By Nick Sligh
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 #40-31 of my top 100 hip-hop/rap albums of the 2010s list:
40. J.I.D: “DiCaprio 2” (2016)
J.I.D’s sophomore Dreamville album and sequel to his earlier “DiCaprio” (2015) mixtape, “DiCaprio 2” provides an array of flows and styles that demonstrate his already-refined expertise in understanding and making quality rap music. On songs like “Off Deez” and “151 Rum,” J.I.D showcases an undeniable ability to simply rap well, with refreshing flows and great delivery. Songs like “Despacito Too” and “Slick Talk” show J.I.D’s ability to deliver various other flows over more subdued and less chaotic production. “Skrawberries” and “Workin’ Out” allow J.I.D to effortlessly glide over smooth and jazzy production and effortlessly cross over into more of a soul and R&B sound. Any fan of rap can probably find something among the diverse array of sounds in the album to enjoy.
Favorite Songs: “Off Da Zoinkys,” “Skrawberries,” “151 Rum,” “Workin’ Out,” “Hasta Luego,” “Despacito Too”
39. Phonte: “Charity Starts at Home” (2011)
One-third of North Carolina trio “Little Brother”, Phonte ventured out with his first full-length solo release of his career on his 2011 album “Charity Starts at Home.” The tremendously personal and soulful work had production mainly handled by Little Brother member and famous producer 9th Wonder, which allowed Phonte to not have to stray too far from his comfort zone in his earlier collaborative albums. The tone and lyrics of this album are very unique, with Phonte often reflecting on the development of his life as a father and as a veteran in the rap game. An album filled with wonderful and uplifting wisdom, Phonte’s talent combines with his meaningful content to create a modern masterpiece with an old-school feel.
Favorite Songs: “The Good Fight,” “The Life of Kings,” “Sendin My Love”
38. Drake: “Nothing Was The Same” (2013)
“Nothing Was The Same” is the result of a man who has catapulted into global superstardom. The combination of singing and rapping that made Drake into a superstar gets a new sound from previous work with a very different set of production selections. Although not as emotionally captivating at times as Drake’s famous album “Take Care” (2011), “Nothing Was The Same” is its own journey through Drake’s emotions as he matures and comes to grips with the way that his life has changed since “Take Care” and even before. Although the album seems to be an expression of Drake’s discomfort with his life changes, his comfort in his ability to rap and make quality music never wavers. (Side Note: “Furthest Thing” has one of the best beat switches of the decade.)
Favorite Songs: “Too Much,” “Worst Behavior,” “Tuscan Leather,” “Pound Cake / Paris Morton Music 2,” “Furthest Thing,” “The Language”
37. J. Cole: “Truly Yours” (2013)
One of the things that makes J. Cole one of the most popular and well-liked rappers in all of music is that he seems like an “every man.” He does not dress lavishly, is not known for excessive brag rapping, and has historically been very vulnerable with his struggles. The more vulnerable Cole is, the better the result of the music typically is. “Truly Yours” is Cole at the most vulnerable that he has ever been. Intended to just be a two-EP compilation to hold fans over between studio albums, “Truly Yours” resulted in some of Cole’s greatest work ever. An immensely enthralling and emotional collection, this is the kind of work that leads to fans becoming such devout supporters of the Dreamville leader. “Cole Summer” is an absolute classic in the hip-hop genre, and certainly one of Cole’s greatest songs of his career. The flawless production and the vulnerability and self-doubt of Cole create one of the most soulful and personal songs of the decade. The somber “Tears for ODB” provides a wonderful ode to late rapper Old Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan, the jazzy “Stay” sees Cole struggle with his relationship problems, and the emotional “Cousins” explores how relationships fade and shift with changes in success and wealth. “Truly Yours” is Cole at his most vulnerable, and his best. (For clarification: I am considering both of the 2 “Truly Yours” EPs (“Truly Yours” and “Truly Yours 2”) as one collective project for the sake of ranking.)
