Who says the sequel is rarely better than the original? We did a deep dive into the history of various rap series and picked out 21 of the best hip-hop sequels of all time.
In hip-hop, being original and able to bring something new to the table is a major crux to success and survival. Adding new wrinkles to your cloth or reinventing yourself all together is a common denominator between many cultural icons and legends that have been able to stand the test of time. With that said, there’s nothing wrong with turning back the creative hands of time to draw inspiration from the past, whether it’s to tie up a loose end or for the sake of celebration.
There’s a saying that the sequel is rarely better than the original, which is true in most cases. However, there are also plenty of instances where the retread not only lives up to, but even surpasses the magic of the prototype. Over the years, a number of artists have attempted to create hype around a new project by billing it as an extension or continuation of a previous one that conjures up an air of nostalgia among the fans and critics. Regardless of the varying degrees of success, these hip-hop sequels have always mirrored an event, with everyone anticipating which way the pendulum will swing.
With long-awaited hip-hop sequels like Busta Rhymes’ recently released Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God capturing listeners’ attention and Kid Cudi’s forthcoming Man on the Moon III, AZ’s Doe or Die II, and Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele 2 on the way, we did a deep dive on the history of hip-hop sequels and picked out 21 of the most memorable that rivaled the original.
21. Method Man — Tical 2000: Judgement Day (1998)
The first Wu-Tang Clan member to drop a solo album following the success of Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers was Method Man. He hit the scene in grand fashion with his ’94 debut, Tical, which minted him as one of rap’s breakout stars. Nearly four years to the exact date of its release, Meth came out of hibernation with the album’s sequel, Tical 2000: Judgement Day, an album playing on the post-apocalyptic themes that were rampant in hip-hop at the time. The singles “Judgement Day” and “Break Ups 2 Make Ups” kept him in rotation, while posse cuts like “Spazzola” and “Play IV Keeps” channeled the energy of the Wu, making it an admirable answer to the original.
21. Rick Ross — Port of Miami 2 (2019)
Rick Ross’ breakthrough on the rap scene was marked by his 2006 single “Hustlin‘,” from his debut album, Port of Miami, which helped entrenched him as the new face of the Sunshine State. Packed with a murderers row of standout selections, including “Push It,” “Blow,” “Pots and Pans,” and “White House,” Port of Miami became one of the biggest rap albums of that year and served as the first seed planted for Ross’ continuous growth.
Building a legacy as one of the lyrical stalwarts of his generation, Ross returned to his roots last year with Port of Miami 2, the long-awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut. Loaded with star-studded guest spots from Drake, Lil Wayne, Nipsey Hussle, Wale, Summer Walker, Meek Mill, Teyana Taylor, and more, Port of Miami II was deemed one of the strongest releases of 2019 and arguably outclasses the previous installment in the series.
19. Fat Joe — Jealous Ones Still Envy (J.O.S.E.) (2001)
Decades before he made the transition into a gregarious media personality, Fat Joe was deemed one of the hardest rappers out of New York, with multiple records permeating through the underground. In 1995, Fat Joe took another step in journey with Jealous One’s Envy, the Bronx bomber’s sophomore set, which produced classics like “Success,” “The Shit Is Real (DJ Premier Remix),” and “Watch Out,” which spawned late rap icon Big Pun’s first appearance on wax. Years later, after the passing of Pun and amid doubts of his ability to thrive as a soloist, Joey Crack returned with a vengeance with Jealous One’s Still Envy, in 2001, which marked his commercial breakthrough. With a mix of bonafide hits (“We Thuggin’,” “What’s Luv“) and monstrous street anthems (“My Lifestyle“), Jealous One’s Still Envy earned Joe his first platinum plaque as a soloist and marked a stylistic evolution from its predecessor.
18. The Game — The Documentary 2 (2015)
In 2005, The Game, who was enlisted as a member of 50 Cent’s G-Unit after signing with Interscope Records, released his debut album, The Documentary. The album capitalized on the buzz surrounding G-Unit while showcasing his own breadth of talents as an MC. Billed as the savior of west coast rap, The Game flourished by all measures on The Documentary, crafting an instant-classic that also moved the needle commercially, selling millions of units and establishing The Game as a star. Ten years later, The Game commemorated its release with Documentary 2 and Documentary 2.5, both released within one week of another and garnering a resounding amount of acclaim. With cuts like the Drake-assisted hit “100” impacting the charts, and a litany of deep cuts that captured the more solemn moments of The Documentary, both albums may have lacked the commercial appeal of the original, but proved to be worthy additions to The Game’s discography.
