‘Discography to be proud of’ project


My friend Sunny brought an interesting question to my attention (which was posed by Asim Chaudhry on Romesh Ranganathan’s Hip-Hop Saved My Life podcast):

which artist has the strongest discography?

Now this is a really difficult question to answer. I’ve seen people come to blows because another person couldn’t accept that Rakim/Nas/2Pac/Biggie weren’t the best rapper of all time. But we aren’t looking to find the ‘best rapper ever’; we are looking for the artist who can be most proud of their discography.

Hip-hop is a reasonably new art, so we only have to look back to 1979. In the early days, I think it is fair to say that output was limited, but by the mid-80s hip-hop had really taken off.

Unpicking the question

Pride is a difficult thing to measure. We’ve taken a really basic measure for pride: critical ratings. Not a great measure, but possibly the best we have to hand.

An artist’s discography is a unwieldy and complex beast too. Take for example Pharoahe Monch: one half of Organized Konfusion, a solo artist with four albums, plus a host of amazing guest slots on various mixtapes and soundtracks (see Oh No , Mayor , Got/F* You ).

We decided to take full album releases as an artist’s body of work.

I originally took the scoring from Metacritic, but their scores don’t go back further than 2001, which discounted a lot of stuff. I turned to Allmusic.com and used their scoring throughout (except a couple – they are the ones not rounded to tens). The 5-star ratings were converted to percentages (each full star equals 20%, so e.g. = 70%).

Where Allmusic.com reviews are not available, I have defaulted to metacritic. Where there is no metacritic score, I have calculated an average rating from the following sources: Exclaim, HipHopDX, NME, OkayPlayer, RapReviews, Rolling Stone, Spin, and XXL. These sources were chosen as the most hip-hop-focussed, long-running and likely to actually have reviewed the work.

Some rules

  1. Must have at least 3 full albums (not EPs)
  2. Doesn’t include any EPs, guest appearances, compilations or mix tapes
  3. Can include genuine partnership albums e.g. Black Star counts towards Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s scores as truly joint, but GZA can’t count Wu Tang Clan’s albums
  4. We’ve cut off at groups with max 3 MCs for work to be classed towards the individual
  5. Doesn’t include compilations or live albums
  6. The album had to sell ‘enough’ so someone actually heard it and there was a possibility of it being reviewed somewhere


Sunny guessed LL Cool J. I said The Roots (but I am biased).

Progress so far


Okay, here we go

  1. Some great artists don’t make the cut (The Fugees – they only did 2 albums)
  2. Working out which album counts towards the total was hard
  3. Working through the aliases was harder – looking at you Kool Keith
  4. Find some of the more obscure albums was impossible
  5. All scoring is subjective – I disagree with some Allmusic.com scores, but I tried to keep it consistent
  6. Some scores are missing – you can add them
  7. I have no idea how to deal with super producers (like DJ Krush or DJ Shadow) who released solo work

Okay, I’m ready

Show me the results