OUR PERSONAL ALBUMS OF THE DECADE

Updated: Jan 11


We each took turns choosing our top 10 RnB/Hip-Hop albums of the decade, and it wasn't easy. We couldn't agree, so we've decided to each post our top 5's to soften the debate.



Eli's Top 5:

To Pimp a Butterfly

Atrocity Exhibition

Veteran

Grey Area

Kids See Ghosts


Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly - 2015

TPAB is great example of releasing the album at the right time, and is one of the few albums that perhaps deserves the ‘instant classic’ tag. The album’s lack of influence is a testament to its ambition, credit due to Thundercat and Soundwave. The uplifting “Alright”, assured “King Kunta” and centrepiece “How Much a Dollar Cost” are all worth your acquaintance.


Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition - 2016

Danny Brown has long been one of the most interesting characters in rap. To reduce the charming zaniness to an album is a true achievement. “When It Rain”, “Ain’t It Funny” and “Really Doe” are all superb, the latter supported by Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt


JPEGMAFIA - Veteran - 2018

JPEGMAFIA’s follow up to Black Ben Carson: an in-your-face stream of vitriol paired with equally brash beats. Its unsociable, pushy and funny, see “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies”.

Little Simz - Grey Area - 2019

Little Simz’s defiant delivery does not falter once over the ten tracks, whether she’s taking cowardly men to task “They will never wanna admit I’m the best here / For the mere fact that I’ve got ovaries / It’s a woman world so to speak” or snapping “I’m JAY-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days” (although perhaps she meant Edward de Vere), Grey Area is 35 minutes of frighteningly confident rap.


Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts - 2018

Going into this album there was a feeling that Kanye and Kid Cudi had arrived a day late and a dollar short. Ultimately it only took was 23 minutes of grungey-hip hop to forget the missteps of “Violent Crimes” and Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven. There’s the sense that the duo had a lot of fun making this album, and it's contagious. Every detail about the record feels precise, perhaps too precise, but I’m not complaining.



Karishma's Top 5:


Telefone

Freudian

Shea Butter Baby

Blonde

Grey Area

Noname - Telefone - 2016

I was going to write about Room 25, but Fahad already did that. I still want to write about Noname though and think her 2016 mixtape, Telefone, also deserves a place on this list. Every time I return to this project, I am struck by how simultaneously buoyant and gut-wrenching it is. Over warm, playful instrumentation, consisting mainly of xylophones and piano, Noname raps on topics such as police brutality and childhood nostalgia. It is through this contradiction between the mood of the instrumentation and weight of the lyrics that this album manages to convey immense pain alongside a remarkably enduring sense of hope.


Daniel Caesar - Freudian - 2017

A delicious album that makes me feel painfully single- a testament to its beautiful depictions of love and lust. Smooth, sexy, devastating.


Ari Lennox - Shea Butter Baby - 2019

This is a surprise to… absolutely no one. I've been rinsing Shea Butter Baby since the moment it was released and still am not bored of it. This album oozes charm and confidence, keeping me hooked from the first note to the very last. The instrumentation is lively, yet thoughtful, the melodies are always infectious and Ari's voice is sweet as sugar.


Frank Ocean - Blonde - 2016

Blonde is one of the most confusingly brilliant albums I've ever heard. Who knows what genre it belongs to? Does it matter? Not really. This album is stunning for many reasons, one of them being its sheer instrumental simplicity, casting a spotlight on Ocean's shape-shifting vocals and generating a feeling of intimacy between him and the listener. For me though, what is perhaps most notable about this album is its lyrical fragmentation. In Blonde, Ocean explores a range of themes such as consumerism, relationships, drugs and sexuality, but his tracks don't always follow a clear narrative. Instead, it often feels as though the listener is moving with his stream of consciousness, which is sometimes dizzying, but always utterly engrossing.


Little Simz - Grey Area - 2019

Eli's pretty much covered it in his comments on this album- it's dazzling, fiery and unapologetic. I'm here for it.


Special mentions: Ctrl (SZA), Care For Me (Saba), blkswn (Smino), Satisfaction Guaranteed (Junglepussy), TPAB (Kendrick Lamar), Coloring Book (Chance the Rapper), Room 25 (Noname), Channel Orange (Frank Ocean), DAYTONA (Pusha T), A Seat at the Table (Solange), Yesterday's Gone (Loyle Carner), Malibu (Anderson. Paak).


