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 #60-51 of my top 100 hip-hop/rap albums of the 2010s list:
60. The Roots: “Undun” (2011)
Rarely is a concept album so well thought out and executed as The Roots’ “Undun.” Their 13th studio album paints a vivid picture of the life of fictional character “Redford Stevens” through an album-length narrative told in reverse chronological order. The legendary group is able to portray the specific struggles of life in Philadelphia as well as the general plight of African-Americans in the United States. The lyricism, production and genius concept result in “Undun” being a ‘can’t miss’ album and some of The Roots’ greatest work.
Favorite Songs: “Make My,” “One Time,” “Kool On”
59. Pusha T: “Daytona” (2018)
For what the seven-track album lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. Kanye West’s production on every track laid the foundation for Pusha T to deliver a great performance. The sync between Pusha and the incredible production is special, and leads to the most refined project from the coke rap legend. The summer of 2018 would soon become associated with and known almost more so for Pusha T’s beef with Drake, which produced the infamous diss track “The Story of Adidon.” However, the real defining moment for Pusha and his artistry in 2018 was delivering his greatest solo work yet with the grand and authentic “Daytona.”
Favorite Songs: “The Games We Play,” “Come Back Baby,” “If You Know You Know”
58. Saigon: “The Greatest Story Never Told” (2011)
After a string of 10 mixtapes, Saigon’s debut studio album arrived in 2011 via “The Greatest Story Never Told.” The Brooklyn rapper gathered a star-studded guest list for his debut. Production came primarily from Just Blaze and Kanye West, and the features came from rap legends including, Jay Z, Q-Tip, Black Thought and Bun B. Saigon displays great writing and soulful delivery, which complement great production and make a captivating and emotionally potent album that is in-focus and precise.
Favorite Songs: “Clap,” “Come On Baby,” “The Greatest Story Never Told”
57. Pro Era: “PEEP: The aPROcalypse” (2012)
The Pro Era-posse mixtape provided a great group of tracks from one of the most talented collectives in rap music. With a roster featuring the likes of Joey Bada$$, the late Capital Steez, Kirk Knight, Dyemond Lewis, Powers Pleasant and Dessy Hinds, the project had all of the pieces for a great result. The production is very old-school and laid back, which is the fitting style to accompany many of the Pro Era rappers. Pro Era found a way to stay true to the roots of east coast hip-hop while giving it an innovative twist.
Favorite Songs: “School High,” “K.I.N.G.S,” “Vinyls,” “F a Rap Critic,” “Know The Rules”
56. Maxo Kream: “Brandon Banks” (2019)
“Brandon Banks” is one of the best trap albums of the decade. The narrative of Maxo Kream’s youth in Houston is told over a series of primarily-menacing and hard beats that perfectly capture much of the pain and emotion built up through Maxo’s struggles. It is not just a cold and bleak representation either because there is a massive amount of soul and heart poured throughout the entire project. It is not easy to create an album that contains club bangers, heartfelt music and wonderful narrative all in one. Nevertheless, Maxo Kream accomplishes this feat on his second studio album.
Favorite Songs: “Bissonet,” “Drizzy Draco,” “Meet Again,” “She Live,” “Murda Blocc”
55. Mac Miller: “Faces” (2014)
After starting his career as a “frat rapper” whose music often had a lack of substance, Mac Miller comes into full form with his greatest project, “Faces.” The late Mac Miller released the massive 24-track mixtape following a long string of other mixtapes and his first two studio albums. While still containing some of the immature content that filled Mac’s early career, the project primarily contains much heavier subject matter. Mac is constantly introspective and aware to the point that is almost haunting. “Faces” is the drug-fueled adventure of a young man who is coming into his own and beginning to understand his issues and his life as a whole. Mac capitalizes on his strengths of making fun and enjoyable music while balancing out with more somber and introspective tracks. A beautiful, personal and emotional project, Mac Miller successfully creates one of the best mixtapes of the modern era of hip-hop.
Favorite Songs: “New Faces,” “Wedding,” “Polo Jeans,” “Diablo,” “Funeral,” “Rain”
54. Kanye West: “The Life of Pablo” (2016)
In what has felt like a career full of constant bold statements, “The Life of Pablo” was another fearless step for Kanye West. The absurdity of Kanye West is on center stage, as gospel, trap, pop and R&B all blend into one giant showcase of Kanye. “The Life of Pablo” is one of the most interesting and exciting collections in the career of one of hip-hop’s iconic artists.
Favorite Songs: “No More Parties in LA,” “Ultralight Beam,” “Saint Pablo,” “Waves”
53. Earl Sweatshirt: “Doris” (2013)
As the members of Odd Future began to pursue their own solo endeavors, solo projects were heavily anticipated from a multitude of the artists. One of the most mysterious and intriguing artists in this group was Earl Sweatshirt. Following the acclaimed 2010 self-titled mixtape “EARL” came his debut album, “Doris.. Though not as refined or cohesive as Earl’s future work would grow to be, “Doris” contains some of Earl’s best work to date. Contained in the album is one of the most impressive three-track runs (three songs that occur in succession on an album) of the decade. The run begins with “Sunday,” the melodic and personal track containing one of Frank Ocean’s greatest rap features. Then the mood turns much darker, with the horror rap “Hive,” featuring the one-and-only Vince Staples, who fits the track perfectly and delivers one of the best guest features of the entire decade. The final song of the three is “Chum,” a somber and heartfelt lyrical display over a sorrowful piano riff. A rapper that has always been known for incredible writing and rapping, “Doris” contains some of the best production and some of the most enjoyable music of the Earl’s career.
Favorite Songs: “Sunday,” “Hive,” “Chum,” “Centurion”
52. Flatbush Zombies: “3001: A Laced Odyssey” (2016)
An obvious play on words of Stanley Kubrick’s legendary film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the Flatbush Zombies bring an eccentric and drug-laced odyssey of their own into the rap game with their 2016 studio debut. The follow-up to their incredible 2013 mixtape “BetterOffDEAD,” the Flatbush trio stay true to their style with a compilation of great writing, introspection, political commentary and their undeniable energy and creativity. With this album, Erick Arc Elliott, Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice prove why they are one of the most entertaining and special groups in hip-hop.
Favorite Songs: “This Is It,” “A Spike Lee Joint,” “R.I.P.C.D,” “Good Grief”
51. The Underachievers: “Indigoism” (2013)
If you are looking for philosophical music with incredible pure rapping, there are few better projects than The Underachievers’ first full length release, “Indigoism.” The 2013 mixtape from Issa Gold and AKTHESAVIOR showcases technical abilities of rapping at levels that very few are capable of achieving. Refreshing flows, incredible lyricism, political commentary and potent philosophy are present for the entire duration of the album. “Indigoism” will go down as one of the landmark results of the “Soundcloud Era” of rap and one of the quintessential underground rap albums of the 2010s.
Favorite Songs: “T.A.D.E.D,” “Philanthropist,” “Revelations”
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 60-51! 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.