Editor's Note: The Daily Lobo is publishing a list of some of the best albums of the 21st century. This is part two of the Best Albums of hip-hop list.
“Telefone” by Noname:
Sadness and melancholy are daily occurrences for the Chicago rapper Noname, who finds ways to weave in small clips of happiness into her sorrow filled debut album “Telephone.”
In just thirty minutes, Noname delivers a roller-coaster of emotions full of stories of love, heartbreak, life and death that make every listen feel intimate and personal. Disguised in bubbly jazz production most would assume Noname is but a joyous, hopeful rapper, amongst further lyrical analysis it’s clear that Noname has had more than a lifetime's worth of devastation.
Released in 2016, “Telephone,” was buried amongst the larger than life releases of Chance the Rapper, Beyonce and Frank Ocean, but maybe that’s Noname’s power. She doesn’t require attention, she doesn’t demand a spot light, her music is there to fill a hole in her life and is available to move any listener lucky enough to come across her work.
Must Listen to Tracks: “Diddy Bop,” “Casket Pretty,” “Shadow Man.”
“Nothing Was the Same” by Drake:
Whether a fan or a critic there is no denying numbers and sales, Drake is the largest commercial rapper in the hip hop genre. As of 2018 hip-hop/ R&B dethroned rock and roll as the most popular genre in America and to say that Drake had the biggest hand in that would be an understatement.
Collectively his albums have spent 26 weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart, and his songs even more weeks on the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Drake’s discography has always been wildly inconsistent but his second album “Nothing Was the Same” seems to be his most cohesive and concise project to date. Similar to Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Drake fills every second of his sophomore project with lush, royal production and scathing bars that filled the radio waves in 2013.
“Nothing Was the Same” proved that Drake was so much more than a rapper, with two albums he became an icon, a larger than life force and a musician with little to no commercial peers to look up to.
Must Listen to Tracks: “Started From the Bottom,” “Worst Behavior,” “Hold on We’re Going Home,” “The Language.”
“Man On the Moon: End of Day” by Kid Cudi:
Many would never include any works of Kid Cudi on a “best of” list but “Man On the Moon” was an instrumental album in gearing the general public towards the genre of hip-hop. Cudi’s debut album is a lo-fi friendly album devoid of aggression and full of catchy tracks such as “Solo Dolo” and “Day ‘N’ Nite.”
Cudi knew what people in 2009 wanted to hear. “Man On the Moon” gets bashed for being simplistic and unadventurous but without it many mainstream rappers such as Drake and Lil Wayne would likely have had a harder time finding their mainstream appeal without Cudi warming the waters beforehand.
Must Listen to Tracks: “Solo Dolo,” “Day ‘N’ Nite,” “Make Her Say,” “Pursuit Of Happiness.”
“4:44” by Jay-Z:
Everyone is familiar with the famous kingpin character known as Jay-Z, his music has been relevant since his debut in 1996 titled “Reasonable Doubt,” to his well-received 2001 “The Blueprint,” but what shocked the world was his unveiling as a hurt, apologetic human on his 2017 album “4:44.”
With songs dedicated to his mother, to his daughter and to his lineage “4:44” was an unexpected musical and topical 180 for an artist who never strayed far from his 20-year gangster façade.
What makes up most of “4:44’s” success is its timeliness, its freshness and its much-needed humbleness. Never has Jay-Z felt so down to earth and so connected to his music. Few artists of any genre have 20+ years in the music industry, yet Jay-Z has consistently made himself a staple of the hip-hop world by making quality music that continues his never-ending musical career.
Must Listen to Tracks: “The Story of O.J.,” “4:44,” “Moonlight,” “Marcy Me.”
“Stankonia” by Outkast:
Although Andre 3000 has yet to release a solo project many fans of his work turn towards his largest musical contribution in the now iconic album, “Stankonia.”
Released in 2000 “Stankonia” is a beloved hip-hop classic that welcomed the new millennium in fashion. “So Fresh, So Clean” and “Ms. Jackson” were amongst “Stankonia’s” best offering, in what was new wave funk, and musical triumph.
Hardly any other track off of this gem of the hip hop genre capture Andre’s famous ADHD delivery like “B.O.B.” does, it’s an unstoppable antsy five minutes. It feels like a train that’s ready to derail any second. Despite not being politically driven, who can deny the lyric and unknowingly brilliant ad ins “Bombs over Baghdad.” “Stankonia” is not soon to be overshadowed or forgotten as it will remain one of the first revolutionary albums of the new century.
Must Listen to Tracks: “So Fresh So Clean,” “Ms. Jackson,” “B.O.B.,” “Humble Mumble.”
Colton Newman is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Coltonperson.