It’s been a year of fine releases so narrowing the best to just these next 10 albums was a struggle. But we feel we’ve done our homework right. If you think not, feel free to give us your top 10 rap albums in the comments section. Bear in mind our listing is in no particular order.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made
When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis released their sophomore in February, it was received with mixed reactions, mainly because listeners thought they’d got a mixed bag. ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’ seemed like an attempt to tackle serious social issues, air personal challenges and indulge in joke rap all in one fell swoop. While this MO may have given the album a disjointed feel, it produced a couple of gems. ‘Need to Know’, which features Chance the Rapper, is one of these.
Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component
While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis may have struggled with consistency, Mick Jenkins has no such problem. In his 2014 release, he talked about the importance of water from all possible angles, both literally and figuratively. With this year’s ‘The Healing Component’, the Alabama rapper has centered his conversation on love. Though there is reference to social injustice in songs like ‘Drowning’ (there’s the water thing again), all the tracks gravitate to the theme of spreading love. That same Drowing on which Jenkins flexes his vocal prowess, is the pick of the 15 love songs.
MHD – MHD
If you’ve never heard of the term ‘Afro-trap’, MHD’s self-titled album offers a thorough explanation of the concept. The album, released in the middle of April, is filled with highly danceable afro-pop sounds, laced with French rap. Mohammed Sylla, popularly known as MHD, may not be the author of this concept strictly speaking, but he has definitely taken it to the next level. Along with other innovative French-speaking rappers like Abd Al Malik, the 22 year-old is one of the artists you need to keep an eye out for. Fun cuts like ‘Afro-Trap, Part. 3 (Champions League)’ have made MHD a household name in Europe.
Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine
One of the few bright spots in the often-tragic world of celebrity romance is the blossoming relationship between Mac Miller and Ariana Grande. And it appears the pop singer was, at least in part, the inspiration for Mac’s fourth studio album. Buoyed by solid, soulful cuts like the Anderson .Paak-featuring ‘Dang!’ and ‘Skin’, ‘The Divine Feminine’ took rap in a different direction, earning plaudits from pundits. It even saw Mac dust off his singing voice, and he seemed particularly inspired on ‘My Favorite Part’, a duet with Ariana.
De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody…
2016 has been littered with comeback albums from yesterday’s hip hop stars and the year ended on a touching note with A Tribe Called Quest’s tribute to the late Phife Dawg. Before it though, legendary Long Island rap trio De La Soul released their crowdfunded LP ‘and the Anonymous Nobody…’, a dedication to their loyal fans which has all the makings of a classic. It was quite simply a hip hop master class- zero filler, all songs carefully crafted and flawlessly executed. Many rising rap stars could learn a thing or two. Standout track? It’s a three-horse race between ‘Pain’, ‘Drawn’ and ‘Trainwreck’.
Here are other albums we loved enough to rank among our top 10:
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Common – Black America Again
J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
Lecrae – Church Clothes 3
Miami Based, Internationally Known