With over 300 albums reviewed on HipHopDX this year, this is our annual list of the 25 best Hip Hop albums of the last 12 months, as determined by our Editorial staff. With two dozen impressive releases from the mainstream and underground, respected veterans and long-awaited solo debuts, these are our best (or “favorite”) albums, presented chronologically.

Dinner and a Movie
by Brotha Lynch Hung

Released: March 24, 2010
Label: Strange Music
Highest Charting Position: #64
Producers: Brotha Lynch Hung, Robert Rebeck, Justinn “Axis” Patton, Dustin “DJ Epic” Worswick, Michael “Seven” Summers, Dana “Young MC” McClain, Andrew “Freddy Machete” Hackler, Nasua “N-Pire” Hamilton
Guests: First Degree The D.E., Don Rob, C-Lim, G-Macc, Record Executive, C.N.I., BZO, Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Ron Danzy, Tall Cann G, C.O.S., Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound

Few people saw this coming from Sacramento’s O.G., Brotha Lynch Hung. One of the most lyrical and underrated gangsta rappers of all times kicked off his Strange Music trilogy with a polished, fully-developed version of what the former X-Raided protege made famous in the early ‘90s underground. Lynch influenced Snoop Dogg and Tech N9ne, and Dinner and a Movie pulled a Horror of master out of obscurity.

What We Said Then:
“Regardless of what one thinks about the slashings, the bondage, and the eating habits suggested within Dinner and a Movie’s rhymes, the honesty and delivery that mixes with the Horror make this album both a brilliant comeback story, and a career milestone.”

Wu Massacre
by Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon

Released: March 31, 2010
Label: Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #12
Producers: BT, Mathematics, Ty Fyffe, RZA, Digem Tracks Productions, Emile, Scram Jones
Guests: Streetlife, Solomon Childs, Sun God, Inspectah Deck, Tracy Morgan, Trife Da God, Sheek Louch, Bully, Kevin Cossom

Fresh off of the heels of Raekwon’s re-energized blueprint in Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II last year, the Chef teamed up with longtime rhyme partner Ghostface Killah and Method Man for a Def Jam melee of hard beats and hard rhymes. What was originally planned to be an attack on the Wu-Tang Clan was the latest flag in their extensive team-wide comeback led by this trio.

What We Said Then:
“But regardless of where one places it among Shaolin’s releases, Wu-Massacre stands on its own merit as an assembly of three legendary emcees putting on display what earned them the legendary status in the first place.”

Before Taxes
by yU

Released: April 12, 2010
Label: Mello Music Group
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: yU, Slimkat87, Kev Brown, Bilal Salaam, Oddisee
Guests: Bilal Salaam, I.Q., Isabella Banneker, ERK, Omun, Grap Luva, Finale, OP Swamp81

Diamond District’s yU helped make a fan favorite in last year’s In The Ruff. On his own, Before Taxes is a four-track sounding masterpiece that felt made in the late ‘90s underground Hip Hop glory years. The Washington DC emcee made an everyman’s album that touched on Native Americans, patience in paying dues and the fog of war.

What We Said Then:
Before Taxes is an ode to Hip Hop before everything complicated it. Before the money is taken from our check we were somewhere with our headphones on embracing every bar, beat and scratch. yU allows us to do that once again.”

Suite #420
by Devin the Dude

Released: April 20, 2010
Label: E1 Entertainment
Highest Charting Position: #85
Producers: Devin the Dude, Q-Stone, Mirawange, L-Dog, Mike Dean, C-Ray, Midas, Quest 
Guests: Odd Squad, Tony Mac, Jugg-Mugg, Smit-D, Korey-B, Ced-B, 14K, Scool Boy, Alpha-Bet-D 

Hip Hop in 2010 is as polarizing as ever, making an everyman like Devin The Dude that much more enjoyable. Whereas Devin’s last album was a little too mellow, Suite 420 hits all the right notes. Don’t be fooled, The Dude didn’t switch up the formula. 420 is still all about weed (“What We Be On”), women (“I Gotta Ho”) and weed (“We Get High”) and women (“It’s On You”). While that may sound one-dimensional and far from original, no one does it quite like The Dude.

