Ranking the best rap albums, mixtapes, and EPs of the decade.
We’ve recruited fellow Hip-Hop journalist @CliffHangah aka guru to help us out, giving us 2 lists of the best Hip-Hop projects of the decade
Brief description with each project listed. Did we miss anything?
#1 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
A masterful piece of work, MBDTF is widely considered to be Kanye’s magnum opus. While he flirts with the ideas of a black man’s place in society, the true underlying theme of this album is a response to his self imposed exile following the Taylor Swift VMA incident in 2009. The indirect response is filled with some of the most glossy, maximalist production of this decade to some of the rawest displays of lyricism in his career.
#2 good kid, M.A.A.D City (2012) – Kendrick Lamar
GKMC found Kendrick Lamar crafting a classic theatrical story, telling his experience growing up in infamous Compton, California. The attention grabbing, layered story telling balanced with radio friendly singles makes this album a highlight of not just the 2010s but of the millennium itself. hvghtdrh
#3 Drake – Take Care
Take Care found Drake really on his square. Not fitting the traditional gangster rap mold, he sought to follow in the emotional, thought provoking footsteps of rappers before him like Kanye and Kid Cudi. Drake truly crafts his own story into an album of reminiscing, regret, and realizing the power this new found fame of his holds, and how it will affect his relationships with women past present and future.
#4 Tyler, The Creator – Bastard
Odd Future brain child Tyler the Creator comes with a debut effort that many would pass off as mindless horror-core shock value rap. While it did have some of these elements, look past the surface and you’ll find an innovative young artist who paints vivid stories of his life and aspirations in a way only his F-bomb heavy vocabulary can. The production goes against the grain and it marked a dawn of a new Era for the 2010s and his group’s future individual careers.
#5 To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar
The successor of Lamar’s studio debut finds the face of TDE evolving from Rap’s rookie of the year to Global music icon. This album, being heavily funk and jazz influenced finds Kendrick dually holding the mirror to modern society’s racial tension to holding the mirror to his own psyche unearthing heart wrenching problems that had him flirting with the idea of suicide.
#6 A$AP Rocky – Live.Love.A$AP
This debut mixtape accumulated a cult-like following for the Harlem born rapper. LiveLoveAsap takes a dive into the Houston influenced, drugged out world of one of New Yorks rising talents. The sharp, hard-hitting flows has the influential MC showcasing his lyrical showmanship in a way few to none can imitate. The buzz that follows from the whole A$AP Mob crew is a testament to the way the ‘purple swag’ rapper hit the scene
#7 Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
This sophomore mixtape of budding Chicago star Chance the Rapper finds Chance experimenting with imaginative off-kilter flows, quirky ad-libs, and song themes in a way that wouldn’t be quite as thought provoking if anybody else attempted it. The production is addicting, creative, and a breath of fresh air.
#8 Joey Bada$$ – 1999
The heralded debut of the Pro Era frontman finds Joey Bada$$ bringing back slick boom-bap 90s-styled bars, while still implementing his own unique sound. These raps are over infectious instrumentals handled by some of hip hops most praised producers (MF Doom and J Dilla) and more. This project foreshadowed the impending rise of one of the 2010s most influential hip-hop collectives, Pro Era.
#9 Chief Keef – Back from the Dead
This break out mixtape from Chicago rapper Chief Keef placed Chicago back on the map for music (last person being Kanye really) and provided a new sub-genre of rap to be explored. Although Waka Flocka can be credited for his head banging rendition of the impending drill movement, it’s Chief Keef’s emotionless, cold, nearly soulless delivery of these violent rhymes that made him a poster child for the drill movement. His lifestyle had invaded pop culture with phrases like 300, Bang Bang, O Block, Lamron, etc. Many Chicago rappers thrived from Chief Keef’s success off this tape including Lamron affiliates Fredo Santana, Lil Reese, King Louie, Montana of 300, Lil Durk, and more.
#10 Earl Sweatshirt – EARL
Coming from the Odd future collective, the unofficial second in command found Earl Sweatshirt flirting with the same shock value raps his cohort Tyler the creator did. But the similarities stop there. In this debut mixtape effort, the extremely young MC crafts several rhyme patterns reminiscent of underground legend MF DOOM. Despite the content of these lyrics being heavily x-rated and controversial, the tape finds Earl performing verbal acrobatics even people twice his age would have a hard time accomplishing.
#1 good kid, M.A.A.D City (2012) – Kendrick Lamar
- Best concept album in Hip-Hop; inspired albums like My Krazy Life by YG.
- Plays like cinema, well-placed skits and well-planned album structure.
- Kendrick’s “coming-out party”, anointed Prince of the West after this album.
#2 K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) – Big K.R.I.T.
- One of the few albums from 2010 that can compete with Kanye’s MBDTF.
- K.R.I.T. spills his life into this.
- Self-produced, engineered, and written.
- My favorite album of this gen?
#3 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – Kanye West
- Cinematic, plays like a movie.
- Kanye West at the height of his creativity.
- Lush and grandiose; the opposite of the minimalistic Yeezus follow-up.
#4 Return of 4eva (2011) – Big K.R.I.T.
- Best self-produced & self-written album in Hip-Hop
- Amazing production.
- Few rappers fit as snugly into their own production like Big K.R.I.T.
#5 Section.80 (2011) – Kendrick Lamar
- Well-executed concept album.
- Arguably Kendrick’s best album.
- Catapulted Kendrick to the masses, led to the good kid, M.A.A.D city album.
#6 How I Got Over (2010) – The Roots
- Prime exhibit of how to implement live production on a Hip-Hop album.
- ?uestLove absolutely KILLS the drums on this album (in a good way).
- Exceptional rhyme schemes and themes by Black Thought.
#7 To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar
- Gorgeous merger of Jazz and Hip-Hop
- Substance for days on this album with songs like “How Much A Dollar Cost“
- Home of Kendrick’s most impactful song, “Alright“.
#8 We Got It From Here…Thank you 4 your service (2016) – A Tribe Called Quest
- Some of the best boom-bap in 2016.
- In line with ATCQ’s Midnight Marauders & The Low End Theory 90s classics.
- Beautiful ode to the late Phife Dawg.
#9 Pilot Talk (2010) – Curren$y
- Curren$y’s magnum opus.
- Illustrious production by Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt lead producer Ski Beatz.
- Motivation and cannabis raps from Curren$y “the hot spitta”.
#10 Kush & Orange Juice (2010) – Wiz Khalifa
- The premier “weed mixtape” in Rap this generation.
- Wiz skates over Johnny Juliano, Cardo, and Sledgren production.
- Prime Wiz prior to his ascension to a star in Rap.
- One of the most anticipated mixtapes releases of its time.