In the history of the genre, 50 hip hop albums have received multi-platinum or diamond certifications. While some of them found broad appeal, others were major influences on the music industry and represented turning points for the genre. In this article, we’ll be going over the 25 best-selling hip hop albums of all time.
1. The Eminem Show – Eminem – 27 Million
Not only one of the best-selling hip hop albums of all time but one of the best-selling albums of all time regardless of genre, The Eminem Show was also one of Eminem’s most personal albums. Featuring commercially successful singles like Without Me, Till I Collapse, and Superman, it racked up 27 million sales worldwide and had to release over a week early because of how many people were pirating the record.
Since 2000, only 21 by Adele has sold more copies. The Eminem Show was nominated for Best Album at the 2003 Grammy Awards and won Best Rap Album while Without Me won Best Music Video.
2. The Marshall Mathers LP – Eminem – 25 Million
Despite the controversy surrounding the lyrics in most of the songs on this one, The Marshall Mathers LP sold 1.7 million copies in its first week, making it one of the fastest-selling albums in history. It debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and held the spot for eight weeks, and singles like The Real Slim Shady and The Way I Am have earned it the name of the best album of 2000 by Rolling Stone.
With 25 million worldwide sales, it won Best Rap Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards and was nominated for Album of the Year. It was called Best Rap Solo Performance that year as well.
3. The Score – Fugees – 22 Million
The Fugees had a short career, with The Score being the group’s second and final studio album. Ahead of its time, it introduced elements of alternative hip hop that dominated the scene in the 90s, including sampling and instrumental portions of songs. It became the third best-selling album of 1996 and sat atop the Top R&B/Hip Hop Album charts for eight weeks.
Killing Me Softly and Ready Or Not were probably the most popular songs on it, with the former winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. It’s the best-selling hip hop album in France for an American act, and its 22 million worldwide record sales land it the title of best-selling hip hop album by a group in history.
4. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill – 20 Million
In 1997, all three of The Fugees started solo careers, and Lauryn Hill found immense success with her debut album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. It broke sales records for female artists by selling over 420,000 copies in its first week, carried by singles like Doo Wop (That Thing) and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.
At the 41st Grammy Awards, it was nominated for 10 awards and won five of them. Her personality and views on life made it relatable, and though it’s her only studio album, it has sold over 20 million copies worldwide since its release in 1998.
5. Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em – M.C. Hammer – 18 Million
If you try to tell me you haven’t heard U Can’t Touch This, I’ll call you a liar. That single carried Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em to legendary status among hip hop albums. It sat at the number-one spot on the Billboard 200 for 21 weeks and on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Album charts for 28 consecutive weeks. In 1990, it was the best-selling album of the year, selling over 17 million copies worldwide. It was also the first hip hop album to ever receive a diamond certification in the US from the RIAA.
6. CrazySexyCool – TLC – 15 Million
TLC’s second studio album is the only hip hop album from a girl’s group to receive diamond certification from the RIAA. With over 15 million record sales worldwide, it’s the best-selling album by an American girl’s group in history. Peaking at number three on the Billboard 200, CrazySexyCool held that spot for more than two years and was the biggest commercial success of the group.
7. To the Extreme – Vanilla Ice – 15 Million
Sometimes, a single becomes so popular that it carries an album to ridiculous sales numbers like in the case of U Can’t Touch This. Ice Ice Baby is another one of those songs, and along with Vanilla Ice’s cover of Play That Funky Music, brought To The Extreme to the extreme of record sales with over 15 million copies sold worldwide. It ended up spending 16 weeks at the top spot of the Billboard 200. Did you know the intro music from Ice Ice Baby was based on part of the Queen song, Under Pressure?
8. Curtain Call: The Hits – Eminem – 12.4 Million
With the success of earlier albums that we’ve covered already, it’s no surprise a “greatest hits” album from Eminem would sell ridiculously well in 2005. A collection of his most popular songs, Curtain Call: The Hits features four new songs, with When I’m Gone serving as the lead single on it. Returning favorites like Without Me, The Real Slim Shady, and Lose Yourself, those new songs buoyed it to over 12 million worldwide record sales.
9. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent – 12 Million
50 Cent exploded onto the hip hop scene with this debut album in 2003, and it set the standard for gangsta rap albums at the time. Massive hits like In Da Club ranked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and it sold almost 900,000 copies in its first week, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200. It was the best-selling album of 2003 and eventually would sell over 12 million copies worldwide. Frankly, I still listen to songs from it to this day.
10. Big Willie Style – Will Smith – 11.6 Million
Y’all might have forgotten that Will Smith had a legitimate career in hip hop with how successful he became as an actor, but here we are. Big Willie Style was his debut solo album, making it to the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 and UK Albums Chart. The biggest song from it was Gettin’ Jiggy With It, which became his first number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. Eventually, it would earn well over 11 million worldwide record sales, thanks in large part to the radio-friendly style of rap without explicit lyrics that he is known for.
11. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – Outkast – 11 Million
This is one of the most interesting on the list, and its role as a double album makes it hard to pin down exact sales records. Speakerboxxx and The Love Below were two separate albums by the individual members of Outkast sold together with different stylistic takes. At 5.7 million unit sales in the US, it doubled its sales to over 11 million. Hey Ya! and The Way You Move reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
12. Encore – Eminem – 11 Million
Yep, we have another Eminem album, but I’ll tell you now… it isn’t the last one to make it on here. Slim Shady’s fifth studio album might not be his best, but it still sold like it. Singles like Mockingbird and Toy Soldier are still classic Eminem despite even the man himself not being a fan of half the album. In total, Encore still performed commercially, earning over 11 million sales worldwide.
13. Nellyville – Nelly – 11 Million
While critics didn’t find Nellyville as good as Nelly’s Country Grammar, it outperformed its predecessor with over 11 million worldwide record sales. Singles like Hot In Herre and Air Force Ones were quintessential hip hop of the time, with the former and Dilemma topping the Billboard Hot 100. Nellyville itself sat at the top of the Billboard 200 for four weeks and would be nominated for Best Rap Album and Album of the Year.
14. Doggystyle – Snoop Dogg – 11 Million
The D.O. Double G’s debut studio album was released in 1993 after Snoop Dogg appeared on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Doggystyle was partially responsible for bringing West Coast rap to the mainstream in the 90s and has been listed as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. At the time of release, it became the fastest-selling hip hop album ever with over 800,000 sales in its first week before eventually climbing to over 11 million sales worldwide.
15. The Massacre – 50 Cent – 11 Million
Like Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, The Massacre brought 50 Cent similar commercial success. In the first four days after release, the album sold over one million copies and brought us hits like Candy Shop. It held the top spot of the Billboard 200 for six weeks before being dethroned by Mariah Carey and The Emancipation Of Mimi.
16. 2001 – Dr. Dre – 10.6 Million
Released as a follow-up to The Chronic, Dr. Dre’s 2001 expanded the G-funk sound and became one of the most successful hip hop albums in history. Still D.R.E., Forgot About Dre and The Next Episode all charted well and helped it reach well over 10 million sales worldwide.
17. Greatest Hits – Tupac Shakur – 10.6 Million
This was released two years after Tupac Shakur’s death and was the first time commercial audiences were introduced to four of his unreleased singles. It’s no surprise a highlight reel album from such an amazing artist sold well, and it became one of his two albums that would reach diamond-certified status.
18. All Eyez On Me – Tupac Shakur – 10.6 Million
Selling at about the same pace as the greatest hits posthumous album, All Eyez On Me was Tupac Shakur’s fourth studio album and featured appearances by several stars like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Method Man. It was also the final album he would release before his death seven months later. It was deeply personal, detailing the struggles he faced in life, and eventually would go on to sell well over 10 million copies worldwide.
19. Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys – 10.5 Million
Licensed To Ill is critically ranked as one of the greatest hip hop albums and one of the greatest debut albums of all time. It’s one of the fastest-selling records in history and one of the few hip hop albums to receive a diamond certification in the US. It’s full of great songs, but No Sleep Till Brooklyn and Brass Monkey are two singles that just hit differently.
20. Life After Death – The Notorious B.I.G. – 10.2 Million
The Notorious B.I.G.’s second and final studio album had a bit of an ironic title as it was released just 16 days after his death in 1997. It’s widely considered to be one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time and singles like Hypnotize became iconic in the genre.
21. E. 1999 Eternal – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – 10 Million
E. 1999 Eternal was dedicated to the group’s mentor Eazy-E and became their best-selling album, eventually reaching 10 million worldwide sales. It raised the bar for gangsta rap in terms of melodic harmonies and topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks.
22. Country Grammar – Nelly – 10 Million
Nelly’s debut album was the beginning of the St. Louis sound and introduced a new vocal style to the hip hop world. Hit songs like E.I., Country Grammar, and Batter Up helped it become a major success and reach 10 million worldwide sales.
23. Recovery – Eminem – 10 Million
Okay, this is the last one. Recovery became one of Slim Shady’s most emotional albums and featured incredible songs like Not Afraid, Love The Way You Lie, and Space Bound. It earned Eminem several more Grammy nominations and eventually would sell over 10 million copies worldwide.
24. No Way Out – Puff Daddy – 10 Million
No Way Out debuted at number one and the song I’ll Be Missing You became an international hit. The album sold around 10 million copies worldwide and became a classic in the hip hop genre, featuring appearances from The Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, and The Lox.
25. Monkey Business – Black Eyed Peas – 9 Million
Black Eyed Peas‘ fourth studio album would end up selling over 9 million copies worldwide and earned four Grammy nominations. It was extremely popular in Europe, with Don’t Phunk With My Heart becoming the most successful song from it.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.