What We Said Then:
“Devin The Dude’s Suite 420 works so well because it does exactly what music, not just Hip Hop, is supposed to: chronicle life experiences in an enjoyable, digestible way. So turn this on and roll one up, pull out your cell phone to text a breezy, or grab a few brews and enjoy the camaraderie of your own odd squad. Whatever your choice is, just don’t forget to invite Devin in for the fun.”

by Roc Marciano

Released: May 4, 2010
Label: Fat Beats Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producer: Roc Marciano

In an age when Hip Hop is marred with half-assed releases from a bevy of carbon copy acts, Roc Marciano’s Marcberg comes off as nothing short of a miracle. The former Flipmode Squad alum stakes his claim as one of Hip Hop’s most original and exciting artists, with his pulse-pounding ‘90s throwback of a debut. Handling both emceeing and production duties, Roc Marcy sets the standard for independent artistry with his dusty-grooved sampling and hard-hitting street tales. Like the Ultramagnetic MCs’ 1988 debut Critical Beatdown, Marcberg is a sonic tour de force that may go criminally ignored by listeners.

What We Said Then:
“In an industry full of copycats and kittens, Roc Marciano is poised to become the undisputed champ. Marcberg is a hard-hitting, unremorseful classic based on the same code of ethics that made the golden era so immaculate. Forget Little Mac; Roc Marciano is the one wearing the title belt.”

Revolutions Per Minute
by Reflection Eternal

Released: May 18, 2010
Label: Warner Brothers/Asylum Records/Blacksmith Music
Highest Charting Position: #17
Producers: Hi-Tek, Jay Electronica
Guests: Res, Bun-B, Estelle, J. Cole, Jay Electronica, Mos Def, Chester French, Bilal

We waited a decade for Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek to make a follow-up to their arguably perfect Train of Thought Rawkus debut. Both advanced in their respective careers, the duo picked up right where they left off with sharp commentary, lots of low-end bass and signs of their growth. Album closer “My Life” is a fierce reminder why Kweli’s blunt honesty has made him one of the most soulful emcees of the last 13 years.

What We Said Then:
“It’s not everyday that a pair of talented musicians vow to return together to make lightening strike twice…and actually mean it. With Reflection Eternal back in the fold with Revolutions Per Minute, waiting another 10 years for their next album will seem impossible.”

Distant Relatives
by Nas & Damian Marley

Released: May 18, 2010
Label: Universal Republic/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #4
Producers: Damian Marley, Stephen Marley
Guests: K’Naan, Stephen Marley, Dennis Brown, Lil Wayne, Joss Stone

The most globally-minded Rap album of 2010 is a turning point for Nas. The emcee, partnered with Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley’s deft production hand and fast raps made a thematic masterpiece. The duo unified styles, cultures and continents in a musical dissertation on Black music. Like great Jazz albums of yesteryear, this musical meeting-place for the duo made history and will influence what’s to come for both.

What We Said Then:
“Front to back, this album provides no filler and boasts substance. In a genre-bending effort, the duo manages to succeed in creating a best of both worlds collaboration without compromising anything – a feat rarely seen. The relativity between Nas and Marley comes across in this music as well as it does in their message, as both men create a benchmark in their rich careers.”

I F*cking Hate Rappers
by PackFM

Released: May 25, 2010
Label: QN5 Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Tonedeff, Domingo, Kno, J-Zone, Marco Polo, Deacon the Villain
Guests: Deacon the Villain, Dominion, Poison Pen

If we had nickel for every time we said we f*cking hate rappers, we probably could have retired back when Ja Rule was still relevant. But at the end of the day, griping doesn’t you anywhere, and that’s exactly why PackFM’s sophomore release succeeds. The album is a brilliantly conceived lament for the glory days of rap music when an emcee’s merit was gauged not on his marketability or his jewelery, but his raw talent and passion for the music. So while we may f*cking hate rappers, we f*cking love emcees like PackFM who have skills the prove what it takes in this business of rap.

