Black History Month is here. It’s a celebration of Black excellence at every level. One of the most praised and lucrative arts that Black culture has given to the world is hip-hop. Although it was birthed in New York, hip-hop’s poetic origins and spiritual undertones can be traced back to rhythms and hymns from slave times. The art of using poems and songs to articulate the struggles within the community has always been a powerful form of self-healing and learning in the Black community. That tradition has never changed.

Throughout rap’s young history, certain artists have veered away from the most popular topics of their time. They avoid songs laden with lyrics about money, women, and drugs. Instead, they look at their heritage, their people, and use their struggle to inspire them. Some rappers, like Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco, wish to teach their listeners. Other artists like Mos Def and Talib Kweli choose to influence others to seek out their own truths. These Black revolutionaries have created the soundtracks for the modern day Civil Rights movements. Albums like NasUntitled or Brand Nubian’s One For All had such powerful Afrocentric messages that were neither trendy nor marketable. These artists sacrificed record sales to enhance the culture.

There is never an overabundance of strong voices in the hip-hop music. In a culture that was birthed from poverty as a method of expression, what would you expect? The darkest corners of America’s poverty riddled cities are where some of hip-hop’s most intelligent wordsmiths were raised. The Langston Hughes' and Malcolm X’s of our generation sparked the revolution with ink and instrumentals. There is no better time than Black History Month to acknowledge the best Afrocentric albums in hip-hop culture. From Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne to Poor Righteous Teachers’ New World Order, these are the albums that were the most unapologetic Black masterpieces in rap culture.

Presented in chronological order according to their release date.