When the clock struck midnight at the New Millennium the world didn’t end as predicted, but we did get Twitter, iPhones and Xbox. Oh and we got a new wave of rappers from a prime Eminem to a prime Lil Pump, here’s the best rapper of every year this Millennium.
2000 – André 3000
2000 was all about 3000. The new millennium brought with it one of the greatest albums ever with Outkast’s Stankonia. Big Boi is a legendary rapper, but the truth is André is just that bit better and his star shines that bit brighter. I was only a toddler but I’m fairly sure I’d have been bopping my head along to Ms Jackson.
Honourable Mentions: Eminem, Ghostface Killah
Eminem was perhaps at his highest following the release of The Marshall Mathers LP. Also that year The Wugtang Clang would release their final classic album titled The W.
2001 – Jay-Z
It feels to me like 2001 was when the rap world realised how damn good Jay-Z was. The Blueprint might very well be Jay-Z’ greatest album and if not it’s certainly near the top. It was tight and clean and it’s the reason Jay went from a rapper to THE rapper. If Jay could’ve kept up with this standard he’d be in even higher regard than he already is.
Honourable Mentions- Missy Elliot, Eminem
Not only was this arguably Jay’s biggest year, but it was without question Missy’s biggest year as she released Miss E… So Addictive which had one of the biggest hip hop anthems ever in Get Ur Freak On. Eminem was still dominating the charts from the previous year as well as a release with his rap group D12.
2002 – Eminem
Now if you know the boys at Viberant you’ll know we aren’t all too keen on Eminem, but his place on this list is almost undeniable. 2002 was a year that saw Eminem drop The Eminem Show as well as being the most important part of The 8 Mile Soundtrack. This really was the peak version of Eminem that we really haven’t seen for over a decade.
Honourable Mentions: Missy Elliot, Jay-Z
The constantly overlooked Missy Elliot dropped a gem of an album in 2002 titled Under Construction that was full of that classic Timbaland production. The always busy Jay-Z also featured on the album as well as dropping his own album, The Blueprint II.
2003 – Dizzee Rascal
In 2003 Dizzee Rascal picked up the Mercury Prize for his debut album, Boy In Da Corner, an album which placed grime on a pedestal and influenced the entire of Britain to take note. Not only is the album of top quality, and I’m talking some of the best rap ever, it’s also one of the most influential albums of all time as it birthed UK’s first huge rap star.
Honourable Mentions: Jay- Z, 50 Cent
While a Brit takes the year, there was plenty going in the US. Jay-Z and 50 Cent both released some of their best work ever with The Black Album and Get Rich Or Die Tryin’. Their respective albums topped the charts but nothing was stopping Dizzee taking the top spot here.
2004 – MF DOOM
2004 is owned by MF DOOM. One of the greatest to ever rap was part of two stunning albums in this year, Madvillainy and MM..Food. Both albums were unique and stunning in their own right, but Madvillainy might very well go down in history as one of the greatest rap albums ever as he and Madlib created a God tier album.
Honourable Mentions: Dizzee Rascal, Kanye West
The aforementioned Boy In Da Corner was released in the states in 2004 as well as another amazing album titled Showtime. Both albums gained critical acclaim in both the UK and across the pond pushing UK’s grime scene to places it had never been. 2004 would also be the debut of Yeezy himself with his instant classic, The College Dropout.
2005 – Kanye West
Following on from The College Dropout Kanye would drop one of my personal favourite 2000s rap albums titled Late Registration. It’s got some beautiful and soulful production as always and includes some of Ye’s best songs ever including a personal favourite in Hey Mama. people were starting to realise the power Kanye possessed at this point but I don’t think anyone had any clue what he would become (The GOAT.)
Honourable Mentions: M.I.A, The Game
Considering how brilliant M.I.A is, it’s quite mind boggling that her debut album Arular doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should. It was far ahead of it’s time as it blended genres effortlessly. 2005 Also saw The Game come to the forefront of rap with his biggest and best album, The Documentary.
2006 – Ghostface Killah
Some might consider the mid 2000s to be the dark age of rap, I can think of why it wasn’t, enter Ghostface Killah and enter his masterpiece that is Fishscale. It’s no nonsense, it’s hard hitting, and in modern day it’s ridiculously underrated. Without question one of the best rap albums of the 2000s and quite simply an album that doesn’t get enough credit.
Honourable Mentions: Pusha T, The Game
It doesn’t matter if it’s 2006 or 2018, Pusha T can deliver. Hell Hath No Fury was one of the top albums of 2006 by the duo Clipse. The 2000s wouldn’t be complete without The Game, following on from a stellar 2005 he would return with a quality record titled Doctor’s Advocate.
