The 2010s have been a fruitful decade for hip-hop. Despite what many old heads will proclaim until the day they die, we are in the midst of the most interesting era in the history of the genre. Innovation in the industry is at an all-time high, and the explosion of the internet has created an even greater thirst for creating new sounds, styles and artistic statements.
There have been many legitimately spellbinding records born out of every year in the decade. However, there are some that are considered by many to be “masterpieces” or “classics,” but, alas, they are not as remarkable as they’re made out to be.
Here are some of the most celebrated hip-hop albums of the past decade that don’t live up to the hype they received, either from fans or critics. Disclaimer: don’t scroll through the list and assume that this is a complete condemnation of your favorite artist because it’s not. Some of these albums are still good, but overrated, nonetheless.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (Nov. 22, 2010)
To be clear and upfront, this album is still great. It impacted every corner of the music industry from the moment it dropped and pivoted the hip-hop genre into the more production-heavy approach we still see today. The beats on the album are game-changing, and the way Kanye utilizes his guests on it is still a rarified spectacle — but there are flaws.
A lot of the songs are too long, especially toward the end of the album. Much of the mixing sounds thin and severely needs to be remastered, and a song as corny as “Blame Game” never belonged on the album, even though it appropriately fits into its themes. Many consider MBDTF to be the greatest of the decade, which warrants it a spot on this list. It is still a grandiose and powerful landmark from one of hip-hop’s legends.
Nothing Was The Same by Drake (Sept. 24, 2013)
Drake is arguably the biggest rap-pop crossover artist in history, both in terms of popularity and longevity. His 2013 effort was released four years after he broke into the mainstream and fueled his ascent to the top even further. The project as a whole, however, is pretty average for Drake’s standards, especially in this era of his career.
Some tracks on Nothing Was The Same represent some of the best material he’s ever crafted. “Tuscan Leather” and “From Time” are stunningly beautiful and empowering highlights. But a fearsome chunk of the album is bitten by weak songwriting, boring instrumentals and cringeworthy bars. “Started From the Bottom” is a horrific combination of all three of those characteristics.
There are a handful of pointless filler songs that are redundant in nature and don’t add anything to the album, like “Connect” and “305 To My City.” The end result is an album that straddles aggression and vulnerability in a very ungraceful manner. It would be on Drake’s next release, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, that he would refine his style and emotions into a more consistent project.
Because the Internet by Childish Gambino (Dec. 10, 2013)
After breaking with 2011’s Camp, the multi-talented Donald Glover set his sights on creating a fresher, more futuristic and ambitious album. Because the Internet combines Glover’s penchant for storytelling and screenwriting with his musical endeavors, pairing a roughly 70-page screenplay with this album to help illustrate the concepts behind the music.
Similar to Camp, there are fun highlights that shine through, like “Sweatpants” and “Crawl,” yet this is another album that struggles with an identity crisis. It’s emotional indecisiveness results in very cocky highs and extremely depressing lows with the former turning out the better songs.
Most of the ballads on the album are pretty flimsy and try too hard to draw sympathy for issues that don’t warrant such. While it attempts to be an emotionally touching album, it falls flat in many respects. Because the Internet is certainly not the exciting change of pace that Childish Gambino would bring on his classic, soul-infused Awaken, My Love.
Under Pressure by Logic (Oct. 21, 2014)
Don’t get me wrong, there are many admirable qualities that make Under Pressure a likable album. It’s no wonder this debut project from the Maryland-native would solidify an already passionate fanbase and bring Logic long-lasting fame.
Unlike the previous albums listed, there’s a lot to get behind on this project from an emotional standpoint. The beats are usually very rich and colorful, albeit a little inconsistent at points. The downfall of the album is really how undeveloped Logic is as a standout voice and how impressionistic the album comes off as a result of it.
While all rappers have influences, there are too many parallels this project draws to albums like Section.80 and Food & Liquor for it to be praised in its own right. Logic to this day has had no shame in biting his contemporaries, such as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, and this album is no exception.
At.Long.Last.A$AP by A$AP Rocky (May 26, 2015)
This is often perceived by true blue music fans as A$AP Rocky’s most complete piece of work to date. While it does sound like Rocky tried to shed a lot of the poppier sounds from his previous LP, the results here are pretty mixed.
Rocky’s knack for catchy hooks and charismatic verses take a dismal turn for the worse on this project. The features are all too often disorganized, and when they aren’t, they end up carrying the song.
There are some gems on this album, namely “Canal St.,” but the album’s most viral single, “LSD,” certainly isn’t one of them. Rocky’s singing, while soothing to some, is extremely unremarkable and turns the trippy drug anthem into a boring pile of slop. The album is inconsistent, bloated and foreshadows the even greater decline that is seen on his next project, Testing.
The Sun’s Tirade by Isaiah Rashad (Sept. 2, 2016)
This might baffle a few readers because this article focuses on the mainstream, and this album flew mostly under the radar. But this project was released on a progressive mainstream label, Top Dawg Entertainment, and was heralded in the hip-hop community, ending up on many year-end lists.
To be honest, it’s hard to justify the hype that it continues to receive. There are certainly highlights that come of the mellow, soulful production, but in most cases, Rashad’s subdued delivery and underwhelming verses leave a lot to be desired. It’s not a bad project, but TDE has released far more entertaining projects during its period of relevance.
Stoney by Post Malone (Dec. 9, 2016)
Sure, this album is the least hip-hop-oriented of the bunch, but there are rap undertones that are prominent enough that it gets included. We’ve seen artists adopt the genre’s foundations and take more melodic liberties with it, and they’ve done it well. Drake has done this. Travis Scott is another example. Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Migos, etc. But this is not done well.
Stoney is maybe good for some ambiance in the room or merely setting the mood for a party but as an engaging, replayable piece of music? It’s pretty underwhelming. The soulless melodies that Post Malone repeats on nearly every single song here grow tiresome, the lyrics are vapid nonsense and the features are completely forgettable. To be fair, the album was ripped apart by professional critics, but multitudes of fans were endeared by it, and some are starting to label it as a “cult classic.” No, not buying it, even three years later.
KOD by J. Cole (April 20, 2018)
This is a tough one to include because, similar to Stoney, it wasn’t adored by fans and critics alike. But this album, especially coming from a talented artist like Cole, is inexcusably boring and was still given a lot of year-end recognition.
Cole is a rapper that is undeniably skilled but has never applied himself enough to master the art of the full-length project. His inability to follow through on a concept is even more egregious here, as the title, skits and album art imply that the album is a cautionary tale against drugs. Yet the title track is mainly made up of Cole’s complaints about fans wanting him to have more features.
“Photograph” is a cringe-fest about stalking a girl on Instagram that contributes nothing to the theme at all, and the two “kiLL edward” tracks feature some of the worst singing ever approved by a record company.
Overall, the production is skeletal and bland, the hooks are mediocre and the album just sounds like a rehash of everything that has plagued Cole’s music up to this point. It’s undoubtedly his worst project, although Cole has bounced back in the wake of its release with impressive features throughout the rest of 2018 and 2019.