (2006), Theater of the Mind (2008), Battle of the seckses (2010)
Ludacris has had so many hits and classic anthems (we still get hyped when his “Move !!” verse comes on) you would think that he has a classic in there somewhere. Even though his first three albums were highly entertaining, they did lack a certain maturity and nuance.
Maybe that’s why, since then, Luda’s cut his hair and got more serious, but as a result he’s somehow lost some of the edge and most of the humor that made him a star in the first place. The funny part is at this point, Luda’s has been a part of more Oscar-winning movies than classic rap albums. If someone would have told us that back when he was making songs that went, “Yous a hoe!” we would have never believed them.
Albums: Kiss Tha Game Goodbye (2001), Kiss Of [rip] (2004), The Last Kiss (2009)
Armed with a raspy voice, some of the hardest bars you’ll ever hear, and a countless number of great verses, Jadakiss was built to be a legendary rapper. Not only that, but he’s an influential rapper—at one point in the early Aughts it felt like every single rapper was riffing off his style.
He even famously quipped that he was, “Top 5, dead or alive, and that’s just off one LP.” But here’s the problem with that line and his catalog in general: That LP, his debut, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, is his best album... but it’s not really that good.
The problem with all of Jada’s solo albums was that he always tried too hard to please every crowd. While he’s an undisputed king of street anthems, he simply wasn't apt at making quality commercial rap records, but he kept on trying to.
If he would have just stuck to doing what does best, he could have at least made a hardcore album that lived up to his potential (like his groupmate Styles P has done with his underrated solo albums). Instead, he’s frustrated his fan base with uneven efforts that chased the commercial fame he was never meant to have.
Albums: The Hunger For More (2004), Rotten Apple (2006), H.F.M. 2 (Hunger For More 2) (2010)
For a brief period, Lloyd Banks was the !!. Back in the early days of 50 Cent’s career, when he was absolutely destroying the mixtape game along with his G-Unit cohorts, Banks was primed to be the next to blow after 50.
And why not? Back then the the Punchline King was earning his crown with every laugh out loud bar (“She can get me off like Cochran”) and occasionally outshining 50 (they didn’t call it “Banks Victory” for nothing).
Although Banks’ debut, The Hunger For More, was a success (he scored a hit single and a platinum plaque) his album wasn’t the full blown G-Unit classic it should have been (that was Game’s debut album) and it wasn’t even the best G-Unit album of that year (that was Young Buck’s debut).
Which is fine, he was a young rapper who’d have more shots. The problem was, his second album suffered from a sophomore slump and G-Unit’s stronghold on the game was coming to an end.
Banks would have faded into complete irrelevancy if it wasn’t for his Juelz Santana-assisted single, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley," which renewed interest in the Queens-bred lyricist. His third album was a strong effort but it was too little, too late for him to fulfill his promise from nearly a decade ago.
Coupled with 50 recently calling him out for laziness, he’s left fans and critics alike saying, “Damn homie, in high school you was the man homie, the !! happened to you?”
2 • •