Noteworthy Artists of 2010

This post marks a bit of housekeeping and, hopefully, a new tradition. 2010 was the first year I began to cover hip-hop music comprehensively without being limited to a certain sector (underground hip-hop, for example) or city (when I lived in Atlanta or other places). (It’s a nice coincidence that 2010 was the start of a new decade as well.) Due to my new job as hip-hop editor for Rhapsody, I listened to every rap album of note, not just the most critically-acclaimed or the ones I thought would fit my personal tastes. My perspective on which artists are the most important from an industry standpoint include quite a few that I normally wouldn’t give attention.  These artists are listed in alphabetical order, and shouldn’t be confused with a list of my favorite albums from that year.

I’ve learned to grow wary of “top” and “best of” lists after years of making them both privately and for various publications. Eventually, personal bias becomes the point of the list instead of a useful guide to the best of a certain form or art. But a collection of newsmakers and noisemakers seems agnostic enough. Or maybe that’s just a cowardly response to the problem. I didn’t use any mathematical formulas to compile this particular list, so it is still just an opinion masquerading as an objective analysis. It is not a list of the top Billboard sellers from 2010, but a vague yet informed look at the ones who achieved a combination of cultural and commercial impact.

Having said that, these are the 25 noteworthy artists of 2010, along with a brief summary of recorded highlights. Honorable mentions include Lil B, Gucci Mane, Onra, Ana Tijoux, Reflection Eternal, Lloyd Banks, Travie McCoy, and Soulja Boy.

  1. B.o.B
    (B.o.B presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray, No Genre, “Nothin’ On You,” “Airplanes,” “Magic”)
  2. Big Boi
    (Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, “Shutterbugg,” “You Ain’t No DJ,” Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope”)
  3. Black Eyed Peas
    (The Beginning, “The Time (Dirty Bit)”)
  4. Curren$y
    (Pilot Talk, Pilot Talk II, Ski Beatz’ “Nothin’ But Us”)
  5. Diddy
    (Last Train To Paris, “Hello Good Morning,” “Loving You No More,” “Coming Home”)
  6. Drake
    (Thank Me Later, “Over,” “Find Your Love,” “Fancy,” Nicki Minaj’s “Moment 4 Life,” Rihanna’s “What’s My Name,” Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music,” Diddy Dirty Money’s “Loving You No More,” J Cole’s “In The Morning”)
  7. Eminem
    (Recovery, “Not Afraid,” “Love The Way You Lie,” “No Love,” Nicki Minaj’s “Roman’s Revenge,” B.o.B’s “Airplanes, Part II,” T.I.’s “That’s All She Wrote”)
  8. Far East Movement
    (Free Wired, “Like A G6,” “Rocketeer”)
  9. Flying Lotus
    (Cosmogramma, Pattern+Grid World, “…And The World Laughs With You,” “MmmHmm”)
  10. Kid Cudi
    (Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, “Erase Me,” David Guetta’s “Memories,” Snoop Dogg’s “That Tree,” T.I.’s “Welcome To The World”)
  11. Lex Luger
    (Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockavelli and “Hard In Da Paint,” Rick Ross’ “BMF (Blowin’ Money Fast)” and “MC Hammer”)
  12. Lil Wayne
    (Rebirth, I Am Not a Human Being, “Knockout,” “6 Foot 7 Foot,” Eminem’s “No Love,” Birdman’s “Fire Flame”)
  13. Ludacris
    (Battle Of The Sexes, “My Chick Bad,” “Sex Room,” Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” Taio Cruz’ “Break Your Heart,” Ciara’s “Ride”)
  14. Madlib
    (Madlib Medicine Show Vols. 1-8 and 10, Strong Arm Steady’s In Search of Stoney Jackson, The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble’s Miles Away, Young Jazz Rebels’ Slave Riot)
  15. M.I.A.
    (Maya, Vicki Leekx, “Born Free,” “XXXO,” Rye Rye’s “Sunshine”)
  16. Nas
    (Distant Relatives, “As We Enter”)
  17. Nicki Minaj
    (Pink Friday, “Your Love,” “Right Through Me,” “Moment 4 Life,” Ludacris’ “My Chick Bad,” Usher’s “Lil Freak,” Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up,” Kanye West’s “Monster,” Rihanna’s “Raining Men,” Lil Wayne’s “Knockout”)
  18. Odd Future
    (Radical, Tyler, the Creator’s Bastard, MellowHype’s Blackendwhite, Earl Sweatshirt’s Earl)
  19. Rick Ross
    (Teflon Don, The Albert Anastasia EP, “BMF (Blowin’ Money Fast),” “MC Hammer,” “Aston Martin Music,” DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” Kanye West’s “Monster” and “Devil in a Red Dress”)
  20. The Roots
    (How I Got Over, Wake Up!, “Dear God 2.0,” “Wake Up Everybody”)
  21. Ski Beatz
    (24 Hour Karate School, Curren$y’s Pilot Talk and Pilot Talk II)
  22. T.I.
    (No Mercy, “Get Back Up,” “That’s All She Wrote,” “Welcome To The World,” Diddy Dirty Money’s “Hello Good Morning,” The-Dream’s “Make Up Bag,” Drake’s “Fancy,” Killer Mike’s “Ready Set Go”)
  23. Waka Flocka Flame
    (Flockavelli, “Hard In Da Paint,” “No Hands”)
  24. Kanye West
    (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, VH1 Storytellers: Kanye West, G.O.O.D. Music Fridays series, “Power,” “Runaway,” “Monster,” Kid Cudi’s “Erase Me,” Lloyd Banks’ “Start It Up,” T.I.’s “Welcome To The World”)
  25. Yelawolf
    (Trunk Muzik, Trunk Muzik 0-60, “Pop The Trunk,” Big Boi’s “You Ain’t No DJ”)

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