Top 5 Classic Hip-Hop Cards
Welcome to a celebration like no other – a tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. In honor of this momentous anniversary, we’re looking at the two most important American creations of the late 20th century: modern trading card collecting and hip-hop. Join us all month (and beyond) as we spotlight how hip-hop and the Hobby have connected to create singular and enduring cultural moments.
As the beats echoed from the boomboxes and breakdancers spun on cardboard, the golden age of hip-hop etched its mark on the world through its music and memorabilia. Among these iconic collectibles were rap trading cards, capturing the essence of the era’s greatest emcees and DJs. Series like 1991 Pro Set YO! MTV Raps, 1991 Premier Rap Pack, and 1991 Topps Kings of Rap crystallized hip-hop legends into pocket-sized treasures, allowing fans to hold a piece of music history in their hands. We’re rewinding the tape and taking it back to the roots with this list, showcasing the 10 of the coolest classic rap trading cards that celebrate the moment hip-hop culture started its popular culture takeover.
Classic Hip-Hop Cards #s 5-1
5: 1991 Topps Kings of Rap #14 DJ Jazzy Jeff Will Smith & The Fresh Prince
From West Philadelphia born and raised, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince burst onto the scene, creating ripples in the hip-hop universe. This dynamic duo, consisting of the charismatic Will Smith and the turntable maven Jeff Townes, became the third rap act to strike platinum, pulling up a seat next to legends like Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. Remember “Parents Just Don’t Understand”? Not only did it give us all a relatable anthem, but it also snagged the inaugural Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1989. Yet, their chart-topping “Summertime” remains the toast of every cookout and bagged another Grammy for the duo. And though they’ve taken individual paths, their bond remains unbroken, with over 5.5 million albums celebrating their legacy.
Even Uncle Phil (RIP) could understand that.
4: 1991 Pro Set Yo MTV Raps #8 Big Daddy Kane
Ask a 90s rapper or any hip-hop historian about their biggest musical influences, and I’ll bet my last dollar they’ll name-drop Big Daddy Kane. The New York-bred God emcee and Sultan of Swag oozed cool, setting trends with his high-top fade, four-finger rings, and rockin’ the mic like few could even fathom. There’s a reason he’s a part of almost every top 10 rappers of all-time lists. And it’s not just his classic record, “Ain’t No Half Steppin'”. The legendary wordsmith and Juice Crew member released several well-regarded albums, including his debut Long Live Kane and its follow-up project It’s a Big Daddy Thing, posed for Playboy Magazine alongside Madonna, and even took Jay-Z on tour early in the Brooklyn legend’s career. Big Daddy Kane’s spot is cemented on hip-hop’s Mount Rushmore. He’s one of your favorite lyricist’s lyricist and the Dr. J of hip-hop.
3: 1991 Premier Rap Pack #93 NWA
NWA smashed barriers like ’80s rockstars did hotel rooms, setting the standard for gangsta rap and pushing the boundaries of the music industry with their unabashed and downright revolutionary style. Their music, often viewed as controversial due to its raw portrayal of drugs, crime, and perceived misogyny, delved deep into the realities of racism and police brutality and gave the young voiceless a movement to jump behind. Despite being banned from many radio stations, they made an undeniable impact, selling over ten million units in the US alone. The original powerhouse lineup boasted names like DJ Yella, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince. It also featured the likes of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E, who later pursued successful solo careers. Their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, paved the way for the rise of gangsta rap and led to their second project, “N*ggaz4Life”, topping the Billboard 200, becoming the first hardcore rap album to do so. Rolling Stone ranked NWA number 83 in their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” They earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. “Gangsta Gangsta,” indeed.
2: 2019 Garbage Pail Kids We Hate the ’90s Tattoo Lou and Doug Life Tupac
The 2019 Garbage Pail Kids Tupac parody card might be a humorous take, but the real Tupac was no laughing matter. Born to Black Panther parents, Tupac took it upon himself to be the voice for the oppressed. He emerged as perhaps the most influential voice in hip-hop during his time, leaving a lasting mark through his music, poetry, and acting. How many can claim to have sold over 75 million records and delivered an unforgettable performance as Bishop in Juice? The answer: Just Tupac, party of one. May the native New Yorker turned West Coast bad boy Rest in Peace. The work he put on Earth still resonates far past just hip-hop culture—a true icon.
1: GAS Trading Cards Notorious B.I.G Biggie Limited Edition Rookie Card /100
Biggie Smalls is the illest, realest, hailing from Brooklyn and an unmatched dynamo in the hip-hop firmament. Signed to Bad Boy Records by Sean “Puffy” Combs in ’93, he unleashed his debut album, Ready to Die, blessing us with anthems like “Juicy” and “Big Poppa.” This album made him the jewel of East Coast hip-hop when the West Coast was dominant. His following double album, Life After Death, conquered charts with tracks like “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems.” Selling over 28 million copies in the US alone, Biggie’s legendary status was sealed with Rolling Stone calling him the “greatest rapper ever” and his 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. It’s just my personal opinion, but Big is the best rapper ever to grace the mic.
Classic Hip-Hop Cards #s 10-6
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