What Rapper Had the Best 3 Album Stretch in Hip-Hop History?

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Crazy talk, it's my job to come up with rappity rap questions every week and write about them on the interwebs. So I fucking love when RefinedHype Nation does my job for me. More specifically, word to loyal citizen XuUP17 for providing the spark for the latest "

Question of the Week


Now, XuUP17's original idea was to try to figure out which rapper had the best three albums in their catalog, which is dope, but I'm going to raise the bar a little bit:

What Rappers Had the Best Consecutive 3 Album Stretch in Hip-Hop History? 

I love that question because not only does it put a premium on consistency we don't usually see, but it also makes you look at a rapper's career differently. Speaking of which, let's really spell things out before I start getting into specifics. 

First, when I say three consecutive albums, I really mean


. I'm including side projects, collaborative albums, I'm really looking for an artist who was as close to perfect as possible for a stretch. everything.

However, after really thinking it over, I do have to make an exception and exclude compilation albums/soundtracks/etc., artists just don't have enough control over them as a total project to really judge them. For example, if we're talking Wale (relax, just a random rapper I thought of as an example), his three album stretch would be "Attention Defecit" >>> "Ambition" >>> "Gifted"; not counting the two "Self Made" albums he was on. 

There's still some grey area there - for Kanye I'm choosing to count "Watch the Throne" but not "Cruel Summer", although you could aruge Ye had enough control over "Cruel Summer" that it should be counted - but shit, the grey area's where all the fun happens. Interesting note, that also means Biggie doesn't even qualify. He only released two albums (I'm excluding Junior Mafia's "Conspiracy" under the compilation clause) and "Born Again" was made without any of his input, so it doesn't seem right to include it. His status is so transcendent I think people forget how short his career really was. 

Also, this is going to apply more to newer artists, but we also have to talk the Mixtape vs. Album distinction. It's a topic way too

complicated and hotly debated

to settle here, so I'm just going to lay down the law. On one hand it doesn't seem right to count something like Lil Wayne's "Dedication 5", a mixtape he clearly just did for fun, against his three album stretch. On the other hand, it also doesn't seem right to exclude something like Big K.R.I.T.'s "Return of 4Eva", which would give him a pretty impressive "KRIT Wuz Here" >>> "Return of 4Eva" >>> "4eva N a Day" stretch. So we're just going to have to take it on a case by case basis. If it seemed like the artist just made a "mixtape" for the fuck of it, it doesn't count. If they really poured their heart and soul into it (like an "album"), but it just happened to come out online for free (like a "mixtape"), it counts. More grey area alert. 

On a final note, as I just realized with KRIT, it can be hard to determine an artists best three album stretch. Would you rather have "KRIT Wuz Here" >>> "Return of 4Eva" >>> "4eva N a Day", or " "Return of 4Eva" >>> "4eva N a Day" >>> "Live From the Underground"? Or to switch to a more famous example, let's look at Jay Z.

These are his picks for his best albums

, none of which line up consecutively. So what would Jay pick as his best stretch? "Reasonable Doubt" >>> "In My Lifetime: Vol. 1" >>> "Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life"? That would have two of his top five albums, although he's got "Vol. 1" pretty far down there. 

As you can see, this shit is only for my serious rap nerds. I already threw out some examples/nominees, but I feel like I can't completely turn things over to RefinedHype Nation without mention a few more names. Some closing thoughts...

* Interestingly, if we were picking from anywhere in his catalog, Nas is way up there with three albums, but consecutive? Between "Illmatic" >>> "It Was Written" there's "I Am" and "Nastradamus" before you get to the next great album, "Stillmatic". (Excluding The Firm album under the compilation clause.)

* I know everyone's going to bring up Kanye, including me. If he hadn't done "808s & Heartbreaks", which served its purpose but wasn't near a classic, Kanye would have a FOUR album "College Dropout" >>> "Late Registration" >>> "Graduation" >>> "MBDTF" stretch. Goddamn. Still though, the entire point of this is that "808s" happened and ruined the streak. 

* Fuck, what's your three album stretch pick for Outkast? You really can't go wrong, until "Idlewild", which I'm counting. Would you rather have: 

1) "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik" >>> "ATLiens" >>> "Aquemini"

2) "ATLiens" >>> "Aquemini" >>> "Stankonia"

3) "Aquemini" >>> "Stankonia" >>> "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"

Tough choice, but I think I gotta go number 2. 

And last, really really last, I know the big names are going to get a lot of love, but take a look at

The Roots discography

. If "Illadelph Halflife" >>> "Things Fall Apart" >>> "Phrenology " isn't in the discussion, this isn't a discussion worth having. 

I now place this question in your more than capable hands RefinedHype Nation. Have at it...