Chris Rock is perched firmly in the pantheon of comedy greats. One of the most skilled entertainers on the planet, Rock can cause belly laughs to ripple in any venue of which he takes to the stage. If there’s anybody who knows what it takes to be talented when armed with a mic, then it’s Chris Rock.
His career started back when he was a teenager in the 1980s, and in 1990, Rock was gifted with his big break when he landed a role as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. That allowed Rock the opportunity to elevate his career, and soon enough, he had millions of Americans tuning in every week to be left in hysterics by his antics.
After only a couple of years of thriving at Studio 8H, Rock left the programme after outgrowing his bit-part role and left as a star. He has returned to 30 Rock on three occasions to host SNL, coming back in 1996, 2014, and most recently in 2020. In the late ’90s, Rock’s Bigger and Blacker special made him the most revered comic in the States, which is a status that he’s managed to maintain over the last 20 years.
Music has always been a vital part of his life and, over the years, he has featured in videos by acts like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lil Nas X, and even Johnny Cash. However, hip-hop has always been his main love, which is understandable considering the similarities between stand-up and MCing, with the two art forms often going hand in hand.
In 2004, Rock sat down with Rolling Stone to list his 25 favourite hip-hop albums of all time, and it’s a mighty fine selection of records that warrant a place in anyone’s collection. Over the last couple of decades, since he made the picks, Rock has undoubtedly changed his mind, but it still offers a firm insight into the kind of music which gets him going.
Placed at 25 on his list is Dizzee Rascal’s Mercury Prize-winning debut album, Boy In Da Corner, which remains one of the finest British hip-hop records. Commenting on his selection, Rock said: “This shit is so ahead of its time, I don’t know why they told him to do it slower and make it sound American or whatever they did on his next album. It’s hard, man.”
He added: “I’m surprised no American rappers were smart enough to have him produce them. When you hear those beats, you think ‘OK, if blankety-blank was on this, it would be a hit. That Dizzee Rascal is just fucking ridiculous. Make this one my last one.”
Elsewhere, there was love for Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, which landed at 19th in the comic’s list. “I love this CD and I hate it,” Rock says. “I love it ’cause it’s Jay’s best record – best beats, best flow – and I hate it ’cause since it came out every rap record is trying to copy it. What Jay-Z did with Reasonable Doubt is take the Scarface formula and pretty it up for New York. Reasonable Doubt is his real The Blueprint. I still listen to it.”
De La Soul sneaks into the top ten with 1993’s Buhloone Mind State, which Rock praises for not only being a triumphant record but for helping him with his craftmanship as a comic. “It helped shape me as a comedian,” he revealed. “It’s the last album Prince Paul produced for them and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s a member of De La Soul. If you take Prince Paul out, none of the albums hold up. It’s also got that great line ‘Fuck being hard, Posdnuos is complicated.’ That’s some gangsta shit, because he don’t give a fuck.”
Snoop Dogg’s timeless debut, Doggystyle, is forced to settle for second place, although Rock says, “I got a feeling I’ll be singing ‘Gin and Juice’ when I’m ninety.”
At number one, it had to be Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A., which Rock is unsurprisingly full of superlatives while discussing the record. “N.W.A. is the most influential act of the last thirty years,” he boldly states. “Bigger than Nirvana, Madonna or the Sex Pistols. Nothing has ever been the same since they came. I remember I was in L.A. when I was a kid, and I brought Straight Outta Compton back to New York.
“More people were coming over to my house to listen to N.W.A. than were going across the street to the crack house. I had the real shit. It was kind of like the British Invasion for black people.”
Check out the full impressive playlist, below.
Chris Rock’s favourite hip-hop albums:
- Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner (2003)
- DJ Quik – Way 2 Fonky (1992)
- Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
- Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
- OutKast – Aquemini (1998)
- Nas – Stillmatic (2001)
- Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)
- Scarface – Mr. Scarface Is Back (1991)
- Ice Cube – AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990)
- Wyclef Jean Featuring Refugee Allstars – The Carnival (1997)
- Geto Boys – The Resurrection (1996)
- Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)
- Genius/GZA – Liquid Swords (1995)
- Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader (1988)
- The D.O.C. – No One Can Do It Better (1989)
- De La Soul – Buhloone Mind State (1993) *Not On Spotify
- A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)
- Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
- EPMD – Unfinished Business (1989)
- LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
- The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (1992)
- Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell (1986)
- Dirty Harry, DJ Vlad, DJ Green Lantern & 2Pac – Rap Phenomenon II (2003) [Mixtape] *Not on Spotify
- Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle (1993)
- N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton (1988)