10. T.I. - Trap Muzik
You could argue that Trap Muzik was T.I.'s middle finger to Arista, which dropped him after his first outing, the consciously unprofessional I'm Serious, tanked. Trap Muzik supplemented the grimy sound of T.I.'s debut with polished layers that underlined his versatility.
8. Danger Mouse & Jemini - Ghetto Pop Life
The funny thing about Danger Mouse is that he never really altered his aesthetic. The same populist production style that graced his collaborations with Jemini is present on his latter projects with Cee-Lo, MF Doom, and others. It's amazing what a little exposure can do for a starving artist.
6. Little Brother - The Listening
Little Brother's masterful debut hearkens to a musical lineage that traces all the way back through A Tribe Called Quest. 9th Wonder's soul-heavy beats served as the perfect backdrop for Pooh's swift narratives and Phonte's words of wisdom.
5. Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner
Unheralded East London wunderkind Dizzee Rascal crafts bewildering odes to navigating life in the path of resistance. At the ripe age of 18, he was already wise beyond his peers.
4. JayLib - Champion Sound
It's hard to imagine Dilla Dawg and Madlib ever having a single dispute during the recording of Champion Sound; their similarities were strong and it showed on their first and only collaborative album. The genius of the concept was that Dilla produced half the songs with Madlib on vocals, while Madlib produced the other half with Jay on vocals.
2. Jay-Z - The Black Album
Ah, the much trumpeted swan song that wasn't. If Jay stopped rapping after The Black Album, he would have gone out with the loudest bang hip-hop has ever heard. Jay's 8th studio LP gave us instant hits like "99 Problems" and "What More Can I Say," as well as the concert favorite "P.S.A."
1. OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
The double-disc — Speakerboxxx for traditional OutKast fans, The Love Below for the eccentric Kast fans — yielded two disparate but equally striking sides of the ever-evolving duo. The glorious, nervy strut of "The Way You Move" and wrenching vulnerability of "Roses" all in one place? Epic.