What We Said Then:
“In less than 40 minutes, he shows his growth from battle emcee to an artist able to deliver a solid piece of work without sounding preachy or contrived. Even if I F*cking Hate Rappers proves to be an album that goes under the radar in 2010, years from now we very well may be talking about its significance on a larger scale.”

The Good Sun
by Homeboy Sandman

Released: June 1, 2010
Label: High Water Music
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Core Rhythm, 2 Hungry Bros., Ski Beatz, M Slago, Psycho Les, Ben Grymm, KO Beatz, DJ Spinna, Thievin’ Steven, Kentron the Mastadon, J57
Guests: Fresh Daily, John Robinson, Daniel Joseph

It’s not a stretch to say Homeboy Sandman possesses the best gift for cadence and rhyme patterns this side of Eminem. Since he kind of resembles your tenth grade biology teacher and has zero desire to make a radio single, most probably missed The Good Sun. Whether you were already up on Sandman or not, lack of access to Dr. Dre-type production means you’ll never have the misfortune of fast forwarding through a dud such as “Crack A Bottle.” But the way he kills the off-kilter beats he does get means you are likely to have a few jaw-dropping, “What did he just say?” moments while rewinding cuts like “Sand Be The Broham.”

What We Said Then:
“From mic to plug, The Good Sun is a sleek offering loaded with relentless, genre-pushing musicality, otherworldly rhyme schemes and contextual relevance. It’s the type of album where the sum of the whole is greater than each individual part; a collection of songs so solid and so well placed that, together, they lift the album into rarified air.”

by Eminem

Released: June 18, 2010
Label: Aftermath/Shady/Interscope Records
Highest Charting Position: #1 (several times)
Producers: Eminem, Just Blaze, DJ Khalil, Mr. Porter, Dr. Dre, Boi-1da, Supa Dups, JG, Emile, Jordan Evans, Matthew Burnett, Jim Jonsin, Script Shepherd, Nick Brongers, Alex da Kid, Havoc, Magneto7
Guests: Kobe, P!nk, Lil Wayne, Rihanna

Recovery was the perfect title for Eminem’s seventh album. Not just because it was the titular companion to 09’s Relapse, but because Em finally sounded like he was truly back to being the emcee who took over the world at the turn of the century. The album certainly isn’t perfect nor his best, but Em made his best album in seven years. More importantly, his otherworldly emcee skills continued to evolve and he once again had subject matter to tackle.

What We Said Then:
“It took seven years of fighting through personal tragedy and drug addiction for Em to find his own moment of clarity. And, having found it, beats like the one he supplied Jay-Z are conspicuously absent. Neither of these are necessarily negatives. They just make for one confusingly excellent listen.”

How I Got Over
by The Roots

Released: June 22, 2010
Label: Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #6
Producers: ?uestlove, Richard Nichols, Rick Friedrich, Dice Raw, Alecktrick.Kom, Black Thought, Diplo, Ray Angry, Jeremy Grenhart, Karl Jenkins
Guests: Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, Haley Dekle, Truck North, P.O.R.N., Dice Raw, Monsters of Folk, Blu, Phonte, Patty Crash, Joanna Newsome, STS, John Legend, Peedi Crakk

Between juggling their weeknight duties on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots found the time to make one of their best albums to date. The third, in The Roots’ darker themed albums, How I Got Over touched on God and loneliness, urban survival and perseverance with a brilliant, flowing theme and massive soundscape. ?uestlove’s production continues to expand, as Black Thought shared the mic more than usual, and dabbled in sung vocals to the pleasure of many.

