To read more about the background of the list and my thoughts on making it, check out the introduction to my rankings. Without further ado, here are #90-81 of my top 100 hip-hop/rap albums of the 2010s list.
90. Young Thug: “Jeffery” (2016)
In a decade that saw the release of 22 Young Thug projects, the 28-year old rapper from Atlanta gave fans a massive quantity of music to choose from. Arguably his greatest artistic statement came in the form of “Jeffrey,” his third mixtape release of 2016. Rapping, singing, howling, screaming, mumbling and rasping, Thug’s sound itself makes enough for an entertaining listen. “Jeffery,” with its flare and swagger, thrusted Young Thug into his position as one of the more iconic rap figures of the decade.
Favorite Songs: “Guwop”, “Kanye West”, “RiRi”
89. Isaiah Rashad: “The Sun’s Tirade” (2017)
On his sole studio album release of the decade, Isaiah Rashad created an album that felt so much more in touch and comfortable than a typical debut. The Top Dawg Entertainment signee followed up his acclaimed EP “Cilvia Demo” with a confident, smooth, spaced-out compilation that highlighted all of Isaiah’s strengths. The mellow flows, soulful introspection, jazz-influenced production and southern sound produce an album that is both relaxing and refreshing and shows a glimpse towards the enormous potential that Rashad holds.
Favorite Songs: “What’s Wrong”, “Brenda”, “4r Da Squaw”
88. Nas: “Life is Good” (2012)
The rap legend and icon, who has been going strong for over 25 years since the release of his classic album “Illmatic,” put together his best project of the decade in the form of “Life is Good.” Nas blends new sounds while never straying too far from his classic sound and what has made him one of the most renowned rappers of all time. Throughout, Nas provides introspective and personal music over well-executed jazz-influenced and soulful production. The result is a great look into the life and maturity of one of rap’s most iconic figures.
Favorite Songs: “Daughters”, “The Don”, “Stay”, “Cherry Wine”, “Nasty”
87. Rick Ross: “Teflon Don” (2010)
The founder of Maybach Music Group (MMG), Rick Ross has become known for his lavish raps, soulful production choices and commanding voice. There was a point early on in Rick Ross’ career where people mainly considered him and his music comedic, but “Teflon Don” helped to truly establish his image as a serious and respected rapper. “Teflon Don” certainly provides its share of vintage bragaddocio rhymes from Rick Ross, but it also provided introspective music that cemented Ross as a serious artist.
Favorite Songs: “Live Fast, Die Young”, “Tears of Joy”, “Aston Martin Music”, “B.M.F”
86. YG: “My Krazy Life” (2014)
An exploration into his own truly “crazy life”, YG delivers a street anthem with wide reaching sounds that appeal to more of a mainstream audience. The typical ‘old school gangster’ cliches are still there, but YG gives a refreshing spin on gangster rap by adding his West Coast bounce and a deep level of authenticity and emotion. The production throughout greatly compliments the lyrical content and themes presented, with dark, chaotic, electronic and even funk influences. “My Krazy Life” provides the bangers it seeks to provide, and it infuses narrative and an innovative bounce to the West Coast gangster rap album.
Favorite Songs: “1AM”, “Who Do You Love?”, “I Just Wanna Party”, “Sorry Momma”
85. Pusha T: “King Push: Darkest Before Dawn” (2015)
The GOOD Music president stuck to what he knows best with his second solo studio LP. Littered with cocaine references and a relentless hunger, Pusha crafts an even darker look into his life and his thoughts. From the very onset of the intro, it’s obvious that this album has an even more sinister tone, even from a rapper who is notorious for menacing rap. From the production, to his flows, to the writing, “King Push: Darkest Before Dawn” contains some of Pusha’s darkest and most well-done work to date.
Favorite Songs: “Intro”, “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets”, “M.P.A”, “Untouchable”
84. Blu & Exile: “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them” (2012)
Beautiful production and great rapping simply equate to a great album. The chemistry between Blu, the West Coast underground rap veteran, and Exile, the Los Angeles based producer, is on full display throughout this collection. Exile lays the foundation with beautiful soul samples, jazz influences and lo-fi beats. Blu masterfully works with the elegantly produced tracks, offering great lyrics and complimentary deliveries. Everything is simply in sync between rapper and producer from start to finish. “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them” is certainly one of the underground gems of the decade.
Favorite Songs: “Growing Pains”, “A Man”, “Don’t Be Jelly”, “The Only One”
83. Tierra Whack: “Whack World” (2018)
Calling “Whack World” creative would be an understatement. The visual album was certainly one of the most colorful and creative releases that the past 10 years have witnessed. The album has a run time of exactly 15 minutes, and at 15 tracks, every song on the album runs for exactly one minute. The project was initially released as a 15-minute video and as 15 different minute-long Instagram videos posted on Tierra Whack’s Instagram account. It isn’t just witty videography either; Tierra Whack shows off incredible versatility and rapping ability with a variety of styles, moods and flows all throughout. There’s effortlessness in her artistry that is something truly special to see. “Whack World” is certainly an experience, and it is about as fun of a music experience as you can find at that.
Favorite Songs: “Pet Cemetery”, “Pretty Ugly”, “Silly Sam”, “Hungry Hippo”
82. Big Sean: “Detroit” (2012)
In all honesty, Big Sean’s career hasn’t really panned out how I thought it would after his earliest work. After being supported by a rap visionary like Kanye West and the rest of the GOOD Music group, Big Sean’s ceiling appeared to be higher than he would achieve in retrospect. However, “Detroit” was one of the shining moments that showed all of the potential that Big Sean held. Sean’s most complete work, “Detroit,” showcased great production, good writing, determination and a focus from Sean that simply rises to a higher degree than any of his other work. Named for his home city, “Detroit” proves to be Big Sean’s greatest project and one of the top mixtapes in recent rap.
Favorite Songs: “How It Feel”, “Life Should Go On”, “Higher”, “24K of Gold”
81. J Cole: “Born Sinner” (2013)
A landmark rapper of the past decade, J Cole put out plenty of projects that led to success and acclaim. On his second full-length studio album, Cole begins to find himself and his footing under Jay Z’s Roc Nation records. On the album’s intro “Villuminati”, J Cole sets the tone for the album with the simple phrase “It’s way darker this time.” Many of the themes in “Born Sinner” are much darker and more somber in nature than those in Cole’s earliest works. An adventure through the trials and tribulations of J Cole, “Born Sinner” was the album that made J Cole such a personable figure in rap and led to the growth of his fan base to the mass that it is now.
Favorite Songs: “Villuminati”, “Power Trip”, “Chaining Day”, “Crooked Smile”
After every segment of my Top 100 rankings are published, I will be creating a Spotify playlist with my favorite songs from the albums that are in each section. Just go to my Spotify profile (@nicholassligh) where I will be posting the playlists in descending order of rank. Go to this link to view this week’s playlist for some of my favorite songs from albums 90-81. I hope that my list gives credit to deserving artists and helps people that enjoy hip-hop/rap (and even those less familiar with the genre) to find new music that connects with them and that they simply enjoy.
Contact Nick Sligh at nick1019 ‘at’ stanford.edu.