5.) Drake – Take Care:
Personally, I required a prolonged period of intense scepticism until I eventually came around to Drake. It simply didn’t make any sense to me, with my initial interpretation being this: Here’s this middle class Canadian with what could only be described at the time as a very average rapping ability, a scathingly obnoxious voice and this reoccurring tendency to attempt a style of singing that appeared to me as a blatant attempt to capture the attention of the twelve year girl. Is this guy aware that he’s publically emasculating himself?!
To me Drake embodied the very essence of what was corrupting the rap game; with his ever increasing popularity directly correlating with my intensifying petulance. Admittedly this reached a level that was purely obstinate, Take Care dropped and from the few tracks that managed to escape my intended evasion confounded me; the objective critic within me was quietly assured that this could well be a modern classic.
Well I eventually came to terms with the fact that you could simultaneously have a questionably effeminate persona and create exceptional rap music. Take Care is undeniably an impressive product; it showcases an improvement in Drakes general capabilities, and as a direct result of having a very limited subject matter to speak on without sounding like a deluded moron, Take Care actually appears to have coherent themes running through its entirety; all the while gleaming with the underlining ambiance of luxury rap, making for an impressively atmospheric piece of work.
4.) Jay Z – The Black Album:
It’s routinely espoused by critics and fans alike: The Black Album is what should have followed the masterpiece that was The Blueprint. What did follow, The Blueprint 2: The gift and the Curse plain and simply appears regressive; it feels unnecessary, packed with tracks that come across as little more than tacky filler.
Now with Jay having announced his retirement, which we all accepted as sincere at the time, The Black Album was released with almost insatiable expectations. However in the true style of Jay Z, he proceeded to do the unthinkable: He exceeded them!
The Black Album plays how any final piece of work should, as though it’s a memoir; entwining an unprecedented insight into the humble beginnings of the rapper with a mythical glorification of Jay’s professional achievements. The result was Jay’s metamorphosis from a living legend into a hip hop deity; finally becoming what he had unapologetically proclaimed the whole while: HOV.
3.) Nas – Life is Good:
Nas undisputedly sits in the Top 5. No self-respecting spectator would even dare make the impious act of opposing this celestial truth; this would be nothing short of sacrilegious. Yet it’s occasionally appeared evident to me that Nas has been grossly underrated by the more youthful demographic. Perhaps this is what can come about as a result of your seminal work gracing the number one spot on the vast majority of ‘greatest rap albums of all time’ lists; it can be ferociously caustic to an artist’s career when a piece of their work seems to eclipse everything that succeeds it. Even with Nas’s dexterous ability, he’s spent the bulk of his career attempting to achieve what can only be deemed as an impossibility: surpass the sheer brilliance of Illmatic.
Life is Good vindicates every emphatic advocate of Nas; demonstrating just how potent the capabilities of the MC remain in the modern age; trumping not only most of the enormity of his back catalogue, but as this very list asserts, nearly every hip hop album of the past decade. The album packs very few features, with no more than an unrepresentatively dazzling verse from Rick Ross and an utterly mesmerising vocal performance from the late Amy Winehouse. Life if Good exerts the sentiment that not only does Nas remain relevant twenty year into his career, but even more so than he was ten years ago.
2.) Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D City:
To say it’s been a monumental year for Kendrick Lamar would be a foul understatement. Only two albums in, one of which was released independently, and young Kendrick is well on his was to solidifying himself as a living legend. Having recently bodied the entire contemporary rap game in his verse on Big Sean’s ‘control’, the self-proclaimed “King of New York” could not possibly be in a stronger position.
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is the most distinguishably outstanding debut since Kanye West’s College Dropout: His flow is distinctive, versatile and infectious; his ability of conceptualisation and storytelling is currently unparalleled and as I’ve mentioned previously, Lamar has the capability to make social commentary that’s both poignant and subtle without coming across as pretentious or preachy. If Kendrick continues without faltering on this exemplary path, then “makaveli’s offspring” will sit beside Nas and Jay Z without any contention.
1.) Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:
By 2010 Kanye West had fallen from grace; following Taylor Swift-gate the rapper had been publically reprimanded by several interviewers and also been at the centre of more executive scrutiny, having been labelled a “jackass” by recently inaugurated President Obama: As later stated by West himself, he was the “abomination of Obama’s nation”.
With the media sensationalising the affair to an obscene extent, West resolved to put into practice a close friend’s advice and retreated to Hawaii with the intent of reflecting on the tumultuous past few years; having lost his mother and broken up with his long time fiancée. The result was West’s procession to undertake in the making of a masterpiece, not only succeeding in creating the best rap album of the past decade, but the best album of the past decade, period!
Once again it’s West’s own words that best encapsulate the most prominent themes of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West’s transcendent piece of work is analogous to “a child’s illusions become reality”: this is as piercingly poignant as it gets. With no intention of over-intellectualising the point, as I’m aware that there’s more than a handful of critics that deem his work little more over-hyped juvenile pop, but this album is raps take on existentialism; completely self-contained with it’s basis in fantasy; it’s the externalisation of a gluttonous ego; it’s a stream of consciousness so based in the fantastical that it strikes the listener as an immensely enthralling piece of auditory escapism. The album vocalises what should never be vocalised; it’s the inner voice of a megalomaniac who happens to posses the capacity to make classic music. It’s completely and utterly egocentric, in the raw sense of the word, but you can find glimmers of fact in this wondrous piece of work, West is right in one thing: “no one man should have so much power” to create such novel fantasy.