What We Said Then:
“The Roots made an album that cannot be shuffled, packaged into buzz-singles or understood unless digested over 42 and a half minutes without touching the needle. But Hip Hop’s most beloved band isn’t even talking about music this time. Speaking to all their audiences over the last 23 years, The Roots are as emotionally-tangible as they’ve ever been, and whether it’s debt, depression or Divine intervention, they’re walking over the bridge with us all.”

Sir Lucious Leftfoot: Son of Chico Dusty
by Big Boi

Released: July 5, 2010
Label: Purple Ribbon/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #3
Producers: Big Boi, Malay, Mr. DJ, Organized Noize, Salaam Reli, Scott Storch, JBeatzz, Terrence “Knightheet” Culbreath, Andre3000, Lil Jon, Royal Flush, DJ Speedy, DJ Cutmaster Swiff
Guests: Sleepy Brown, Joi, Vonnegut, Cutty, Big Rube, T.I., Khujo Goodie, Yelawolf, Jamie Foxx, Janelle Monae, George Clinton, Too Short, Sam Chris, B.o.B., Gucci Mane, Bun B, Project Pat

The musical identity of Andre “Big Boi” Patton came alive this year through Sir Lucious Left Foot. Beyond the Speakerboxx/The Love Below companion albums of the mid-decade, this work refuted beliefs that Big Boi lives in Andre 3000’s shadows. Instead, the spaced-out Funk and positivity heard on this album, with thoughtful love jams intertwined was another poignant moment in the near-flawless Outkast tradition.

What We Said Then:
“Big Boi flying solo isn’t as good as an Outkast album, but it serves as a great appetizer until the next one comes along. Moreover, when 2011 arrives, we’ll likely look back at this as one of the year’s best offerings.”

Crown of Thorns
by Rakaa

Released: July 20, 2010
Label: Deacon Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Sid Roams, King Jahzzy, Exile, DJ Babu, Oh No, DJ Honda, !llmind, DJ Rhettmatic & Eric Bobo, Alchemist, El-P, Evidence
Guests: Aloe Blacc, Mad Lion, KRS-One, Tasha (aka Yoon Mi Rae), Tiger JK (Drunken Tiger), Roscoe Umali, BIGRYZN (CHIEFSONS), MOSHPIT (CHIEFSONS), Dumbfoundead, Tassho Pearce, Tablo (Epik High), Mithra Jin (Epik High), Jay Jaballas, King Kapisi, Krondon, Noelle Scaggs, Evidence, Defari, Fashawn, Chali 2na

Nearly 15 years into his recording career, Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples unleashed his solo debut. Crown of Thorns was described by the artist as “political,” but the album had enough hard beats and scratch choruses the keep the party moving while the third eye wide open. “Delilah” is Evidence’s crown achievement of production, as Rakaa bridged the gap to today’s west coast underground with Fashawn, while bringing Defari and Mad Lion back out.

What We Said Then:
“The Los Angeles-based rapper uses this as a chance to further his goal of achieving a higher state of consciousness by working alongside fellow artists who share his singular vision of a world united by righteousness, understanding and Hip Hop.”

Teflon Don
by Rick Ross

Released: July 20, 2010
Label: Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #2
Producers: J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, The Inkredibles, No I.D., Kanye West, DJ Clark Kent & The Remedy, Danja, Lex Luger, The Olympicks
Guests: Jay-Z, John Legend, Cee Lo Green, T.I., Jadakiss, Erykah Badu, Kanye West, Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Diddy, Gucci Mane, Styles P, Drake, Chrisette Michele, Raphael Saadiq

Every year, Rick Ross manages to survive the type of self-inflicted scandals that usually ruin Rap careers by dropping an album featuring the kind of catchy songs you only sing while alone in the whip—with the windows rolled all the way up. In 2010, with no correctional officer pictures or 50 Cent sponsored shopping sprees, the only thing to focus on was the music. Teflon Don not only showcased top-notch production from the usual suspects of Kanye West and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. Ross also used his underrated ear for production by including Clark Kent and Lexx Luger offerings to display a bit of self-reflection and a continually improving flow instead of the usual cut and paste coke anthems.