2007 – Kanye West
In a battle of the rap albums, Kanye West went head to head with former king 50-Cent and dominated with his album Graduation winning a battle of head to head album sales. Not only that, it was ten times more pleasing musically with some fans claiming this to be his greatest work ever. Kanye ticked all boxes and placed himself not only at the top of rap but at the top of music, somewhere he’s stayed for over a decade.
Honourable Mentions: Jay-Z, 50 Cent
Jay-Z was constant in his album releases and certainly constant quality wise as he snatched yet another number one album with American Gangster. 50 might have lost the battle with Kanye but he still did incredibly well. Curtis might not be a classic album, but it’s impact and rivalry with Kanye’s Graduation was nothing but a good thing for rap.
2008 – Kanye West
The only artist to go back to back on this list and with good reason. 808’s & Heartbreak was released a decade ago by Ye following the death of his mother, and to this date it’s still the greatest heartbreak album of all time. It often goes under appreciated, but for me it places among Kanye’s better work and easily places in the top of his discography.
Honourable Mentions: Lil Wayne, Q-Tip
Had it not been for a phenomenal release from Ye, Wayne would’ve swiped this easily. Tha Carter III is his greatest ever album and destroyed records as it sold a million in it’s first week. Rap legend Q-Tip might not get the credit he deserves often, but he’s getting it here for his masterful album, The Renaissance.
2009 – Kid Cudi
In 2009 we witnessed what many consider one of the most influential artists of a generation release one of the most influential albums ever in Cudi’s Man On The Moon. It’s incredibly innovate and features some of Cudi’s best every work. Whether you love this album or hate it, you can’t argue it’s adventurous nature and you certainly can’t deny it’s power.
Honourable Mentions: Jay- Z, Lil Wayne
After over a decade in the business, Jay-Z would finally get a number one single this year with Empire State Of Mind as well as his 11th number one album with The Blueprint 3. Following on from his chart domination, Lil Wayne would push Young Money to the forefront with a collab album that showed off many new young rappers, including one Aubrey Drake Graham.
2010 – Kanye West
The greatest rap album ever? Very possibly. 2010 was graced with Kanye’s most genius project to date in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It features an abundance of rap’s greatest ever as well as some of 2010’s biggest stars. MBDTF is beautifully produced and has no weak tracks at all, this is as close to perfection as I’ve heard, not only in rap but in music. If Kanye wasn’t already the biggest rapper in the game before this, he certainly was after.
Honourable Mentions: Drake, Kendrick Lamar
Early 2010 set the stage for rap as we know it today. Drake released his debut album Thank Me Later and Kendrick released his biggest mixtape Overly Dedicated. Both projects put the pair in the limelight and kick started the careers we are so familiar with today.
2011 – Drake
It was late 2011 that Drake cemented his place in rap with his greatest project to date in Take Care. While 2010 saw Drake commercially rise, Take Care was leaps and bounds above any work Drake had put forward and to this date remains a timeless rap classic that’s filled with big bangers and heavy heartbreak. Take Care dominated the charts and dominated every and any music awards. This was the year Drake placed himself at the very top of rap along the likes of Kanye West and someone who happens to appear in the honourable mentions…
Honourable Mentions: Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown
Not only did 2011 see Drake rise to the top of the heap, it saw Kendrick Lamar do exactly the same with his debut album Section.80. Kenny’s debut is an underrated masterpiece much like Danny Brown’s 2011 monster record XXX.
2012 – Kendrick Lamar
An obvious one in terms of 2012 album releases here. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was a masterpiece that was levels above all other rap releases in 2012. This isn’t a knock on everyone else, but just a display of how amazing King Kendrick. It was and still is filled with bangers and brilliant story telling. Like all Kendrick projects, it’s really aged like a fine wine and is one of the many reasons Kung Fu Kenny is the best rapper in the game.
Honourable Mentions: Kanye West, Big K.R.I.T
2012 saw the release of Kanye’s collaborative piece with his G.O.O.D Music partners, titled Cruel Summer. It might be towards the bottom of Kanye’s discography but if anything that’s a testament to how good he really is. 2012 also saw two quality projects from the criminally underrated Big K.R.I.T, including his debut album Live From The Underground.
2013 – Drake
SPOILER ALERT- This is the last time Drake will be number 1, so if you’re hyping Views, More Life and Scorpion you might wanna stop reading. Nothing Was The Same is in the top three of Drizzy’s discography, it’s jam packed with massive hits all of which have stood the test of time. It’s not even worth cherry picking songs because they were all in all excellent. For me, this is the next best thing to the holy grail of Drake, Take Care.
