And here we are.  We’ve looked the best albums from the dawn of hip hop in the ‘80s, to the high water mark of the ‘90s, through the first ten years of this Century, and now it’s time for the best of the years 2011-2020.

1980s here.

1990s here.

2000s here.

Looking over the variety of voices and the extreme differences in philosophy and points of view, and how rap producers now easily incorporate jazz, rock, funk, fusion, ska, reggae, indie—every type of music—I daresay the 2010s will be the last decade where a “hip hop” top 100 list is even possible.

It’s all just music now.

Doing a list of the most recent 10 years is tough because it’s still hard to say what voices will last, what albums that resonate now will become classics, and what records I’ve overlooked but, over time, will emerge as important or influential.  This is most true, of course, with the albums that came out this year in the dumpster fire that has been 2020.

So, I’ve done my best.

  1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
  2. Pusha T-Daytona (2018)
  3. Kendrick Lamar-DAMN (2017)
  4. Big Sean-Detroit 2 (2020)
  5. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (2014)
  6. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). He’s an ass and, frankly, a culturally dangerous person.  But man he used to make good music.
  7. Elzhi-Elmatic (2011).  A brilliant tribute to the greatest East Coast album of the ’90s.
  8. Chance the Rapper-Acid Rap (2013)
  9. Freddie Gibs & Madlib – Pinata (2014)
  10. Joey Bada$$-1999 (2012)
  11. The Game – The Documentary 2/2.5 (2015).  No, nothing on here is as explosively excellent as Game’s completely underrated debut, but these two albums proved that the gangsta rap genre is still relevant 20 years after it was created.  Cull them down by about 10 songs and this is one awesome double-album.
  12. Rapsody-Laila’s Wisdom (2017)
  13. Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth (2015)
  14. Royce Da 5’9″-The Book of Ryan (2018)
  15. A$AP Rocky-Live.  Love. A$AP (2011)
  16. Jay-Z – 4:44 (2017)
  17. Nipsey Hussle-Victory Lap (2018).  Gone too soon.
  18. Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs and Alchemist (2020)
  19. Childish Gambino-Because the Internet (2013)
  20. Danny Brown – X X X (2011).  I like to think of Danny Brown as the Frank Zappa of rap.
  21. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (2012)
  22. Tee Grizzlee-My Moment (2017)
  23. Chance the Rapper-Coloring Book (2016)
  24. J Cole-Forest Hill Drive (2014)
  25. Your Old Droog-Your Old Droog (2014)
  26. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)
  27. Jay-Z and Kanye West-Watch the Throne (2011)
  28. Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy (2014)
  29. Cousin Stizz-Suffolk County (2015).  Simply amazing debut.
  30. Apollo Brown-Sincerely, Detroit (2019). Yeah, usually I prefer a solo rapper to prove he can handle an album without guests—but this album is basically a giant posse cut.  50 Detroit rappers (but no, not Eminem) pay tribute to their city.
  31. Run The Jewels-RTJ4 (2020)
  32. Death Grips-The Money Store (2012).  Arguably, this is a hardcore album and not rap—but it’s got enough crossover appeal to warrant placement on the list.
  33. Young Jeezy-Trap or Die (2005)
  34. Che Noir and Apollo Brown-As God Intended (2020)
  35. Billy Woods and Kenny Segal-Hiding Places (2019)
  36. Eminem-Kamikaze (2018).  Clearly, Em isn’t the monster he once was.  But with this album, he proved he’s still one of the best in the game.
  37. Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats-UNLOCKED (2020)
  38. Guilty Simpson – OJ Simpson (2010)
  39. Big Sean-Detroit (2012)
  40. The Price of Tea in China by Boldy James and Alchemist.  Complex wordplay and thick, grimey beats.
  41. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (2015)
  42. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib-Bandana (2019)
  43. Ka-Descendents of Cain (2020)
  44. Random Axe – Random Axe (2011)
  45. YG-Still Brazy (2016)
  46. Oddisee – Tangible Dream (2013)
  47. Masta Ace & Marco Polo – A Breukelen Story (2018)
  48. The Sharecropper’s Daughter by Sa-Rock (2020)