17. Young Jeezy — Thug Motivation 102: The Inspiration (2006)
Most artists allow a few years to pass before following up an album with a sequel. But Jeezy chose to take on that task immediately, unleashing Thug Motivation 102: The Inspiration, the sequel to his classic debut Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, a year after his debut dropped. When compared against each other, Thug Motivation 102 stacks up well to its predecessors, with a slate of hits (“I Luv It,” “Go Getta,” “Dreamin“) and street bangers (“Bury Me a G,” “Mr. 17.5“) rounding out the album.
16. Method Man & Redman — Blackout! 2 (2009)
Blockbuster collaborative albums may be the norm in 2020. However, during the ’90s, two artists joining forces for a whole album was far from a regular occurrence. This is why Method Man and Redman’s 1999 album, Blackout!, was such a big deal. Producing tracks like “Tear It Off,” “Y.O.U.,” and the album’s defining moment, “Da Rockwilder,” Blackout! earned the duo a platinum plaque and intertwined their legacies forever. Nearly a decade later, in 2009, Meth & Red reconnected to bring things full circle with Blackout! 2, recapturing the magic of the original with fare like “A-Yo,” “Four Minutes to Lock Down,” and the silky single “Mrs. International.”
15. Eminem — The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
In 2013, looking to draw from the well that inspired the excellence of his third studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem released its sequel, The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Executive produced by Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin, the album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, and produced multiple singles such as “Berzerk,” “Survival,” “Rap God,” and the chart-topping Rihanna collaboration, “The Monster” The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was praised by critics and fans alike, earning Em his sixth Grammy Award for Best Rap Album at the 2015 Grammy Awards, as well as the distinction of rising to the occasion and beating father time, once again.
14. Busta Rhymes — Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God (2020)
Thirty years deep into a career that’s made him a beacon of longevity, Busta Rhymes decided to revisit the apocalyptic themes of his legendary ’90s run with Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, the sequel to his landmark 1999 release. Producing hits and fan-favorites like “Tear da Roof Off,” “Gimme Some More,” and the Janet Jackson-assisted smash “What’s It Gonna Be?!” E.L.E. earned platinum certification and three Grammy Award nominations, making it a monumental effort to top.
The jury may still be out on the final verdict, but The Wrath of God is packed with appearances from a who’s who of the hip-hop community. The album finds Busta sounding as spry as ever on choice cuts like “Slow Flow,” “Master Fard Muhammad,” and “Look Over Your Shoulder,” never losing pace with his collaborators while continuously rising to the occasion in terms of vocal and lyrical performance.
13. Nicki Minaj — Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012)
Earning a slot on the Young Money roster after dominating the mixtape and DVD circuit, Nicki Minaj released her debut album, Pink Friday, in 2010, marking the ascension of the new “it” girl in hip-hop. Producing a succession of hit singles, including “Your Love” and “Moment 4 Life,” Pink Friday achieved multi-platinum success and was hailed as one of the stronger debut efforts of the year.
In 2012, Minaj doubled down with Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, a conceptual album that stretched the breadth of her artistry. While the hit sugary lead-single “Starships” received mixed reviews, the album, which debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, included its fair share of winners, with “Right by My Side,” “Beez in the Trap,” and “Stupid Hoe” all gaining traction. While Roman Reloaded doesn’t quite live up to the original Pink Friday, it continued Minaj’s progression and continues to retain its replay value.
12. Run the Jewels — Run the Jewels 2 (2014)
In 2013, Killer Mike and El-P partnered up to form one of the unlikeliest duos in rap in Run The Jewels. Their first project featured highlights like “Get It,” “36′ Chain,” and the Big Boi-assisted number “Banana Clipper.” Garnering rave reviews for their collaborative effort, Killer Mike and El-P wasted no time giving the public another heaping of hardcore with Run the Jewels 2, which crashlanded a year later and continued their winning streak. With El-P, who produced the first album, behind the boards again, the pair picked back up without losing a step, turning in a fine-tuned project powered by the highlights “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1,” “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck).” Earning album of the year consideration by numerous outlets and publications, RTJ2 is one of the more monumental hip-hop sequels to captivate the culture in recent memory.