What We Said Then:
“He has found a way to incorporate more into his music without compromising his mission as evidenced by a shortened track list and less dependency on tall tales about cocaine dreams. Ross prominently references his desire to become a “larger than life” figure, and in due time that characterization may be fulfilled. For now though, making quality music at a respectable rate will do just fine.”

The Darkside Vol. 1
by Fat Joe

Released: July 27, 2010
Label: E1 Entertainment
Highest Charting Position: #27
Producers: Scram Jones, Cool & Dre, Just Blaze, DJ Infamous, Scoop Deville, Raw Uncut, Streetrunner, DJ Premier
Guests: Clipse, Cam’ron, Young Jeezy, Trey Songz, Rico Love, R. Kelly, Too Short, T.A., Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes

All you need to do is dig up an episode of MTV Cribs to see how profitable catering to the ringtone crowd was for Fat Joe. But alas, tracks like “Make It Rain” aren’t particularly good for career longevity. So credit Joe for listening to his fans, and both musically and sonically returning to the violent, abrasive style that made him popular in the first place. The Darkside wasn’t so much correcting his previous crossover attempts, as Joe bringing his Phantom back to the block with about a dozen armed goons in the back.

What We Said Then:
“This is easily Fat Joe’s best-produced album in over a decade – but that isn’t the key to this album’s success. For whatever reason, Joe believed for years that he needed to “switch it up to south paw” to survive, but here he’s returned to his D.I.T.C.-minded roots in a big way.”

Trill O.G.
by Bun B

Released: August 3, 2010
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records/Fontana Records
Highest Charting Position: #4
Producers: Steve Below, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Drumma Boy, Boi-1da, DJ B-Do, Big E, Play-N-Skillz, DJ Premier
Guests: J. Prince, Drake, T-Pain, Young Jeezy, 2Pac, Trey Songz, Pimp C, Bluesman Ceddy Saint Louis, Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, Twista, Play-N-Skillz, Latoya Luckett

Bun B closed down his trilogy with poise. The chart-shocking performance provided audio evidence of the correlation between UGK and 2Pac, along with a proper collaboration between DJ Premier and Bun. Additionally, in a year dominated in part by Drake, the veteran was honored by Drizzy, Gucci and Jeezy as a forefather of the popularized sound.

What We Said Then:
“In the end, fans are left with a pleasant closing to a respected series, and one of Hip Hop’s most respected voices still outshining the vast majority of his peers.”

Kill Devil Hills
by DJ Muggs vs. Ill Bill

Released: August 31, 2010
Label: Fat Beats Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producer: DJ Muggs
Guests: Sick Jacken, Sean Price, O.C., B-Real, Slaine, Everlast, Q-Unique, Raekwon, Chace Infinite, Vinnie Paz, Uncle Howie, Eric Bobo, Steve Ferlazzo

While Kill Devil Hills isn’t Muggs’s first collaboration with a single emcee, it’s by far his most sonically impressive and compelling project of the sort to date. Veteran rhymer Ill Bill is in his element over the Cypress Hill producer’s sweeping production, lyrically sparring with heavy-hitters like Raekwon, O.C. and Sean Price. Most importantly, however, Kill Devil Hills is a wholly cohesive head-knocking masterpiece – a welcomed rarity in an industry driven by the power of the single.

What We Said Then:
“It’s a good thing that thousands of us will get to hear this memorial to Uncle Howie again and again because Kill Devil Hills is an album that once started can only be finished the right way – straight through to the end.”

by 7L & Esoteric

Released: October 12, 2010
Label: Fly Casual Creative
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: 7L & Esoteric
Guests: Celph Titled, Inspectah Deck, Sadat X, Alchemist, Evidence, Ill Bill, Reef the Lost Cauze, Vinnie Paz, Statik Selektah

After four years of solo projects, 7L and Esoteric’s 1212 is a speaker-blasting reminder of why the Boston duo garnered such an impeccable reputation in underground circles. The album finds them returning to fighting form, as both Es and 7L improve upon their already near-impeccable abilities. 1212 is modern underground Hip Hop at its finest: a natural fusion of the new school’s sound and the old school’s ethos.

