The Top 50 Hip-Hop Albums of the Millennium

Run the Jewels live at FYF Fest 2015

best hip-hop records of the millennium Big Boi20. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

(2010; Purple Ribbon/Def Jam)

Seven years had passed since the last Outkast album (we’re not going to count Idlewild for the sake of argument here), and realistically it was more like 10—Speakerboxxx and The Love Below were complementary but wildly divergent solo albums in context, with minimal crossover. In 2010, though, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton proved that the next best thing was nearly as satisfying as a proper reunion. Which technically did happen on one of the songs on Big Boi’s solo debut; Andre 3000 produced “You Ain’t No DJ.” Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty isn’t necessarily a continuation of Outkast’s unstoppable Dirty South psychedelia and fluid lyrical chemistry. Logistically speaking, it couldn’t be, but Big Boi more than stands on his own with a team of ringers in the production seat (Organized Noize, Scott Storch and his own bad self among them) and more than enough funk and talkbox to go around. In the sense that it’s not as wildly experimental, socially conscious and versatile as Stankonia, it’s not as important as Outkast’s last great album. But in the sense that it gave Big Boi his own platform to flex on its own, it remains one of the millennium’s most endlessly enjoyable hours of rap. – Jeff Terich


Pusha T Daytona best albums of 201819. Pusha T – DAYTONA

(2018; Def Jam)

I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to this album, but it’s a lot. Pusha’s third studio LP is a brutal narration of the drug economy in all its excess, with every verse measured with care and layered with an intensity that’s present throughout. Produced by longtime collaborator Kanye West, there’s not a second of DAYTONA that feels wasted. It’s a well-tuned piece of music, ruthlessly efficient and only concerned with moving forward. A stunning highlight of post-millennial hip-hop, DAYTONA is a gritty, uncompromising vision and Pusha’s best. – Brian Roesler


best hip-hop albums of the millennium The Roots Game Theory18. The Roots – Game Theory

(2006; Def Jam)

Six albums in and with a reputation for a jazzy and damn fun approach to hip-hop, Game Theory saw “hip-hop’s first legitimate band” change tracks a little. The Roots didn’t completely let their thrilling full band elements go, but they channeled them into a more stripped down and focused record that was far more overtly political than anything they’d done before. Dark and heavy, Game Theory valued substance over style, sharpness over bluster, only heightened by the lush and masterfully crafted production. Said Questlove of Game Theory, “In this day and age, I’m kind of noticing that nobody in urban music really has the balls to just stop partying for one second…I mean, partying is good and whatnot, and it’s cool to get down, but I really think that 2006 called for a very serious record. This is our most serious record to date.” Quite. – William Lewis


best hip-hop albums of the millennium J Dilla17. J Dilla – Donuts

(2006; Stones Throw)

A dying man sits in his hospital bed, lupus riddling his body while a rare disease makes his blood turn against itself. He grabs a sampler and a 45 and gets to work. He begins at the end and ends at the beginning and the beginning loops into the end even though both of those words apply and don’t. In a time known for conspicuous consumption he makes an almost wholly instrumental album. He follows up a weird album of champion sounds with an even weirder one that’s almost entirely sounds. J Dilla was a hyper talented polymath who blessed everything he touched and was probably your favorite rapper’s producer for the opening decade of this century. Nearly a decade and a half after his tragic early passing, he still might be. – Butch Rosser


best hip-hop albums of the millennium Killer Mike16. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

(2012; Williams Street)

With El-P producing the monstrous backing tracks in a dry run for Run the Jewels, Killer Mike used this album to step out from the shadow of OutKast and put Atlanta rap on a whole ‘nother map. Mike rejected the “political rapper” label, and deft references to notable strip clubs and the drug trade certainly support his argument, but the social commentary he delivers repeatedly dips into the same potent inkwell. From NYC (“Anywhere but Here”) to the West Coast (“Untitled”), from DC’s corridors of power (“Reagan”) and back to the ATL’s darkside (“Big Beast”), he warns that there is no true safe haven for black men. It doesn’t hurt that in style and sound he also channels some of the nation’s master rap storytellers—Chuck D, Ice Cube, Slick Rick, Jay-Z—in relaying that somber message. – Adam Blyweiss


A Tribe Called Quest We Got It From Here review15. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

(2016; Epic)

