2021 was certainly an interesting year, to say the least. The year was full of adversity for most; forced to deal with the effects and by-products of a global pandemic. However, amidst the turmoil on Earth, rap fans created their own serenity. Escaping to the haven of their headphones or finding solace in their sound systems, audiences across the planet elected to explore a world free of strife – the world of Rap.
In a year jam-packed with awe-inspiring albums from some of the biggest artists in the industry, fans of the genre have been absolutely spoiled for choice . Complete with everything the modern rap fanatic could ask for and more; from tapes by established titans like Tyler the Creator, Kanye West, and Drake to projects from prodigious rookies like Baby Keem and Don Toliver, 2021 had it all.
However, here at RapTv, we recognize that not all music is created equal. Therefore, we have taken it upon ourselves to catalog the best of the best from last year’s offerings. Searching through countless hours of hooks and verses, partaking in rigorous and analytic discussions, and hearing from you, the people. All in our quest to distinguish the works that are truly the cream of the crop.
So, without further ado – below are the greatest offerings from the world of rap last year. The top rap albums of 2021.
11. Bigger Than Life or Death – EST. Gee
Securing the number 11 spot for best rap albums of 2021 is EST. Gee’s smash success project “Bigger Than Life or Death”. This mixtape is an absolute stunner, showcasing EST. Gee’s mainstream appeal and extreme growth since his 2017 debut. The tape is composed of fast-paced, verse-heavy tracks which boast the rapper’s lyrical prowess. Mixed with that unique Kentucky sound, Gee proved once again he can stand on his own two feet in the industry. However, that’s not to say he does it all alone. True to his moniker (Everyone Shines Together), EST Gee has many accomplices in murdering beats this time around. Features from Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Pooh Shiesty, and more elevate this tape to the next level. Ultimately “Bigger Than Life or Death” has propelled EST. Gee onto countless listener’s playlists and into mainstream stardom. The project serves as an example of just what EST. Gee is truly capable of creating.
Must-listen song: Lick Back Remix (Feat. Future and Young Thug)
10. The Melodic Blue – Baby Keem
The first studio album from Baby Keem truly took the world by storm. Honing his own sound, the 21-year-old rapper has worked tirelessly to both produce unique and quality music and create a legacy outside of the gigantic shadow cast by his older cousin – Kendrick Lamar. Easier said than done, however, Baby Keem manages to do it. Delivering melodic verses and hypnotic hooks, the album demonstrates the young rapper’s limitless potential. Additionally, the album exposed the world to a small host of incredible features. Including Travis Scott, Brent Faiyaz, Don Toliver, and most notably two verses from big cuz Kendrick Lamar. After the overwhelming success of the album’s only single “Family Ties”, “The Melodic Blue” was met with much anticipation on release only to exceed the audience’s expectations and earn it the tenth spot on our top rap albums of the year.
Must-listen song: Cocoa (Feat. Don Toliver)
9. Slime Language 2 – Young Stoner Life, Young Thug, & Gunna
The second collaborative studio album from the Young Stoner Life label is a collaborative and logistical masterpiece. An album that’s sole purpose is seemingly to amass features from rappers both inside and outside of the Young Stoner Life Label and mix and match them to deliver the best sound possible. Quarterbacked by YSL founder Young Thug and YSL second mate Gunna, the album is truly a who’s who of artists within the Big Slime’s sphere of influence. Obvious and expected participants include YSL seniors such as Lil Keed, Yak Gotti, and Strick, but YSL up and comers like FN DaDealer and HiDoraah also get a chance to strut their stuff. Combined with the features from big names across the industry; Drake, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Coi Leray, Nav, Future, and more, this tape never even had a chance of missing. Overall, Thug, Gunna, and YSL managed to deliver a refreshing and upbeat body of work that keeps listeners engaged throughout the entire 23 Track album. Certainly a project worthy of the number nine spot on our list.