What We Said Then:
“Since their 2001 debut The Soul Purpose, the duo have left ears ringing with their combination of hard-hitting beats and super-lyrical rhymes. Now, after four years of solo and side projects, 7L and Es reunite with perhaps one of their most sonically diverse and lyrically driven efforts to date, 1212.”

Death Is Silent
by Kno

Released: October 12, 2010
Label: APOS Music
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producer: Kno
Guests: Natti, Nemo Achida, Deacon the Villain, Thee Tom Hardy, Tunji, Sheisty Khrist, Substantial, Tonedeff

The Cunninlynguists’ Kno (f/k/a DJ Kno) is often under-praised as a producer, let alone his sporadic emcee work. Like so many albums this year, Death Is Silent is a well-executed concept that looks at mortality and loss with deep emotion and thought. Kno’s latest sound shows growth, as his verses channel back to the brief glimpses of his soul first heard on Will Rap For Food. More emcees and listeners need to get in the know about Kno.

What We Said Then:
“The respect he has for beat-making by his sample arsenal in the shadows is a rarity, especially in today’s Internet age. For a producer that knows exactly what things move an audience and how it’s best to keep those secrets hidden, his decision to handle so many of his own rhymes is all the more puzzling.”

Gas Mask
by The Left

Released: October 22, 2010
Label: Mello Music Group
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producer: Apollo Brown
Guests: Kool G Rap, Mu, Hassan Mackey, Paradime, Invincible, Marvwon, Guilty Simpson, Finale, Frank West

There are times when good ol’ back to basics Hip Hop albums fail, because they take the winning blueprint from the golden era and make a cheap version of it. The motivation is great, the execution is not. Breakout producer Apollo Brown did not let that happen with The Left. Along with emcee Jounalist 103 and DJ Soko, he delivers true school Hip Hop at its finest. Just neck snapping beats and gritty rhymes, no bells, no whistles.

What We Said Then:
“Some listeners may think that Gas Mask should have more versatility; because once The Left find their groove, they rarely change it up just for the sake of adding a foreign element to their formula…Ironically, by recapturing an essence of the past, The Left cement their place in playlists and disc changers of the future.”

Nineteen Ninety Now
by Celph Titled & Buckwild

Released: October 22, 2010
Label: No Sleep Recordings
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producer: Buckwild
Guests: Treach, Vinnie Paz, Apathy, Ryu, Esoteric, F.T., R.A. the Rugged Man, Sadat X, Grand Puba, A.G., O.C., Diamond D, Chino XL, Majik Most, Dutchmassive, Mista Sinista (scratches)

While the prospect of vintage Buckwild production may be the album’s main draw for many listeners, it’s Celph’s microphone mathematics that make Nineteen Ninety Now one of the best underground Hip Hop releases of the past decade. From start to finish, the album is a blissful and much-needed sonic trip down memory lane, from Buck’s booming sample-heavy production to Celph’s no-holds barred lyrical assault. But, the duo does more than bring the ‘90s back into the musical fold; they prove that the golden era was where some of the best and most creative Hip Hop was made.

What We Said Then:
“In an era where commercial interests control Hip Hop music’s every move with an iron grip, Nineteen Ninety Now is a stunning throwback to the mid-‘90s style of things. Armed with full, evocative production and some of the hardest bars heard by man, Celph Titled and Buckwild prove that the golden era isn’t dead by a long shot.”

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
by Kanye West

Released: November 22, 2010
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #1
Producers: Kanye West, No I.D., Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Emile, Plain Pat, Andrew Dawson, RZA, DJ Frank-E, S1
Guests: Kid Cudi, Raekwon, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver, CyHi Da Prynce, Pusha T, RZA, John LEgend, Tony Williams, Rihanna, Fergie, The-Dream, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Elton John, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Ryan Leslie

Kanye West might have as many detractors as he does fans, and it’s unlikely that any album he puts out will ever please them. Dark Fantasy has received perfect or near perfect ratings from virtually every source that reviews albums anymore. A feat rarely ever seen. Love or hate the man, no one can deny that Hip Hop – and music in general – would be a better place if everyone put the care, thought and effort that Kanye puts into each record he makes.

