By Nick Sligh
To read more about the background of this list and my thoughts on making it, check out the introduction to my rankings. Without further ado, here are #80-71 of my top 100 hip-hop/rap albums of the 2010s list.
80. The Underachievers: “Evermore: The Art of Duality” (2015)
The Underachievers, the eccentric and spiritual duo from the Beast Coast collective, delivered an artistic and lyrical album exploring the duality of life with “Evermore: The Art of Duality.” The two-part album is arranged into two “phases,” the first representing much lighter sounds and perspectives and the second representing much darker sounds and perspectives. Just looking at the album cover gives the listener a good sense of the layout and the purpose of the album. With great writing, concepts and production, The Underachievers created one of the decade’s best underground projects.
Favorite Songs: “Illusions,” “Rain Dance,” “Chasing Faith,” “The Dualist”
79. Danny Brown: “Atrocity Exhibition” (2016)
After a long string of mixtapes and album releases, Danny Brown arrived with one of the craziest releases of the decade with his fourth studio album, featuring Danny’s famous writing and delivery throughout. The production and his lyricism are likely not for everybody, but they masterfully complement each other. Intentionally unsettling, chaotic and grimy, “Atrocity Exhibition” feels like one of the most startling and unique albums put together in recent memory. Drug rap takes on a completely different style and sound that it has never seen before. A full listen through feels like an audio horror movie that is well-done, often comedic and crafted by a revolutionary. “Atrocity Exhibition” will easily go down as one of the most peculiar and creative records in recent rap.
Favorite Songs: “Really Doe,” “Get Hi,” “Pneumonia,” “Rolling Stone”
78. Open Mike Eagle: “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream” (2017)
There is nothing new about rapping about struggles in rap or about how poor the current state of America is believed to be. However, open Mike Eagle’s concept album “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream” presents these ideas in some of the most beautiful and creative ways seen in rap. The artistic rapper and poet is known for incredible songwriting and storytelling. He is able to capture his emotions almost flawlessly through his stories of the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s South Side. The famous housing project serves as the backdrop of his album, as Open Mike Eagle weaves through stories of the formative years of his life with allegory, love and cleverness.
Favorite Songs: “Legendary Iron Hood,” “95 Radios,” “Happy Wasteland Day,” “Hymnal”
77. Pusha T: “My Name Is My Name” (2013)
“My Name Is My Name” established what we have come to know as vintage Pusha T. Through his debut studio LP, Pusha tells stories of his drug dealing past and his present life with masterful delivery. One of the decade’s best songs finds itself on the tracklist: the incredible “Nosetalgia” featuring Kendrick Lamar. The iconic opening lines to this song set the tone not only for this album, but frankly for Pusha’s rap career: “Twenty-plus years of selling Johnson and Johnson; I started out as a baby-faced monster. No wonder there’s diaper rash on my conscience; my teething ring was numbed by the nonsense.”
Favorite Songs: “Nosetalgia,” “Sweet Serenade,” “Numbers on the Boards”
76. Denzel Curry: “ZUU” (2019)
“ZUU” is a return his roots and a salute to South Florida for Denzel Curry. From the production to the features to the content, this album is deliberate in creating a sound and style that represent Miami and all of the energy and swagger associated with South Florida trap music. The pure rapping ability of Denzel is displayed, with varied flows and passionate (often aggressive) delivery. Denzel claims that he freestyled the entire project without actually having to write down any of the content, making the technical aspects of the album even more impressive. The production choices are on point, with credits to Tay Keith, Charlie Heat and frequent collaborating duo FnZ. “ZUU” captures the essence of his Miami summers and successfully creates a street anthem full of fun, energy and wisdom.
Favorite Songs: “Ricky,” “Birdz,” “Automatic”
75. Choosey & Exile: “Black Beans” (2019)
Titled for Choosey’s mixed heritage, “Black Beans” is a journey through Choosey’s early life in Los Angeles growing up with a Mexican father and an African-American mother. The combination of Choosey’s excellent rapping and storytelling combined with Exile’s phenomenal production creates a compilation that is focused, emotional and captivating. Exile, one of the best underground producers in hip-hop, delivers a masterfully produced collection that could not fit the album any better. With influences from Latin jazz, gospel, funk, soul and old school hip-hop, the result is a peaceful and uplifting sound from start to finish. “Black Beans” is truly a modern underground rap masterpiece.
Favorite Songs: “Brown & Beautiful,” “Familia,” “Black Beans,” “Low Low”
74. Big Boi: “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” (2010)
One-half of one of hip-hop’s greatest duos of all time (Outkast), Big Boi came through with arguably his finest solo work in 2010. The pure rapping ability from Big Boi is undeniable throughout, as his technical ability is constantly put on display. The soulful and groovy production creates a fun atmosphere that really allows the Georgia rapper to thrive. Exuding glamour and swagger, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” proved that Big Boi was a great rapper on his own and could produce high quality work outside of Outkast.
Favorite Songs: “Shine Blockas,” “Be Still,” “General Patton,” “Daddy Fat Sax”
73. Erick Arc Elliott: “Almost Remembered” (2011)
Best known for being the producer and a member of the Brooklyn-based Flatbush Zombies, Erick Elliott is one of the most versatile figures in rap. In “Almost Remembered,” Erick shows that he is much more than just the “Third Flatbush Zombie.” A marvelously constructed mixtape, the tone is set with soulful, warm, emotional and nostalgic production. The relaxed and laid-back vibes go very well with the content of the album. Erick goes through introspection and struggles in his life, from the difficulty of making it in the music industry to coping with the death of his loved ones. “Almost Remembered” establishes Erick as a legitimate talent not only in the Flatbush Zombies group, but also in the greater rap scene.
Favorite Songs: “Weed Fronter,” “Uncle Bernard,” “Sleep,” “After Lovin U”
72. Danny Brown: “Old” (2012)
Less daring but more personal than “Atrocity Exhibition,” “Old” certainly finds Danny Brown at his most personal. With a selection of outrageous sounds and club bangers, “Old” is far from simply somber introspection. Still showing flashes of the adventurous sounds that Danny Brown has become synonymous with, this album does the best job out of Danny Brown’s discography in providing storytelling and content that allow listeners to understand Brown better. From the chilling “Torture” to the self-aware “Clean Up,” this album has a much more serious tone than his previous work. The LP offers a deep look into the emotions, thoughts and maturation of Danny Brown, showing that there is far more to him than crazy production choices and quirky drug rap.
Favorite Songs: “Torture,” “Clean Up,” “Dope Fiend Rental,” “The Return”
71. Kanye West: “Yeezus” (2013)
It’s obvious that Kanye West is a musical genius. Sure, not every project made by Kanye has been stellar, but that is part of being one of the boldest and most fearless figures in music. Kanye has been one of the most influential and defining artists of the 21st century, not only in rap, but also in music in general. “Yeezus” was just one of Kanye’s defining works that left its own unique mark. A dark, intense and metallic turn from the soulful and more upbeat Kanye of his early days, the album provided a more sinister look into the life of Mr. West. Yeezus is one of the loudest and most daring artistic statements made by West in his long and successful career.
Favorite Songs: “Bound 2,” “Blood On The Leaves,” “New Slaves,” “Black Skinhead”
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 80-71! 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.