AOTY 2023

These guys can rap!

The albums with some of the most impressive emceeing I've heard

Ras Kass - Soul On Ice
Starting with the album that has the best rapping I've ever listened to, everything Ras Kass brings here is pure excellence. His flows are always fantastic, and Ras Kass gives some of the best rhymes I’ve ever heard, as they have tons of depth and are very multi syllabic. Every single bar is so well articulated, that not even one line feels out of place or sounds like it could've used improvements. Ras Kass would likely be my pick for the greatest rapper of all time if he put out more albums like this, cause him on this album is just about as close to the perfect MC as you're gonna get.
Organized Konfusion - Stress: The Extinction Agenda
Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po showcase one of the greatest lyrical performances ever seen in hip hop. Their flows, rhymes, vocabulary, cadences, etc. None of it's ever lacking here. Pharoahe is a notch above Prince Po, but that doesn't stop Po from killing every verse in sight. But of course, Pharoahe proves why he's one of the best to ever pick up a mic. His flows here are possibly the best I’ve ever listened to, and there are so many quotable rhymes from him here. Each verse spit by both of these guys never fails to amaze me. Real tough to get much better than this.
Madvillain - Madvillainy
Anyone with a working brain knows how good of a rhymer DOOM is. He's arguably the best of all time in terms of rhyming ability, although his flows are cold and amazing despite being slightly on the lazier side. His style is unique, but works insanely well with the Madlib production here. Also, MF DOOM has an insane amount of quotable lines and diversity in his wordplay/vocabulary. His voice also sound soooo New York and so gritty, but is always brilliant. He bodies every verse without ever giving you something less than great.
Nas - Illmatic
Not much to say here that hasn't been said a billion times. This album is the perfect example of raw street poetry. He used amazing rhymes and beautiful imagery so well throughout every track, it's like Nas is almost directly taking you to Queensbridge. It's a little tough to explain, but the lyrics really speak for themselves. Listen to the first verse of N.Y. State of Mind, or the second verse of Memory Lane. The lyrics are very insightful and deep, and Nas gives tons of bars that really speak to the mind. Aside from that, Nas' flows are sharp, he sounds real hungry on the mic, and he's proficient in every basic skill a good rapper should've mastered. All of this done by Nas at the age of 19, really impressive.
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Okay, this is pretty much the only non "lyrical" album in this list. When you compare this to the other projects in this list, you'd notice the rappers on those albums were much more technically advanced than the rappers of the Wu Tang Clan on 36 Chambers. Of course they would elevate their style further and become more skilled overtime, but at the time of this album’s release, they were a bunch of hungry rookie emcees. So why do I say this is one of the best rapped albums ever? Well the reason is quite simple. When you take the sounds and styles of every clan member and put them all on one project, everything just fits together perfectly. Because you have many members showcasing their unique styles on every track, anything they lack as rappers become unnoticeable at that point, and their strengths are always on full display.
Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
The oldest album on this list, but the rapping on this thing is insane, even 35 years later. Chuck D has a distinct voice, as well as amazing flows and a whole lotta personality. His lyrics are thought provoking and delivered in such a hard, aggressive manner. The lyrics on here, I’d argue also aged better than on any other 80s hip hop album. Some of the topics addressed by Chuck D on this album still apply to today's world. Flavor Flav is also the perfect hype man for him, and their chemistry together is fantastic despite being polar opposites. Chuck's performance here is truly career defining, and is maybe the biggest reason on why I believe this is the pinnacle of 80s hip hop.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick is an incredibly eccentric rapper. The guy can rap in so many different styles, and he sound proficient in each one. Matter of fact, he changes his style up in all 16 tracks, so this has a strong argument for having the most diverse rapping of any hip hop album. His cadences, flows, voice, creative rhymes, and conscious topics he raps about on this album are truly remarkable. Sometimes he's political, sometimes he raps about the events of his life, and a whole lot in between. It's almost impossible to describe it all in only a few sentences, but his subject matter is truly brilliant. It's all so coherent and innovate, and not only remains one of Kendrick's best lyrical performances, but one of the best in all of hip hop.
