My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Bombastic, crazy, and timeless, if an album is a personification of a person then there’s no better album to describe Kanye West than his magnum opus. Ushering in the end to the bling era of the early 2000s, Kanye’s fifth studio album delivered some of the most cutting edge production that albums today still dream of replicating. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” combines the best elements of his previous four albums to create an album that combines the luxurious sampling of the dropout era and the synthetic pop of the graduation and heartbreak eras of Kanye West. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is a reflection on fame, and all the good and bad that comes with it. Kanye’s euphoric highs, and terrible lows culminate in an album that bleeds both massive pride and massive insecurity. Not longer a simple rapper, with this album Kanye West secured his place in music history.
Plastic Beach, Gorillaz
Plastic Beach is an album that knows its style inside and out. Gorillaz has become a deeply beloved band for its blend of alternative rock, hip hop, and electronic music. In their third studio album, the band embraced many of the new elements of hip hop that had arisen in the 2000s, and blended it with its signature modernistic sound. In albums before this, Gorillaz had failed to create a good balance of their sound and rap. Even in songs like “Feel Good Inc,” one of their most beloved songs, rap is awkwardly thrust in the middle of it that makes the entire project feel unfocused. In this album, however, the band found that rap didn’t need to be shoehorned in and allowed the many guest rappers to blend into the different grooves of the songs.
Exmilitary, Death Grips
Death Grips’s debut album is a tour de france of chaos and rebellion. At a length of 13 songs, Exmilitary is packed with enough rage to blow the roof off. The beginning track, “Beware”, starts with a sample of Charles Manson, and promptly transitioning into the song itself. Its title is more than fitting, it is Death Grips warning of their menacing artistry. Death Grips have continuously demonstrated their ability to surpass expectations, and Exmilitary is no exception. Without a doubt, Exmilitary surprised the masses by being unmatchable in artistry.
Minecraft Volume Alpha, C148
The Minecraft soundtrack is one of the finest videogame soundtracks of all time. Its sound is simple, yet effective in calming the mind. The lustrous landscapes of Minecraft are made more mystifying by the dreamy instrumentals of C418. Each song back-to-back is an enthralling experience that only exemplifies why Minecraft is such a good game.
Goodbye Bread, Ty Segall
If you combine teenage angst and hysteria, then you have Ty Segall. One of the most profound garage rockers in the current era, Goodbye Bread is yet another testament to the mind-boggling career of Ty Segall. The opening track starts off slow and smooth with a quick guitar solo and dreamy vocals, but it changes pretty quick by the end of the song. Its energy is rowdy, wild, and untempered. This album never lags on for too long. Some songs speed up, then slow down. Its an on and off situation of pure adrenaline and tranquility. Goodbye Bread is a digestible thrill, not too far off the edge but never conventional.
Babel, Mumford and Sons
One of the largest albums of the year was Babel by Mumford and Sons, a British Indie Rock group, which won a Grammy for best album of the year. The album was released on September 21, and also reached number one on the Billboard 200. Hit single “I Will Wait” appeared on the album reaching number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold 153,000 copies. “I Will Wait” was also nominated for the Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance Grammy.
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar
The Hip-Hop and Rap scene also had a few great albums, most specifically Kendrick Lamar, with his Album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The album was released on October 27, and landed at number two on the Billboard 200 and sold 242,000 copies its first week. The album is notorious for Lamar’s exceptional ability to describe how life is in Compton, California where he grew up. The album was great collectively, but a few songs stick out as phenomenal songs. B****, Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Backseat Freestyle, Swimming Pools, and Poetic Justice are some of the standout songs of the album and are still played today. The song that is most notable is m.A.A.d city featuring Mc Eiht. m.A.A.d city reached number 75 at its peak on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is known for its references to the hardships of life in Compton.
Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars
The R&B and Pop scene had one of the most popular albums of the year with Bruno Mars’s Unorthodox Jukebox released December 7. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and sold 192,000 copies its first week. The albums feature songs that are some of the most popular of the decade, including Treasure, Locked Out of Heaven, and most famously When I Was Your Man. When I Was Your Man is a break-up song with a very memorable chorus. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Yeezus, Kanye West
Kanye West continued to define the genius behind his music with Yeezus. To some fans, this is his worst, and to others it is his best. No matter how you perceive it, it might be one of his most provocative albums to date. Further developing on the lore of MBDTF, Yeezus takes a far more experimental approach, heavily driven by synths and influenced by rock. Yeezus exposed a sinister side to Kanye: sex-crazed, narcissitic, arrogant, and selfish. Not only that, Kanye insists on a self-conceived god complex. From the name of the album down to songs like I am God, he constantly reinforces the idea of godliness. Even though Kanye is a complete egomaniac, he accepts his imperfections in the final track, “Bound 2”. Ultimately, it is both entertaining and disturbing. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those hale enough to witness such absurdity will not be disappointed.
Pure Heroine, Lorde
Pure Heroine is the album that propelled Lorde into the world’s spotlight. At age 16, she crafted an incredibly impressive album detailing suburban youth. Equally as important, she managed to reach the international billboards with “Royals”, a song about humble origins over a life of riches. With Pure Heroine, Lorde demonstrates unique insights on reality that are both overly mature and naive. She has the curiosity to question, but the harsh understanding to find answers herself.
Because the Internet, Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino is a man of many talents. From acting, producing, screenwriting, comedy, he can apply himself anywhere. Out of all of these, none are as important as his involvement in music. Because the Internet is a magnificent album. Released in an age of postmodernist socializing, it is an anthem for the digital age. From the title to the story of the album, it is a tale of digital obsession. Production is fun and creative, combining unconventional samples on trap instrumentals. Everything aspect about Because the Internet is refined. To say Because the Internet is a great album is an understatement, it is timeless.
Pinata, Freddie Gibbs and MadLib
Pinata is a meeting of two extremely talented artists creating a genre defining album. Ever since his work on MF Doom’s “Madvillany” Madlib has become one of the most respected, and arguably the greatest, producer of all time. Madlib finds obscure samples and blends them into songs as if they were always meant to be there. In Pinata Madlib shows off his most creative sampling, and greatest compositions to date, in an album that arguably surpasses most of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Madlib isn’t alone by any means however, bringing life and gritty raps into the frey is Freddie Gibbs who continues to be one of the most consistently good rappers in the game. While Gibbs doesn’t have the versatility of a Kendrick or the performance of an Andre 3000, Freddie Gibbs has consistently quality projects that mold and push the hip-hop landscape with every new release.
To Be Kind, Swans
The 2010s weren’t much of a decade for rock, quite the opposite one could make the argument that rock went on the decline throughout the 2010s. This album though represents that rock is still evolving and is easily one of the best rock albums of all time. With a two hour run time the experimental rock band has easily presented one of their most versatile and commanding albums yet that pushed what a rock album could be and succeed as. Swans combines their melodious grooves with hard basslines and production that goes above and beyond. It’s because of the quality of the production and instrumentation that the two hour album can seem to go by so fast because of the levels of immersion the listener dwells into. Rock is not dead and albums like this prove that once people can begin to move on from the stars of the 80s and 90s rock can have a resurgence.
Run the Jewels 2, Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 2 was essentially the follow up product to a proof-of-concept. After the success of Killer Mike and El-P’s first collaborative mixtape proving their worth as a duo, Run the Jewels 2 superceded every expectation set upon the duo and set a new standard in quality for collaborative hip-hop records. The duo explore the themes of modern consumerist America and the many politicians who run it. Using vulgar lines that bleed of hatred of the new age wave of politics, Killer Mike and El-P attack both liberal and conservative politicians for hiding their true intentions behind empty words. This album is angry, it’s abrasive, it’s vulgar, and there’s no better example of the response to the 21st century, than “Run the Jewels 2.”
Rodeo, Travis Scott
“Rodeo,” “808s and Heartbreak,” and “Culture” are the trifecta of rap albums that inspired the new age of trap and emo rap. Travis Scott’s debut LP combined a lot of the autotune inspired from Kanye West’s previous albums and mixed it with a new age production that would ultimately be the lead up to modern trap. Every single song off of this album invokes the same sense of greatness and richness due to the production laced into every song of this album. While lyricism is lacking in some areas, and the actual autotune doesn’t match the same levels of the now modern sound that this album inspired, this album is one of the most essential albums in hip-hop history and a great way to track how the genre evolved.
To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
If there was any way to completely convert a philosophy into song, it would be this. Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” is quite simply an Odyssian journey into the mind of a young black man who just wants to escape the influence of poverty and crime. With layers upon layers of some of the best lyricism of this decade mixed with production from hip-hop legend Dr. Dre, Kendrick’s sophomore LP has become what’s widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Every single song of this album immerses you into Kendrick’s mind and finds a way to be completely entertaining and unexpected, as if you’re watching a movie of what was going on in Kendrick’s mind as he wrote these songs. From celebratory songs like “Alright” symbolizing black solidarity and pride, to contemplative songs like “These Walls” exploring the abuse of fame, to songs that just bleed weirdness and genius like the “For Free” interlude, there is no shortage of creativity in this album. While it’s not an album that you can listen to casually or one that you can cram a lot of songs of it into a playlist, it’s an experience and a look into the mindset into the greatest rapper of the modern generation.
Currents, Tame Impala
Tame Impala has pushed the boundaries of rock throughout its life as a project. Kevin Parker’s blend of electronic and rock mixed with his fluttery chill vocals became a hit among underground circles all around the United States. In “Currents” Tame Impala brings forth thick instrumentation that inspired the lo-fi craze today and many young rappers and musicians who now use many of the same techniques in their own work. Parker’s album stands out as an almost timeless gem of this era. The many sounds, ideas, and instrumentals could fit into any decade for the past 40 years and it’d be believable for that album to have come from that time. This work is a timeless classic that not only impacted the world of rock but pushed even hip-hop forward with its embrace of lowkey melodies and vocals.
The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
One of the most famous rappers of the decade, Kanye West, released his album The Life of Pablo on February 16. The Album was ranked no. 2 on the Billboard’s 50 Best Albums of 2016 and no. 8 on The Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2016. The albums features a variety of artists from different genres of music including Chris Brown, Chance the Rapper, Rihanna, and Kid Cudi. Some of the most popular songs were Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1, Waves, Wolves, Ultralight Beam, and most notably Famous. The song features Rihanna and has a very well known chorus. The song faced some controversy with a line being directed towards Taylor Swift, however, the song still stands up to this day. Famous reached no. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100. The year featured an album from a new and upcoming rapper and singer, Post Malone. Post Malone released his debut album, Stoney, on December 9. The album reached number four on the Billboard 200. The album features popular songs such as White Iverson, I Fall Apart, Go Flex, and most prominent Congratulations featuring Quavo. Congratulations is Post Malone’s most popular song, having over 1 billion streams on digital music platforms. The song went diamond in the US and reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Blonde, Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean released his second studio album Blonde on August 20. The album was ranked no. 5 on The Rolling Stone’s top 50 albums of the year. The album gives off intense emotions but also has its own beauty to it as well. Some of the most popular songs on the album include Self Control, Pink + White, and Nights. Pink + White is a romance song about a past relationship, the track reached number 84 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Flower Boy, Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator up to 2017 was known for being incredibly inconsistent. Going from a breakout star at his later teens due to his edgy lyrics that got him banned from the United Kingdom to a now twenty year old maturing adult, tyler the creator needed to prove to the music industry that he was more than that edgy teenager. In “Flower Boy” Tyler the Creator has created an extremely honest album that breathes new life into the hip-hop genre. Taking influence from 80s synthpop and art pop, Tyler has created some of the most creatively fresh rap songs of the decade. From his sweet “See You Again,” to the rough “Who Dat Boy,” Tyler has adapted his love for producing music by essentially creating a hybrid of 80s art pop and rap.
