10. Immortal Technique - 3rd World
Immortal Technique spits rapid-fire like an automatic weapon. Think of The 3rd World as a commercial-free C-SPAN along with the films Syriana and Fahrenheit 9/11 set to music. Like graphic war coverage, it’s not for the faint of heart.
9. Elzhi - The Preface
It's hard to believe that The Preface is Elzhi's first full-length -- The Detroit MC has been around since the early 90s. After earning his lyrical stripes as a member of the revered hip-hop outfit Slum Village, alongside J Dilla, El emerges from behind SV's shadow and asserts himself as one of hip-hop's brightest MCs.
8. Jazz Liberatorz - Clin d'oeil
American audiences have been clamoring for the return of jazz-hop, a sub-genre popularized by the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. But it was three sound architects from Meaux, France that stepped up to answer this clarion call. On their first try. Relax, Clin d'oeil was cosigned by a bevy of American MCs, including Asheru, Buckshot, Apani B Fly, and J-Live.
3. Nas - Untitled
Untitled is an intellectually sizzling ride that embodies all the introspective expressionism, unabashedly biting commentary, and naked honesty about issues that dominate our daily conversations.
2. Atmosphere - When Life Gives You Lemons
From Ant's rich, organic layers of instrumentation to Slug's metaphor-heavy, crisply delivered lyrics, When Life Gives You Lemons is a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere sullied by the stench of mediocrity. Having a bad day? Chug down this bit of optimism and you're good to go.
1. Q-Tip - The Renaissance
Eminem. Jay-Z. Nas. You can now add Q-Tip to the incredibly short list of MCs who can single-handedly hold down an entire album. The absence of guest MCs is not only refreshing, it also builds cohesiveness that's often absent from albums cluttered with too many voices. Who needs a guest MC when you have a linguistically dexterous tune like "Dance on Glass" or a silky funk-jazz number like "Life is Better"? Q-Tip finally blessed us with that masterwork we knew was bubbling inside him. This one will still sound fresh in 2020.