10 reasons why 2010 was the best year ever in hip-hop: #4 Whut? Thee album???…there have been a lot of great songs in hip-hop over the years but not a lot of great ALBUMS. In 2010, there were at least 10…

When’s the last time you went back and listened to some of your favorite hip-hop albums from back in the day? I’m guessing if you randomly picked 10 of your favorites and listened to them from front to back, you would want to skip at least 5 tracks on each album. There are notable exceptions (The Chronic (both of them), It Takes A Nation of Millions, Death Certificate, all of Kanye’s albums, 4 or 5 of Jay’s albums, Midnight Marauders and Low End Theory…) but there are probably less than 50 like that in the 30-year history of hip-hop. That’s not a bad thing. Hip-hop started as a singles game and, as we’ve seen in the iTunes era, singles are (mostly) what the people want, anyway. The album was originally a construct of a few artist in the 70’s who had conceptual works of art that needed to be expressed over multiple tracks before it became a way for record companies to capitalize on selling you 10 songs you didn’t want in order to get the 2 songs you did. But, in 2010, there has been an incredible resurgence in quality albums that you can put on and just let ride. Okay, okay, so maybe not 100% of the songs on these albums were dope, but at least 80% were skip-proof and that’s incredible by today’s standards. Here were 10 of the best (in no particular order):

1. Drake – Thank Me Later: How many rap albums have lead with both a ballad AND a club joint as the singles? The Fugees are the only ones who come to mind, with Fu-Gee La and Killing Me Softly (and those weren’t released simultaneously). Drake’s Over and Find Your Love were just a preview of the diversity that was to come on the album. 6 months later and dude is on single # 5. That is the sign of an INCREDIBLE album. Here are the 2 that started it:

2. B.o.B. – The Adventures of Bobby Ray: 5 Grammy nominations. Nuff said…

3. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot…Son of Chico Dusty: This one was criminally slept on. Big Boi was only 1/2 of OutKast, but he brought 100% of the quality you would come to expect from an Outkast album (oh yeah, they had some great ones too…) with his first solo effort.

4. Rick Ross – Teflon Don: This one is probably sonically the best one of the bunch. Rick Ross bolstered the assertion that he has the best ear in hip-hop by picking some monster tracks. There is one reason and one reason only he was able to survive the discovery that he was a former C.O. and the most vicious attack 50 Cent has ever unleashed on another rapper: he makes great music.

5.  J. Cole – Friday Night Lights:  Yeah, yeah.  I know this is a mixtape, but, as previously discussed, there’s not a real difference between mixtapes and albums these days.  J. Cole’s “real” album has been delayed indefinitely, but in 2010 he dropped some real heat with Friday Night Lights. If the album is better than the mixtape, 2011 could be another big year.

6.  Eminem – Recovery:  This one should have an * next to it.  It’s definitely one of Eminem’s best albums and it will be the biggest selling album (of any genre) in 2010…that being said, Eminem is the perfect example of someone who doesn’t make great albums.  He’s made some of the biggest hits in rap history and is its biggest selling star (as well as the biggest selling star of any genre of the last decade) but he has built that legacy from great songs.  Listening to his album all the way through, you start to get a bit fatigued.  His rapid-fire flow can wear you down after a while and his beats tend to become a little monotonous (with those provided by the good Dr. Dre being the notable exceptions).  But, with all that in mind as the grand qualifier, Eminem made a great album in 2010 to complete an amazing comeback.

7.  Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday:  There’s been a lot said about Nicki Minaj in this series (and more to come), so will keep this short.  Great Album.  Here are a couple of reasons why:

8.  Big K.R.I.T. – Krit Wuz Here:  This is the 2nd of 2 mixtapes on this list, and like J. Cole, K.R.I.T. is another one to watch in 2011.  This mixtape is solid from front to back.  The beats are tight, the rhymes are on point and K.R.I.T. covers an amazingly wide range of subjects.  Instead of focusing just on cars, money and women, K.R.I.T. provides insightful commentary on life’s everyday struggles–something we all can relate to:

9.  Dirty Money – Last Train to Paris:  This train has been trying to pull out of the station since mid-2009 and it finally departed in December 2010.  Say what you want about Diddy’s rapping, the autotuned “singing”, the delays, the dancing or whatever other hate you may want to throw his way, but this is a really, really good album.  Puff has been in the game for nearly 20 years now because he has a great ear for music, and that shows on Last Train to Paris.  Rather than trot out a who’s who list of the hottest rappers to bolster the album (though there are some), he let it stand on quality tracks and an adventurous sound and it paid off.

10.  Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:  Save the best for last.  Kanye West has been on a long, dark, twisted ride for the last 3 years.  He lost his mother unexpectedly and tragically.  He was crucified by the media and others after the Taylor Swift debacle.  He endured very public breakups.  And, he has a never-ending battle with himself over trying to do the right thing vs. just keeping it 100% real (at least from his perspective) and stepping in it.  Rather than sink into an abyss, he used all of these life experiences to enrich his soul and then lay it bare for the world to see and hear.  The result was one of the greatest albums (of any genre) of the decade.  It had no radio hits, it was dark, it was complex…and it was brilliant.  In fact, he had so much confidence in it, he gave half of it away for free, and half a million people bought it in the first week, anyway.  Thank you, Kanye.  It’s been a G.O.O.D. year for music.


Last minute addition:  11.  The Roots – How I Got Over:  Often underrated (apparently even by me sometimes) but ALWAYS dope, The Roots made their best album since Do You Want More?!?! in 2010.  It was the perfect combination of catching hooks, jazzy and soulful tracks, and straight fire lyrics from Black Thought and guests.  Incredible, incredible album: