Determining the “best” album of a single year is hard enough, let alone a whole decade. Though I have amassed a great collection of musical experiences over the past 10 years, it’s only fair that I relegate these posts as “favorites” in lists that follow my own arbitrary rules.
“Everybody wants the key and the secret to rap immortality like Ι have got.Eminem, “Rap God”
Well, to be truthful the blueprint’s
Simply rage and youthful exuberance.”
10. Czarface and Ghostface Killah – Czarface Meets Ghostface
In my 30s, I vow to submerge deeper into the underground rap scene, where repurposed 1970s cartoon dialogue and comic book references roam free. Blending that with the prominence of, say, Inspectah Deck and Ghostface? I’m in.
Defining Moment: The Bill Burr reference in “Iron Claw” means they know their target market.
9. Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
This album isn’t on Spotify, which means I haven’t listened to it since before my iPod died in 2015 (RIP). I just remember feeling absolute fire when I used to listened to it. Two greats at the top of their game.
Defining Moment: “Sunglasses and Advil. Last night was mad real.” Also, this was the first time I heard Frank Ocean’s empyrean voice, as I had yet to delve into Odd Future.
8. Army of the Pharaohs – Heavy Lies the Crown
This album punches hard and carries the tone in which I enjoy my rap – dark with purpose. Also, it introduced me to a collective of savage rappers: Vinnie Paz, Celph Titled, The Esoteric, and so on.
Defining Moment: The beat in “Blood Storm” is absolutely raw.
7. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
Year: 2014 (The Roundtable’s No. 7 album of 2014)
A magnificent, utterly huggable duo. From my previous write-up:
“Killer Mike and El-P are a vicious tag-team, leaving you bruised and paralyzed just as the other is about to deliver another whooping. We’re talking haymakers. They’ve got a message, and you’re going feel it.”
I stand by it.
Defining Moment: Zack De La Rocha somehow created the signature jingle for RTJ, and I sing it all the time for no reason. He should get royalties.
6. Kendrck Lamar – DAMN.
I set self-imposed limits on myself while curating these all-decade posts, one of which was having only one slot per person. SpOiLeR: Kendrick Lamar will be my only exception.
Kendrick has tremendous self-awareness of his success and the demographic he represents, which causes something of a dissociation in who he is and what he wants to become. This is not an album you throw on in the background, though none of his albums are.
Defining Moment: The hook in “HUMBLE.” is so simple that it achieves profundity. Let’s all be real.
5. Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP 2
He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers alive, but his aim can be a little off at times. This album was the definitive late-stage Em, reconciling many of his worst tendencies and setting new bars all the while.
Defining Moment: Third verse in “Rap God”: 804 words in 3 minutes and 14 seconds. But as good as that song is, “Headlights” is the most important song to the Marshall Mathers narrative.
4. Logic – Everybody
Year: 2017 (The Roundtable’s No. 1 Album of 2017)
Perhaps not enough time has passed to reevaluate, but I stand by this one. I’m all about messages. Rap, more so than any genre, is packed full of them.
In an album that tactfully covers race, violence, mental health and beyond, you’ve got the ingredients for a quintessential Roundtable album.
Defining Moment: I’m not embedding the video because I am not here to make you cry, but “1-800-273-8255” carries all the weight it needs to with the utmost grace. Khalid’s bridge kills me.
3. NF – Therapy Session
Year: 2016 (The Roundtable’s No. 8 album of 2016)
I was stunned the first time I heard an NF song on the radio – I thought he was too real for the masses. Though it’s a toss up for pretty much all his albums from a favorite standpoint, I picked the one where I knew he was one of a kind.
He is one of the more open rappers when it comes to letting you into his inner psyche, which is a refreshing trait.
Defining Moment: I was mowing the lawn to this album one Sunday and “How Could You Leave Us” comes on. I was not prepared to hear a grown man cry, let alone start doing so myself.
2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Year: 2015 (The Roundtable’s No. 3 Album of 2015)
Out of all of these all decade lists, rap is the only one I can definitively say contains two masterpieces. I dissected this album every which way at the link above, so go there because this one measly paragraph isn’t going to do it justice.
Defining Moment: The dialogue at the end of “Mortal Man” (feat. Tupac) burns so hot that I, of pale skin, cannot even approach it.
1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Year: 2010 (The Roundtable’s No. 3 album of 2010)
Sometimes art transcends meaning and one cannot help but stand in awe.
Kanye crafted a timeless record that captures a man’s genius the moment in which it perfectly complimented his madness. MBDTF is true gem that should stand atop many, if not all, albums in this generation.
Defining Moment: In an album teeming with numerous distinct moments, I always come back to distorted vocals in “Runaway” (not featured in the above video). Its atmosphere is not of this Earth.
As a whole, the song resounds in splendor. It is a masterclass of fine art while using “douche-bag” in the refrain.