With a new decade comes a great deal of new music but I’ve also been thinking of all of the great music that has been released during the previous decade. So, over the past few days, I’ve been compiling a list of my favorite albums that have been released in the span of the last ten years, which was also a time of great discovery for me in terms of music. My tastes in music matured alongside myself in the past ten years as I grew from a child into my teenage years and now into young adulthood. So, without further delay, check out my list of the top ten albums of the past ten years, listed in no particular order.
Eminem – The Eminem Show
Of the four albums Eminem has released during the 2000s (I don’t include any collaborative works or compilations in that tally); The Eminem Show was my favorite. This album holds a special place in my collection because it was one of the first Rap albums I actually purchased with my own money. Eminem demonstrates great lyrical diversity going from songs such as the mellow and heartfelt Hallie’s Song to the gritty and abrasive Soldier. While Eminem’s lyrical style and the content of this album isn’t going to appeal to everyone, this is a great album that can easily hang with Hip-Hop greats of the time.
Favorite Tracks – Soldier, Sing for the Moment, Cleanin’ Out My Closet, Say What You Say
Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor
Lupe Fiasco’s first album is also his best to date. At its core, this is a very lighthearted album with songs such as I Gotcha, Sunshine that feature not only lighthearted beats but humorous and pleasant lyrics but Lupe also shows remarkable depth and complexity on tracks such as Daydreamin’, Hurt Me Soul and The Instrumental. Lupe’s flow and lyrical delivery is one of a kind and is in top form on this album which is one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard.
Favorite Tracks – American Terrorist, The Instrumental, Daydreamin’, Hurt Me Soul
Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
I had to include Lupe’s second album and the first I bought on this list because it contributed in large part to what I refer to as my own musical “awakening”. Prior to hearing this album, I’m not truly convinced that I knew what good Hip-Hop was and after hearing it, I was sure that I had not truly heard it before. Not really. Lupe’s trademark delivery style shines through as he delivers a very cohesive and thematically dark album (very different from Food and Liquor) with such great tracks as The Coolest (still my favorite Lupe track of all time), Streets on Fire, Paris, Tokyo, and Hip-Hop Saved My Life.
Favorite Tracks – The Coolest, Streets on Fire, The Die, Paris, Tokyo
Nas – Untitled
This album represents a turning point for me as far as Nas is concerned. He was always an artist I recognized for being a great lyricist with deep messages interspersed throughout his songs but has recently suffered in terms of his beat selection. With Untitled, Nas has finally chosen the kinds of beats that I like to hear to work with while still retaining his quality lyrics. He speaks out against censorship on the excellent third verse of Hero, the racist and bigoted ideologies that have existed in American culture throughout America and the controversial news presented by the likes of Fox News on Sly Fox. Whether or not you agree with what he is saying, it is clear that his lyrics are still quite provocative and when combined with great production, choosing Untitled over the likes of the much more popular Stillmatic was an easy decision to make.
Favorite Tracks – Hero, America, Fried Chicken, N.I.*.*.E.R. (The Slave and the Master)
Royce da 5’9” – Street Hop
Despite hailing from Detroit, Michigan myself, I feel no desire to represent for Detroit artists purely because they’re from Detroit. If I’m going to represent them, it will be because they have impressed me with lyrical talent. Royce da 5’9” has been in the rap game for well over a decade (appearing on early Eminem works such as Bad Meets Evil) and has consistently impressed with his raw lyrical talent and delivery and his latest release, Street Hop, is no exception. The album starts off strong with the dark and somewhat moody Gun Harmonizing, featuring fellow Slaughterhouse member, Crooked I. Royce flexes his storytelling muscles quite a bit on the tracks Part of Me and Murder and also takes things to a more personal level with the introspective track Shake This. While it’s highly likely that Royce will remain highly underrated, I think it’s time people woke up and listened to the Detroit emcee.
Favorite Tracks – Gun Harmonizing, Part of Me, Shake This, Warriors
Muse – Black Holes and Revelations
With big and instantly recognizable hits such as Supermassive Black Hole and Knights of Cydonia, Black Holes and Revelations was an easy choice for me. I bought this album by chance one day from the Amazon MP3 store for five dollars and I will say that this is one of the best purchases I’ve made. Muse’s musical style on this album is different from almost anything I’ve ever heard and their socio-political lyrics (which were continued to some degree on their subsequently released album The Resistance) are thought provoking and insightful.
Favorite Tracks – Supermassive Black Hole, Soldier’s Poem, Assassin
Curren$y – This Ain’t No Mixtape
Indeed, this is not a mixtape at all and is perhaps the most laid back and relaxing Hip-Hop album I’ve ever heard. Listening to this, I can’t help but relax and lose myself in the music. Curren$y’s vocals are mostly smooth and the beats are very bassy but otherwise easy on the ears and fairly inoffensive. Curren$y’s lyrics aren’t the deepest I’ve ever heard but they establish the light tone of the album and are pleasing enough to listen to extended periods of time.
Favorite Tracks – Elevator Musik, Power Button, On My Plane
Radiohead – Kid A
A late entry to this list purely because I hadn’t heard it until very recently, I now feel like this list wouldn’t be quite right without it. Having heard Radiohead’s most recent work, In Rainbows and enjoying it, I was surprised by how good this album was. It’s a very relaxing listen most of the time, because the songs are never particularly busy and are instead quite minimalist in design. Thom Yorke’s trademark light vocals are immediately recognizable and set the inviting tone of the album as a whole that I really enjoy. There are only a few albums in my collection that I feel I could listen to from beginning to end without the desire to skip any tracks in between and this is one of them.
Favorite Tracks – How to Disappear Completely, The National Anthem, Idioteque, Morning Bell
Kanye West – Late Registration
Kanye West’s second release is his strongest and most cohesive effort yet. While many CDs on this list shine because of strong lyrical performances, this is different. Late Registration shines not because of West’s lyrical ability but because of the incredibly strong and varied production. I’m a sucker for great beats and Late Registration has them in spades and because of this, this is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard in some time. Heck, on the track Gone, West demonstrates the type of lyrical ability that makes you think that he’s as good as he thinks he is and when you combine good and sometimes great lyrics with exceptional beats, you’ve got an excellent album on your hands.
Favorite Tracks – Gone, Roses, Addiction, Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)
David Clynick – Perfect Dark Zero Original Soundtrack
This is an obvious outlier in this list due to the fact that it is a video game soundtrack but it counts just the same as far as I’m concerned. This album, comprised almost entirely of Techno/Electronic and Rock instrumental tunes with some slight Hip-Hop leanings here and there, fits the tone of the game in question incredibly well and is perhaps one of the best videogame soundtracks to be released in recent years. Even though this is a videogame soundtrack, it rarely sounds “gamey” to me. If I hadn’t known it was a videogame soundtrack, I would think it was quite a good electronic album in its own right and it fits well for general listening. This is an easy fallback choice for me when I just want to listen to some great electronic music.
Favorite tracks – River Extraction (Riverchase), Temple Surveillance (Main Theme), Trinity Escape (Main Theme), Limelight
Honorable Mentions: Radiohead, In Rainbows; Nas, Stillmatic; The Game, The Documentary; Muse, The Resistance; The Roots, Game Theory