Top 25 Hip Hop Albums of the Decade
Cannibal ox is an underground band that might not get the publicity that these other artists on the countdown get, however they have solidified themselves on this list with the release of Cold Vein. The CD takes the listener on a journey full of thought provoking rhymes and smooth beats. If your looking for a refresher on what hip hop Check out “The F Word” off of their Cold Vein album.
Before Eminem and Nelly were doing there thing, Tech was holding it down for Kansas City, Missouri. On Absolute Power, Tech features hard beats but also takes you deep in songs like “Trapped in a Psycho’s Body” and I thought no one could innovate a better sample since Jay Z did Annie. But Tech gives him a run on, “I’m a Playa,”you gotta give it up to any rapper that can rap over Amadeus and make it bang.
When I was told to listen to the Kid Cudi CD, I would’ve rather gone to the dentist. This was during the time that the radio was murdering the shit out of “Day N Night” and ruining the song and how people looked at Cudi. By having it as the single, audiences got the wrong idea about Cudi and his album. The album contains 14 other tracks that are just as good if not better than “Day N’ Night.” If you haven’t gotten it, get it, Man on the Moon was produced by Kanye so whether you like it or not the beats are fire and it also contains refreshing lyrics. Songs like “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and “Up, Up, and Away” make it a contender for album of 2009 and sneaks it into the top 25 of the decade.
With an ad-lib here and an ad-lib there, Jeezy became “your favorite trapper’s favorite rapper”. He didn’t just make the claim, he really was. He had the streets on fire, undeniably so, with a sincere, unrestrained recording of cocaine-raps that deviated trap-rap from the cocaine raps of Only Built for Cuban Linx 1. He admits he’s not a rapper, just a street motivational speaker. The Snowman and Jay killed it on “Go Crazy” and you may not like him saying “Let’s Get It” a million times a track but you gotta respect is introduction to motivational thuggery.
Hypnotize Minds had been on the grind for a decade and a half, with a serious fan-base, but beyond “Sippin on Some Syrup”, DJ Paul and Juicy J were making moves under the radar. But the single “Hard Out Here for a Pimp” (from the respectably average film Hustle and Flow, loosely based on their own come-up) earned them an Oscar and the boys from Memphis couldn’t shut up about it? Why? Because they took it to the next level with Most Known Unknown and finally hit the world with a bonafide club banger in “Stay Fly“. Like Paul says in the intro, “We’re the most known, but at the same time, we’re unknown.” They produce the hard-hitting album, that really (if you dig the street bangers) can’t think about touching the skip button. Holly-hood, here they come.
This album could make it on the list solely from the success of “What You Know About That“, but Clifford “Tip” Harris put in some serious work for the majority of the album. At a time when Lil Wayne claims he is “the best rapper alive”, TI claims he is “the king of the south”. The south was heating up at this point (pre-Soulja Boy-induced collapse) and TI was at the top of his game. The album is a banger, and “Top Back” put a hurtin on plenty of trunks.
MF DOOM (now just DOOM thanks to legalities) has been mc-ing behind the mask long before this release, and nailing indie-rap classics like MMM…Food. For this one, DOOM teams with respected Stones Throw label producer Madlib to create an album that just never stops going with DOOM’s off the wall rhymes, weird off-beat flow, riding Madlib’s jazz-tough beats like they were born together. Fortunately for Hip Hop, there’s a confirmed follow-up for the two coming soon. Just remember, “All Caps” (best track) when you say the man name.
Stic man and M-1 of Dead Prez really lay down more thought-provoking political and psychological rhymes than anyone else, on Let’s Get Free. The album is extremely dark, except for Hip-Hop and It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop, but even then the two are hell-bent on making you think about this thing we call Hip Hop. Songs like “They Schools” and “I’m a African” are so anti-propaganda that they feel like propaganda in themselves. But they do it with remarkable mic skill and solid neo-soul beats.
