The 10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2015

We already looked at the Best R&B albums of 2015.

Now let’s show hip-hop some love.

2015 was a bizarre year, where even the most mediocre albums and artists were treated like rap royalty. Real talk — if you have the No Flex Zone children on your Top Albums of the Year list and you’re over the age of 16, you’re disqualified from life.

But never fear, there were plenty of great albums that deserve praise. Today we honor 10 rap albums that made the most of our playlists in 2015. Rankings were determined by quality of material, diversity of sound and impact on the genre. Also, this list ONLY includes LPs — EPs and mixtapes don’t count, so don’t whine about the exclusion of the likes of Big KRIT, Drake or Big Grams.

One of those three had no chance anyway; I’ll let you guess which one. What a time to be alive.

Enough with the salt, let’s get to the accolades. These 10 artists did hip-hop proud this year.

Honorable mentions: Ghostface & BadBadNotGood, Sour Soul; Skyzoo, Music For My Friends; Statik Selektah, Lucky 7

shadow of a doubt10. Freddie Gibbs, Shadow of a Doubt

This album barely made it in under the wire but it’s more than worthy of recognition. Gibbs has always embraced hip-hop’s grimy early-90s sound, and in an era of glitzy, overproduced rap, he proves that what’s old is new again. Gangsta Gibbs’ raw, no-frills approach makes every song an event — he doesn’t control the microphone, he assaults it. Shadow of a Doubt ranks up there with his best work.


top 5 dead or alive9. Jadakiss, Top 5 Dead or Alive

Read the review here

Reviews were mixed on Jada’s long-delayed album, mainly because a title like Top 5 Dead or Alive absolutely demands classic material. Jada didn’t give us a classic but don’t overlook what he did drop — intricate wordplay and solid concepts delivered with that classic rasp.


Summertime-068. Vince Staples, Summertime ’06

2015 truly was Vince Staples’ year, and his critically acclaimed Summertime ’06 was his coming-out party. The two-disc set blends poignant lyricism and engrossing lyricism, all while remaining tight and focused, a rare victory in a genre filled with bloated double albums. Staples’ debut shows that he’s capitalizing on his long-touted potential and he’s got nowhere to go but up.


mr wonderful7. Action Bronson, Mr. Wonderful

Read the review here

“I’m not available for nothin’/Unless it’s stupid paper, hop out the Studebaker/With Anita Baker” — still one of the weirdly dopest lines of 2015. To the untrained ear, Bam Bam Bronson may seem to deliver disconnected punchlines and head-scratching metaphors, but listen deeply and you’ll see there’s a method to his madness. Mr. Wonderful ties together imaginative lyricism and extremely diverse soundscapes to create its own world. It’s superb storytelling swimming in a sea of chaos.


rndm6. Mega Ran/Random, RNDM

The former Mega Ran became hip-hop’s crown king of “nerdcore” by spitting potent bars over 8-bit video game instrumentals. But he refuses to be typecast as just a “video-game rapper.” Now known as Random, RNDM shows love to the gamers while branching out to bigger themes, tackling love, faith, the struggles of artistry and even America’s failing education system. It’s by far his best work and the biggest surprise of 2015.


deeply rooted5. Scarface, Deeply Rooted

It’s hard to believe that Brad Jordan has chalked up 25 years in the rap game, yet spits as ferociously as he did when he first introduced himself as Mr. Scarface. Deeply Rooted, Face’s 12th solo LP, continues his unprecedented run of dominance — sobering street tales and heartfelt introspection. You can’t even call this a comeback — Face never left. And by the sound of things, he never will.


compton4. Dr. Dre, Compton

Read the review here

Face it, Detox was going to be a disappointment. There was no way that Dr. Dre’s mythical album could live up to a decade of hype. From the ashes of Detox we got an even better gem — Compton, a companion piece to the blockbuster “Straight Outta Compton” film. It wasn’t just a movie soundtrack, it was a celebration of West Coast artists, helmed by the maestro himself. Top-notch production and an A-list roster of guests helped keep Dr. Dre’s legacy intact.


documentary 23. The Game, The Documentary 2

Read the review here

Sequel albums are almost always a bad idea. They just set unrealistic expectations — an artist typically can’t turn back the clock to his or her glory days. But don’t count out The Game, who abandoned his worst habits (no mimicking other rappers, no suspect production or pointless beefs) to give us arguably his best work since his landmark debut. Game pull no punches as he unleashes his fury over production by rap’s biggest composers. While the accompanying Documentary 2.5 album meandered, this was Game at his rawest — and most focused.


tetsouandyouth2. Lupe Fiasco, Tetsuo & Youth

Read the review here

We all thought Lupe Fiasco’s best days had passed him by. Not that he hasn’t given us solid material in the past five years, he’s just been forever haunted by the specter of his Lasers album and many ill-timed social media rants. But in a world dying for social commentary, Lupe gets his groove back. Tetsuo & Youth is a sprawling dialogue of America’s ills — from the plight of the heartbroken mother to inner-city crime so prevalent that you can’t even order pizza, Lupe weaved tales that hit home and allowed him to showcase his renowned wordplay. Need proof? Jus listen to the eight-minute “Mural,” the best rap song of the year. Lupe’s back. The REAL Lupe.


to pimp a butterfly1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

Read the review here

Yeah, Kendrick’s third album taking the top spot is a no-brainer, and that simply speaks to the monumental impact of this release. No album this year spoke to the black experience like To Pimp a Butterfly, a dense, multi-layered opus that delved deep into the psyche of America’s forgotten youth. The album may have been short on radio singles but that didn’t prohibit many of the songs from penetrating our culture — “Alright” became the theme song of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s still a bit too early to call To Pimp a Butterfly a hip-hop classic but it’s the sole album this year worthy of the conversation.

Agree with these picks? What did we miss? And what were your favorite rap albums of 2015? Let us know below.



  1. This list great but you might want to go listen to Inspectah Deck
    Czarface Every hero needs A villian album straight.🔥🔥🔥🔥

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