It's impossible to tell the history of any genre in a single article, but these 20 songs provide a roadmap for listening... and further exploration.
‘Efil4zaggin’ was more than a full stop to NWA's career. It bridged hip-hop's early golden age and the sound that would dominate the West Coast in the 90s.
Common released 'Be' in 2005, returning to "conscious hip-hop" for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to record with both Kanye West and J Dilla as producers.
The fourth Wu-Tang Clan solo album, ‘Liquid Swords’ is an out-and-out masterpiece on which GZA brought his A-game, ruining it for everyone else.
‘Expansion Team’ was Dilated Peoples’ most commercially successful album, beloved by fans with a fondness for hip-hop’s Golden Age.
With ‘A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’, Black Sheep promoted intelligent Afrocentricity and upset hip-hop’s apple carts by refusing to act like gangstas.
In the late 90s, ‘Mos Def And Talib Kweli Are Black Star’ forged a new path in which culture and unity took precedence over hip-hop’s beefs and disses.
Kanye West has dazzled, disgusted, compelled and confused in equal measure, but the best Kanye West songs are an insight into a compelling artist’s work.
A history of Blaxploitation film soundtracks that helped define the genre, and the musicians who asserted their street cred by writing their scores.
Through sampling, hip-hop has the power to bring old music to new years, helping music to evolve while paying respects to the artists that came before.
Released on the Rawkus imprint in 2000, 'Lyricist Lounge 2' amplified the "backpacker rap" scene and its obsession with collaboration and improvisation.
Released in 1997, Company Flow’s ‘Funcrusher Plus’ pushed hip-hop’s envelope, laying the groundwork for the boldly experimental music that would follow.
Released in 2004, Ghostface Killah’s ‘Fishscale’ was part of a stunning run that was hip-hop’s equivalent to Stevie Wonder in the 70s, or Dylan in the 60s.
Jeru The Damaja's confident and coolly crafted 1966 album 'Wrath Of The Math' made No.3 on the hip-hop chart and Top 40 on 'Billboard'.
J Dilla's death, on 10 February 2006, robbed the world of a talent it was only just beginning to comprehend. We pick some of his landmark productions.