OutKast - ATLiens
While not by much, as Aquemini comes close, I think ATLiens was OutKast's peak in lyrical ability and rhymes. On their debut, they were far from the average southern rappers. On ATLiens, their even further. Andre 3000 is to me, the greatest rapper of all time, and his performance here is one of the best ever. His intelligent lyrics are constantly delivered with brilliant flow and an outstanding voice. Big Boi does his thing extraordinarily well too. He has one of the best flows in hip hop, and it shows with the way he kills every verse. Both rappers come in with toms of personality, and display it in a way most rappers wish they could. If they weren’t already amazing on their debut, they're on a whole other level here.
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
These are some of the best mafioso lyrics ever, on the best mafioso album ever. Raekwon, alongside Ghostface Killah showcase meaningful, introspective lyrics relating to drugs, murder, robbery, drugs, rivalry and betrayal. The lyricism is more complex than your average Gangsta/Mafioso hop hop album, but that’s part of why I adore it so much. Raekwon and Ghost vary quite a lot in style, but have outstanding chemistry together. Their flows are godlike, and their street stories are told alongside each other to near perfection. I've always thought Rae and Ghost were the best unofficial duo by miles, and it shows on here more than anything.
Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
Mos Def is the embodiment of what a great rapper is. Of course, he has one of the best voices ever, but also fantastic flow, unique vocabulary, charisma & personality, and flawless lyricism. He sounds so natural on the mic, and his style always delivers here. Listen to Mathematics or Hip Hop from this album. You're on crack if you can tell me with a straight face that Mos isn't incredibly skilled after hearing those songs. This album is packed with so many clever bars, and the guy can sing too!
Big Pun - Capital Punishment
Pun is a true beast in emceeing. His rapping is very Kool G Rap inspired, but Pun doesn't blatantly rip off his style. His flow is absolute nuts, and the guy just constantly goes off. His rhymes are also very multi-syllabic, and they never fail to impress me. Pun does an excellent mix of hardcore, unground tracks on here and radio friendly hits, so there's something for everyone. It's still hard to wrap my head around the fact that this man outrapped a prime Black Thought and a prime Inspectah Deck on his own shit. Really a testament to how skilled of a rapper this man was.
JAY-Z - Reasonable Doubt
Jay-Z may not be one of the best lyricists overall, but he most definitely was on this album, which I believe was his lyrical peak. He had a very mafioso-like personality at this time, as well as a whole lot of swagger in his rapping. Jay raps with lots of confidence, but his style is on the more relaxed side sometimes as well. He creates great imagery with his lyrics, and does so with slick rhymes and wordplay. He His flow is super enjoyable to listen to as well, and is delivered in such smooth and effortless fashion. Compared to his earlier features Big L, Jaz-O and BDK's albums, it’s truly remarkable just how much his style had polished on this album. He may not be the most unique emcee, but nobody quite sounded, like late 90s Hov.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Live and Let Die
Kool G Rap has one of the strongest flows ever in hip hop. It's satisfying as hell, and he just goes off till he's out of breath, ripping every verse to shreds without stopping. The way he's able to fit all his wordplay and technical abilities into storytelling tracks just amazes me. His energy and storytelling abilities are always on point, and his subject matter is all mob stories, crime, violence, robberies, all that stuff. Sounds like your typical G Rap album, right? Well, this is arguably him with his most diverse set of topics, told with his best flow ever. Also, this was the first time he was telling these Gangsta stories. He did what guys like Ice Cube and Geto Boys were doing, with even better lyrical ability than Ice Cube and Geto Boys.
2Pac - Me Against the World
This album is 2Pac with his best, most mature set of topics. He was already greet on previous albums, but I think this was the one that really solidified as one of hip hop's absolute best. He delivers on every tracks without ever underperforming, and always delivering flows as smooth as butter, amazing topical & emotional range, and an impossible-to-hate voice. Kinda like Nas on Illmatic, Pac is a real street poet, except the difference is that Pac on this album gives way sadder, more somber stories. Most of the subject matter revolves around crimes and issues with the law in his personal life, and the way he addresses these topics is pure poetry. 2Pac may not have the technical skill guys like Rakim or Biggie have, but nobody expresses raw, pure emotion quite like him. This album is proof of that.
