It’s not too often you see a rapper wait four years until releasing a follow-up to their debut album and still manage to match their sales tally. 90059 is the indie hip hop album of the year, and though he doesn’t have a major distributor behind him like label mates Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q do, Jay Rock adds another quality album to the repertoire of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). Most notably, this album featured what was arguably the best Rap song of the year. “Vice City” featured the long-awaited reunion of the rap group “Black Hippy”, made up by Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. The new serious tone from Jay Rock compared to his past reputation of being a gangsta rapper, is a refreshing change of pace.
If you were confused as to why Rodeo was such a highly anticipated album, you’re not to blame. Travis Scott only released two mixtapes prior to the Rodeo album, one in 2013 and one in 2014. Though both were great mixtapes, the first week sales of Rodeo show that his fanbase hasn’t quite grown to an appropriate level to match the skill level Scott has reached. Though Travis Scott’s sound isn’t necessarily unlike anything we’ve ever heard before, it’s not too often we get a debut album that sounds like it’s coming from a vet of the rap game. The overall quality of the album is good, however the production isn’t as consistent track-to-track as one would expect from Travis Scott. Though it’s still possible to deliver a quality hip hop album without doing all the production yourself, consistency won’t be guaranteed.
Wale’s fourth studio album was the much anticipated collaboration with Jerry Seinfeld. It’s not too often that an album is announced and isn’t the very next album to be released by that artist, as Wale announced that he’d be working with Jerry Seinfeld before his third album “The Gifted” had even hit stores. It’s not quite often that the world of Hip Hop is graced with a concept album, but this album succeeds on every end. Wale takes his usual soulful album and combines it with many of the themes of the popular Seinfeld TV show. Wale keeps his sound familiar enough for fans while also progressing enough to distance himself from his last two albums. Wale often doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves because his music is so different than what the rest of the Rap scene does, but now as other rappers start to make similar music it seems that Wale was just ahead of his time.
A big step forward from his last album, G-Eazy maintains his status as one of the best lyricists out there and finds the modern sound that he’s lacked in the past. This album was make or break for G-Eazy as in the past his music was completely built around his lyrical stylings, with less focus on the average production. The upgrade in production on When It’s Dark Out absolutely pays off, as this album included beats from Cashmere Cat, Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, Key Wane, Nard & B, Southside and DJ Spinz among others. As if the upgrade in production wasn’t enough, G-Eazy’s second album under RCA Records saw a much more diverse group of featured artists.
After 2014 ended with Meek Mill’s release from prison, the first half of 2015 was spent anticipating when Meek would drop his sophomore studio album. As it turns out, Meek scrapped the entire album that he had prepared before he was incarcerated and recorded 14 new songs. Though this feels more like a collection of singles than an actual album, Meek Mill proved he’s a force to be reckoned with in the world of Hip Hop. This album was one of many disorganized albums released this year, with many artists just grouping together standalone tracks and calling it an album (Drake being just as guilty of this if not more than Meek is). Snoop Dogg, Future, Action Bronson all released albums that featured a certain amount of disorganization which directly impacted this list. This album was at the center of controversy when it was revealed that Atlanta rapper Quentin Miller wrote Drake’s guest verse for the song “R.I.C.O.” from this album (among other cuts from the If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape) but an album that has 7 songs chart as singles cannot go unnoticed.
Critics were ready to dismiss Big Sean after his last album Hall of Fame, but Dark Sky Paradise didn’t just earn respect, it demanded it. Lyrically, this is some of the best work of Big Sean’s career and it’s complimented by top notch production. And if that weren’t enough the entire album contains eleven features from ten different artist and not a single one of them are bad. The only thing keeping this album from being higher on this list is the similarity between this album and the last two. Don’t be mistaken, this is by far the best album Big Sean has ever made and without a doubt has mastered his sound, just don’t expect it to work too many more times.
Last month Tyler, The Creator made headlines when he was interviewed for Rolling Stone and was asked about multiple topics, one of which was the critics of his Cherry Bomb album. When prompted about fans who prefer his old music over his new music, Tyler responded “I 100 percent get it, we get stuck in nostalgia. I wish Pharrell could make In My Mind a million times, but it makes me appreciate him so much that he’s not stuck. 50 Cent was stuck, trying to make the same album three times and now look.” Though, “Goblin” is definitely a cult favorite, Tyler has been focused on shedding the label that the fans and media have tried to give him because of that album. “Wolf” may have been an awkward transition period, but it all comes full circle with “Cherry Bomb”. The last three albums by Tyler only featured one producer that wasn’t Tyler himself. But other than the one song produced by Odd Future’s Left Brain, that’s three whole albums in a four year span produced entirely by one man who is still in his early twenties, almost unheard of. That alone deserves respect, but production alone wasn’t enough for Wolf to satisfy fans. The new album is a huge leap forward for Tyler, whose former music stylings only appear in small doses on this album. “Cherry Bomb” is a full commitment to the new direction Tyler’s taking. The reason “Wolf” failed was because he was trying to take this step forward while also trying to make it sound enough like “Goblin” for his fanbase to enjoy. Within the midst of it all are two stellar guest verses from Kanye West and ScHoolboy Q (Lil Wayne was good, but unnecessary). Cherry Bomb is the kind of album you want to kick back, relax and enjoy, which can’t be said about any other Tyler, The Creator album.
