By: Akim Hudson
Disclaimer: The term “best” is subjective, so if you disagree with the list, it is completely expected and justified. Also, the list is in no order and has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with influence on the culture of hip-hop.
- In 2009, Drake made everyone aware that he wasn’t emerging, but he was here. His critically acclaimed mixtape, So Far Gone, was the beginning of Drake’s mainstream career. After the release of that mixtape, there was no looking back for Drizzy. Throughout this decade he released an array of albums that all have went platinum within days upon its release. Drake exudes an aura much greater than being a rapper, in fact, he was one of the originators of the era of rap singing. Drake is a true hybrid and became a household name, his fame and notoriety are ubiquitous, and is clearly a top ten rapper of this decade.
Notable Discography: Take Care (2011, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album of the Year), Nothing Was The Same (2013, Grammy Nominated), If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album of the Year).
- Kendrick Lamar
- The one and only King Kendrick, Kung-Fu Kenny, a true wordsmith whose pen is unmatched by many rappers,not just of his era, but all time. In 2011, Lamar released the mixtape, Section.80. with tracks that indicated the motifs of the rest of his discography up to date. Lamar, with Aftermath Records by Dr. Dre released his debut album, good kid m.A.A.d city. With tracks like “Sing About Me”, “I’m Dying of Thirst” that detailed the multifaceted institutionalization of Black people within the United States. It was an instant classic that consists of little to no skips, each track potent in great diction, multiple perspectives, subjectivity, and vulnerability. In 2015, Lamar went on to drop To Pimp A Butterfly. This is my personal favorite K. Dot album. He described it as an album to lift the black artists and not the whack artist. TPAB was one of the more intricate albums of its time, along with each track is snippets of a poem that Lamar wrote, that concludes after the final track “Mortal Man”, in which he had a discourse about revolution and reform, Marxism-like reflections on socioeconomics with the late great Tupac Shakur. His last release came in 2017, the Pulitzer Prize winning album, DAMN. Not much to say about this masterpiece. A detailed introspection of oneself again, an insightful elaboration about the trauma of blacks in the United States, and so forth. Lamar is amongst the most respected in hip-hop history and has many years of dominance left in the tank.
- Notable Discography: good kid m.A.A.d city (2011, Grammy Nominated for Rap Album of the Year, Grammy Nominated for Album of the Year), To Pimp A Butterfly (2015, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album), DAMN. (2017, Pulitzer Prize winner, Grammy Award for Best Rap Album).
- J. Cole
- The one and only Jermaine Cole, perhaps the most vulnerable, versatile, and one of two skilled rappers of his era, yet criminally underrated. To be honest, although he is my favorite rapper out now. Cole starts the decade with Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011. Ambition was the main theme of this album, and the audience can feel the young bright-eyed ambition of Cole on the majority of tracks on this album. By 2013, Cole released my favorite, Born Sinner which was really Cole’s coming out party. That chip on his shoulder grew bigger, Cole was ready to wage war with the legends with this release. Cole and Lamar’s comparisons were one of the biggest enigmas of the decade to me. They go hand and hand, but Lamar only had more accolade than Cole. The amazing feature that Cole accomplished this decade, was three consecutive platinum selling albums with no features, but he had nothing to show for this amazing feat. Cole was snubbed every year from winning a Grammy. He has a chance to win a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album with his collaboration album, Revenge Of The Dreamers III. Cole is amongst the best rappers of the decade due to his ability to do everything your favorite rapper can do, but just a bit better.
Notable Discography: Born Sinner(2013), 2014 Forest Hills Drive(2014), 4 Your Eyez Only (2016), KOD(2018).
- Meek Mill
- King of Philly, Meek Milly. More than likely faced the most adversity than any other rapper this decade, but that isn’t why he is amongst the top ten. Meek Mill is from humble beginnings, but always divulges “f*ck being humble”, due to how everyone turned their back on him during his times of somber and melancholy. In 2011, Meek Mill lands a hit single “I’m A Boss” featuring his record label owner, Rick Ross. Along with “I’m A Boss”, drops Dreamchasers, one of four fan favorite mixtapes which gave hip-hop fans the nostalgia of gangsta rap from the 90’s and 2000’s. Then fans got a double whammy, Dreamchasers 2 and “Dreams and Nightmares” both released within 2012. The intro to “Dreams and Nightmares” is still Meek’s anthem and perhaps song of the decade. Meek’s legal issues is the highlight of his career, going in and out of jail frequently throughout the decade, each time dropping quality music upon his release. The most notable album upon his release was Championships, the 2018 release has been revered by the masses as his best album, hence why it is Grammy nominated. Since Meek’s release he has become the poster child for prison reform and unjust incarceration. Meek is on a roll still and has shown no signs of slowing down. We all love an underdog, and hope Meek can continue to stay on track.
