So who are the TOP rappers that defines the DECADE to date!? Complex magazine names the top 10 ARTISTS that they FEEL defined the 2010’s as we APPROACH 2020….
Some INTERESTING rankings, but it is NOTABLE to mention that Nicki Minaj is the ONLY female RAPPER on the list….as much as people like to say her TIME is ‘UP’. SAYS WHO? Let’s DIVE into this LIST!!
Projects Released This Decade: Fear of God, Fear of God II: Let Us Pray, Wrath of Caine, My Name Is My Name, King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, DAYTONA
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Mercy,” “Move That Doh,” “Runaway”
Pusha-T started this decade off with a scene-stealing feature on Kanye’s “Runaway,” and Italian Vogue styled him for a minute rhyme as he skipped across the stage at the VMAs in a salmon suit. This was just the first of many memorable verses from rap’s favorite former drug dealer in the 2010s. Push’s raps have been puro, as Papi would say, and he has consistently churned out great projects over the past 10 years. But more importantly, he ended the decade with the slaying of a giant and a near-perfect album. Push’s Fear of God series, Wrath of Caine, My Name Is My Name, and Darkest Before Dawn all had their moments, but it was the flawless execution of DAYTONA, his decade-long feud with Drake and Cash Money, and his show-stopping guest verses that cemented his status on this list.
9:Tyler The Creator
Projects Released This Decade: Goblin, Wolf, Cherry Bomb, Flower Boy, IGOR
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Earfquake,” “I Think,” “Running Out of Time,” “Igor’s Theme,” “New Magic Wand”
“My whole life, I’ve felt like a stepchild—in school, at home, and especially in music and rap,” Tyler, the Creator explained during his acceptance speech at the 2019 Wall Street Journal Innovator Awards. Since beginning his career with the rest of the Odd Future collective, Tyler has operated in his own lane. Breaking into rap with a chip on his shoulder at the top of the decade, he leaned into his position as an outsider and chose to build his own empire. As a result, he’s been rewarded with a cult fan base that has loyally followed him through each new chapter of his career.
Tyler’s decade began with an explosion of rebellious energy. Two weeks before choking down a cockroach in his breakout video for “Yonkers,” Tyler tweeted, “I want to scare the fuck out of old white fucking people that live in middle fucking America.” Within a month, he was jumping on Jimmy Fallon’s couch and screaming, “Let’s buy guns and kill those kids with dads and moms,” in front of a network television audience. Mission accomplished. Tyler isn’t one of the best rappers of the decade because he scared a bunch of white parents back in 2011, though. He’s on this list because he was able to move past the intensity of those early career moments and repeatedly challenge himself to grow and evolve as an artist.
Projects Released This Decade: Pink Friday, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, The Pinkprint, Queen
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Anaconda,” “Super Bass,” “Till the World Ends,” “FEFE,” “Bang Bang”
As much as it may pain some people to admit it, Nicki Minaj is the most important female rapper of this decade—and quite possibly of all time. She kickstarted her historic decade with a feature on Kanye West’s “Monster,” which represented a career-defining moment and an introduction to the larger-than-life imagination of Nicki Minaj. After conjuring up breathless anticipation for her studio debut with a string of stellar guest performances on Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Usher’s “Lil Freak,” and Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up,” Nicki released Pink Friday. The album showcased her knack for dramatic alter egos (“Roman’s Revenge”), clever punchlines (“Did It On’em”), and melodramatic singing (“Your Love,” “Right Thru Me”). It was a departure from her previous mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, with less hardcore Queens raps and more theatrical bars, and her oversized personality shone brightly enough to inspire a generation of girls who followed her every move (right down to the pink hairstreak). Pink Friday just missed the top of the Billboard 200, debuting at No. 2 on the chart, but it achieved the second-highest sales week ever for a female hip-hop artist, behind Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Following that success, Nicki had enough self-confidence and audacity to claim everyone was her son. She also knew how to move through the upper echelons of mainstream music better than most of her peers. If Pink Friday was a foray into pop territories, Roman Reloaded maintained her dominance, further solidifying Nicki’s crossover potential with the international anthem “Starships.” During the two-year gap between her second and third albums, Nicki reminded fans of her early mixtape days, unleashing the all-bars-no-fluff singles “Lookin Ass” and “Boss Ass Bitch.” Then The Pinkprint arrived, concluding her trifecta of Pink albums. This is where Nicki seamlessly connected all of her sides: animated sex appeal on “Anaconda,” braggadocious rhymes on “Only,” and female empowerment on “Feeling Myself.”
