As I was meandering my way through my Facebook news feed the other day, I saw an update from my friend Gladys who listed a number of albums that have stuck with her over the years. Music plays such a critical role in defining a generation and a society, making a unique connection with each and every listener. We all have our individual preferences and many of us are constantly searching for something new, but there will always be a handful of albums that continue to make an impact in our lives.

Before getting to my brief list, it’s important to lay out a couple of ground rules. First, the album should not be a “best of” compilation or something of that sort. I also hesitate to include any movie soundtracks, though I suppose the argument can be made that they should be eligible for selection too. Second, the album should be considered as a whole. If I only liked one or two tracks, the album shouldn’t really make the cut. So, what albums did I choose?

In no particular order…

2Pac – All Eyez on Me

If memory serves me correctly, this may have been the first CD I’d ever purchased. Yes, I may have been a young and impressionable teenager at the time of its release, but All Eyez on Me has really stuck with me as being not only one of Tupac’s greatest albums, but also one of the greatest rap albums of all time. He was a poet and a social commentator who was taken from us far too soon. Some of my personal favorite tracks include Only God Can Judge Me, Ambitionz Az A Ridah and Life Goes On, all of which happen to be on the first disc of this two-disc set.

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP

To be honest, I didn’t really like The Slim Shady LP all that much. If anything, “My Name Is” got a little on my nerves. The Marshall Mathers LP, on the other hand, was decidedly darker and angrier. Maybe it’s because it gave me a place to vent some of my life’s frustrations, offering a vicarious means of doing or saying things that shouldn’t be done or said. “Kim” is a prime example of this. It’s hardly a good song at all, but it sticks with you whether you want it to or not.

Def Leppard – Hysteria

Before I got pulled into the world of hip hop and rap in the early 1990s, my musical interests largely lay in the arena of “hair metal.” I was probably too young at the time to really understand or appreciate anything, but I thought Def Leppard was great. And I want… and I need… and I lust… Animal….

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

Sometimes, your first album is your best album. While I still enjoy much of what Linkin Park puts out (they just released a new single titled “Guilty All The Same”), Hybrid Theory still represents their best work. I was immediately drawn in with the power and energy behind One Step Closer, as well as Crawling and Papercut. Since then, you could say that Linkin Park has “grown up” and they’ve moved toward more ballad-style singing in several tracks, like we’ve seen in Minutes to Midnight. That’s all well and good, but there’s nothing quite like Chester yelling at the top of his lungs.

Boyz II Men – II

Just as the early 90s were a great period for rap and grunge, it was also a fantastic period for R&B. And one of the best groups to emerge from that era had to be Boyz II Men. While I knew about End of the Road, it was II that really got me into the genre with songs like I’ll Make Love To You and On Bended Knee. And yes, as much as I may have also enjoyed groups like Jodeci, TLC and Bell Biv DeVoe, Boyz II Men had greater lasting appeal for me.

Of course, it would be impossible to list off every album that has stuck with me over the years, but these are five of my personal favorites. What about you? What songs and albums did you enjoy “back in the day” that you still listen to today?