As the 2010s came to a close, it’s essential to appreciate the artistic contributions made by top rappers during this pivotal decade in hip-hop. With an evolving array of styles and sub-genres, the 2010s showcased and solidified numerous talented performers, ranging from conscious lyricists to skilled beatmakers. These remarkable individuals captivated audiences worldwide and raised the bar for future generations with their unique narratives and creative prowess.
This impressive roster of artists produced countless chart-topping hits and pushed the boundaries of what hip-hop could be. These rappers made an indelible mark on the music landscape by tackling social issues, experimenting with new sounds, and redefining the essence of success. As we focus on the best rappers of the 2010s, we will explore the memorable moments, masterful techniques, and iconic album releases that continue to inspire and influence the global hip-hop scene.
The 2010s Rap Landscape
Evolution of Sound
During the 2010s, the rap music landscape evolved significantly. This era saw the emergence of new styles and sub-genres within hip-hop, which captivated audiences in the United States and worldwide.
The decade kicked off with a focus on lyricism and wordplay, with artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Drake taking center stage. As time progressed, the sound of hip-hop began to shift, with trap music becoming increasingly popular.
Hip Hop and Trap Fusion
Trap music, a subgenre originating in the Southern United States, exploded in popularity during the 2010s. Its signature elements, such as 808 bass, fast hi-hats, and gritty lyrics, began to merge with traditional hip-hop sounds. This fusion of styles led to the rise of artists like Migos, Future, and Cardi B, who dominated the charts during this time. Furthermore, the emergence of SoundCloud as a platform for music discovery bolstered the careers of underground artists like Lil Uzi Vert and XXXTentacion.
Rap’s Cultural Impact
During the 2010s, rap exerted a profound cultural influence on society, making its presence known in various media, fashion, and politics. Hip-hop artists like Kanye West and Travis Scott ventured into fashion, collaborating with major brands and even starting their clothing lines. The power of rap and its artists became evident when musicians like Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar were invited to engage in conversations about race and politics. By the decade’s end, rap had firmly established itself as an artistic force, shaping the music industry and popular culture.
Top 10 Best 2010s Rappers
1. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is widely regarded as one of the best rappers of the 2010s. With his skillful lyricism and storytelling abilities, he released acclaimed albums such as Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012), To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), and DAMN (2017). His work has profoundly influenced the genre, and he has earned various awards for his contributions to rap.
Drake emerged as a dominant force in the 2010s, bringing a fresh sound that combined rap and R&B. Through albums like Take Care (2011), Nothing Was the Same (2013), and Views (2016), he became one of the most famous rappers in the world. His appeal extends beyond the rap community as he has collaborated with various artists.
3. Kanye West
Kanye West continued to push the boundaries of rap throughout the 2010s. His experimental approach to production led to critically-acclaimed albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Yeezus (2013), and The Life Of Pablo (2016). His influence extends beyond music, as he has also significantly impacted the fashion industry with his clothing line and sneakers.
4. J. Cole
J. Cole is known for his thought-provoking lyrics and introspective storytelling. His releases, including 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014), 4 Your Eyez Only (2016), and KOD (2018), showcase his skills as both a rapper and producer. He is highly respected in the rap community and has used his platform to advocate for social change.
5. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj rose to fame with her unique style and unmatched flow. As one of the few female rappers to gain widespread recognition during the 2010s, she released successful projects such as Pink Friday (2010) and The Pinkprint (2014). Minaj’s influence has paved the way for the next generation of women in rap.
6. Travis Scott
Travis Scott’s innovative production and energetic performances have made him a standout among his peers. His albums, including Rodeo (2015), Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), and Astroworld (2018), showcase his versatility and creativity. Scott has also ventured into fashion, collaborating with brands like Nike on limited-edition sneakers.
Eminem continued his reign as rap royalty throughout the 2010s. With his unparalleled lyrical ability and relentless intensity, he released albums like Recovery (2010), The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013), and Kamikaze (2018). His longevity and impact on the genre are undeniable, making him one of the best rappers of the decade.
8. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne’s prolific output and unmatched work ethic have kept him relevant throughout the 2010s. He released several successful projects, including Tha Carter IV (2011) and Tha Carter V (2018). Known for his distinctive voice and witty wordplay, Lil Wayne has remained a staple in the rap world for years.
9. Cardi B
Cardi B’s meteoric rise to fame began with her hit single “Bodak Yellow” in 2017, followed by her Grammy-winning debut album, Invasion of Privacy (2018). Her brazen personality, catchy hooks, and unapologetic lyrics have made her one of rap’s biggest stars in recent years.
10. Young Thug
Young Thug’s experimental approach to rap has earned him a dedicated fanbase. Known for his distinctive vocal style and unconventional delivery, he released projects like Barter 6 (2015) and Slime Season series (2015-2016) throughout the 2010s. Thug’s innovative sound has influenced a new generation of rappers and solidified him as one of the best in the decade.