The decade ended with a stumble (Queen), but throughout the past 10 years, Nicki Minaj has always been a trendsetter, continuously redefining what it means to be a crossover rapper. She’s also set new standards for women in the music industry, breaking Aretha Franklin’s record for most Hot 100 entries by a solo female artist. With a resume like that, it’s time to put some respect on her name. —Jessica McKinney
LET’S REITERATE… HATE IT OR LOVE IT, Nicki has made an indelible mark on pop culture–UNDISPUTED.
Projects Released This Decade: Magna Carta Holy Grail, Watch the Throne, 4:44, Everything Is Love
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Drunk In Love,” “Suit & Tie,” “Holy Grail,” “N****s in Paris” “Young Forever”
What’s a king to a god, and what’s a list to the GOAT? Has JAY-Z, as a near-unanimously accepted fixture on rap’s Mount Rushmore, ascended to a level where allotting him space in a ranking like this is redundant? For the bulk of this decade, JAY spent most of his time on Olympus, receding from the rap rafters to focus on family and other endeavors. In 2013, he rapped that, were it not for the dutiful paparazzi, we “wouldn’t see him at all.” And a year later, following his first joint tour with his wife, he largely lived those bars, embarking on a hiatus that would last longer than his actual “retirement.”
Projects Released This Decade: Owl Pharaoh, Days Before Rodeo, Rodeo, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, ASTROWORLD
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Sicko Mode,” “Highest in the Room,” “Zeze,” “Take What You Want,” “Stargazing”
Travis Scott doesn’t make rap music that’s meant to be analyzed and dissected for triple entendres and complicated rhyme schemes. Instead, he makes visceral, wildly energetic music for a generation of hip-hop fans who would rather spend a whole show thrashing around in a moshpit than idly nodding along to dusty beats. Open it up! Operating in a genre that has always celebrated artists who find ways to translate youthful rebellion of the moment into forward-thinking art, Travis Scott is the leader for a new generation. Everything he does, to borrow his own favorite phrase, is “for the kids, bro.”
Projects Released This Decade: Friday Night Lights, Cole World: The Sideline Story, Born Sinner, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, 4 Your Eyez Only, KOD
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Middle Child,” “ATM,” “Deja Vu,” “Kevin’s Heart,” “KOD”
In 2010, J. Cole was positioned as one of the most promising new rappers in the game thanks to a breakthrough mixtape (The Warm Up), a big label signing (with the big homie), and standout moments on JAY-Z’s “A Star Is Born” and Wale’s “Beautiful Bliss.” The Fayetteville, North Carolina, rapper was equipped with an everyman approach that framed him as a grounded MC worth rooting for.
At the top of the decade, Cole built on his potential with a fan-favorite mixtape (Friday Night Lights), scored more notoriety from his aspirational debut album (Cole World: The Sideline Story), fed his fans deep cuts (the Truly Yours series), and displayed growth on his sophomore release (Born Sinner), which provided a balance of commercial appeal (“Power Trip,” “Crooked Smile”) and impressive lyrical efforts (“Runaway,” “Niggaz Know”). Cole then flipped the script on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which came with no features and no pre-release singles, as he delivered a fully realized narrative that traced his path from adolescence to chart-topping rap star. Its themes—the perils of chasing the limelight, the realities of the streets, family, finding true happiness—were punctuated by honest, elevated raps. With songs like “Fire Squad” and “January 28th,” he also had bars for those still questioning his place in rap. On Forest Hills Drive, Cole went from being on the bubble to planting his flag as one of the best rappers out.
