15 Best Rap Albums of 2015

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Top 15 Rap Albums of 2015

Vince Staples - Summertime 06

Once upon a time, Kendrick Lamar cruised to No.1. This time, there's stiff competition for the title of Album of the Year. 2015 gave us the entire gamut: d-boys, praying thugs, codeine sippers, 90s babies, comeback kings, and deeply rooted OGs who never left. Who will be left standing by the time you hit the last slide in this show? 

Dig in.

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#15. Big Sean - Dark Sky Paradise

Because Dark Sky Paradise expands on Big Sean's ongoing creative leap. His loyal cadre of fans will appreciate the introspective moments, the statement-making lyrical acrobatics and, of course, the party-starters. It's Sean's most balanced effort yet.

Highlights: "Blessings" | "I Don't F--k with You"

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#14. Heems - Eat Pray Thug

heems-eat-pray-thug.jpg

Because Heems, known for his alt-rapper role on Das Racist, is in delivering powerful stories with blunt force. His first album outside his Greedhead imprint, Eat Pray Thug, is at once personal and political, silly and serious, vexed and breezy. Only Heems can lament xenophobia and make you dance on the same album.

Highlights: "Flag Shopping" | "Home"

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#13. Future - Dirty Sprite 2

Future - Dirty Sprite 2

Because Dirty Sprite 2 is a testament to Future's staying power. DS2 continues the Atlanta rapper's prolific run following the release of Honest. In a year that saw him also drop Beast Mode and 56 Nights, Future shows no signs of slowing down. This one sits comfortably between ambition and celebration, between dark nights and bright days. Future presents his most flippant middle finger, while also making his most vivid plea for elite status. "Commas" is earworm. "Kno the Meaning" serves as reminder that his robo-voiced trap magician is also full of wit and humanity.

Highlights: "Commas" | "Where Ya At"

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#12. Young Thug - Barter 6

young-thug-barter-6.jpg

Because Barter 6, the holdover for Young Thug's proper debut, is the most solitary Young Thug project yet. No excessive radio overtures. No contrived collaborations. No trend-chasing anthems. Just Young Thug at his most nakedly passionate. It's probably a good thing that you don't understand his rhymes, because they wilt under scrutiny.

Highlights: "Check" | "Constantly Hatin'"

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#11. Little Simz - A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons

Little Simz - Wings
Age 101

Because Simz says exactly what she means every time out. No detours. No flexing. Just pure show and prove. No bars wasted. A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons was self-released, which allowed Simz the freedom to stretch her musical range. Hence the big orchestral backing tracks that provide the poignant flourishes. The music is intensely personal. It feels as though you're in on a private conversation.

Highlights: "Wings" | "Grattitude"

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#10. A$AP Rocky - At.Long.Last.A$AP

ASAP Rocky - At Long Last

Because A$AP Rocky's brilliant second album, At.Long.Last.A$AP, takes creative detours into textured suites. Using delicate, feathery colors as his background, Rocky splashes his dreamy raps all over the atmospheric pop and SUV-friendly beats. Songs like "L$D" and "Wavybone" feel familiar yet strangely new. He made a frickin' Rod Stewart sample lovable.

Highlights: "Canal St." | "Jukebox Joints"

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#9. Scarface - Deeply Rooted

Scarface - Deeply Rooted

Because Scarface has been a longtime voice of the hood. And he's feeling thoroughly inspired and revitalized on Deeply Rooted. The voice is still booming. The stories are still intriguing. The flow still bites. This time, there's an added spiritual undercurrent. Deeply Rooted is both a tale of street strife and a prayer for redemption.

Highlights: "Rooted" | "God"

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#8. Drake - If You're Reading This Its Too Late Review

Because Drake just might be the angriest dude not named Kendrick Lamar in today's blithe hip-hop climate. Like drunk thoughts at midnight, If You're Reading This... sees Drake berate rivals, reminisce about his roots. All set to dank beats that smell like cloudy limos. Plus, who can forget all those hilarious memes?

Highlights: "Energy" | "Know Yourself"

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#7. Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Sh--, I Don't Go Outside

earl-sweatshirt-i-dont-like-shit-i-dont-go-outside.jpg

Because I Don't Like Sh-t, I Don't Go Outside makes Doris sound like a pop album. Earl's second album is dark and moody--the voice of a man clawing his way through the belly of a beast. He switches up his style from song to song, like a surgeon switching to the instrument that best suits each procedure.

Highlights: "Grief," "DNA," "Wool"

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#6. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf

Donnie Trumpet - The Social Experiment - Surf

Because when Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment dropped Surf for free on iTunes, it racked up over 600,000 downloads and 10 million single track downloads in one week. If I had to guess, I'd say that 99% of those fans did not delete the album a week later. The response is well-earned. Surf is a beautifully-curated album that relies on Chance the Rapper's sterling performance as the centerpiece, interspersed with a slew of folks fans least expected to pop up on the same record. The production corrals 60s soul, gospel, jazz and chill-hop. A deeply satisfying listen.

Highlights: "Sunday Candy" | "Wanna Be Cool"

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#5. Dr. Dre - Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre

Because Compton doesn't feel like a swan song. It feels more like a title-clinching, status-affirming body of work. It's a tapestry of Dr. Dre's collaborative output. It showcases reputable vets alongside rising newcomers. The backdrop is Dre's hometown, but the visitors come from all over. They're straight outta: Texas, North Carolina, Michigan, South Africa. If Compton is truly Dre's last hurrah, it's one helluva mic drop.

Highlights: "Animals" | "Talking to My Diary"

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#4. Pusha T - King Push: Darkest Before Dawn

King Push - Darkest Before Dawn
GOOD/Def Jam

Because, in a world where everyone chases trends, Pusha T dimmed the noise and made a very focused body of work. And because Darkest Before Dawn helped cement Pusha's claim to the d-boy throne. Imagine what awaits on the full-length project.

Highlights: "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" | "Untouchable"

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#3. Vince Staples - Summertime '06

Vince Staples - Summertime 06

Because Vince Staples uses a minimalist portrait that glows with nostalgic edges to deliver a haunting piece on Summertime '06. The unflappable Long Beach rapper is composed and poised throughout the double album. The 20-song set argues for Vince's status as one of hip-hop's brightest new voices, while suggesting that his album-making talent is more refined than anyone may have realized.

Highlights: "Norf Norf" | "Jump off the Roof"

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#2. Lupe Fiasco - Tetsuo & Youth

Because Tetsuo & Youth is a four-suite, full-bodied concept album that returns Lupe Fiasco to his poetic provenance. There are songs about pizza delivery guys that are actually about the hood and catchy love songs that are actually about mud slingers and songs about prison reform that are actually about prison reform.

Highlights: "Prisoner 1 & 2," "Deliver"

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#1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

To-Pimp-A-Butterfly-Kendrick-Lamar.jpg

Because To Pimp a Butterfly is a concept album with a convoluted arc that Kendrick follows with rare discipline. It retains vestiges of good kid, mAAd City themes, with Lucy (Lucifer) supplanting Sherane. And because it deserves a seat alongside timeless works like Fear of a Black Planetand Amerikkka's Most Wanted.

Highlights: "Alright," "King Kunta" More »

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Adaso, Henry. "15 Best Rap Albums of 2015." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-rap-albums-of-2015-p2-2857976. Adaso, Henry. (2017, March 3). 15 Best Rap Albums of 2015. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-rap-albums-of-2015-p2-2857976 Adaso, Henry. "15 Best Rap Albums of 2015." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-rap-albums-of-2015-p2-2857976 (accessed November 22, 2017).