Motor City Monsters: 10 Classic Detroit Hip Hop Albums
Although not as instantly recognizable as New York City, L.A., or Houston, Detroit has long been an absolute factory of dope hip hop artists.
What was previously the soul music capital of the country in Motown’s prime now claims the point of origin for legends in the rap game such as J Dilla, Eminem, Royce Da 5′ 9″, and more.
With Prozak having grown up just outside of Detroit, and in honor of his latest album We All Fall Down, we thought we’d take a look at some past classics from other Motor City artists.
Check out our full list below, and make sure to hit up your local Best Buy and grab your copy of Prozak’s latest album, We All Fall Down, available now!
1. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
By now, there’s really no arguing that Eminem is one of the greatest lyricists hip hop has ever been graced with. While Marshall Mathers LP was actually Eminem’s 3rd studio album, it was definitely the one that took all of those “who is this dude?” moments from the first 2 albums and cemented them into “THIS DUDE’S A BAD MOFO!” moments, and for that it deserves it’s classic status.
2. ICP – The Great Milenko
You’d be hard pressed to find a hip hop group from Detroit (or anywhere for that matter…except you know…Kansas City) that has built not only a loyal and undying fan base, but (almost) literally their own universe, and this album had more than a helping hand in that process. ICP’s 4th studio album, “accidentally” released by Disney-owned Hollywood Records, is chalked full of the kind of horrifying, awesome, jump-around tunes that ICP has come to be adored for by their unrelenting army of Juggalos/lettes.
3. Slum Village – Fantastic Vol. 2
For many hip hop heads across the globe, when you say “Detroit Hip Hop that isn’t Eminem”, the first two names that come to mind immediately are Slum Village and J Dilla. And many more heads will tell you that J Dilla was Slum Village, but the lyricism of Baatin and T3 are not to be forgotten on this classic 2000 album. Dilla was at the height of his creativity as a producer, the rhymes were tight, and this album still holds up completely more than 10 years later.
4. J Dilla (Jay Dee) – Donuts
While we’re on the subject of the late, great J Dilla, we may as well acknowledge his solo instrumental album Donuts as one of the many classic Detroit hip hop albums. This album…there really are no words, but we’re going to try anyway. J Dilla is easily one of the most influential hip hop producers of all time, and this album is widely regarded as one of his best. Released just 3 days before his untimely death, this collection of soul-warming, sample-based instrumentals has been cited in the catalogs of legends like Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli, Jay Electronica, and more. Rest In Power Dilla!
Standout Tracks: Literally all of them.
5. Royce Da 5′ 9″ – Death Is Certain
While Royce may not gain the universal acclaim of his friend and fellow Detroit native Eminem, make no mistake, his lyricism is un-fuck-wittable. This album marks a turn to a darker style than his previous work, partly due to his well-documented battle with depression. While we hate the idea of anyone suffering from depression, Royce’s troubles at the time kind of made this album what it is today, which is a classic. And again, Royce’s lyricism is insanity. Seriously, the dude can rhyme an entire sentence with the previous sentence. It’s ridiculous.
6. Prozak – Tales From The Sick
Of course we had to include Prozak! While it was hard to pick which Prozak album to put on this list, we ultimately decided to go with his Strange Music debut as it marked the beginning of a new era for both Prozak and the Snake & Bat camp. This album is incredible. The beats are funk and differing, and Prozak’s delivery was as sharp as it ever has been. While we can’t deny that Prozak just seems to get better and better with each release, this is still our favorite.
7. Obie Trice – Cheers
Man, Obie Trice was awesome. Executive-produced by Eminem, this album finds Obie blending the harsh lyricism of Royce Da 5′ 9″ with the more fun-loving lighthearted lyricism of Em, while including the kind of club-banger flavor that surely helped in the album’s success. The best part of this album? Obie was having fun, straight up. This is his debut album, and while Obie most definitely lets his strengths shine, it doesn’t seem as over-thought and seriously taken as other debuts we’ve heard.
8. Esham – Judgement Day Vol. 1
Esham is one of those supremely weird anomalies in hip hop. One part west coast G-funk rap, one part horror-core, one part ICP-style silliness, Esham managed to excel in several different styles, some of which didn’t even exist previously. Judgement Day Vol. 1 is the first part of one of the first double albums in hip hop, and is full of harsh rhymes and funky ass beats, two attributes that have since become synonymous with Esham.
9. Elzhi – The Preface
Man, Elzhi is that dude. A prime example of Detroit lyricism, Elzhi is a former member of Slum Village (he joined after Fantastic Vol. 2 when Dilla was becoming sick), and widely regarded as “Detroit’s Best Kept Secret”. The Preface, almost entirely produced by fellow Detroit resident Black Milk, is a wonderful fusion of old school boom bap and new school, Dilla-inspired hip hop. Elzhi has gone on to gain more critical acclaim with his remake of Nas’ album Illmatic, aptly titled Elmatic (which really deserves to be on this list as well but we wanted to keep it an even 10).
10. Danny Brown – The Hybrid
While this album might only be 2 years old, Danny Brown is one hell of an emcee, and we’re pretty sure this will be regarded as a classic album in the future, so fuck it. As Danny’s debut studio album, The Hybrid introduced the world to The Adderall Admiral’s weird-as-hell intoxicating flow, raw lyricism, and lead to the Detroit native being signed to Fools Gold Records, on which he plans to release his upcoming album Old. This album is incredibly hard to describe, as is Danny Brown, so we just suggest you listen to it, because it’s amazing.
Alright, well there it is, 10 classic Detroit hip hop albums. Hopefully a few of your favorites made it, and who knows, maybe you expanded your auditory horizons a little bit along the way! Hope y’all enjoyed it, and we hope you’re enjoying Prozak’s We All Fall Down, in stores now.
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- What did you think of our list?
- What albums did we leave out?
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