Must-listen song: Proud of You (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert and Yung Kayo)
8. The Voice of the Heroes. – Lil Baby & Lil Durk
Durk is the voice; Baby is the hero; audiences everywhere are awestruck. Coming in at number eight on the top rap albums of the year Lil Baby and Lil Durk team up superhero style to put the smackdown on the beat, track after track after track. The flawless synergy between the two artists shines brilliantly throughout the entire tape, as the rappers effortlessly flow into each other’s verses and vocals. Lil Durk and Lil Baby’s unrelenting style of rap dominates the pace of the whole project, and the 4 featured artists; Travis Scott, Young Thug, Rod Wave, and Meek Mill all lend their talents on one track apiece to enhance, but not alter the sound of the tape. Two extremely popular rappers with complimentary flows and unforgettable lyricism, producing a rapid, gritty, and unapologetic body of work. “The Voice of the Heroes” is the collab tape we didn’t even know that we needed but are grateful we received.
Must-listen song: Rich Off Pain ft. Rod Wave
7. A Gangsta’s Pain – Moneybagg Yo
A beautiful work of art, created in the chrysalis of quarantine, Moneybagg Yo delivers what may be his finest work yet. No stranger to showing his pain in his music, “A Gangsta’s Pain” gives listeners a greater insight into the mind and heart of the Memphis rapper. Moneybagg explores substance abuse, relationships, and street life over masterfully produced beats to create a truly gripping sound throughout the entire work. Enlisting several artists for features such as Jhene Aiko, Future, Pharrell Williams, and more add both versatility and range to the album as a whole, truly bringing the project to life. Moneybagg Yo leaves it all on the track, leaving little to be desired except more high-quality music.
Must-listen song: Free Promo (Feat. Polo G and Lil Durk)
6. Certified Lover Boy – Drake
Making its way onto the top rap albums of the year list at the number six slot, “Certified Lover Boy” was one of the most anticipated releases of the year. Teased since early 2020, “Certified Lover Boy” is the 6th studio album from Drake. Fans of the Toronto superstar waited patiently for the project, ultimately released in 2021. Sporting 21 tracks, “CLB” brings listeners the harmonious fusion of hard-hitting rap verses and soulful R&B vocals that audiences have come to expect of the artist. Spending numerous weeks at #1 on Billboard’s hot 100 since its debut, “Certified Lover Boy” explores the intertwined intricacies of fame, money, and love. Drake delivers yet another instantly classic album with a host of star-studded features to complement the Canadian on over half of the tracks. Features from Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Future, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Giveon, and more widely enhance the range and impact of the tape and cement “CLB” at the sixth spot on our list of the top rap albums of 2021
Must-listen song: No Friends in the Industry
5. The Life of Pierre 5 – Pi’erre Bourne
Positively popping producer-rapper Pi’erre Bourne completely elevates his sound on his sophomore studio album “The Life of Pi’erre 5”. Armed with his unique sound and mesmerizing melodies, Jordan Jenks tears his way onto our top albums of the year list at the fifth-place spot. “TLOP 5” as it is known to fans is some of Pi’erre’s finest work, encapsulating his improvement as both a rapper and a producer. Laden with Jenk’s usual cunning wordplay, the project is an entrancing cover to cover listen, complete with features from Sharc, Lil Uzi Vert, and long time collaborator Playboi Carti. The 16 song tape was an instantaneous success. A far departure from the gritty and somber sounds that are so popular in the industry today “TLOP 5” is almost whimsical in nature, creating a fun and gratifying listening experience worthy of both audience’s attention and the number 5 spot on our top albums of 2021 list.
