Top 10 Hip Hop Artists Of The Decade
Updated: Mar 23
This past decade has brought us iconic moments, new technology, innovation and artistry that has inspired millions of people around the world in multiple ways. Since the turn of this decade, Hip Hop was in a transitioning period, and there was a resurgence of new energy and ideas in the genre of Hip Hop. Just before this time, the use of Autotune was at an all-time high and the legends of the 2000's decade were gradually moving into new business ventures that make them the Hi Hop moguls they are today. The average fans of Hip Hop were in an interesting space as the genre was now over 20 years old and new fans were falling in love with Hip Hop every day.
The 2010s also ushered in the prevalence of the internet and its importance in discovering new music and artists. Music sales as a whole were consistently declining since the mass rise of illegal downloads and the value of music it's self-started to decline during this period. Also, the popular themes within music and Hip Hop began to transition as the average Hip Hop fan was not as stereotypical as it once was. As time changed, music has changed, this decade brought new themes and concepts in the music - for better or for worse. Rappers have always told their audience about what goes on in their lives and in their surroundings, however many the 2010s showed rappers in a different light. Ganger rap was no longer one of the most popular sub-genres of Hip Hop. Rappers such as Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T, Earl Sweatshirt and many more began to gain notoriety buy cultivating die-hard fan bases that connected with them on a musical and emotional level. Hip Hop began to be much more relatable and people began to break the mold of what it means to be a Rapper or Hip Hop artist.
The 2010s was also the decade of Independence. Before this time it was almost impossible to make a huge impact in the industry unless you were a signed artist to one of the major labels or at least had a cosign from an established artist. This decade brought the intellect of understanding how to utilise the internet and its free for all benefits. It was much easier to release music and therefore build an audience. Many will credit platforms such as SoundCloud for this change, rightfully so. However, before that time this Decade would not be the same without the dawn of platforms such as Datpiff, Live Mixtapes, My Mixtapes and to an extent artist's domains of which you could download their projects directly to the consumer. Due to the diminished sales numbers and the exposure opportunities that the internet offered. Releasing music for free was never, and may never be, as beneficial as it was during this time. Mixtapes became the new Albums as artists would create music independently and realise fully original projects online for free. This authenticity was embraced with both hands by all fans old and new, talent was much more direct to pick up on and the audience dictated what was the best music during that time rather than the music industry and gatekeepers. Although the grips of the old guard began to loosen, new gatekeepers rapidly emerged. The Hip Hop blog and forums were now the best place to find out about Hip Hop news, music and culture. Platforms such as 2dopeboyz, HipHopdx, HotNewHipHop, and RapRadar were the places that Hip Hop fans would go to every day, refreshing the pages for the latest talent, news, and stories. Mixtape sites also began to give people accolades for their accomplishments from the popularity of their projects. Mixtapes such as Nipsey Hussle's The Marathon and TMC, Danny Browns 'XXX', A$AP Rocky's Live Love A$ap and many more garnered Platinum status in the mixtape circuit from mass downloads, crashing a website became a sort of bragging rights during this time.
This Decade also brought us the beginning of streaming as technology companies began to figure out ways of bringing value back to music. However, before this time the pioneers of streaming were platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube. SoundCloud was a complete game-changer. artists found that they could record a song and release it to millions of people within the same day with no red tape at all. This resulted in culture coining the term 'The SoundCloud Rapper' which has since become its own identity and persona since the rise of artists such as Rich Tha Kidd, Lil Uzi Vert, Famous Dex, and Trippie Redd as the decade began to draw to a close.
Artists such as Kanye West, Lil Waye, Nelly, and 50 Cent defined the previous Decade and were going to give you our list of who we believe are the top 10 artists of the 2010s. This list is based on Longevity, Mass Impact/Influence, Classic Projects, and Analytics.