  49. Maxo Cream-Brandon Banks (2019)
  50. Logic-The Incredible True Story (2015).  Logic got big and fell off quickly, but before he did this record legitimized his quick rise–he clearly has skills.
  51. Nipsey Hussle-Crenshaw (2013)
  52. Denzel Curry-TA13oo (2018)
  53. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron (2014)
  54. SZA-Ctrl (2017)
  55. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (2012)
  56. Big K.R.I.T.- Return of 4Eva (2011).  Big K.R.I.T. tends to make about half a good album every couple years.  There’s usually a few good singles, a few solid deeper cuts, and then it’s just kinda the same thing over and over.  But with this album, he became a southern soul singer.  Smooth, verbally intricate, and excellent—this album doesn’t have his biggest singles, but it’s his best work.
  57. Kodak Black-Lil B.I.G. Pac (2016).  This mixtape blew up the world, but soon after Kodak Black’s horrendously abusive and mysogynistic behavior made it almost impossible to endorse him.  But if we’re going on skills and quality of the music alone, he deserves his spot on this list.
  58. Capital Steez-Amerikkkan Korruption Reloaded (2012)
  59. Shabazz Palaces-Black Up (2011)
  60. Rapsody-Eve (2019)
  61. DaBaby-Baby on Baby (2019)
  62. Eminem-The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
  63. Saba-Care for Me (2018)
  64. Kanye West-Life of Pablo (2016)
  65. Nas-Life is Good (2012)
  66. Joey Bada$$-All Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017)
  67. Various Artists-Black Panther: The Album Music From and Inspired by… (2018)
  68. Marlowe – Marlowe (2018)
  69. Jay Electronica-A Written Testimony/Act II: The Patents of Nobility (the Turn) (2020).  I know they’re two different albums, but for me they feel like a double-record–a project meant to be heard all at once.
  70. Ace Cosgrove-Us vs. Robots (2014).  Cosgrove is another one on this list that you won’t find on anyone else’s lists, but check it out.  Extremely creative, lots of fun–I wish there was more from Ace out there.
  71. PRhyme -PRhyme (2014)
  72. Isa Muhammad-Diabolical Bastard Billionaire Genius (2018).  Incredibly underrated.  Brilliant record.
  73. Pusha T-My Name is My Name (2013)
  74. The Game–1992 (2016).  Game’s tribute to the year of the riots.  I mean, a year of riots that happened before 2020.
  75. Drake-Take Care (2011)
  76. Curren$y-New Jet City (2013)
  77. Malice-Hear Ye Him (2013).  The other half of Clipse finds God and releases a damn good Christian rap album.
  78. Apollo Brown and O.C.-Trophies (2012)
  79. J.I.D.-The Never Story (2017).  The feature length debut of someone who promises to be one of the greats.
  80. Tyler, The Creator-Flower Boy (2017)
  81. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels (2013)
  82. Jay Rock-90059 (2015)
  83. Open Mike Eagle-What Happens When I Try to Relax (2018)
  84. A$ap Rocky – LONG LIVE A$AP (2013)
  85. Billy Woods – History Will Absolve Me (2012)
  86. ScHoolboy Q – The Blank Face LP (2016)
  87. Homeboy Sandman-Kindness for Weakness (2016).  The best album from a prolific, often overlooked rapper.
  88. Noname-Room 25 (2018)
  89. Little Simz – Grey Area (2019)
  90. Aaron May-CHASE (2019)
  91. CunninLynguists – Oneirology (2011)
  92. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (2016)
  93. Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground (2012). K.R.I.T. fans criticize this one as too commercial, but I enjoy it!
  94. Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (2016)
  95. Ace Hood-Trust the Process II: Undefeated (2018)
  96. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure (2012).  I’m going to confess that I don’t agree with many heads about El-P.  I like him, but I don’t think he’s a hip hop genius.  I’m putting this album, my favorite of all of El-P’s, on here out of recognition that everyone disagrees with me.
  97. Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (2011)
  98. Kno – Death Is Silent (2010). Cunnylinguist member proves he can carry an entire album alone.
  99. Polo G-Die a Legend (2019)
  100. Celph Titled & Buckwild – Nineteen Ninety-Now (2010)



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