Eighteen years, 18 years, you think you got nothing for 18 years, and then…poof! Conciliatory after a Tonight Show performance on the night of the 2015 Paris terror attacks, the most native of Native Tongues retreated to Q-Tip’s New Jersey studio for a year-long trek back to love and respect. They ended up shining light on the production skills of DJ Scratch and Blair Wells, and gave new relevance to longtime member/supporter Jarobi White in the absence left by Phife Dawg, whose death halfway through the process turned every song, video, and tour date into instant tribute. The resulting album and its biggest statements—“Ego,” “Dis Generation,” the frustration anthem “We the People…”—did for/with rock what The Low End Theory did for/with jazz. With liberal sprinkles of Can and Black Sabbath, Elton John and Jack White, the Tribe’s loose, vibrant grooves and lyrics posited black spiritual and cultural experiences against the growing spectre of the politics of separation. – Adam Blyweiss


color albums Jay Z14. Jay-Z – The Black Album

(2003; Roc-a-fella)

There are few perfect albums in this world, and this is not one of them. (“Justify My Thug” and “Allure” are not highlights, which is saying something since they fall under the same discography as Kingdom Come.) But Hova’s fake retirement comes so very close to pulling it off that it registers highly in the firmament, ranging from the breeziness of “Change Clothes,” the veering between humor and violence in “Threat,” or possibly the best melding of his skillset and production in his lengthy career on the Rick Rubin-produced and still epic “99 Problems.” The fact you can list another half dozen songs off this album and delve into them while still leaving a couple of tracks off show one of the all-time greats at the absolute peak of not only his own power, but the genre’s. – Butch Rosser


Kendrick Lamar - good kid maad city13. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

(2012; Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Few have managed to bridge commercial success with critical acclaim in recent years quite like Kendrick. A true megastar of popular culture, his ability to combine accessible rhythms and rhymes with compelling narratives have nonetheless garnered him widespread acclaim compounded in To Pimp A Butterfly and fully realized to actual Pulitzer levels in DAMN. But it was there for all to see early on, most notably good kid, m.A.A.d city. While not his first record, it was a true breakthrough regardless, the actualization of the potential shown in Section.80 and the platform from which his king status would launch. Heaving with intensely clever, confronting and darkly comedic lyricism, good kid, m.A.A.d city displayed Kendrick’s ability to simultaneously master the tropes of hip-hop while turning them inside out—something that would become a staple of his work. The definition of groundbreaking. – William Lewis


Danny Brown Atrocity Exhibition review12. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhbition

(2016; Warp)

When Danny Brown announced the title of his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition, a number of Twitter fans replied by asking if he knew who either Joy Division or J.G. Ballard were. It was, to say the least, cringeworthy; putting aside the condescension of asking an artist if he knows his own influences, if anyone was going to capture the bleak tones of Joy Division or the transgressive approach of Ballard, it’s Brown. Having already established himself as both a warts-and-all truth teller and hip-hop’s most reliable Jekyll-Hyde persona, Brown took his white-knuckle hardcore rap to newly psychedelic heights with his Warp Records debut. It has everything a great rap record should: the posse cut (“Really Doe”), the dancefloor banger (“When It Rain”), the veteran feature (“Get Hi”), and the mind-bending act of genre-busting (“Ain’t It Funny”), all slathered in the eerily stunning production of British beatmaker Paul White. True to its name, the album finds Brown as open and unapologetic as ever about excess, depression, addiction and the realities of the cutthroat world outside his front door. It’s a museum of scars, a showcase of traumas…you get the idea.  – Jeff Terich


best hip-hop albums of the millennium M.I.A.11. M.I.A. – Kala

(2007; Interscope)

As much of a dance album as it is an exuberant and decadent hip hop affair, M.I.A’s second LP is a decadent and utterly original work. Worldly and adorned with unique sounds and backed by an equally at-times surrealist lyrical structure, tracks like “Bird Flu” remain fever dreams of fiery rhymes, while the iconic “Paper Planes” remains a near permanent fixture in sample-age pop, with one of the most brilliant choruses in recent memory. “The Turn”‘s acidic echo chamber feels as introspective as its wild, sanguine beats would suggest. Vicious but playful, Kala is a groovy and brilliant, disarming affair. – Brian Roesler

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View Comments (61)
  • No graduation or Get rich and die trying and Shouldn’t Big Fish Theory be ahead of DAMN since it was ranked the number Album of 2017? But otherwise nice list

  • The fact that the MMLP was number 41 has discredited this list… But I’ll read on and make a collective opinion.

