DionRabouin.com (sort of)

The 10 Best Albums of the Last Decade

Posted in Opinion by dionrabouin on February 3, 2011

I finally got around to listening to Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” today, and it’s hands down the best album of this decade. That made me start thinking about the scarcity of great hip hop albums from last decade. So, I made a list.

10. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele
Sonically and lyrically one of the best albums ever made. It’s almost like a Coltrane album, in that you have to listen to it multiple times and your attention can’t be diverted. Given just a perfunctory listen, it’s easy to dismiss this album. The first time I listened to it, I hated it and didn’t listen to it again for almost a year. Then I was bored one day and put it on and my life hasn’t been the same since. There really aren’t any singles on this album. “Apollo Kids” and “Cherchez LaGhost” were released to radio, but you can’t listen to any track individually. It’s an all or nothing deal. Ghost spits some of his best rhymes and you have to rewind often and listen to tracks multiple times to catch even half of what’s coming out of Tony Stark(s) mouth. It’s truly brilliant.

9. Bun B – Trill/II Trill/Trill O.G.
Hip hop’s best and perhaps only trilogy (Trill O.G., get it?). I don’t think there’s a bad song on any of these albums. It’s a true South classic, because while Bun is limited as a lyricist, he never lets that hamper him. It’s all about big beats, rims, slabs and parking lot pimpin. You can put any of these albums on at any time, anywhere, at any point in the album and nod your head. Bun doesn’t kill you lyrically, but his raps are poignant and he’s never dull or predictable. The beats are always great and the lyrics never disappoint. At some point in the trill o.g., I think literally every rapper in the history of the South makes an appearance. The album never slows down and never stops coming at you. Everyone who wants to be a rapper should listen to these albums to see how its done.

8. T.I. – Trap Muzik
Like the Trill O.G., Trap Muzik is a Dirty South classic. This album was one of the first albums to ever successfully combine Atlanta’s bass-heavy beats with elite-level lyricism. It was Lil’ Jon crossed with Nas and it was beautiful. T.I. was the first MC to take everything that was great about Southern hip hop and make it lyrically inclined. He still touches on all the requisites (“money, hoes, 24s”) but he also talks about mortality, loss, struggle and about the glory and the fall of being a drug dealer from a real, first-person perspective.

7. Kanye West – The College Dropout
The debut of Mr. West. The lyrics were surprisingly adept and the beats were ahead of their time, but still palatable to the generation of the day. This album firmly planted Kanye on the list of the game’s top MCs and left no doubt about his abilities as a producer or a rapper. To this day, Kanye has to be the only rapper to combine chauvinism, arrogance, introspection, insecurity, raw ambition and a positive message into a piece of art that works.

6. T.I. – King
Still T.I.’s best album. For my money, after Goodie Mob’s Still Standing, this is the preeminent Southern rap album. The self-proclaimed King of the South cemented himself on the throne with this album and shut down all possible doubt about his lyrical prowess. The beats are amazing and T.I. managed to bring out the true essence of the South without sacrificing his lyrical ability or artistic integrity one bit. It was like “Trap Muzik,” but Tip somehow managed to cram bigger, heavier beats and better lyrics into an album with more radio-friendly singles and songs for the ladies. It has all the elements of a terrible album, but it somehow manages to succeed on every level.

5. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
From top to bottom, this was one of the best albums ever made. Em mastered every part of the MC craft, from storytelling to metaphors; from battle raps to love songs. Every song is violently beautiful and masterful. It’s vulgar, rude and often indefensible. No one has ever been able to murder their mother, their wife and their boss on record and be lauded for it. What has always made Slim Shady stand above the rest is his ability to tell his story and let himself be completely vulnerable. “Marshall Mathers” was Em bearing his soul for all of us to see.

4. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
“Fishscale” was Ghost’s triumph. It was “Supreme Clientele” version 2.0, digitally remastered. It had the lyricism, story and vignettes of “Clientele,” but with bigger beats, catchier hooks and better guest stars. Really, it was “Supreme Clientele” on steroids. It had all the makings of a big budget classic, but managed to maintain Ghost’s sense of lyrical romanticism and old school 45s-on-the-record-player-at-Grandma’s-house sensibility. Listening to this album was like watching your favorite indie actor kill it in a $300 million summer blockbuster without selling out.

3. Jay-Z – The Black Album
I don’t care what anyone says, “The Black Album” was Jay’s best album. “The Blueprint” was a nice collection of hot singles, but “Black Album” was masterfully strung together album. It was Jay’s first real album since “Reasonable Doubt.” It was intended to be his last album and it played like J-Hova finally stopped caring about satiating the streets, the critics and the masses and just made good music for the sake of making good music he could be proud of. As Jay, himself, said on the album, “Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/(then I sold five mil)/I ain’t been rhymin like Common since.” It was nice to have that Jay back. As the new Jay says, “N*ggas want my old sh*t/buy my old album.” Sage advice indeed.

2. Nas – Untitled (aka Nigger)
The best rap album with a message ever made. Lyrically, it’s probably not Nas’s strongest work, but as a piece of art and as a concept album it was prolific. Nas tackles everything from police brutality to black unity to use of the “N-word” (the intended title of his album) to health to the unknowns of the universe. The album moves effortlessly from track to track and never dips. It’s my firm belief that every black person living in the U.S. should listen to this album. It’s that important. Nas’s untitled album is easily the best revolutionary album ever made and that includes albums by Dead Prez, The Coup and Brother Lynch.

1. Big L – The Big Picture
Lyrically, this is probably the best album ever made. Big L was just approaching his prime and this was his tour de force performance. He was shot to death before the album could be released, but it was far and away his best work. No rapper in the game could ever compete with Big L on a lyrical level. Had he been alive to see it through, this could have been one of the most celebrated rap albums ever recorded. Instead, it’s a hip hop cult classic that only hip hop heads have ever even heard. It was violent, menacing, angry and militant. Whether L was threatening to rob your house or rape your sister, you couldn’t help but nod your head and listen in reverence. His ability to string together metaphors, boasts, murderous threats and sublime punchlines has never and probably will never be matched. Unlike other Big L albums, “The Big Picture” featured sleek and precise production and professional-quality beats. If you haven’t heard this album, find it on Youtube or Grooveshark or whatever means you choose. Or just go to the store and buy it. But listen to this album. It’s amazing.

 

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