A Crow Looked at Me, Mount Eerie
This album is not enjoyable to listen to. Quite the opposite, this album is one of the saddest, most raw experiences one can listen to. Mount Eerie frontman Phil Elverum wrote and composed this album following the death of his wife due to cancer. In this album, Elverum writes from the heart as he copes with the idea of his wife being gone throughout the entirety of the album in a way that almost takes the listener through the entire cycle of grief that Elverum went through. From singing about looking at the windowsill were his wife used to be and crying, to having to explain to his daughter where her mom went, Elverum has created one of the most real explorations of the human soul imaginable. This isn’t an album one can listen to repeatedly, but it is an album everyone should listen to.
4eva is a mighty long time, Big KRIT
Southern rap has always been one of the most underlooked sects of the rap world. With legends like Andre 3000 paving the way for the future of southern rappers, the southern rap scene has found a newfound breath of fresh talent inspired by the works of Outkast and other southern rap movements. Big KRIT came out with one of the most unexpectedly good releases of 2017 that dwarfed even the biggest album releases of the year in terms of quality and creativity. Big KRIT’s third studio album combines the rap style of many southern rappers with soul and gospel creating an extremely melodic and creative record. The double LP features both a collection of rap bangers that easily display some of the best modern rap songs of all time, and a collection of reflective soul based songs that combine live vocals with Big KRIT’s melodic rapping. KRIT exemplifies how creative 2017 actually was for the rap world by embracing some risks that make his project so much better than a lot of the other albums being released at the time.
ASTROWORLD, Travis Scott
Love it or hate it, ASTROWORLD is the album that ruled 2018. SICKO MODE ruled the billboards for months upon months, and if Travis Scott was not already a star, then ASTROWORLD changed that. ASTROWORLD is a hypnotic ride all throughout, with impressive instrumentals and a unique presentation and vision. At times the lyricism is bland, but that takes a backseat in favor for a glamorous experience. ASTROWORLD is Travis Scott embracing the rockstar lifestyle to its finest.
Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt
After a near 4-year hiatus from releasing official music, Earl Sweatshirt reprised his role as one of rap’s most intriguing characters with Some Rap Songs. Coming in right before the end of 2018, Some Rap Songs was a delight to fans and rap connoisseurs alike. Further building off of IDLSIDGOA, Earl crafted an album that was unlike any of his own. Filled with experimental instrumentals, and a sound detached from reality, it is a stunning experience through the inner darkness of our psyche, with each song further delving into insanity. This is an album that is not to be viewed highly by the likes of many music goers, but it is an album as raw and authentic as Earl himself.
Care for Me, Saba
Saba is an artist that is still not recognizable to many, but he is a very important figure in the current situation of Chicago Rap. At the moment, he has the most promise to develop into a complex artist of true talent. Care for Me is a look into what lies for the chicago artist. Its poignant, unique, controversial, and so much more. Songs like SMILE and LIFE demonstrate the polar opposites of life itself, the depravity of suffering and the blissfulness of freedom. CARE FOR ME is an album that helps refine Chicago’s rap scene.
Baby on Baby, DaBaby
Hard trap rapper DaBaby was a new and upcoming artist this year releasing two albums. His most notable album was Baby on Baby which was released on March 1. The album peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200. The album featured some of the most popular songs of the year including Baby on Baby, Baby Sitter feat. Offset, and most notably Suge. Suge made it to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and embodies Hard Trap Rap music.
WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO, Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish, a pop artist, had one of the most notable albums of the year with WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO released on March 29? The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and included some of the most popular songs of the year on the album. The most notable songs were wish you were gay, when the party’s over, and bad guy. Bad guy has been on the Billboard Hot 100 for over 30 weeks and was number one at its peak. Bad guy is nominated for the Grammy best song of the year and has already won various awards. The album will be viewed as one of the most popular of the decade.
IGOR - Tyler the Creator
Rapper and Hip-Hop artist Tyler the Creator came out with his fifth studio album IGOR. IGOR was ranked 12th on Rolling Stone’s 30 Best Albums of 2019 and it is also nominated for the Grammy Best Rap Album. Igor features songs I THINK, RUNNING OUT OF TIME, and most notably EARFQUAKE featuring Playboi Carti. EARFQUAKE reached 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went platinum.