  • That’s now 2! Diamond selling albums not reaching even the top 30 with Outkasts Speakerboxxx at 35… This isn’t looking good right now.

  • Just reached the top 10 and WOW. Easily the most disagreeable list of top 50 let alone the top 10… Here’s mine for a readers reference and all need no introduction.
    10.) Encore – Eminem
    9.) Graduation – Kanye West
    8.) The Blueprint – Jay Z
    7.) Stankonia – Outkast
    6.) D.A.M.N – Kendrick Lamar
    5.) Madvillainy – MF DOOM
    4.) Speakerboxxx/Love Below – Outkast
    3.) The Eminem Show – Eminem
    2.) MMLP – Eminem
    1.) Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent

    If you disagree with the order… Each to their own but there’s no denying these are the top 10.

      • Yes Jeff he’s the leading artist in hip hop of the last 20 years. The world likes him, his impact on the genre is unprecedented this millennium and has 2 diamond selling albums… You couldn’t write a list and not have Eminem and those 3 albums in the top 10 without out some criticism of the list.

        • does it have to be 3 eminem albums in the top ten? what about two? would our list be acceptable then?

    • Damn is definitely not top 10 all time. Good Kid Maad City and To Pimp a Butterfly (being his best) are significantly better. Graduation isn’t Kanye’s best project in my opinon. 3 Eminem project should be in a top 10 and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is def not number one. It was good but it wasn’t the best.

    • God’s Son and Life is Good both almost made my list; can’t speak for other writers. i feel like stillmatic didn’t age well.

  • Where’s All Amerikkkan Bada$$, 1999, b4.da.$$ or summer knights? At least 2 of these should’ve been in the top 20 and one in the top 10.

    • I’m wondering the exact same thing. Both are incredible albums. People still disregarding Cole smh. But other than that, I enjoyed this list.

  • No Dave – Psychodrama ? That should be top 5 at least, it’s on the level of tPaB and my beautiful dark twisted fantasy. This is not a real list, not just because of this btw

  • Sad that the cunninlynguists discog. is basically unknown. A piece of strange is easily top 10 compared to the records on this list

  • Ti > cannibal ox? Lmao the instrumentals and lyricism can’t even compete. The fact j dilla donuts was put on here as an instrumental album is rather amusing.

  • Really without, …
    Cormega – The Realness
    Cormega – The True Meaning
    Prodigy – H.N.I.C.
    Pop Da Brown Hornet – The Undaground Emperor
    ………

  • I think a majority of the list is rlly good and makes some rlly valid points … However I think no top 50 hip hop album list is complete without at least one A$AP Rocky album

  • No PAC snoop or big albums, and Mia gets
    In?! How?

    What bout Dr Dre chronic album?

    Apologies if I missed them

    • Hey there, one of the authors here. I’m personally disappointed more women didn’t make the top 50 as well, but I can assure you it wasn’t for lack of nominations. Our writers liked the sounds that they liked, voted to their taste, and this is just how the math shook out.

  • Wow I disagree with this wack list so many great albums not mention and a lot of mediocre albums on this list. Here’s 10 to check out, no particular order.
    1-Cormega – The Realness
    2-Beanie Sigel – The B. Is Coming
    3- Sean Price – Mic Tyson
    4- Pharoahe Monch – PTSD
    5-Project Pat – Crook By Da Book
    6- Cormega – The Testament
    7- Styles P – The Green Ghost Project
    8- Snoop Dogg – The Blue Carpet Treatment
    9- Kool G-Rap – Riches, Royalty & Respect
    10- Cormega – Hustler/Rapper

  • Decent list, as it can’t be easy to make a top 50 list. I’m glad Saba was included! Care for me was my favourite album last year.
    I’d switch Stankonia for Yeezus by Kanye West though. There are lots of Ye albums in this list already, but Yeezus might be his finest.

    I would have included Like Water for Chocolate from Common as well. I think it’s released in 2000.

    • It was 2000! And a good album. I think it was bubbling under the top 50. As for Yeezus, we had a three albums per artist max rule, otherwise it would have been the fourth Ye album on the list.

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