11. Prodigy — H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 (2008)
After stringing together one of the best three-album runs in rap history with Mobb Deep, Prodigy embarked on his first solo mission, liberating his H.N.I.C. album in 2000. Sticking with a formula familiar to his outings alongside partner-in-rhyme Havoc, Prodigy shines throughout H.N.I.C., whether it’s lyrically undressing posers with the lead single, “Keep It Thoro,” teaming up with southern conspirator B.G. for “Y.B.E.,” or trading bars with duo Bars & Hooks on “Diamond.” Eight years later, after a few additional solo releases, the Crime Rhyme Houdini doubled back with H.N.I.C. Pt. 2, which includes joints like “Young Veterans,” “ABC,” and “Veterans Memorial Pt. 2.”
10. Kid Cudi — Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager (2010)
Led by the singles “Make Her Say” and “Pursuit of Happiness,” Man on the Moon: End of Day was an overwhelming success in terms of acclaim and fanfare, but that didn’t stop Cudi from returning the next year with Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. Featuring a more diverse lineup of producers, Man on the Moon II consists of four acts — “The World I Am Ruling,” “A Stronger Trip,” “Party On,” “The Transformation,” and “You Live & You Learn” — as well as guest spots from CeeLo Green, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, and more, Man one the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager is a strong effort that does the initial installment in the series justice.
9. Lil Wayne — Tha Carter II (2005)
Lil Wayne sure has a thing for sequels. This was first discovered in 2002, when he sent a not so thinly-veiled shot at former labelmate Juvenile by titling his third studio album 500 Degreez. Nearly two years later, Weezy drew inspiration from the classic flick New Jack City, as well as his own government name, titling his fourth solo set Tha Carter, an album many point to as his coming of age as a lyricist. While the album, powered by the sleeper hit “Go D.J.,” restored the feeling to Cash Money as a label, it was Wayne’s 2006 follow-up, Tha Carter II, that took things to another level. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, Tha Carter II became Wayne’s most successful solo album to that point in his career and is ranked by many as one of his most complete albums.
8. Nas — Stillmatic (2001)
Released in 1994, Illmatic catapulted Nas to critical-darling status, with many touting him as the second coming of Rakim and the savior of rap. However, by the end of that decade, Nas was maligned by many of his previous supporters due to what they deemed as shallow, half-hearted efforts on his part, particularly his fourth studio album, Nastradamus.
Feeling the pressure to perform, Esco went back to the drawing board, remerging with Stillmatic, inspired by the aura and energy surrounding his magnum opus. While Stillmatic may not receive the universal adoration reserved for lIlmatic, it is considered one of the more memorable releases in Nas’ career and marks a turning point where he overcame adversity to reassert his greatness.
7. Future — DS2 (2015)
On 2011’s Dirty Sprite, Future’s breakout mixtape, the Atlanta native laid the foundation for a dominant run that has established him as one of rap’s modern-day rock stars. Fast forward four years later, the Freebandz general sent fans into a frenzy in 2015 by resuming where he left off with the release of DS2, Future’s third studio album. The album saw him come into his own as an MC, making good on the promise shown on previous efforts. Led by the singles “Where Ya At,” and “Stick Talk” and rounded out by deep cuts like “I Serve the Base,” “Rotation,” and “Blood on the Money,” DS2 earned Future his first No. 1 debut, a platinum plaque, and the distinction of being the rare artist capable of creating a sequel better than the original.
6. B.G. — Chopper City in the Ghetto (1999)
Former groupmates Lil Wayne and Juvenile may have been the faces of Cash Money at one point or another, but B.G. was the artist the label built its back on. By the time Cash Money was inking its massive distribution deal with Universal Records in 1998, B.G. had already released his ’96 solo debut, Chopper City, as well as It’s All On U, Vol. 1 and 2. In 1999, B.G. earned his just due with Chopper City in the Ghetto, a continuation of Chopper City that introduced B.G. to the mainstream and made it clear that CMB was a crew to be reckoned with. In addition to introducing the term “Bling” into the English canon via the album’s lead-single, Chopper City in the Ghetto included fan favorites like “Play’n It Raw,” “Knockout,” and “Niggaz In Trouble,” and is considered an undisputed classic in the pantheon of southern rap.
