The 2010s were a strong decade for hip-hop and rap music, with many different styles coming and going. There’s a big difference between the artists that are a fad, and the ones that have built a distinct sound while still being versatile.
The artists on this list of the top 5 hip-hop albums of the 2010s (2010-2019) are all very accomplished and put out some of their best music this decade. For this list I have evaluated the following aspects of each album: Delivery, Production, Impact, Themes and Lyricism.
5. “DS2” – Future (2015)
While this album has very weak lyrics that are probably about drugs, sex and money (if you can even understand them), the reason “DS2” makes this list is because of the impact it has made on other rappers and hip-hop in general. Future is credited with starting “mumble rap” which became really popular after “DS2” dropped in 2015. Artists like Kodak Black, 21 Savage and Lil Yachty all had success in 2016 and 2017 using flows and sounds similar to Future. “DS2″ has some catchy bangers like “F*** Up Some Commas,” “Blow a Bag” and “Where Ya At” along with some classic beats in tracks like “Stick Talk” and “Real Sisters.” “DS2” features high-quality production from Metro Boomin, ZayToven and Sonny Digital. The overall impact, delivery and production of this album is what lands “DS2” on the 5 spot despite its lack of complex lyrics.
Top Tracks: “Stick Talk,” “F*** Up Some Commas,” “Thought it was a Drought”
4. “Take Care” – Drake (2011)
On a list of top artists of the decade Drake would probably be number one, if not close to it with 9 albums in the 2010s all escalating him closer and closer to legendary status. In this list, Drake comes in at number four with possibly his best work, “Take Care.” To start, one of the things that I believe makes this album so great is that it has the perfect features on certain songs. For example Lil Wayne was the best fit for “The Motto” (the song that started YOLO); on “Lorde Knows,” Rick Ross delivered one of the greatest verses we have ever heard from him and “Crew Love” thankfully introduced the world to The Weeknd. I could go on as there are several more exceptional features on this album packed with classics. The versatility of “Take Care” is incredible. There are songs like “Marvin’s Room” to listen to when you’re feeling down, songs like “Underground Kings” to inspire you and songs like “Take Care” to make you feel good. With strong themes about dealing with fame and struggling relationships, he makes this album meaningful to a broad audience while still being sincere in his lyrics. This is a record that will be played for a very long time as it might be the best work from one of the best of his generation.
Top Tracks: “Headlines,” “Marvin’s Room,” “The Motto,” “Take Care”
3. “2014 Forest Hills Drive” – J Cole (2014)
This is J Cole’s album that famously went “platinum with no features,” which is just as impressive now as it was before it became a meme. “2014FHD” tells stories of Cole as a child growing up in North Carolina, and the title references the street that he grew up on. “03 Adolescence” and “Wet Dreamz” are about Cole as a child learning his way in the world. The lyrics get deeper in “A Tale of Two Cities” as he raps about the dangers of his city and if it’s worth it to be there. With classic lines like “Rest in peace Uncle Phil. You the only father that I ever knew,” Cole’s lyrics are far superior to almost all other hip-hop ones that came out in the 2010s. Unlike number 5 on this list, the strengths of this record are lyrics and themes. Every song tells a story or sends a strong message without sacrificing cadence or flow.
Top Tracks: “A Tale of Two Citiez,” “No Role Modelz,” “Apparently,” “G.O.M.D.”
2. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” – Kanye West (2010)
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is easily the biggest project of Kanye’s legendary career with features from Drake, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, Rihanna, Beyonce, Elton John, Kid Cudi and many more. The production of “MBDTF” is legendary. The best part about this record is that it captures vintage Kanye bars at the top of his game. His earlier albums “The College Dropout,” “Late Registration” and “Graduation” are all classics because of his lyrics, delivery and charisma but they lacked complex beats and production. His later works “Yeezus” and “Life of Pablo” have unique beats and production, but lack strong lyrics. “MBDTF” is the perfect mix of those two versions of Kanye while also being loaded with features from various music legends. Its filled with bangers like “POWER” and more touching tracks like “Runaway” and “Blame Game.” “MBDTF” is already considered a classic and probably will go down as one of the best hip-hop albums of all time.
Top Tracks: “All of the Lights,” “Runaway,” “POWER”
1.“Good Kid m.A.A.d city” – Kendrick Lamar (2012)
If a perfect rap album exists, this is it. Kendrick puts it all together on this album as every category gets checked off as stellar. He raps about growing up in Compton and the temptation to join in on all the violence surrounding him. What puts this album above the rest is the consistency with every single song being exceptional. Songs like “Swimming Pools,” “B**** Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “M.A.A.D City” are so recognizable that as time goes on they will be labeled as iconic. In some songs like “Backseat Freestyle” and “good kid” Kendrick lets out all his emotions in the form of bars. Although many consider “To Pimp a Butterfly” to be Kendrick’s best work, I believe it’s this one. “TPAB” has deeper themes and more meaningful lyrics, but “GKMC” is the more dynamic album overall when you take into account all five categories I am evaluating. A truly inspiring work of art, “Good Kid m.A.A.d city” is already a classic and I believe it to be the best hip-hop album of the 2010s.
Top Tracks: “M.A A.D city,” “Money Trees,” “Swimming Pools,” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Honorable Mentions: “To Pimp a Butterfly” – Kendrick Lamar, “Acid Rap” -Chance the Rapper, “GO:OD AM” – Mac Miller, “Rodeo” – Travis Scott
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