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The 10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2021

The 10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2021

It’s been one helluva year for hip-hop music. Coming off the heels of what seemed to be one of the most emotionally demanding years in recent history, a few of our most celebrated artists in the culture along with some promising newcomers blessed us with some of the most spirited projects the genre has had to offer in years. 

From genre-bending projects like Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue, fusing hip-hop, pop, and dashes of IDM to the traditional boom-bap inspired sounds on AZ’s Doe Or Die II, rap music has had a lot to offer throughout the year, satisfying true hip-hop heads from all facets of the culture. 

We have tallied up what we thought were some of the dopest projects of the year for Rock The Bells’ round-up of the top 10 Album of the Year.  

#10

Baby Keem - 'The Melodic Blue'

Las Vegas native, Baby Keem shows promise of being one of hip-hop’s most promising up-and-coming acts with his debut full-length effort, The Melodic Blue. Seemingly hanging off the coat tales of his older cousin, Kendrick Lamar, with lead smash-hit lead singles “Family Ties,” and “Range Brothers,” Baby Keem uplifts any accusations of nepotism with this audacious genre-bending project. Baby Keem compares himself to a young Kanye West, cementing himself as the next rapper/producer tastemaker as he crafts some of the most interesting experimental cloud rap projects of the year.  

#9

Little - Simz - 'I Might Be Introvert'

British-Nigerian emcee, Little Simz, shows wide range on this genre-defying project mixing neo-soul, afro beats, and hip-hop, with her sharp pen and distinctive voice, making this album one of the year’s biggest sleeper hits, at least in the U.S. market. The 19-track project spent two weeks on Billboards emerging artists list, introducing the British emcee to a new wide array of fans. 

#8

Isaiah Rashad - 'The House is Burning'

Chattanooga emcee, Isaiah Rashad returns after a five-year hiatus from music with one helluva comeback project in The House is Burning. The TDE signee shows undeniable versatility with face-melting bangers like “From the Garden Shed,” and ‘Wat U Sed” while delivering honest and introspective tracks like “Claymore” and “Score” on this 16-song album. The emcee shows immeasurable growth with this project after his self-proclaimed “fall from grace,” coming back rapping as if he has something to prove.  

#7

Mike - 'Disco!'

New York rapper Mike is one of the most talented voices in the underground experimental hip-hop scene. Often mentioned in the same breath as his fellow abstract hip-hop contemporaries Earl Sweatshirt, MAVI, and Navy Blue, Mike’s Disco! finds the emcee hoping for a better tomorrow. After three projects exploring topics of trauma and grief after losing his mother, the latest LP’s sonics are a bit brighter and his lyrics are more optimistic in theme. Spitting over his usual stripped-back, lo-fi production, Mike continues to prove himself as a leader in the underground New York hip-hop rap scene. 

#6

AZ - 'Doe or Die II'

Doe or Die II is the ninth studio album and sequel to AZ’s classic debut project, arriving 26-years after its predecessor. The album shows the Brooklyn emcee growing gracefully as he comes back rapping at the top of his game, recruiting fellow classic artists like Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Jaheim,  T-Pain, and newcomers Dave East and Conway the Machine.  

#5

Vince Staples - 'Vince Staples'

Vince Staples’ self-titled LP, may be his most personal project to date. Completely produced by Kenny Beats, the 10-track project takes listeners on a deep dive inside the mind of the Long Beach emcee as he explores topics of West Coast gang culture, relationships, and dealing with mental health while navigating the ranks of the music industry. 

#4

Boldy James and The Alchemist - 'Bo Jackson'

Legendary producer Alchemist and Boldy James reconnect after their 2020 collaboration project, The Price of Tea in China with their audacious follow-up project, Bo Jackson. The project is full of sinister creepy production and vividly descriptive gangsta raps about slinging dope and the dark truth of gang violence delivered by the Detroit emcee. 

#3

Kanye West- 'Donda'

Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, dedicates his 10th studio album to his late mother Donda West. The Chicago emcee and executive producer recruits some of the genre’s biggest rappers and beatmakers for this colossal cinematic journey exploring topics of loss, grief, religion, and growth through faith.

#2

Tyler, the Creator - 'Call Me If You Get Lost'

Tyler Okonma’s sixth studio album, Call Me If You Get Lost, is truly the emcee’s coming-of-age project. Coming off the heels of his 2019 Grammy-award-winning pop album, Igor, Tyler breaks down the walls once and again, reminding listeners that he can rap his ass off. Tyler recruits some of hip-hop’s most promising acts including Youngboy Never Broke Again, 42 Dugg, and Teezo Touchdown, cementing his place as one of hip-hop’s leading tastemakers on this DJ Drama led Gangsta Grillz inspired album. 

#1

Nas - 'King's Disease II'

Nas and California-based producer Hit-Boy have proven to be a match made in hip-hop heaven with their King’s Disease series. The second installment of the series comes only a year after its Grammy Award-winning predecessor, where the Queens emcee assures his fans that Nas Escobar is here and has never left. Hit-Boy adds a bit of trap flare to Nas’ signature gritty conscious rap flow, making King’s Disease II the perfect bridge for classic rap purists and trap fanatics. 

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