I want to start this list off by stating that this is my list, and I don’t care about your list unless you actually tell me what it is. I’m here for the trolling, but I won’t respond unless it’s funny.
Anyhow, let’s get started. The 2010s were an interesting decade for hip-hop. We got a lot of music thanks to the advent of streaming and saw the genre go from Kanye’s kids, to face-tatted, colorful haired, trap crooners. The spectrum spawned a bunch of good material that kept me inspired throughout this time period.
The decade started off very strong and ended weak in my opinion. Without further adieu, here’s my list for the ten best rap albums of the 2010s.
10 – Eminem – Recovery
When this album first dropped, it garnered a ton of critical acclaim and praise, and has largely been forgotten due to internet trolls who write this project off as a collection of crappy pop songs. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Recovery is Eminem’s logical continuation to the “The Eminem Show” and continues to document pieces of his personal life much like his pre-retirement discography did. It also features amazing production from Boi-1da and Just Blaze and a classic collaboration between him and Lil Wayne on “No Love.”
Sure, there’s a few pop hits on here like “Love the Way You Lie,” but overall this really was Eminem’s return to form that was rejected by a fickle internet. It is also a great rap album with a ton of replay value. It’s pretty much the last great project from Marshal who decided to focus more on the art of rhyming than song making in the years since dropping it.
9 – Prodigy & Alchemist – Albert Einstein
This album is a certified slapper and sees Bandana P return to form after his money getting, steroid gangster stint on G-Unit. When P got out of jail in 2011, he dropped the decent EP “Black Cocaine” with Mobb Deep partner Havoc, but followed with a very disappointing, love song packed “HNIC 3.”
Thankfully he didn’t waste too much more time and linked back up with Alchemist to cook up this classic Mobb affiliated album. The soundscape compliments P’s later simplistic style perfectly and makes for amazing winter driving music. You even feel like you’re inside a movie during certain parts of this project and the guests are all a who’s who of modern NYC spitters. It pays great homage to the 90s era while making the Mobb Deep sound current. It was largely slept-on, but definitely worth going back to.
8 – Migos – Culture
The Migos had a few hits in the first part of the decade and arguably ran the second half with their crowning moment being the release of “Culture.” The album includes their biggest hit to date “Bad and Bougie” along with slappers like “T-Shirt” and “Deadz.”
When this album dropped, everyone was once again trying to rap like the Migos and their impact couldn’t be denied. The moment had some people in the culture calling them the greatest rap group of all time.
7 – Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap
Before Migos had their moment, Fetty Wap blazed the scene with an album packed full of Top 40 hits. “Trap Queen,” “My Way,” “679,” and “Again” are just some of the tracks that dominated the airwaves and clubs during 2015.
The album was so good that it even worked against Fetty and arguably made everyone sick of his sound. After dropping the string of hits from it, he’s struggled to recreate the same magic. But his moment can’t be denied, and this album has no skippable material. It’s one of the few during the decade that has that quality. The beats bang and everything is just so damn catchy on it.
6 – A$AP Rocky – Live Love A$AP
This was not released as an album, but it’s too good of a project to keep off this list. A$AP Rocky beautifully married Bone Thugs flows with New York content and a Houston inspired flare. Producer Clams Casino did some of his best work here with his atmospheric collection of beats that allowed Rocky to paint some vivid pictures alongside some of his besties. The trippy project set the stage for a lot to follow.
His first major label debut “Long Live ASAP” mimicked some of the things that worked on this project but was just too polished. The rawness on Rocky’s debut makes it his best project to date.
5 -Kendrick Lamar – good kid m A.A.d city
This is arguably the best rap album of the decade and truly revived the hip-hop classic. The story weaved by Lamar on the project pulls the listener in and gives his character a full arc that ends in redemption.
It also works as just a collection of bangers with songs like “B***h, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Backseat Freestyle,” and “Swimming Pools.”
This album was the only thing you heard when it dropped and personally, it got me through Hurricane Sandy when the storm ripped through my Staten Island neighborhood.
4 – Travis Scott – Astroworld
This album isn’t talked about enough, even though Travis Scott is one of the most coveted artists of the decade. This is arguably a classic project that finally takes autotune crooning to place that hip-hop fans should care about.
Scott also spits some fire bars with the help of co-writer Cyhi Da Prynce. Transitions on songs like “Star Gazing” and the Drake assisted “Sicko Mode” blend separate songs perfectly into one. It’s an accomplishment that can’t go ignored. Scott also uses other huge artists much like Kanye does on “MBDTF” by giving them subtle features that complement the song. In some instances, like Swae Lee’s appearance on “Sicko Mode,” you could barely tell that it’s them. It’s a gumbo pot of awesome sounds that comes together into a tasty dish, and is arguably the last great, impactful album of the decade.
3 – Drake – Nothing Was the Same
I really wanted to put “Take Care” on this list but I just can’t help the fact that I like “Nothing Was the Same” better. It is a concise collection of songs that features some of Drake’s best singing and rapping. It also attempts to marry the two on each song which is something he failed to do on other albums.
Drake does some of his best rapping on cuts like “Tuscan Leather” and drops the very safe, but addictive and catchy “Hold on We’re Going Home” later on in the project. Its songs also tackle a plethora of topics such as his affinity for strippers on “305 To My City” and his subliminal beef with Kendrick Lamar on “The Language.” He closes the project out with him and Jay-Z’s best collaboration on “Pound Cake” and adds a few classic bonus cuts like “All Me” with 2 Chainz and Big Sean and Come Thru.
This album is nearly flawless and should have been labeled classic a long time ago.
2 – J Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
J Cole kicked off the decade with the amazing “Friday Night Lights” tape and then fell into a bit of a slump with his debut album much like Drake did.
His second project, “Born Sinner,” had some better music, but still wasn’t as cohesive as the 2010 tape.
But finally, in 2014, Cole dropped all the industry gimmicks and gave us a raw snapshot of his life up until that point with “2014 Forests Hills Drive.” This album really has no skippable material and features some of Cole’s best rapping and song making.
Unlike his first two projects, each song on here tackles a different topic and does it well. Songs like “No Role Models” talks about the rise of reality TV groupies while “03 Adolescence” documents some of Cole’s struggles as a teenager. The production is also some of Cole’s best with soulful backdrops on “January 28,” and classic aggressive boom bap on “Fire Squad.”
Cole really outdid himself with this one and hasn’t hit the same level of quality since.
1 – Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This album dropped at a time when I really wanted to be done with Kanye. He was starting to get too outspoken and kept crowing himself the best at everything. I preferred artists who showed me without constantly telling me. And even though he already had at least 2 classics under his belt, I was ready to say bye to Kanye.
But he had one last bullet in his chamber and boy did he fire it with “MBDTF.” This album made producer collaboration a thing and Kanye was able to effortlessly marry Elton John’s voice with Alicia Keys, Fergie and Rihanna on “All of the Lights.” The album also featured the rap avengers on songs like “So Appalled” with Jay-Z and Pusha T and Monster with Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj who arguably dropped one of the best verses of the decade. “MBDTF” has the most replay value of any album on this list and I could honestly say I listen to it every November, which is the month it dropped in 2010.
1 – Royce Da 5’9 and DJ Premier – Pryme
2 – Killer Mike and El-P – Run the Jewels 2
3 – Bad Meets Evil – Hell the Sequel
4 – Drake – Take Care
5 – G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
6 – Pusha T – Daytona
7 – Kendrick Lamar – Damn
8 – Mac Lethal – North Korean BBQ
9 – A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here – Thank You For Your Service
10 – The Throne – Watch the Throne