What We Said Then:
“From nine-minute douchebag manifestos, to enlisting an A-list Grammy ensemble to piece-mealing his album out to the masses every Friday, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy defies logic and it ignores convention. Whether it’s acknowledging his mistakes, measuring his might, or fantasizing of wifing Kristina Rose, Kanye West finds a way to relate to all.”

The Hunger For More 2
by Lloyd Banks

Released: November 22, 2010
Label: G-Unit/EMI Records
Highest Charting Position: #25
Producers: Cardiak, Grandz Muzik, Bliz Money, Nick Speed, Prime, Ryan Leslie, Greg “G’Sparkz” Ford, Jr., Dirk Pate, The Watcherz, Dready, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Frank Dukes
Guests: Tony Yayo, Styles P, 50 Cent, Pusha T, Juelz Santana, Ryan Leslie, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Fabolous, Akon, Lloyd, Jeremih, Raekwon

Just as Raekwon may have refreshed the Wu-Tang Clan with a sequel, Lloyd Banks did so with G-Unit. The Queens underboss brought a critical success to the group and trio after their move from high-profile Interscope to DIY EMI Records distribution. The album opened Banks up to not only collaboration, but was fan-focused on the Punchline King’s strongest lyrical attributes. Lloyd Banks had an amazing comeback with an album that returned him to his roots, and acted as major label polish-remover.

What We Said Then:
“Banks has reestablished his sound, and made clear that he is still a major force to be reckoned with in the Rap game.”

Get Used To Us
by DJ Premier & Year Round Records

Released: December 7, 2010
Label: Year Round Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producer: DJ Premier
Guests: Blaq Poet, NYGz, Khaleel, Nick Javas, Dynasty, Young Malay, Grand Puba, KRS-One, The Lady of Rage, Freddie Foxxx, Royce Da 5’9″, Joell Ortiz, Teflon, Styles P, MC Eiht, Saigon, Papoose

Aside from the minority of youngsters who’ve familiarized themselves with the classic 90’s catalogue, being a Gang Starr fan usually means you are officially outside of America’s target 18-24 age demographic. That distinction might be a point of contention if Premier cared about such things. Get Used To Us shows he clearly does not, and we’re all better for it. As such, Premier spends the better part of an hour serving up the type of plodding basslines and layered samples that made emcees from coast to coast seek out his beats. Jay-Z and Nas may not include a Premier beat on every album anymore, but the combination of mutual respect and sometimes sheer reverence of Premo makes for the type of chemistry that is a great consolation prize nonetheless.

What We Said Then:
“DJ Premier’s signature heavy basslines and custom drum kits are present along with the expected horns and even a few brooding organs for good measure. While tracks like “Policy” and “5%” purposely have a vintage, analog sound, nothing on the album seems dated.”

Apollo Kids
by Ghostface Killah

Released: December 21, 2010
Label: Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Frank Dukes, Shroom, Sean C. & LV, Scram Jones, Yakub, Pete Rock, Chino Maurice, Big Mizza, Anthony Acid, Jake One
Guests: Killah Priest, GZA, Busta Rhymes, Cappadonna, Trife Da God, Joell Ortiz, Game, Black Thought, Sheek Louch, Shawn Wigs, Sun God, Raekwon, U-God, Method Man, Redman

Ghostface did it again. The most consistent member of Wu-Tang Clan made an album that appeased core fans, with hard lyrics, amazing Soul samples and no concept needed. Hard beats, hard rhymes, what more could we ask for?

Previous Year’s Top 25 Albums

The Top 25 Albums of 2009
The Top 25 Albums of 2008