Before we find out what the best hip hop album is we have to go back to the genre’s humble beginnings. Hip hop was born in 1970s New York. A form of rebellion in hip hop three is the magic number, and the invention of hip hop culture is mainly credited to three individuals along their affiliates partially. Those three people are DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. Kool Herc is credited with introducing what he calls ‘The Merry-Go-Round Technique’ to African-American DJs to create an extended break. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are credited with introducing MCing over the extended breaks, and Grand Wizard Theodore is credited with popularising the scratch technique to add excitement and vigour to records.
Since the 70s, hip hop has continued to evolve and grow ever more popular, becoming internationally one of the world’s most popular genres of music. With artists such as Kanye West and Jay-Z now achieving billionaire status off the back of this worldwide genre, now is the time to see who out of everyone managed to shift the most units regarding albums.
One thing that is not surprising when looking at the best-selling hip hop albums of all time in 2022 is that, even now, the best-selling albums are classics made many decades ago. In the modern age, with streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music at our fingertips, music has become dispensable, and artists are focusing more on individual singles than entire bodies of work. Artists would rather throw together a bunch of high-performing singles and call it an album than create a cohesive, meaningful body of work that makes sense. Although some artists such as Tyler the Creator and Kendrick Lamar obviously still take pride in producing quality albums, they are definitely outliers in a generation of SoundCloud-born mumble rappers.
Now let’s take a look at the top three albums of all time.
Top 3 best-selling hip hop albums ever
3. The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem (1999)
Unsurprisingly, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP is in the top three. Under the wing of Dr Dre, it is unsurprising that Eminem put so much importance on his first commercially-released full body of work. Similar to how Dre did with The Chronic, Eminem blew the minds of hip hop fans with his first album.
Boasting singles such as ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Stan’, the Marshall Mathers LP is a classic and is the third most popular hip hop album in the world in 2022. Released on February 23rd, 1999, you can see the album’s performance stats below.
- Spotify streams: 2.2 billion
- Estimated worldwide album sales: 21 million
2. The Score – The Fugees (1996)
The Fugee’s The Score is the world’s second highest-selling hip hop album. Comprised of Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel, The Fugees were an extremely popular trio during the mid to late 1990s. Released in 1996, hits such as ‘Ready or Not’ have been covered numerous times and sampled by various artists.
With singles such as ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’, The Score went on to win two Grammys at the 1997 Grammy awards, for ‘Best Rap Album’ and for ‘Best R’n’B Vocal Performance by Duo or Group’. Released on February 13th, 1996, you can see the album’s performance stats below.
- Spotify streams: 890 million
- Estimated worldwide album sales: 22 million
1. The Eminem Show – Eminem (2002)
So Slim Shady has the highest selling hip hop album in the world. Released on May 26th, 2002, The Eminem Show still reigns supreme over the albums of Drake, Nicki Minaj and all our favourite new artists. The album is multi-platinum in every country around the world and, in some countries, is certified Diamond.
The music video for the album’s lead single ‘Without Me’ won a Grammy at the 2003 Grammy awards for ‘Best Music Video’, and although it is the best selling hip hop album of all time, it failed to win a Grammy losing to Outkast’s album Speakerboxx/The Love Below. You can see the album’s performance stats below.
- Spotify streams: 3 billion
- Estimated worldwide album sales: 27 million