Favorite Songs: “Cole Summer,” “Kenny Lofton,” “Stay,” “Head Bussa,” “Cousins”
36. YBN Cordae: “The Lost Boy” (2019)
The irony in the title of this album is that Cordae is far from lost in the rap game. The 22-year-old native of Raleigh, North Carolina, shows on his debut album that he belongs in rap, and that he deserves respect as a solo artist. While still finding his sound in some ways, like practically any young rapper, Cordae explores a variety of sounds and styles, all with the precision and execution of a veteran. Great lyrics, production selection and narrative make Cordae’s debut feel much more like a third or fourth album than a first. Cordae shows an incredibly high ceiling and asserts himself as one of the must-listen rappers in years to come.
Favorite Songs: “Thanksgiving,” “Broke as Fuck,” “Nightmares are For Real,” “Lost and Found,” “Bad Idea,” “RNP”
35. Drake: “Take Care” (2011)
“Take Care” is the defining moment of Drake’s career. From the smash hit title track with Rihanna to the meme sensation “Marvin’s Room,” “Take Care” was the point when Drake went from rising star to global superstar. The album has spent over 350 weeks on the Billboard 200, which only three other hip-hop albums have been able to ever do — and for good reason too. Drake really masters the art of being a pop rapper, providing styles that everybody can appreciate if they really listen. The versatility and emotional captivation of “Take Care” makes it one of the most well-known and successful albums of the 21st century.
Favorite Songs: “Buried Alive Interlude,” “Lord Knows,” “Under Ground Kings,” “Cameras,” “Over My Dead Body,” “Shot For Me”
34. Tyler, The Creator: “Flower Boy” (2017)
“Flower Boy” feels like the peak of the roller-coaster that is the evolution of Tyler, The Creator. Tyler opens up to his audience more than ever before, and does so over a beautifully and thoughtfully-produced album. In his most cohesive and consistent work, Tyler’s focus feels so fixated on making his most refined piece of art. His attention to detail is clearly evident through the production and the writing, which bring to life Tyler’s emotions and storytelling. “Flower Boy” turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises in hip-hop of the past decade.
Favorite Songs: “Glitter,” “911/Mr. Lonely,” “Boredom,” “See You Again”
33. Ab-Soul: “Control System” (2012)
The Top Dawg Entertainment rapper establishes his prominence within his label, the west-coast hip-hop scene and the entire world of rap with “Control System.” With a lyrical style that could be best described as abstract and dense, Ab-Soul constructs a full project in line with his style. “Control System” presents a wordy and enjoyable rap adventure that ranges in mood and style throughout and encompasses everything from spirituality and philosophy to politics. The Top Dawg label received one of its strongest releases from a rapper not named Kendrick Lamar by way of Ab-Soul’s sophomore album.
Favorite Songs: “Illuminate,” “Terrorist Threats,” “Lust Demons,” “The Book of Soul,” “Double Standards”
32. Chance The Rapper: “Coloring Book” (2016)
Before releasing a disappointing debut album with “The Big Day” (2019), Chance The Rapper released a series of mixtapes that were very well-received. 2016’s “Coloring Book” sees Chance in his most gospel and pop form, which he executes at a very high level. Triumphant, promising and inspiring, Chance’s youthful exuberance is contagious. Great production comes primarily from frequent collaborating group The Social Experiment. An unlikely feature crew that included Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Justin Bieber and Future actually turned out to be a great fit for the album. “Coloring Book” successfully thrusted Chance The Rapper into the mainstream with an enjoyable and uplifting album.
Favorite Songs: “Same Drugs,” “Angels,” “No Problem,” “Summer Friends”
31. Dreamville: “Revenge of the Dreamers III” (2019)
Dreamville’s 2019 summer blockbuster “Revenge of the Dreamers III” was one of the major releases of the year and one of the defining releases for the label. Thirty-five artists and 27 producers contributed to the mega project, whose release and rollout felt more like that of an Avengers film than a music album. The project does about as well as could be hoped for with what is basically one massive posse-cut. Though there is no theme and little consistency, there isn’t supposed to be. The famed recording sessions, initiated by an epic invitation from J. Cole that took Twitter by storm, resulted in a fantastic collection of tracks that allowed veterans to continue to thrive and emerging rappers to establish themselves and make their push to the mainstream.
Favorite Songs: “Under The Sun,” “Sacrifices,” “Down Bad,” “Sleep Deprived,” “Costa Rica,” “PTSD”
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 albums 40-31! 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.