5. Raekwon — Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II (2009)
Produced entirely by RZA, Raekwon’s classic debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… spawned timeless cuts like “Ice Cream,” “Criminology,” “Incarcerated Scarfaces,” and “Rainy Dayz” leading it to be hailed as one of the highest creative achievements in rap to date. In 2005, Raekwon first announced plans to release a sequel to his debut on Aftermath Entertainment. However, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. 2 would not arrive until 2009 and was released through EMI. Loaded with noteworthy salvos such as “House of Flying Daggers,” “Surgical Gloves,” “Ason Jones,” “Broken Safety,” and “Catalina,” OB4CL2 is as strong as a retread as they come and jump-started a period of rejuvenation for the veteran wordsmith.
4. JAY-Z — Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life (1998)
After proving himself to be one of the deadliest MCs in rap with his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, JAY-Z went rogue. Enlisting Bad Boy’ production team, The Hitmen, to craft more radio-friendly tracks for his sophomore outing, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. Hov attained the platinum status he yearned for, but at the cost of fans whispering that his pursuit of commercial success had altered the potency of his music. Looking to find middle ground between his debut and his previous showing, Hov accounted for those missteps with his subsequent effort, Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, ultimately selling upwards of five million copies, his best-selling album to date. From seismic anthems like “Can I Get A…,” “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” and “Money, Cash, Hoes,” to album cuts like “A Week Ago,” and “Reservior Dogs,” Vol. 2 saw Hov crack the code and find his footing creatively.
3. Slum Village — Fantastic, Vol. 2 (2000)
All hip-hop sequels aren’t made equally. Initially released in 1997, Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1, which included material from the group’s demo, would not officially be released until 2006. But leaked copies of the album led to the group being tapped as darlings within the underground circuit. Hailed as successors to A Tribe Called Quest, whom they opened up for on the group’s farewell tour, in 2000, Slum Village came back for the first time, releasing their official debut album, Fantastic, Vol. 2 on GoodVibe Recordings. Comprised of repurposed material from Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 and other recordings, the album boasts appearances from Busta Rhymes, Common, D’Angelo, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Pete Rock, Kurupt, and Q-Tip. Lead by singles “Raise It Up” and “Thelonius,” Fantastic, Vol. 2 is a sequel that stands on its own strength, as well as the test of time.
2. Kanye West — Late Registration (2005)
Kanye West shocked the world in 2004, when he debunked the theory that a producer couldn’t be taken seriously as a viable MC. Devoid of any overt criminal exploits, The College Dropout spoke to the everyman trying to make his way through the world while in pursuit of the finer things. Instantly adorned with classic status, The College Dropout was a massive success, earning Grammy Awards and multi-platinum status in short order, with many questioning if he had the ability to go for the repeat.
This question was answered the following year when West dropped Late Registration, his sophomore album and the second in his college-themed trilogy. Debuting atop the charts, Late Registration had all of the fixings to make it more than comparable to The College Dropout, with gems like “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” “Gold Digger,” “Heard ‘Em Say,” “Touch the Sky,” and “Drive Slow” captivating listeners’ imaginations. Often pitted against My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as Kanye’s shining moment, Late Registration is a magnificent companion piece to The College Dropout, putting it in the upper echelon of hip-hop sequels thus far.
1. Dr. Dre — 2001 (1999)
Launching one of the most successful record labels all-time and creating one of the greatest albums of all-time in the same calendar year is virtually unheard of. But when you’re a doctor, anything is possible. Just ask Dr. Dre, who did exactly that in 1992, when he joined forces with Suge Knight to launch Death Row Records and released his solo debut album, The Chronic, which showcased Dre, as well as fellow Death Row signees Snoop Dogg, The Dogg Pound, Lady of Rage, RBX, and Nate Dogg.
While The Chronic swayed the rap pendulum fully in the west coast’s favor, Dre’s defection from Death Row, as well as the lackluster success of Dr. Dre Presents… The Aftermath — the first release on his new label, Aftermath Entertainment — some were pondering whether the doc had lost his touch. Enter 2001, a sequel to the original that rounded up a few familiar faces while showcasing some fresher talent as well. A massive critically and commercial success Chronic 2001 is an explosive body of work that rivals its prototype on all levels outside of sociopolitical commentary. It is also easily the greatest hip-hop sequel of all time.
A New York City-based reporter and writer, filling the empty spaces within street and urban culture. A product of the School of Hard Knocks, Magna Cum Laude. The Crooklyn Dodger. Got Blunt?