Honourable Mentions: Kanye West, Chance The Rapper
2013 saw Kanye West’s God complex reach an all time high with his experimental album Yeezus. It’s a bonkers piece of art that’s very much under the love/hate category, and I happen to love it. Chance The Rapper dropped his second mixtape, Acid Rap. It’s certainly an underrated piece and one that deserves a lot more credit, especially when you look at how much praise the inferior Coloring Book has gotten.
2014 – J. Cole
2014 was a funny old year for rap. It wasn’t nearly as glorious as the years that followed it, but it had it’s highs. J Cole was the highest of those heights. 2014 Forrest Hills Drive is Cole’s biggest album to date, and there’s a reason for it. Amazing flow combined with meaningful lyrics made for Cole’s best album yet, he did that with no features as we all very well know. It might be a meme but it’s truly an accomplishment.
Honourable Mentions: Killer Mike, SchoolBoy Q
Killer Mike is one of those rappers who deserves more from the mainstream. He’s a real, no nonsense rapper who’s a part of rap duo Run The Jewels, their second album was released this year and is arguably their very best. As for Q, he dropped Oxymoron, his best album to date featuring his massive hip hop anthem Collard Greens.
2015 – Kendrick Lamar
I’m a broken record at this point. 2015 is a write off in terms of genuine debate about who and what was the best. Kendrick stole the show, To Pimp A Butterfly stole the show. It wasn’t only the best thing in rap, it wasn’t only the best thing in music, it was the best thing in art as a whole. This was the album that really put Kendrick Lamar on the Mount Rushmore of rappers, he went from the best rapper in the world, to potentially the best rapper ever.
Honourable Mentions: Drake, Travis Scott
If we’re being truthful, 2015 was the last time that Drake dropped a classic. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was and still is an underrated piece that should be placed very close to the top of Drake’s discography. Trav dropped his debut studio album Rodeo which is a cut above the rest of his discography and will without a doubt go down as a trap classic.
2016 – Danny Brown
In a year that had album releases from Drake, Kendrick, Chance, J Cole and Future, it shows how amazing Danny Brown is. I don’t often swear on this blog, I keep it PG, but Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition is fucking brilliant. It’s a true masterpiece that is beyond insane. Fellow Viberant owner Ellis can put it into words much better than myself, just check his Twitter.
Honourable Mentions: Chance The Rapper, Kanye West
2016 was a year of history in rap. Chance The Rapper’s mixtape, Coloring Book, was the first mixtape to not only be nominated for, but to win a Grammy. It was a really well crafted mixtape, up there with the best gospel rap ever. As for Kanye, he really got back to it following a long time away as he released The Life Of Pablo which dominated the mainstream for an entire year.
2017 – Kendrick Lamar
Another year another legendary album and a bunch of Grammy’s for King Kendrick. DAMN. would drop in April 2017 and smash all records for that year in terms of sales figures. But do we give a damn about those figures? Absolutely not. Let’s get to why he’s the man of the hour for 2017. His music was incredible, tracks off this album dominated playlists for the entirety of the year. Taking out comparisons to his previous albums and looking at this as a complete stand alone, it’s an insanely good album. Kendrick is the man to beat in rap, the clear number one guy.
Honourable Mentions: Vince Staples, Tyler The Creator
The only albums that could match DAMN. in 2017 were Vince’s Big Fish Theory and Tyler’s Flower Boy. Both totally different albums in terms of style, but both styles were executed to near perfection. Once upon a time I thought Vince had the album of the year, but longevity wise Kenny just aged that bit better.
2018 So Far – Kanye West
The GOAT is back. On work rate alone Kanye could win this one. Not only is he the mastermind behind multiple albums this year including Nas and Pusha T projects, but he was the mastermind of two of his own albums. First was Ye, a brutally honest reflection of a man who had transitioned from a God to a man. Then came his collab with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts. It was a true masterpiece of an album. Beautiful and ugly, crisp and chaotic. Without question 2018 belongs to Kanye West.
Honourable Mentions: Pusha T, Saba
Kanye won it this year for output bringing us two of the best rap albums this year, but Pusha T and Saba could easily both have a say in the rap album of the year. Saba is the underground king, easily one of the top albums of the year that’s overlooked massively by the mainstream, if you haven’t heard it give it a listen. SABA REVIEW COMING SOON.
The only rapper to have back to back years on this list is Kanye West, Kanye also happens to be the man with the most years as the best with five different years under his belt. Ye is also the only artist to have claimed years from both decades in the list, showing longevity and showing why Viberant ultimately consider him to be the greatest. The artist with the most honourable mentions is Jay-Z who has five, once more proving his work rate and longevity over the course of the last two decades.
Of the 54 mentioned places there is only three British born artists, Dizzee, DOOM and M.I.A. The other 51 artists are American. Of The 54 places on this list, only 9 places were awarded to an individual for their work in a duo or group, with the other 45 being placed for solo albums.