This week on TBT we are looking at the best albums of 1998, celebrating the 20th anniversary of some truly great albums from some legendary artists. The late 90s were an intriguing time in the music business, with experimentation and rap music ruling the airwaves, as you’ll see clearly with our list:
10: Madonna – Ray of Light
Now I know what you’re thinking: Madonna? In the 90s? But yes, this album truly is a landmark moment in the legendary singer’s career. It displayed a raw sound and belief that eluded Madonna ever since her initial rise to prominence. Although there aren’t any Like A Prayer moments on this album, it is an all-encompassing piece of work; and easily one of the best pop albums of the 1990s.
9: DMX – It’s Dark and Hell is Hot
DMX burst onto the scene in 1998, mainly thanks to the brash and abrasive attitude he showed on this hard-hitting debut album. He used that brutal, choppy flow he has to full effect on It’s Dark and Hell is Hot to announce himself as a real hip-hop up-and-comer; hence why he enjoyed the success he went onto achieve later on in his career.
8: Gomez – Bring It On
The Mercury Prize winning debut album from British indie-rock band Gomez was an influx of catchy and relevant tunes, coinciding brilliantly with the times while simultaneously standing out from the crowd. An album as strong and successful as this one would go on to become the band’s downfall, never managing to replicate their first work; a curse that is often cast onto emerging artists.
7: Manic Street Preachers – This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
Manic Street Preachers are somewhat of a quintessential 90s British band and their 1998 album This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours is one of the finest examples of that. Putting on an absolute clinic in thought-provoking and powerful low-fi rock hits, The Manics proved their worth and then some from start to finish on this aptly titled album, pouring out insecurities in the most empowering of ways.
6: Queens of the Stone Age – Queens of the Stone Age
The eponymous debut work from Queens of the Stone Age was simply a sign of things to come above all; it may not be the finest work in their discography, but as an introduction to the band’s image and identity, it is fucking mega. Josh Homme oozes personality and charisma in a pure rock-and-roll record, gushing with loud guitars and slick vocal deliveries.
5: Mos Def & Talib Kweli – Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star
The only album released by Mos Def & Talib Kweli as a duo, Black Star is a bar-heavy cultural homage to their own lives; addressing the issues of the time as well as philosophy and growing up in the Brookyn, New York area. The album is often richly praised for turning it’s back on so-called “gangsta rap” for a more cultured and polished approach of mindfulness and celebrating black culture. It was a superstar hip-hop collaboration at the time, and it still sounds fresh and enjoyable to this day.
4: Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty
Okay I’ll admit it, this isn’t the best Beastie Boys album ever released, in fact it isn’t a million miles away from being their worst; but how good does that make the Beastie Boys then? Their worst album has Intergalactic on it? The brilliance of the trio shines through in abundance on this album, irregardless of how it ranks alongside their previous efforts.
3: Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Honing in their craft on this album, Massive Attack moved into new avenues of electronica for their third project Mezzanine and reaped the rewards of such a bold career move. It is albums such as this one that really make you appreciate the brilliance of Massive Attack and all their music stood for, daring to be bold and different; something which the electronic music scene has truly lacked for such a long time now.
2: Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill became more than just Lauryn Hill with the release of her debut solo album; she became an enigma, an icon in a male-dominated field and someone who could convey emotion on a track better than just about anyone. Becoming the most nominated female ever at the 41st Grammy Awards for this very album, it is hard to deny that this album was an earth-altering moment in the landscape of hip-hop.
1: Outkast – Aquemini
There was only ever going to be one winner of this list, really. Outkast’s third album Aquemini is a brutally honest back and forth between the obscenely diverse mental capacities of Big Boi and Andre 3000; trading verbal bombs and crafting gorgeous production to celebrate the sound of funkadelic and jazz-hop. There is a strong claim for this album brushing shoulders with the absolute greats of the genre and rightfully so, it’s damn near faultless.