Notable Discography: DC4 (2016), Dreamchasers(2011), Dreamchasers 2(2012), Dreamchasers 3(2014), Dreams and Nightmares(2012), Dreams Worth More Than Money(2015), Wins and Losses(2017), Championships(2018)
- Nicki Minaj
- The Barbie herself, perhaps the most dominant female figure in hip-hop history. Minaj came to fame under Young Money by Lil Wayne. Her debut, Pink Friday won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, on her debut she earned a Grammy, impressive for anyone, but since there hasn’t been a woman in hip-hop history to accomplish such a feat adds on to the magnitude of the highest merit in music. Her album sales are the highest of any female in hip-hop history as well, 100 million units overall. Some may believe she is the greatest female emcee, I beg to differ, I say MC Lyte, but that’s a different discussion for a different time. The Barbie started a wave that produced talents such as Cardi B, who now has the torch.
Notable Discography: Pink Friday, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Pinkprint.
- Hendrix, the father of all mumble rapping, Percocet popping, lean sipping, dread headed trap rappers. Only thing I need to discuss in Future’s decade, was his undefeated run, lasting from 2014-2018. Look at the discography in that span, Honest (2014), Monster (2015), 56 Nights (2015), Beast Mode( 2015), Dirty Sprite 2 (2015), What A Time To Be Alive (2015), Purple Reign (2016), Evol (2016), FUTURE (2017), HENDRXX (2017). This sort of eminence speaks for itself.
- Chief Keef
- Chief Sosa, The Godfather of drill music. Straight out of Chicago, Keef birthed a new genre of hip hop. On the surface, the subject matter may be the same as the typical gangsta rap, but this was more of a gang banging type of rap. a Rap derived from the gang culture within Southside Chicago. 2012 Keef blew up and took the rap game by storm. He opened the door for G Herbo, Lil Durk, Lil Bibby, Lil Reese, and other Chicago rappers of the modern day.
Notable Discography: Finally Rich(2012)
8. Lil Uzi Vert
- There wasn’t anywhere you can go in the summer of 2016 where you didn’t hear Uzi knocking from someone’s speaker. Luv is Rage had everyone in a frenzy, his melodic flow of music is irresistible to dance and vibe to. The magnitude of Uzi’s star power was utterly ridiculous. When he was going through label issues, millions of people were in anticipation of a “Free Uzi”. Anytime he released a new song the masses would be enthralled just from his presence alone. I consider Uzi to be a predecessor to Future and Young Thug. 2020 should be a good year for Uzi, gaining momentum from his latest release “Futsal Shuffle 2020”.
Notable Discography: Luv Is Rage, Luv Is Rage 2, Uzi vs. The World, The Perfect Luv Tape.
- Kanye West
- Yeezy is a top five producer ever, and one of the greatest musical geniuses ever. To kick the decade off, Ye dropped My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, arguably album of the decade. Literally with no skips, great production, lyrics and subject matter. Yeezy himself may not have directly dominated the 2010’s, but his eminence did. He influenced every facet of hip-hop from production and auto-tune, to fashion and subject matter. Not to mention that he released The Life of Pablo, Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer, Ye, and produced many hits this decade. I didn’t like Yeezus, but it has been believed to be one of his better albums. Ye will continue his legendary career in the next decade.
Notable Discography: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Yeezus (2013), The Life of Pablo (2016), Jesus Is King (2019).
- Tyler, The Creator
- Tyler, The He bolstered emo rap into the mainstream audience early on in his career, bringing a no holds barred style of authenticity. His subject matter was matched by no other and was fairly controversial at one point in his career. In his debut album, Goblin in 2011 detailing the dark introspective thoughts of Tyler. He was rather explosive and quarrelsome, with his“horror core” style of music. But he would evolve into a vulnerable and romantic type. His two latest releases, Flower Boy and IGOR, depicted the growth of Tyler, and IGOR is Grammy nominated. His musical genius is only expanding and gaining fortitude and versatility. He created Odd Future, and empire that fell apart but in its prime was in a class of their own and have been dubbed the modern-day Wu-Tang. Tyler is still very young and will continue to drop classics.
Notable Discography: Goblin (2011), Wolf (2013), Cherry Bomb (2015), Flower Boy (2017), IGOR (2019).
Honorable Mention: A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Pusha T, Jay-Z, Chance The Rapper, Migos (disqualifies because they are a group), Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Kodak Black, Freddie Gibbs, A Boogie, Tory Lanez.