Projects Released This Decade: 1000, Kno Mercy, Dirty Sprite, True Story, FDU & Freebandz, Free Bricks, Streetz Calling, Astronaut Status, Pluto, F.B.G: The Movie, Black Woodstock: The Soundtrack, No Sleep, Monster, Honest, DS2, What a Time to Be Alive, Beast Mode, 56 Nights, Purple Reign, Free Bricks 2: Zone 6 Edition, Evol, FUTURE, HNDRXX, Super Slimey, Beast Mode 2, WRLD on Drugs, Superfly: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, The WIZRD, Save Me
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Mask Off,” “Love Me,” “Jumpman,” “Used to This,” “Cold”
Future’s signature run, which began with 2014’s Honest, can only be compared to that of Stevie Wonder in the ’70s, when the God gave us Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life, along with a series of smash singles. I’m half joking, but I’m really just trying to say that Future was in his bag, on the same kind of historic run as Stevie had back in those days. I remember how split everyone was when Pluto dropped in 2012, so it was gratifying seeing those same skeptics finally realize they were wrong when he started that insane stretch in 2014. Imagine someone following up 56 Nights with something even better in DS2. Oh, wait. Future actually did that! When “March Madness” dropped, everyone lost their minds, mumbling the words as if they could speak in the same tongues as Future. Then, when folks thought he was falling off, he dropped two classics in back-to-back weeks, with FUTURE and HNDRXX: one being rap-focused and the other R&B. The only rapper who can maneuver through rap and R&B as effortlessly as Future is Drake.
Projects Released This Decade: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Cruel Summer, Watch the Throne, Yeezus, The Life of Pablo, Ye, Kids See Ghosts, Jesus Is King
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “N****s in Paris,” “FourFiveSeconds,” “E.T.,” “I Love It,” “Follow God”
Kanye West ended the 2000s in a sort of exile: He was holed up in Milan, and some believed he may have been ready to give up music for good so he could focus on fashion. This was after he had interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs, and at the tail end of the four-album run that saw him lurch from glossy stadium rap to eulogic electropop. He was a superstar, but few superstar runs in hip-hop had stretched on for more than five years; Tha Carter III was the blockbuster album of 2008, and West’s own record sales were in decline. Drake was coming.
Projects Released This Decade: Overly Dedicated, Section.80, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, To Pimp a Butterfly, Untitled Unmastered., DAMN., Black Panther: The Album,
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “Humble,” “Bad Blood,” “Mona Lisa,” “DNA,” “All the Stars”
In the first seconds of the decade, a 22-year-old Compton kid called K-Dot rechristened himself Kendrick Lamar. Dropping a self-titled New Year’s Eve EP on DatPiff, the future Pulitzer Prize winner traded bars with Big Pooh and rapped over boosted Black Milk loops about being “close cut to Common and Gucci Mane because I can touch the people and still keep it ghetto as an ’87 Regal with the tree air freshener on the rearview mirror.”
Outside of the TDE compound in Carson, few saw Kendrick Lamar coming. If rappers had become the new rock stars, no one would’ve guessed that its next deity would be a monastic, Little Brother-loving teetotaler who was as flashy as a Ford Focus. But like one of his chief inspirations, Eminem, Kendrick caused the underground to spin around and do a 360. The two even shared the same benefactor in Dr. Dre, who snuck Lamar in as a Trojan horse, worshipped by both Pirus and Crips, as well as true-school traditionalists still resentful about when Nasty Nas became Escobar. Kendrick artfully avoided repeating the errors of the past and alienating those who were down since he first warned to “look out for Detox.” He was simultaneously King Kendrick and Cornrow Kenny—the bravado and athletic swagger of an elite MC interspersed with everyman relatability; a gangster rapper who never repped a set; and an artist as indelibly L.A. as the Slauson swap meet, but who sprinkled his lyrics with the rational wisdom of E-40 and the purple glow of Fat Pat and Lil Keke. Halle Berry and Hallelujah, united at last.