You can’t just strap a number on a classic and have it be just as classic. Up to 2009, only Rocky has done it to a supreme level of success. Blueprint 2? Get real. But in 2009, a year that marked a serious change in the contemporary sound of hip hop, both Jay-Z and Raekwon built some serious hype around their sequels with OB4CL2 and BP3. Jay-Z scored the hit with “NY State of Mind” (all thanks due to Alicia), but Raekwon stayed true to the Wu sound of the 90’s and single-handedly spearheaded the back-to-basic 90’s hip hop sound revival (check ou the track “New Wu” if you don’t believe me). The win goes to Raekwon, outright best album of 2009. Not as good as the first, but damn, Rae gets dangerously close.
Lupe from the moment he was the gifted new rapper on Kanye’s “Touch the Sky” track, rap enthusiasts asked who is that rapper who likes to skateboard. Food and Liquor was going to be the next greatest thing in hip hop. For the most part it didn’t disappoint. Lupe introduced a new sound without diluting his rhymes and made an impact. He made “Kick Push” to get on the radio and “The Instrumental” to get into our minds.
Can’t argue with the numbers. Wayne was on cruise control and taking no prisoners with the hype surrounding this album. A year+ in push-back dates and a handful of mix-tapes and work-ethic that was putting the entire (yes, entire) rap game to shame. He really started turning into the completely unique, martian rapper that he is now. And with some serious producers like Kanye, he’s making quality music. “Lollipop“, the SMASH hit, but check “Let the Beat Build” to see how this album sold 1.5 mill in the first week at a time when ALL albums (and particularly hip hop albums) was in shambles. Oh, and “A Milli”? He took an artistic leap with this one, and didn’t land, but flew. Lets just hope he can recover from this whole punk-rock Rebirth/drugs/jail nonsense…
Perhaps the most Bluesy Def Jam album ever, Scarface crafts an admirably consistent blues-hip hop album in The Fix, but one that stays true to his Houston upbringing. “My Block” and “Guess Who’s Back” with Jay-Z are just damn good tracks, but at no point does the rest of the album fall far from that quality.
As things start to wind down for the majority of the Clan following some sub-par solos, Ghostface proves he’s a unique, lyrical force that you just can’t deny. “Cherchez La Ghost”, “Apollo Kids”, and “Mighty Healthy” make a strong case that Tony Stark/The Wallabee Champ might be the best, but certainly the most productive and consistent (see 06’s Fishscale) post-36 Chambers MC.
The Game had an interesting decade, from obscurity to Aftermath Records to beefing with 50 back to relative obscurity. But somewhere in there he developed Documentary which was pushed by Dr. Dre. The West Coast needed The Game in the worst way. They haven’t enjoyed such excitement from a national artist since Dre and Tupac showed us what California Love was all about. And although The Game is not the saving grace that LA rap needs, he is a great rapper. Doctors Advocate and L.A.X. fell short of expectations Game will be back and will have great songs like The Documentary’s “Put You on the Game” and “Hate it or Love it”.
The fourth studio album from Eminem also happened to be the best selling album of 2002. Whether it sold 2 or 200 million copies the success of the album has nothing to do with what this album did for hip hop. The darkest of Eminem albums songs like “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, “Superman”, and “Haile’s Song” gave the public an up close and personal look into the mind of one of the greatest rappers of the decade.
The first Blueprint laid the foundation for a supremely, tight, succinct and consistent hip hop album. Kanye kills the production and Jay puts himself at the forefront of Soul-revival hip hop. On “Takeover“, “Girls, Girls, Girls“, “Heart of the City”, and “Never Change“, Jay just as good as we saw him on Reasonable Doubt. You can feel the honesty in this one throughout. Still, best verse award goes to Marshal Mathers for slaying the “Renegade” beat. Too bad Nas noticed that too…the great white hype didn’t “murder [Jay] on his own shit”, but it’s one of the best verses from the decade.
Is it Illmatic? No, but that comparison isn’t fair. it’s like comparing Lebron James to next years number 1 pick. Although that player might be an all star he won’t be Lebron. Same with stillmatic, an all star album by every facet but gets dogged because it’s not Illmatic (one of the best albums of all time). This song has it all from”Ether”, the track dedicated solely to trashing Jay-Z, might be one of the most maniacal beef-raps ever recorded, to “One Mic” that is so honest it is in my opinion my favorite song of the decade.
