My Top 5 Rap Albums of 2010 (and a Poll for yours!)

6 Jan

2010 was a considerably successful year for hip-hop and rap music both commercially and musically, from platinum-selling debut albums to worldwide chart-topping singles from the veterans of the genre. Here is a personal list of my highlights last year (iTunes links are provided via clicking the album name):

Although one of the most respected rappers in the world, one of Nas’ persistent weaknesses (to the frustration of his fans) is his self-confessed inadequate selection of beats and producers. It was to his fans’ relief, then, when he collaborated with reggae artist and producer Damian Marley on a project that left him solely in charge of the rapping, to superb effect. Nas’ raps discussed a range of his matters from his divorce to the future of mankind, and was accompanied by some fantastic cameo performances from Lil Wayne and K’naan (whose appearance on ‘Tribes At War’ is a particular highlight) . Whilst the relaxing summer track ‘Count Your Blessings’ was to be expected from reggae producer Marley, the boom-bap album opener ‘As We Enter’ and the eerie tribal chant-sampling ‘Patience’ showed a versatility that kept the album interesting and thoroughly listenable from start to finish.

It had been a decade since DJ Hi-Tek and rapper Talib Kweli came together as Reflection Eternal and released the classic ‘Train of Thought’ album, and despite the prolonged wait for their second collaborative effort, fans were not disappointed with the finished product. The likes of ‘Back Again‘ and the Estelle-assisted ‘Midnight Hour‘ were relative cross-over radio hits for a duo who pride themselves on being underground artists, whilst collaborations with fellow rappers on ‘Just Begun‘ (with Jay Electronica, J.Cole and Mos Def) and ‘Strangers‘ (with Houston legend Bun B) united their base following in acclaim. The highlight of the album, though (and indeed my rap track of the year) came in the form of ‘Ballad of the Black Gold’, a commentary on the oil industry that whilst written before the event gained notable popularity and interest following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April 2010.

Following the remarkable success of his ‘So Far Gone’ mixtape, which earned Grammy nominations, Drake’s signature was highly-sought after by record labels. When Drake opted for the Young Money label, who helped him with the mixtape, it was a signal that he was pursuing more of the successful money as opposed to just chasing the highest offer (although the £1m Young Money deal was not exactly without reward). Drake’s debut album ‘Thank Me Later’ took everything that was right with ‘So Far Gone’ and built on it. Thanks to his mixtape exploits, the rapper and singer was able to attract collaborative heavyweights at an unprecedented level for a debut album: his rap partners included Jay-Z and T.I., production came from heavyweights Kanye West and Timbaland, whilst Alicia Keys and The-Dream took charge of vocals when Drake wasn’t keen on taking charge himself. With such a solid, star-filled debut offering that stems from boom-bap rap to radio hits and melancholy songs about heartbreak, it is safe to say Drake will be around for an extremely long time (along with label affiliate Nicki Minaj, whose feature on ‘Up All Night’ is one of the album’s many exceptional rap performances).

Despite the embarrassing revelations of being a former prison officer, Rick Ross has continued to strengthen his position in hip-hop with albums of the highest quality, of which 2010’s ‘Teflon Don’ was certainly no exception. The selection of good beats is a known quality of Ross and he displayed it to full effect by working with the most respected producers in the current hip-hop climate, from regular collaborators the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League (who produce on three tracks) to Kanye West on the feel-good party anthem ‘Live Fast, Die Young’. In terms of features, the sung hooks from Cee-lo Green and Chrisette Michelle were memorable whilst Jay-Z’s appearance on ‘Free Mason‘ is one of the best verses of the year. The fact Ross’ album was released in between two mixtapes (‘The Albert Anastasia EP’, of which two tracks made it onto ‘Teflon Don’, and the Christmas Eve release ‘Ashes to Ashes‘) are an indication of his work ethic, and with his next album ‘God Forgives, I Don’t’ already announced for 2011, fans never have to wait long for some quality hip-hop.

Until the winter release of Kanye West’s long-awaited return to rap, any critically-acclaimed rap release this year were only suggested as a contender for album of the year “…until Kanye’s album comes out” and so it proved, with the effort drawing praise from every direction. West stayed in Hawaii for several months producing the album on little food and no sleep, and upon listening it is clear that he has put everything into the creation of his masterpiece. The album drew such a favourable reaction from myself that I wrote a track-by-track review of the album on this very site, which I implore you to visit. With Kanye’s collaborative album with Jay-Z ‘Watch The Throne’ scheduled for a release in March 2011, the plaudits are unlikely to dry up for West and his place in hip-hop folkore is cemented.

So there was my list of top 5 favourite albums of 2010, but DID YOU AGREE?
Below is a poll for you to select your favourite rap album of the year, let me know!


4 Responses to “My Top 5 Rap Albums of 2010 (and a Poll for yours!)”

  1. Frazer Lloyd-Davies January 6, 2011 at 21:21 #

    I’d guess that I don’t know even half as much as you about music, and in particular the rap and hip hop scene, but Eminem’s Recovery is amazing. Cliche perhaps, but it is one of his best albums yet. That being said I’m going to download these five and see what I think.

    • Joseph Walker January 6, 2011 at 21:25 #

      I expected a few shouts for Recovery, it was a definite improvement on Relapse but I just for some reason didn’t get as into it as my peers (don’t get me wrong I fully expected to!). Click on some the youtube links for the songs in the album descriptions and see what you think from there if you don’t fancy fully delving into it!

  2. akim January 6, 2011 at 21:22 #

    m8 theres no way u cud put Drake and Kanye b4 Nas. In the words of Clay Davies Shhhhhhiiit lol

  3. Kevin January 12, 2011 at 23:18 #


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