There are so many more I could mention, but this is already such a long list so I'm going to stop now. What a decade!


Fahad's Top 5:


To Pimp a Butterfly

Avantdale Bowling Club

A Seat at the Table

Channel Orange

Room 25



Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly - 2015

The first time I listened to this album I hated it. But I also hated Doctor Who the first time I watched it so the moral of the story is never listen to my immediate response. To me, To Pimp a Butterfly is the complete rap album. Tt has soul, it has narrative, it pays homage to my favourite musical styles in soul, jazz and funk and it is an inventive reimagining of the odyssey with each epiphany hitting home on every re-listen of the project. Maybe TPAB didn’t massively impact mainstream Hip Hop in the 2010s but its poetry and precision were what made a sixteen-year-old me fall in love with the genre.


Avantdale Bowling Club - self titled - 2018

It’s just such a cool album I don’t really know what else to say. Give it a listen.


Solange - A Seat at the Table - 2016

Was it ever going to be anything else? There’s no need to justify this one.


Frank Ocean - Channel Orange - 2012

(Yeah, yeah, not Blonde; bite me)

I have so many fond memories attached to this project; the first time I listened to it sat around friends; lazy days at the beach and the first time I peeped the bonus track are just a few. Naturally, Channel Orange will always encourage comparisons with Frank’s later work but I think that’s a bit unfair. Of course, the song writing on Channel Orange is a bit more basic than on Blonde but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the album is a gorgeous project from Start to End… and Golden Girl. Shout out Tyler.


Noname - Room 25 - 2018

‘Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?’ In such a great year for Hip Hop, Noname blew most of her peers out of the water with her debut album, Room 25. From the day of its release I have not stopped listening to it, gleaming something new with each replay and endlessly enjoying Noname’s heartfelt and often sharply satirical pen. Along with Phoelix and Cam Obi, Noname has created her own musical identity and voice that many artists fail to achieve so early in their careers. I think if she keeps making music there is no reason why she won’t end up among the best to ever grace a mic. Favourites from Room 25 include, ‘Self’, ‘Don’t Forget About Me’, ‘Prayer Song’ and ‘no name’.


Special Mentions: Some Rap Songs (Earl Sweatshirt), Care for Me (Saba), The Sun’s Tirade (Isaiah Rashad), Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (Open Mike Eagle), KTSE (Teyana Taylor) and Ctrl (SZA).


Danny's Top 5:


Care for Me

Fin

Section.80

In My Mind

Laila's Wisdom


Saba – Care for Me - 2017

These are in no particular order, but Care for Me might be my favorite album of the decade. In terms of replay value, bars, depth and versatility, Saba’s second full-length project has it all.

Top Tracks: FIGHTER, SMILE


Syd – Fin - 2017

I tried to choose albums from across the decade and they’ve ended up all being from 2017. Sue me.

Fin is everything you want an RnB album to be – subtle, sexy, experimental, and kinda dark.

Top Tracks: Smile More, Drown in it


Kendrick Lamar – Section.80 – 2011

I really didn’t want to choose a Kendrick album because I hate being this basic, but it’s undeniably been his decade and Section.80 is still my favorite of all his projects. TPAB ranks higher on an intellectual level, and GKMC is more ‘complete’, but the rawness of Section.80 is unparalleled.

Top Tracks: Ronald Reagan Era, Rigamortus


BJ The Chicago Kid - In My Mind – 2016

This is quite an inconsistent album, with BJ hopping between Neo-Soul and soft-pop at will, but the highs in this project make for some of the best RnB tracks of the past 10 years.

Top Tracks: Turnin’ Me Up, The New Cupid


Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom – 2017

Not the most outspoken female rapper of the 2010s, but almost undeniably the most talented, Rapsody deserves all the plaudits she gets, and Laila’s Wisdom is just so good. Great features, great verses, great production.

Top Tracks: U Used 2 Love Me, Black & Ugly


Special Mentions: KSG (Kids See Ghosts), TPAB (Kendrick), LP1 (FKA Twigs), At What Cost (Goldlink), Channel Orange (Frank Ocean), Nasty (Rico Nasty), iiiDrops (Joey Purp), 1999 (Joey Bada$$), 2014 Forest Hills Drive (J. Cole), TLOP (Kanye).

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