After the summer of 2003, on the strength of "Right Thurr" and "Holidae In,"Chingy's Jackpot went triple platinum. I still can't believe it. And as if karma were indeed a motherfucker with some specific vendetta against hip-hop, only a dozen or so rappers have gone even 1x platinum in the decade since.

You know what's cooler than a platinum certification, though? A diamond certification. Rap's only got seven of 'em, issued between 1990 and 2003, one of them to MC Hammer. Before we get into this, you should know that when the RIAA sends you the plaque, it's not even made of diamonds; it's made of wood, glass, and steel. Dr. Dre's "platinum plaque" isn't a real thing, much less a diamond plaque. What's the point even? Let's rank these albums, I guess. 

5. Eminem, The Eminem Show

Release Date: May 26, 2002
Label: Shady/Aftermath/Interscope

Given certain tendencies of his contemporary output, it’s tempting to recall The Eminem Show as Eminem’s pop extravaganza. And while “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” “Sing for the Moment,” “Superman,” and "Till I Collapse" were the sort of Billboard hits that foreshadowed Eminem's latest run of power anthems and Rihanna collaborations, the white boy was still rapping his ass off on the singles and deep cuts alike. There's the G-Unit-infused “Soldier,” the D-12-styled “Without Me,” the tag-teaming (vs. Jermaine Dupri and Bow Wow) "Say What You Say" with Dr. Dre—all together, it’s a style of autobiography that’s more cohesive and direct than even 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me, with severity of personality and traumas defined that few other rappers have ever achieved, if only because no one could ever dare to try.


4. The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death

Release Date: March 25, 1997
Label: Bad Boy

Compared to his debut, Ready to Die, the Notorious B.I.G.'s second (and final) studio project is a more inclusive affair that more so resembles the modern rap album: multivariable, loaded with features from various regions, with pristine, boisterous production. Yet none of Life After Death's variety or extravagence ever drowns Big's voice or charisma as the lead force of this project. “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” are two of the biggest hits of Big's career. “Notorious Thugs” f/ Bone Thugz-n-Harmony and “I Love the Dough” f/ Jay Z are the boldest non-Bad Boy collaborations of Big's catalog. You could rock a house party of well-shaved 33-year-olds wearing blazers with this album. Even though "Another" f/ Lil Kim and "Nasty Boy" both sound like parody records from a club skit on Chappelle's Show.

3. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP

Release Date: May 22, 2000
Label: Shady/Aftermath/Interscope

Eminem's best album went diamond, meaning there's justice in this world and in this industry, occasionally. If you're older than 23, go back and listen to this album; bask in the fact that, as an adult, it's actually rather difficult to reestablish connection with the rage and psychopathy of pre-Rihanna Eminem; "Kill You" and "Kim" especially. This earlier half of Eminem's catalog was custom built for adolescence, engaging, enthralling, exciting until the point in life when you've got to raise a daughter, sustain a marriage, and not murder civilians. 50 Cent may be hip-hop's bad guy emeritus, but Eminem was an American villain. My mother was legit terrified.

2. 2Pac, All Eyez on Me

Release Date: Feb. 13, 1996
Label: Death Row/Interscope

The first track off B.I.G.’s Life After Death is “Somebody’s Gotta Die,” which is a good song. The first track off 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me is “Ambitionz Az a Ridah,” which, in the grand tumult of humanity, is the only song that’s ever mattered. (Sorry, Big.) With Johnny J, DreDaz, and Quik on the boards,2Pac dropped the biggest number of hits and gems ever squeezed onto a single rap album; admittedly, like B.I.G.'s Life After Death, this one's a double-discAll Eyez on Me hosts2Pac's tremendous, notoriously enigmatic range; 2Pac is on here confronting #BlackOnBlackCrime, inventing mixed drink orders, and reconciling his feminism with his dick. “I used to fiend for your sister but never went up in her” is thetrillest pledge of brotherhood in a genre that offers much competition on that front. If “Whatz Ya Phone #” wasn't on here, and if 2Pac didn't swear so goddamn much, I swear the deacons of my hometown church would've stomped down the aisles to this album. Gospel instrumentation and all.

1. OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Release Date: Sept. 23, 2003
Label: LaFace/Arista

As a blockbuster pop single, “Hey Ya!” is indeed The Love Below’s best foot forward, though it's just OutKast getting started. “A Life in the Day of Andre Benjamin” is the most surreal, engrossing bit of artist biography since Prince's "Ballad of Dorothy Parker." From Big Boi's half of the double-disc split, “GhettoMusick, “The Rooster,” “Bust,” “Flip Flop Rock,” and “Last Call” are the collectively deafening bombast by which Speakerboxxx earns its name. Whereas albums likeThe Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show (rightfully) max out on adolescence and blunt appeals to teen egos,Speakerboxxx and The Love Below are, together, a sort of grand musical experiment in which a band tests the bounds of its historical fluency. Here you have a rap album that's secretly a rock album, and not-so-secretly a feat of funk and R&B. In two parts, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is hip-hop’sSign o’ the Times, with “Prototype” giving Prince a run for Andre’s advance. OutKast is the greatest American band of all time. Here's one album (among six) to prove it.