Must-listen song: Sossboy 2 (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert)
4. The Off-Season – J. Cole
The sixth studio album from one of the pillars of modern rap, “The Off-Season” is a collection of stellar tracks that perfectly epitomize the talent that J. Cole possesses. The Dreamville founder manages to create a collection of songs with thought-provoking lyrics laid over, high energy, attention-demanding beats. Cole strays from the more somber tone and societal criticisms that many of his other works have, but this is far from a weakness. Because of this, “The Off-Season” brings us a more laidback J. Cole, with a greater emphasis on the production and the overall vibe of the tape rather than lyrical activism. Usually notoriously selective with his features, Cole actually has 5 featured artists on the project, 21 Savage, Morray, 6lack, Bas, and Lil Baby. All of which have successfully collaborated with Cole in the past and add value to the project as a whole. “The Off-Season” is a bit of a departure from the usual Cole formula, but the change is an extremely welcome one. Fans of the artist have truly enjoyed the stylistic freedom J. Cole has brought to this album and anxiously anticipate his next work.
Must-listen song: my life (Feat. 21 Savage and Morray)
3. Call Me If You Get Lost – Tyler, the Creator
The latest project from the eccentric Cali native has it all. From serious and determined bars to angelic harmonies, all laid over an eclectic mix of sounds, beats, and samples, “Call Me If You Get Lost” leaves little to be desired. Tyler shares his heartache, especially regarding his lost loves, openly with his audience, and infuses the tracks on the album with the raw and genuine emotion that fans simply crave. This particular body of work from Tyler is clearly a focused rap effort and the majority of songs on this tape soundly conform to the genre. Additionally, the album boasts a handful of impactful features from Lil Wayne, NBA Youngboy, Lil Uzi Vert, and more. Now just add a dash of that special Tyler the creator flair, and DJ Drama intermittently interjecting throughout the album “Gangsta Grillz” style and suddenly you have what is undeniably one of the greatest albums of the year.
Must-listen song: WusYaName (Feat. YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla Sign)
2. Life of a DON – Don Toliver
Only the second studio album from Cactus Jack prodigy Don Toliver, “Life of a DON” is a resounding success. Taking the number 2 spot on the RapTv top rap albums of the year list. An unprecedented release for the artist, Don Toliver absolutely stunned audiences with his creative use of laidback beats, perfect autotune, and masterful production. All of which contribute to the immaculate vibes produced by each and every track. On the album, Toliver laments over his newfound fame and riches and brings listeners along for the hypnotically melodic journey. Only relying on Cactus Jack boss Travis Scott for two features, Don Toliver proves to doubters he can both be successful independently and is here to stay. Other features on the tape include Kali Uchis, Baby Keem, SoFaygo, and HVN, all of which were perfectly selected to complement Toliver’s style. In Finality, Don Toliver wowed listeners with this newest project. It speaks volumes about his potential in the industry and earns the silver medal in the best album of the year discussion.
Must-listen song: Smoke (Feat. HVN and SoFaygo)
#1 Donda – Kanye West
Was there ever any doubt? Kanye West’s “Donda” is top 2, but not 2. With one of the most prolific album rollouts in rap history, Kanye West had the world in the palm of his hands. The heavily gospel-inspired rap album mourns the death; and celebrates the life of Donda West – Kanye’s Mother. Despite numerous delays and interruptions to the official album release, “Donda” was easily the most anticipated album of the year. Unveiled to audiences at 3 separate listening events before its official release, all of which were broadcast worldwide, the world felt involved with the creative process of the album as keen listeners noticed a plurality of changes to the work between listening events. “Donda” is absolutely packed with a plethora of powerhouse features. From Jay-Z to Marilyn Manson, Kanye experiments with and implements a wide variety of artists on the album. The 24-track masterpiece is one of Kanye’s finest works to date and is imbued with passion at every step. From the ingenious rhyme schemes to the emotion-filled chants, “Donda” is truly a work of art, and most worthy to be called the number one rap album of 2021.
Must-listen songs: Life of the Party (Feat. Andre 3000), Off the Grid (Feat. Playboi Carti and Fivio Foreign), Pure Souls (Feat. Roddy Ricch and Shenseea)
So, do you agree with our picks? Or do you think another album deserves a spot on the list? Let us know in the comments what your top rap albums of 2021 looks like!