Since it first rose to popularity during the 1980s, hip hop has developed into part of mainstream pop culture. Hit any dance floor across the world, and you’re bound to hear the latest chart-topping hit from a successful rapper. Legendary artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and Rakim still remain among the most popular and admired hip hop artists to ever pick up a mic. However, even high-profile stars deliver a misfire every once in a while.
Today we’re taking a look at some of the worst rap albums of all time, but rather than taking on the far-too-easy targets of underwhelming acts that tried and failed (looking at you, Kevin Federline!), we’re going after established artists who have seen chart success either with the albums listed below or elsewhere. Though some of our selections still went multi-platinum, we’re including them based on their failure to live up to hip hop’s potential greatness and/or the artist in question’s other work. Accordingly, expectations factor in as well. So don’t expect to see poor-to-mediocre artists like Master P and the rest of his No Limit squad making an appearance.
1. Vanilla Ice, To the Extreme (1990)
The world may still rock out to his so-bad-it’s-good “Ice Ice Baby,” but other than guilty pleasure, there’s little to like in this debut album, which remarkably sold more than 7 million copies in the United States. In retrospect, Vanilla Ice’s initial success feels like some sort of musical fever dream that collectively swept the nation, as none of his subsequent five studio albums have barely registered on the charts. That’s probably for the best.
2. Dr. Dre, Dr. Dre Presents… The Aftermath (1996)
A true hip hop legend, Dr. Dre has shepherded some of the most gifted talent in the genre, from Snoop Dogg to Eminem (more on both men in a few). However, as much as we love The Chronic and 2001, this release — which hit shelves in between those two classics — was a rare misfire for Dre. A big part of the problem is that the man himself is present on so few of the tracks, leaving a legion of forgettable emcees to take the lead. Yeah, no thanks. We’ll wait for the real deal.
3. Nas, Nastradamus (1999)
Just five years after unleashing Illmatic on the world, Nas released his fourth studio album, the second of a pair of LPs to hit the shelves in 1999. Though the album went platinum, it marked a significant step down in lyrical quality and creativity, indulging unimaginative rhymes and hackneyed subject matter. Neither of its two singles — the title track or “You Owe Me” — even cracked the top 40 in the United States.
4. Eminem, Encore (2004)
He appeared on the scene with a vengeance in 1999, but after a pair of diamond-selling albums, Eminem lost his touch with his nonsensical fourth release. When your lead single is as weak as “Just Lose It,” it’s a bad sign that the album itself doesn’t have a lot to offer. Thankfully, after years away, Em returned with the far superior Relapse before completing his comeback with top-notch albums Recovery and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
5. Jay-Z and R. Kelly, Unfinished Business (2004)
Both Jay-Z and R. Kelly were riding high in the early 2000s. So a collaborative album between the two made sense. Unfortunately, the resulting release — 2002 album The Best of Both Worlds — felt far more like the stitched-together product it is than a true union of the two artists’ talent. This follow-up album was essentially more of the same, but with the novelty long gone, it probably shouldn’t have happened at all.
6. Chingy, Hoodstar (2006)
In 2003, Chingy struck gold — well, platinum actually — with his hit debut album Jackpot. However, by his third release, his music no longer carried the weight of chart-topping singles like “Right Thurr,” “Holidae In,” and “One Call Away.” Instead, Hoodstar was the very definition of a disappointment, filled with lazy beats and by-the-numbers lyrics. Though “Pullin’ Me Back” was a top 10 hit in the U.S., it turned out to be Chingy’s last hurrah as a musical force to be reckoned with.
7. Soulja Boy, Souljaboytellem.com (2007)
Yikes. After his “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” inspired a ridiculous accompanying dance, this rapper became the next big thing. Then, almost as fast as he had appeared, Soulja Boy faded away from the charts, delivering two subsequent albums that failed to come anywhere near his earlier success. The fact that his music was obnoxious, his lyrics egregiously crude, and his delivery uninspired probably didn’t help.
8. Prodigy, H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 (2008)
As one-half of the rap duo Mobb Deep, Prodigy was a major influence on the hip hop scene. So many had high hopes that his solo career would be just as integral to the genre. His 2000 debut had potential, but by the time his sophomore effort came around eight years later, the window of opportunity had sailed. It certainly didn’t help matters that the music itself was pretty dreadful all around.
9. Lil Wayne, Rebirth (2010)
Lil Wayne’s first few albums may not have been for everyone, as his style is a distinctive one, but even for fans who loved his best-selling Tha Carter series, Rebirth was an ill-conceived project from the outset. The goal was simple: Weezy aimed to fuse together rock and rap into a single concept album. After all, the genres had worked well in the past, but if “Prom Queen” is what we get, we’ll pass. At least “Drop the World” is a standout, thanks in large part to Eminem’s guest vocals.
10. Snoop Dogg, Doggumentary (2011)
Few rappers are as iconic or recognizable as Snoop Dogg. His 1993 debut Doggystyle still stands as one of the all-time greatest hip hop albums of all time, but his career since has been pretty hit and miss. This is definitely one of the latter. Initially conceived as a sequel to Doggystyle, this release featured a Snoop who seemed to just be going through the motions, spawning no real hits in the United States.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!