Over four canonical retail albums, a near-classic compilation of cutting-room-floor leftovers (Untitled Unmastered), and the best soundtrack since people stopped buying CDs (Black Panther), Kendrick expanded the parameters of not only hip-hop, but the subterranean infinities of sound and language. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City redefined gangster rap and the coming-of-age tale, a hip-hop Ulysses scripted with novelistic detail down to the Gonzales Park odor on his basketball shorts. To Pimp a Butterfly supplied the civil rights anthem of a generation and radically explored themes of race, identity, and survivor’s guilt over an avant-garde jazz soundclash of young modal genius (and the occasional Mausberg sample). A one-off loosie with Gunplay (“Cartoons and Cereal”) is one of the decade’s standout songs: a sleepless, prog-rap anxiety attack about Applejacks, Animaniacs, and hunting down the enemy.
The son of Ducky synthesized and spit back the sensitive warrior spirituals of 2Pac, the project window poetry of Nas, the rabid gremlin attacks of Lil Wayne, the G-funk bible, and the four elements—all with the elemental understanding that he wasn’t doing it for the ’Gram, he was doing it for Compton. A genius at writing dense literary missives that became massively popular anthems, he might be the closest analogue that rap has produced to Bob Dylan. Except there can only be one Kendrick Lamar, the one who made the times change. —Jeff Weiss
Projects Released This Decade: Thank Me Later, Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, What a Time to Be Alive, More Life, Views, Scorpion
Biggest Billboard Hits This Decade: “God’s Plan,” “Nice for What,” “In My Feelings,” “One Dance,” “Hotline Bling”
Occam’s razor, in layman’s terms, is the principle by which “the simplest solution is most likely the right one.” In other words, it’s the most obvious answer. You see where I’m going here? Drake may have lost a beef to a diabolical supervillain towards the tail end, but when taking stock of the entire decade, objectively, Aubrey is inevitable.
In the 2010s—which, outside of So Far Gone, contain the totality of Drake’s mainstream career thus far—there have been two Drakes. The decade was a tumultuous one for him, but, astonishingly, no scandal—hidden child, ghostwriting allegations, Rihanna curve, club fight, or mid album—could impede a run that has increasingly become too big to fail. At some point (read: post-Meek) Drake himself realized this, too, and leaned into a heel turn that completely contorted an initial heart-on-his-sleeve shtick into something more sullen, more cynical, and, at times, more interesting.
Drizzy’s decade began with Thank Me Later, a cookie-cutter A-list rap album that did what it needed to do, but hardly portended the zeitgeist dominance the next nine years would see. That all changed on Take Care. Whether you consider it his finest hour or not, this is undoubtedly the project on which Drake became Drake, delivering all the unique idiosyncrasies, sounds, and themes that would become synonymous with his brand. From there, as he would brag on “Draft Day,” the game turned into the Drake Show. Every new single spawned a catchphrase, an Instagram caption, or both. Every project came with a 2 a.m. record and something the whole family could get down to at weddings. Your sister is pressing play, your nanny is pressing play, etc. And to clarify, this isn’t merely a popularity contest: The music has always been good. Even the sneakiest late-era Drake that sounds staid on arrival has a way of earworming its way into your brain and revealing itself to be deceptively genius (think “Going Bad” or “Money in the Grave,” to name some recent examples).
Of course, Drake’s dominance can’t be touted without considering the shrewd, vampiric, and genuinely magnanimous practice that’s helped him lead the pack for this long: co-opting new and bubbling talent right as their wave is about to crest. Detractors have argued the benefits aren’t always 50-50, with the object of a Drake feature sometimes causing more shadow than shine. Regardless of the wavering merits of a Drake stimulus package, though, one result is constant: The new sounds and flows always keep the Canadian at the forefront of the paradigm, as far as mainstream listeners are concerned. It’s a balancing act that shows no signs of floundering. On one of his more underrated singles of the last few years, he warned, “Bury me now and I’ll only get bigger.” Ten years in, he feels like he’s just getting started. —Frazier Tharpe
Well.. CONGRATS to NICKI LOMBARDI for being the ONLY female to make the LIST.. There are some rankings that I take issue with. PERSONALLY i think Drake and Kendrick Lamar can CHANGE PLACES..
FUTURE seems pretty HIGH on the list.. but ok… Pusha could’ve came in a little higher..but I GET IT… J. Cole could’ve placed HIGHER but ok…..
THOUGHTS on the LIST???