2015 was a roller coaster of a year for the trio out of Atlanta, Georgia. And It all got started in April when Quavo, Takeoff and Offset were all arrested after performing at Georgia Southern University. Quavo and Takeoff would be released just two days later but Offset would remain incarcerated due to his past record (eventually having his sentence extended for inciting a riot in prison). This would end up delaying the trio’s album for a month and a half, but ultimately wouldn’t impact the quality of the album. Yung Rich Nation contains 15-tracks, no intros, skits or interludes, and don’t take me lightly when I tell you that every single song on this album is high quality and has large replay value. Migos have collaborated with the likes of Justin Bieber, R. Kelly, Meek Mill, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and many more, but only two guest features landed on this album. And though Chris Brown and Young Thug were both great on this album, make no mistake, the focus of this album was on establishing this rap trio as the new generation of hip hop. Many wondered whether the Migos could break beyond the threshold of the world of free mixtapes, YRN is a mastered version of everything fans love about the Migos but is also good enough to attract new fans. There’s not much more the three could’ve asked for with this album, except maybe better sales numbers, but the future is very bright for Offset, Takeoff and Quavo.
The debut studio album from the Def Jam rapper out of Long Beach, California was one of the biggest surprised of the year. This album was a double disc album which we don’t really see too often anymore, especially with debuts. It’s not very often you get a 20-track without a single bad song on it, Staples supplied fans with enough quality music to last months with “Summertime ’06”. At the end of the day the three things you look for in an album are replay ability, a complete story told from start to finish, and value that exceeds the price tag. This album excels extraordinarily in each category, and now the relatively unknown XXL freshman has more eyes on him than ever.
I’m sure most of you might’ve expected this at the top of the list but as fun as it may have been to make a surprising pick, this album is just way too good to be logically placed anywhere besides the top spot. Kendrick Lamar’s last album good kid, m.A.A.d city was so well received by critics many wondered if his follow-up had any chance of living up to the standards previously set by Lamar himself. But To Pimp a Butterfly saw a shift in Kendrick Lamar’s focus, and instead of making an album focused more on living up to his West Coast Hip Hop roots TPAB was more focused on where he is now and the world we live in today not his past and where he came from. Kendrick Lamar evolved with this album and wasn’t simply trying to make a GKMC 2, but a new story told in a different way. There aren’t too many rappers that make albums that have a narrative from start to finish, and Kendrick’s ability to tell a story with an album, is to this point, unmatched.
Boosie Badazz – Touch Down 2 Cause Hell
The first album from Boosie Badazz since being released from prison was just what fans needed after disappointing albums from Snoop Dogg and A$AP Rocky that month.
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt
One of the best albums of the year, doesn’t crack the list for only being 30 minutes long.
Lil Dicky – Professional Rapper
The crowd-funded debut album from Lil Dicky was lyrically outstanding, though the production didn’t return the favor.
Rae Sremmurd – Sremmlife
The debut album from the duo who were relatively unknown at the time sparked their takeover of US radio stations.
Kid Ink – Full Speed
The latest from Kid Ink proved that he’s still one of the best in the rap game at making singles, however the album as a whole lacked consistency from track-to-track.
The Game – The Documentary 2 & 2.5
Likely would’ve cracked the top ten had it actually been released as a double disc album and not two separate albums.
Ty Dolla $ign – Free TC
Free TC exceeded expectations, but I never thought I’d say an album could have too many features.
Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth
Though not nearly as big as he once was, Lupe Fiasco still has plenty of gas left in the tank to satisfy old fans.
Future – DS2
Not a fan, but respect is due when a rap album goes #1 with 17 tracks and only one feature.
K CAMP – Only Way Is Up
The debut album from the 2015 XXL Freshman flew under the radar but was good enough to keep interest in an artist who has been mishandled by his label to say the least.
Snoop Dogg – BUSH
Though it wasn’t quite everything fans were expecting, a lot of recognition is due for an album where every song is produced by Pharrell Williams.
Rick Ross – Black Market
The eighth album from the boss Rick Ross is his best work yet.
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