Best Hip Hop Albums of the Decade

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As 2019 comes to a close, it’s fitting to take a retro-rewind trip down memory lane to spotlight the best Hip Hop albums of the decade. Some were close, others unsung—nevertheless, there can be only one supreme that stands above the rest. 

2010

Strong 2nd: 

Nicki MinajPink Friday

A couple of years prior, with the help of untouchable DVD freestyles, critically praised mixtapes, and guest appearances that outshined the hosts, Nicki Minaj’s masterful debut established a throne that the Queen MC would hold for years to come. 

Nicki Minaj attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the “Camp: Notes on Fashion” exhibition on Monday, May 6, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Holy Contenders:

Waka Flocka – Fockavelli

Drake – Thank Me Later

Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx 2

Quiet Storm Pic:

Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon 2

No. 1:

Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

All of the Lights”, “Runaway”, and “Blame Game are just a few tracks that still make the head twist with a joyful ugly face to this day!!!

2011

Strong 2nd: 

Tyler The CreatorGoblin

This album leads a rebirth of that DGAF, say-anything type music. 

Holy Contenders:

Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

Kendrick Lamar – Section 80

Wale – Ambition

Quiet Storm Pick: 

Childish Gambino – CAMP

No. 1:

DrakeTake Care

Not only has this album given birth to acronym rap (HYFR and YOLO), it displays Drizzy’s versatile sing-rap style which became the blueprint for a generation of rappers whose names begin with Lil’. 

2012

Strong 2nd: 

NasLife Is Good

Unfortunately, Hip Hop heartache never sounded so good. 

Holy Contenders: 

Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t 

2 Chainz – Based on a True Story

Quiet Storm Pick:

Joey Badass – 1999

No. 1:

Kendrick Lamar Good Kid Mad City

GKMC takes us through a verbal-visual day in Compton. It grabs the attention of “jump on the latest wave” fans and earns the respect of purists—all who choose KDot to be their leader. 

2013

Strong 2nd:

Pusha TMy Name Is My Name

Holy Contenders: 

Mac Miller – Watching Movies w/ the Sound Off

Wale – The Gifted

Drake – Nothing Was the Same

Quiet Storm Pick:

Curren$y – New Jet City

No. 1:

J. Cole Born Sinner

On the surface, J. Cole challenges Kanye West by dropping his album on the same day, but underneath one can see the only challenge was to himself as J. Cole diversifies his style on “New York Times” and carries a legacy with “Let Nas Down.

2014

Strong 2nd: 

YGMy Krazy Life 

Storytelling, disrespectful gangsta music you could boogie to in your Chucks at a pool party off Crenshaw.

Holy Contenders: 

SchoolBoy Q – OxyMoron

Logic – Under Pressure

Nicki Minaj – The Pink Print

Quiet Storm Pick:

Rapsody – Beauty and the Beast

No. 1:

J. Cole2014 Forrest Hill Drive

This was the metamorphosis of Jermaine Cole from a rapper who’s nice to an iconic artist. 

2015

Strong 2nd: 

WaleThe Album About Nothing

This album shows that when Wale raps on beat and doesn’t stray off-topic between verses.

Holy Contenders:

Future – DS2

Vince Staples – Summertime 06

Drake – If You’re Reading This

Quiet Storm Pick:

Jay Rock – 90059

No. 1:

Kendrick LamarTo Pimp A Butterfly

The greatest, most far-left, sophomore album in the history of Hip Hop. 

2016

Strong 2nd: 

Bas – Too High To Riot 

A pioneering album that describes in gritty, melodic fashion the emotional roller-coaster and aftereffects of depression caused by drug abuse. 

Holy Contenders: 

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3

Childish Gambino – Awaken My Love

Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade

Childish Gambino performs at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival Day 1 held at T-Mobile Arena on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Photo by John Salangsang/Invision/AP)

Quiet Storm:

3D Na’Tee – The Regime

No. 1:

A Tribe Called QuestWe Got It from Here Now, Thank You for Your Service

An excellent finale from a legendary group.

2017

Strong 2nd:

Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom

The North Carolina MC’s debut quickly moved her into the Top 5 Alive—all gender aside. 

Holy Contenders: 

Big KRIT – 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time

Jay Z – 4:44

Migos – Culture

Quiet Storm Pick:

Cardi B – Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 2

No. 1:

Kendrick LamarDAMN.DAMN. is a forward-reverse lyrical tale matched by upscale production that cements Kendrick Lamar as this generation’s GOAT. 

2018

Strong 2nd: 

J. ColeKOD

Kevin’s Hart”, “1985”, and everything in between are repeat-status tracks that showcase J. Cole’s characteristic vulnerability and beast mode.

Holy Contenders: 

Royce Da 5’9 – Book Of Ryan

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy 

XXXTentacion – ?

Quiet Storm Pick:

Westside Gunn – Supreme Blientele

No. 1:

Nipsey HussleVictory Lap

The official debut album displays Nipsey Hussle’s blue-collar grind, gritty and descriptive flows, and combines a West Coast sound that crowns him as Cali’s King.

Nipsey Hussle arrives at the Roc Nation Pre-Grammy Brunch at RocNation Offices on Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Rob Latour/Invision/AP)

2019

Strong 2nd: 

Freddie Gibbs & MadlibBandana

Sharp rhymes and authentic beats pay great tribute to the MC-and-DJ, golden era days.

Holy Contenders:

Lizzo –Cuz I Love You

DaBaby – Kirk

Tyler The Creator – IGOR

Quiet Storm Pick:

Dreamville – Revenge of the Dreamers 2

No. 1:

RapsodyEVE

Like the title, EVE made Rapsody the mother of all in 2019.

Best Album of the Decade:

Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 

Few artists are fortunate enough to create a classic. Kanye West elevated to more elite status by doing it twice. MBDTF is a collection of all things Kanye—the artist, rapper, producer, and arranger—that merges with the complexity of his public persona. There’s “Lost in the World” with its delicate intro of a whispering chorus to its passionate drums of sentimental thunder. Then, “Power plays as an alarm clock for a purposeful life while “Monster” presents him as an equal to his idol, Jay-ZMBDTF is a classic Hip Hop creation that not only outshines any other album of the decade but will forever sit in the heavens of musical godhood.

Kanye West performs with Kid Cudi at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Indio, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
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