Top 10 Rap Albums Of 2015

EW sizes up the 10 best rap records of 2015.

  1. 1

    'To Pimp a Butterfly' by Kendrick Lamar

    By synthesizing decades of African-American popular music—from jazz and funk to R&B and hip-hop—Kendrick Lamar created a wildly entertaining, deeply introspective, and whip-smart album about what it's like to be black in America in 2015. —CH

  2. 2

    'At. Long. Last. A$AP' by A$AP Rocky

    A$AP Rocky's breakout mixtape demonstrated a fully formed aesthetic of underground beats and smooth style, but his major-label debut proved he could mold that aesthetic into mainstream pop bangers. On the conclusion to this trilogy, ''At.Long.Last.A$AP,' Rocky goes deep into a psychedelic wormhole and comes out fresher than ever before. Every sonic inch here is packed with a different sound, from a Rod Stewart vocal sample to a comically over-the-top Kanye West verse. After the tragic death of Rocky's friend and collaborator A$AP Yams earlier this year, 'At.Long.Last.A$AP' stands as the glorious finale to Phase One of the A$AP project. —CH

  3. 3

    'Summertime '06' by Vince Staples

    It only takes a minute for 'Summertime '06' to enter Staples' turbulent hometown of Long Beach. But it takes the full two discs to grasp the heft of Staples' darkly seminal year, one that resulted in the death of some of Staples' loved ones and friends. His bars are dense and complex, whether featured on "Might Be Wrong," which finds him crushed by the life, or "Loca," where Staples makes jokes and tells tales of hitting on girls. Strongest debut rap record of the year. —WR

  4. 4

    'If You're Reading This, It's Too Late' by Drake

    In February, Drizzy graced the Internet with a surprise "mixtape" out of nowhere. But from the aggressive "Star67" to the sing-along worthy "Legend," this doesn't feel like a throwaway—in fact, it's one of his most powerful and emotional collection of songs yet. —WR

  5. 5

    'SremmLife' by Rae Sremmurd

    The debut album from brothers Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee is packed with infectious bangers like "Throw Sum Mo," featuring Nicki Minaj, and "Safe Sex Pay Checks." But there are tracks that go beyond their youthful exuberance and excess, from "No Type" to the remorseful "This Could Be Us." Overall, the most fun hip-hop record of the year. —WR

  6. 6

    'Surf' by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment

    Instead of making a direct sequel to his critically adored 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, Chicago MC Chance the Rapper shed the spotlight in favor of his friend Donnie Trumpet. An exercise in musical democracy, 'Surf' is also a fun jazzy trip of an album that bounces between sunshine happiness and somber meditations on adult responsibilities. High-profile mentors like Busta Rhymes and Erykah Badu trade songs with other young Chicago talents like Noname Gypsy and Saba, occasionally opening the door to a mind-busting vintage Chance verse. —CH

  7. 7

    'Fetty Wap' by Fetty Wap

    There's so much more to the New Jersey rookie than "Trap Queen." Fetty Wap's self-titled opening salvo quickly proves the 24-year-old might be the best hook writer in hip-hop, with hits like "My Way" and "Again" turning 'Fetty Wap' into a nonstop party. —WR

  8. 8

    '#AndSeeThatsTheThing' by DeJ Loaf

    Detroit native Dej Loaf got her start as a featured artist, but this EP is fully her platform. "Look, I done been broke before I ain't going back," she proclaims on "Been On My Grind" before adding, "I feel like I've been neglected/Ready for change but don't wanna work in no register." Future and Big Sean give love with guest appearances, but she shines brightest when stomping on her own. —WR

  9. 9

    'Compton' by Dr. Dre

    After years of waiting for Dr. Dre's long-delayed third album, we didn't even get to hear 'Detox' after all. Instead, we got something better, 'Compton.' Dre's comeback album is a paean to his hometown, inspired by the recent biopic about his original crew N.W.A., and brings together all the elements of his work and career. The collaborators span past (Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem), present (Kendrick Lamar), and future (Jon Connor), while the production proves Dre can still bang with the best of the beatmasters. —CH

  10. 10

    'A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons' by Little Simz

    Even in such a stacked year for hip-hop, Little Simz' self-assuredness stands out. She kicks off the very first track on her debut album by screaming, "Everybody should know that I'm king now." The following 30 minutes of rapid-fire rhymes and tonally diverse production prove Simz is a force to be reckoned with. —CH

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