1. Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1994). No album captured the raw energetic feeling behind the britpop sound better than Oasis' phenomenal second album. Tamed with soaring pop melodies, lavish pop/rock instrumentation--exuding a rich aura of '90s driven rock'n'roll. An immeasurable blend of acoustic riffs and escalating well-crafted ballads, building the foundations for the Oasis legacy off the back of hits spawned by this album including the anthemic classic "Wonderwall." It's a masterpiece and one of the most important albums in British pop history--a concept yet to be challenged. Best: Don't Look Back in Anger.
2. Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998). "It could all be so simple" Hill opens on the bewitching R&B of "Ex Factor," "but you would rather make it hard" she continues; describing Hill's demonstrating of topical and lyrical layering of emotions unraveled within the confides of this magnificent set. Showcasing her poetic writing and bold vocal strengths over striking beat-driven hip-hop beats and silky grooves as she ironically illustrates an educational spectrum of of subjects regarding the pains and joys of love. Best: Doo Wop (That Thing).
3. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill (1995). Plugged with vengeance and rage, Alanis Morissette delivered a rough bag of acoustic-styled ballads ("Ironic") confident mid-tempos ("Mary Jane") and ear-splitting alternative rock ("You Oughta Know"), most of it fronted by Morissette's off-beat vocal. It won the Grammy for Album of the Year and also became 1995's best-seller as well as one of the most successful albums of all time. Best: Ironic
4. Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt (1996). Launching one of the most successful hip-hop careers in history was the debut album from Jay-Z. Intelligent and honest storytelling over laid back smooth hip-hop beats with lyrical fronts that embrace American street culture, particularly "Can't Knock the Hustle" not only Jay-Z's best, but among the best hip-hop albums ever. It's an ultimate style of hip-hop that has been emulated countless time off the back of this album. Best: Can't Knock the Hustle.
5. The Verve - Urban Hymns (1997). For their third album, English alternative rock band The Verve embraced a grand sense of alternative rock, pursuing sweeping trippy soundscapes and lavish rock grandeur thus delivering this striking set, however amongst the grandiose did manage to land some tamer moments like the warm guitar-driven "The Drugs Don't Work." Best: Bittersweet Symphony.
6. Radiohead - OK Computer (1997). The vigorously acclaimed third album by English rock band Radiohead showcased the band's lyrical aspiration and introspective musical experimentation. I've always preferred the left-field experimental rock/electronica of its follow-up Kid A, but giving this a more purposeful listen--it's a stronger set, overflowing emotion and illustrating elaborate imagery. Best: Karma Police
7. Nirvana - Nevermind (1991). I use to think there was nothing more to this album than "Smells Like Teen Spirit," when in fact there's more on here that demonstrates why it's heralded as one of the most influential rock albums of the '90s. Charging rock numbers strapped with numbing textures and mood shifts. It's American rock at its finest. Best: Lithium.
8. Notorious BIG - Ready to Die (1994). Raging hip-hop beats, confident rhyme patterns, accessible flow, formidable storytelling American rapper Notorious BIG landed one of the best hip-hop debuts of the '90s and in the midst of West Coast rap domination fronted by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre in the early '90s, BIG had a large hand in bringing East coast rap to the forefront. Best: Juicy.
9. TLC - Crazy Sexy Cool (1994). For their second album, R&B three-piece downplayed the relentless hip-hop beats of their first album in exchange for a more seductive take on R&B, delivering a blend of silky grooves ("Creep") powerful slow jams ("Red Light Special") funk tied with topical insights ("Waterfalls"). The album earned the threesome Album of the Year at the Grammys. Best: Waterfalls.
10. Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet (1990). It's the anger, protest and sheer lack of conservative appliance that make hip-hop duo Public Enemy's third album work so well. Driven by powerful cut-throat lyrics and relentless hip-hop beats , it's topical hip-hop at its finest. Best: Brothers Gonna Work it Out.
11. Radiohead - The Bends (1995). Radiohead's second album pursued more grand and more forceful experimental rock sounds, capitalizing on the grandeur of their debut but this was a more gripping and particularly better follow-up and ultimately set the platform for its even more compelling follow-up Ok Computer. Best: Planet Telex.
12. Green Day - Dookie (1994). It's funny to think fans thought Green Day had sold out to the corporate machine with their third album Dookie, where would that leave American Idiot? when in hindsight sounds just as inaccessible as ever, with its punky blend of American rock and alternative pop-rock demonstrated particularly on the charging "Basket Case." Best: Basket Case.
13. Janet Jackson - The Velvet Rope (1997). For her topic-heavy sixth album Janet Jackson developed a darker persona following a 2 year battle with depression, which transferred effectively into her work, covering a ray of touchy subjects including domestic abuse ("What About") homophobia ("Free Xone") isolation ("I Get Lonely") sexuality ("Rope Burn") delivering her best and most personal set yet. Best: Together Again.
14. Nas - Ilmatic (1994). Riveting hip-hop beats, honest storytelling with unique delivery, just a few of the things that made American rapper Nas' critically acclaimed debut one of the best hip-hop albums of the '90s. In fact, it was a height of hip-hop craft he never quite topped again. Best: Life's a Bitch.
15. Oasis - Definitely Maybe (1994). The first two Oasis albums, this and (What's the Story) Morning Glory? go hand in hand, the same way the Radiohead albums The Bends and Ok Computer do. Setting the platform, experimenting with a diet illustration of the sound on the former album before perfecting that sound and going all out on the latter. Best: Shakermaker
16. Mariah Carey - Daydream (1995). For her fourth album Mariah Carey began to move away from the strict adult contemporary pop of her first three records and began to adopt a more urban-driven feel to her work with the help of Jermaine Dupri, exquisitely demonstrated on the dark R&B of "Long Ago," but still Carey still shined best on the soaring ballads. Best: One Sweet Day.
17. Madonna - Ray of Light (1998). Following the lukewarm reception of her last two records, with the help of acclaimed producer William Orbit, Madonna returned in 1998 with this chilling, vibrant more serious take on pop, showcasing deeper insight on life lyrically, exuding a ray of emotions through cold numbers such as "Frozen" and "Drowned World/Substitute for Love." In fact, I'd say this was her only good album she released in the '90s. Best: Frozen.
18. U2 - Achtung Baby Baby (1991). Following the success of 1980's landmark with The Joshua Tree, which successfully saw U2 experimenting with soaring American rock sounds--after a slight mistep with its follow up--the Irish rock band delivered a killer seventh album, that once again successfully detoured in musical direction: heavier rock, spacier chords and more ambitious, effectively landing one of their most acclaimed songs to date "One." Best: One.
19. R.E.M. - Automatic for the People (1992). The eighth album from American alternative rock band R.E.M. saw the four-piece venturing into more topical, darker, more haunting and melancholic rocky territories, overseeing a spectrum of emotions elevated by death and loss, but still did provide lighter moments ("Everybody Hurts" and "Sweetness Follows") Best: Everybody Hurts.
20. 2Pac - Me Against the World (1994). Wearing his heart on his sleeve, American rapper 2Pac landed a phenomenal and highly influential third album, showcasing complex lyrical delivery that dealt with anger, pain, desperation all with intricate precision. Best: Me Against the World.