Landmark Albums and Hits
To Pimp a Butterfly
To Pimp a Butterfly is a critically acclaimed album by American rapper Kendrick Lamar, released in 2015. This album showcases Lamar’s unique lyricism and production style, reflecting racism, self-worth, and struggle. Standout tracks from this album include “King Kunta,” “Alright,” and “The Blacker the Berry.” To Pimp a Butterfly gained widespread recognition and solidified Kendrick Lamar’s status as a leading artist in the rap genre.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released in 2010, is a game-changer in the rap music scene. The album pushed boundaries with its intricate production, featuring collaborations with artists like Bon Iver, Rihanna, and Kid Cudi. Songs like “Power,” “Monster,” and “Runaway” became instant hits, and the album is often regarded as one of West’s best works, establishing him as a top figure in the hip-hop sphere.
2014 Forest Hills Drive
J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a deeply personal album that delves into the rapper’s life experiences and perceptions of the world around him. Featuring songs like “No Role Modelz,” “Apparently,” and “Wet Dreamz,” the album’s raw storytelling and well-crafted beats resonated with fans and critics alike. This 2014 release helped secure J. Cole’s place as a vital voice in contemporary rap.
Travis Scott’s 2018 album Astroworld is a sonic adventure that elevates the rap genre into new territory. The album blends psychedelic influences with Scott’s signature trap sound, creating a mesmerizing listening experience. Hits like “Sicko Mode,” “Stargazing,” and “Yosemite” showcase Travis Scott’s versatility as an artist and further solidify his reputation as a major player in the hip-hop landscape.
Underrated and Emerging Rappers
Vince Staples is an American rapper from Long Beach, California. Throughout the 2010s, he has gained respect for his lyrical skills and consistency in the rap game. His debut album, Summertime ’06, released in 2015, showcased his unique style and storytelling abilities. Staples continued to impress with his subsequent projects, including his 2017 album, Big Fish Theory, and his 2018 project, FM! His ability to experiment with his sound and deliver compelling narratives makes him among the most underrated rappers in the 2010s.
Joey Bada$$ emerged as an influential figure in the 2010s, with his mixtape 1999, introducing him to the rap scene at just 17 years old. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Joey possesses a classic hip-hop sound reminiscent of the 90s. He released his debut album, B4.DA.$$, in 2015, followed by All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ in 2017. Both albums were well-received for their lyrical content and social commentary. Joey’s ability to maintain a raw and authentic sound amidst the changing trends of the rap industry makes him stand out as an underrated talent in the 2010s.
Freddie Gibbs has consistently displayed his prowess as a rapper since the beginning of the 2010s. Hailing from Gary, Indiana, Gibbs possesses a versatile flow and can tell vivid stories through his music. Over the years, he has released several projects, including his critically acclaimed collaborative album with producer Madlib, titled Piñata, in 2014. The duo followed up with a second collaboration, Bandana, in 2019, further solidifying their chemistry. Freddie Gibbs’ output, skill, and dedication to his craft make him an essential figure for underrated rappers in the 2010s.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who dominated rap in the 2010s?
Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Kanye West were some of the most dominant rappers in the 2010s. Kendrick Lamar released critically acclaimed albums like “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “To Pimp a Butterfly,” while Drake continued to top the charts with smash hits like “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance.” Kanye West also significantly impacted the genre with albums like “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “YEEZUS.”
Which rappers defined the 2010s?
Rappers who defined the 2010s include Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, and Chance the Rapper. These artists contributed to shaping the sound and culture of hip-hop during this decade, with their diverse styles ranging from conscious rap and storytelling to upbeat party tracks and catchy hooks.
Most influential 2010s rap artists?
Some of the most influential rap artists of the 2010s are Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Travis Scott. Aside from their contributions to music, these artists influenced fashion, pop culture, and the evolution of rap throughout the decade. Additionally, artists like J. Cole and Chance the Rapper helped highlight social issues and self-reflection in their lyrics.
Who were the top 2011 rappers?
Top rappers in 2011 include Lil Wayne, Eminem, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. This year, Lil Wayne released “Tha Carter IV,” Eminem collaborated with Royce da 5’9″ on “Hell: The Sequel,” and Jay-Z partnered with Kanye West to drop “Watch The Throne.” Kanye continued to push boundaries with his unique style and production.
Top 3 2010s rap icons?
The top three rap icons of the 2010s could be Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Nicki Minaj. Kendrick Lamar’s storytelling abilities and thought-provoking lyricism earned him several Grammy awards and critical acclaim. Drake maintained a consistent presence on the charts throughout the decade, breaking several Billboard records. Nicki Minaj’s unique style, wordplay, and varied delivery helped her stay relevant in a male-dominated genre.
2010s rap legends vs. 2000s?
The 2010s rap legends built on the foundations laid by the 2000s hip-hop artists. While the early 2000s saw artists like Eminem, Jay-Z, and 50 Cent rise to prominence, the 2010s brought forth a new generation of rappers who pushed boundaries in style, production, and lyrical content. The 2010s also saw a rise in diverse voices within the genre, including female artists and those incorporating elements of different cultures and music styles.