The smoothest CD on the list. His beats could be misconstrued as R&B artist but his lyrics are so powerful he should ghostwrite for the president. For as long as Common has been doing it he doesn’t get the respect that he should. He is the most concious rapper on the planet and it is fitting that Talib Kweli and Mos Def are sprinkled all over the album. In a time when Soulja Boy and Akon are cranking and synthesising hip hop to death this CD is a reminder on why we love hip hop. Common hit another home run in 2005 with his album BE but its powerful moving songs like “The Light” and “A Song For Assata” that make this cd one of the best in the decade.
Can anyone make a decade list and not include 50 cent? The guy shaped the way people did hip hop in the 00’s. “In Da Club” could make a run as one of the best songs of the decade (based on records it set). This is an album unlike any of his four others he put out after. This one you can listen to every single song and get lost in it. Never before did a guy that no one get so much hype. Only underground rap enthusiasts knew the name 50 cent before 2000 but you would have thought it was a Dre or Eminem CD with how much hype it recieved. The same was done for The Game with Documentary and will happen again when Drake drops his first LP. Even though his follow up CD’s were absolute trash, “we still love 50 like a fat kid loves cake.”
Eminem’s breakout album. It took him from that white M.C. rhyming about silly shit to one of the most conscious rappers in the game. “Stan” took a story about a crazed fan and made a ballad that made everyone take a look at this bleach blond rapper. “The Way I Am” was an angry grunge beat that took you into the life of Em and gave you respect for him as a rapper. I just hope you didn’t get the edited version of the LP because there probably is no vocals on it.
So the first Carter is when Wayne really started shedding simple raps from his Hot Boy days and started cranking out legitimate rhymes in “Go DJ” and planted the “best rapper alive” seed. Was he that good? Doubtful, but he was getting close. Then the second Carter installment comes out (after a top-rate Dedication 2 mixtape with DJ Drama) and you start to believe that the Young Carter is onto something…after all, he raps the first eight minutes of the album between Tha Mobb and Fly In throwing down some of the hardest, grown man lyrics, straight verse, no hook, that have been recorded in a long, long time–just a man and his mic. We get singles like “Fireman” and “Shooter“, in addition to an album that he carries mostly by himself at a time when rappers needed two guest appearances to fill each song.
Outkast’s first CD of the new millennium served as a bridge. It featured the sounds of ATLiens and Aquemini from the 90’s but also lent a hint to what was going to come in Speakerboxx/Love Below. With songs like “Ms Jackson” which got airplay on every single radio station to “So Fresh And So Clean” which regardless of how bad your game was you felt like the biggest mack in the room, to “B.O.B.” which is one of the hardest hitting beats of the decade, Stankonia is an easy choice for top 5 of the decade.
If you started listening to Kanye after Late Registration and Graduation and then stopped listening to him after the failed experiment of 808’s and Heartbreaks. Do yourself a favor and get Kanye’s first album College Dropout. This CD is flawless, every song could have been a number 1 single for artists he produced. Everyone knows his singles like “Slow Jams” and “Through The Wire” (which is his best display of lyricism in any song he’s ever done), but it also contains some of his greatest work like “Breathe in Breathe Out” and “Get Em’ High.” Although College Dropout didn’t sell- “Yo! I liked your album Kanye, and I’ma let you finish, but Jay-Z had one of the best albums of all time.”
Remember Jay-Z’s first retirement album the one that was supposed to be the precedent for all future retirement albums? It was the equivalent to Michael Jordan hanging up the Jumpman’s before dawning a Washington Wizards jersey. Although American Gangster and Blueprint 3 were solid albums Kingdom Come was the ugly colored Wizards jersey. Even though Kindom Come was so bad it takes nothing away from this master piece. “99 Problems,”and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” are songs that can still bang at any house party. Jay said it best on “What More Can I Say”. “I supposed to be number one on everybodys list. We’ll see what happens when I no longer exist.” After three more retirement albums I cant wait either Jay.
DMX- And Then there was X
Mos Def- Black on Both Sides
Dr. Dre- Chronic 2001
All three of these CDs came out within the last two months of 1999. These three albums would have been in the top 25 if they would have been released in the 2000’s but I thought it was still very important to highlight them since they had such a large impact on the state of hip hop today.