The Roots - Illadelph Halflife
While I wouldn't call this the best Roots album overall (That title would go to Things Fall Apart), I do think this was Black Thought and Malik B at their lyrical peaks. Their rapping is much more serious than their first 2 albums, but to call it an "improvement" lyrically would be underplaying just how much better they got. And, all of it in just a year, it's insane how much better their skill got in such a short amount of time. The attention to detail in the lyrics really shows, especially for Black Thought, who brings tons of incredible rhymes and metaphors on each song. His voice and flow got a lot better too. They were amazing before, but are even better here. Malik B isn't as intelligent and fantastic on the mic as Thought, but still comes through with really strong verses.
Common Sense - Resurrection
It's hard to say which Common album has his best rapping, as I'd say it's a tie between a few projects. If I had to pick, I'd probably say Resurrection though. One thing that's for sure is that his skills as an emcee improved tremendously here since his debut. Common's pen is brilliant, and he fits these clever metaphors in damn near every line. It's one of those albums where you need to closely listen to the lyrics on each track to appreciate it to the fullest. Common also has an incredibly presence with his voice and flow that's impossible to ignore. He's just such an enjoyable rapper to listen to. The subject matter is mostly related to Commons life, whether it be what he wants to do with it in the future, or his childhood in West Stony Chicago. His subject matter and maturity only improved more on projects like One Day It'll All Make Sense and Like Water For Chocolate, but this was his peak in technical skill.
Genius / GZA - Liquid Swords
Lyrically, GZA is the best in the Wu Tang Clan, maybe tied with Inspectah Deck. The bars on this thing are super intellegent and well thought out, and are just pure poetry. Lots of his subject matter revolves around violence, drugs, ghetto life, braggadocio, and many references that you wouldn't catch from just listening once. He delivers these bars in a really sharp, tight, laid back manner, but also with impeccable technique. His chilling, raw delivery also is perfect for the cold, bloody sounds of the album. While some could argue against GZA being in this list as he lacks energy, I think it's perfect for his style.
Big L - Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
I'd argue Big L has a top 5 flow ever in hip hop, next to guys like G Rap and Biggie. It's so smooth and well executed on every track, and it never fails to impress me. He raps with tons of energy and intensity, which makes him fun to listen to. Lyrically, very few can go off like Big L goes off here. Pretty much every bar he spits has a smart rhyme, witty punchline, or both. His influences are mainly Lord Finesse, but also Big Daddy Kane, and you can really hear it when he's on the mic. He's not just a copy of their styles though, far from it. He takes what they do, adds his own unique touches, and arguably sounds even better than Kane and Finesse ever did.
The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die
To say this man was an incredibly gifted rapper would be a massive understatement. In my opinion, Biggie was the most skilled rapper of all time. He’s a mater in everything that makes up a great rapper. His energy is impossible to dislike, his flow is arguably the best of all time, he's insanely charismatic, his voice is fierce but enjoyable, and his technical skill is ridiculous. The subject matter is mostly related to crime, drugs, depression, guns and violence, and his storytelling abilities in relation to these topics are simply awe-inspiring. On top of that, damn near every bar that comes out of this man’s mouth is a hip hop quotable. He can also take some basic, phrases and flip 'em to make them sound brilliant, which he does often here. Just like big says on Unbelievable, he very much is the Illest.
Aesop Rock - Labor Days
One of the wordiest albums you'll ever hear. Aesop's rhymes are super in depth, and catching all the little details in his bars will take some time, even for one song alone. His flows, voice, and delivery might take a while to get used to, but I promise you, it's all worth it in the end. Aesop ties words and phrases like a spiderweb, and just keeps going nonstop. It may sound like he's just saying random shit off the surface, but I promise you, Aesop has something to say. There isn't a direct concept the album revolves around, but there's a pretty cohesive theme that's related to a lot of the topics Aesop Rock raps about. His style is super unique, and nobody sounds quite like him, but he's easily one of abstract hip hop's absolute best.
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Great ass list
yes bro you should get into lupe, listen to food & liquor and tetsuo & youth
Bro you HAVE TO listen to a Lupe Fiasco album, he would fit perfectly on this list.
@Seb_Harris shittttttt how could I forget
Scarface absolutely needs to be here
@Voolio Never checked out the Mavi album. Will totally look into it!
Also huge W for Pun
I have some suggestions that u could check out that has incredible rapping.

Joey Bada$$ - 1999
Scarface - The Diary
Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
Mavi - Laughing So Hard It Hurts
Denzel Curry - Imperial
Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele
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November Playlist