Do we really need to elaborate? For the sake of individuals that still doubt the impact of Drake, I guess we must. No Hip Hop artist has ever maintained a reign at the top of Hip Hop like Drake has. Not Lil Wayne, Not Ja Rule, Not Kanye...Not even Jay Z. Drake is engrained into the mind of all music lovers, whether you love him or you don't, yes we're talking to you; Tyler fans. Since his entry into the Hip Hop industry officially in 2009 Drake has been the most consistent artist ever in releasing chart-topping songs, beginning with his 2009 smash hit Best I Ever Had, Peaking at No 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then Drake has passed Elvis, Eminem and Michael Jackson for total music sales grossing up to $218,280,000 in sales, Released 8 projects in the last 10 years, all reaching the No.1 spot on billboard. He has sold no lower than 400,000 in the first week and the highest being around 900,000 for his latest album Scorpion. Drake has won multiple Grammy awards along with 13 Billboard awards in one night. Drake was also named as Spotify's most-streamed artist of the Decade, regardless of genre, with 2 songs garnering over 1 billion streams.
Drake has also been one of the artists that has carved a new lane in the music of Singing and Rapping, both at a very high level and paved the way for artists such as Tory Lanez, Bryson Tiller and many more to follow suit. Drake has also learned from those that came before him and become a mogul in his own right with the growth of his OVO brand and a record label and clothing line. Drake has also become an ambassador for the current NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors and has the OVO brand synonymous with the Basketball Association. Drake was also one of the first artists of this decade to create his own Festival OVO Fest, which has been artists such as Kanye West, Jay Z, J Cole, and Eminem take the stage. OVO as a musical entity has also been prominent this decade as Drake introduced us to artists such as The Weeknd, PartyNextDoor, Roy Wood$ and more.
As the No.1 artist in the game is is your duty to dictate what is next within Hip Hop. something that Drake has down many times. Drake took artists such as A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar on tour with him, was collaborating with artists such as Future on his first solo hit song Tony Montana, Ushered artists into the mainstream such as The Migos, Lil Baby, Block Boy JB and even Kodak Black and Dave... The list goes on and on.
Drake has been an inspiration for his city and put Toronto on the Hip Hop map, since his entry into the music industry we have seen Toronto be one of the key locations for new talent within the music. We also know that Drake is battle-tested, from Hip Hop bouts with other powerhouses such as Meek Mill, Pusha T, and others Drake understands the essence of Hip Hip and has been a Straight-A student from the beginning till now.
2. J Cole
J Cole is an artist that maintains a certain feel and identity of those that came before him. Since his entry into the music industry in 2009, J Cole came onto the scene with 2 Classic mixtapes back to back with Warm Up and Friday Night Lights. J Cole was also the first artist to be signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation, a label that has now become one of the biggest in both the music industry and sports. J Cole's verse on Jay-Z's A Star Is Born in 2009 now looks like a premonition as he has become one of the artists that have defined this decade. from coming on to the scene as one of the best lyricists in the industry, with the unanimous best verse on the Good Friday record Looking For Trouble featuring artists such as Big Sean, Pusha T, and Kanye West. J Cole was an artist that developed his initial fan base on his own through releasing quality music. His debut album Sideline Story sold 218,000 copies in the first week with minimal advertising and promotion. The success of this project gave hope to many up and coming artists looking to carve their own lane such as Joey Badass, Logic and more.
Much like Drake, J Cole has also begun to cultivate his own Imprint Dreamville, which houses arguably the most potent roster of artists from a lyrical and creative standpoint, artists such as Bas, JID, Cozz and more have made their impact within Hip Hop and are well respected as quality Hip Hop acts, nominated for a Best Hip Hop album Grammy Award this year. J Cole has also brought Ari Lennox to the forefront, one of the most sought after R&B acts in recent years.
Cole along with with his accolades as an executive has also broken records within music, one being the most streamed artist within the week of a release in 2014 with his classic project Forest Hills Drive. this project also awarded him the accolade of being the first artist to attain platinum status with no features, a feat that he will replicate again in 2016 with his project 4 Your Eyez Only. J Cole is one of the most respected artists of the last 10 and is one of the artists of this decade that is considered as one of the greats of the genre as a whole. Cole is an artist that went head to head with one of his idols in 2013 when he and Kanye West released Born Sinner and Yeezus respectively. Most of All J Cole has consistently made music that connects with his audience and has changed the perspective of his listeners for many years. Cole has constantly reinvented himself with every project and pays his dues to his community as a leader. From his presence in trying moments in society such as the Charleston shootings and Ferguson riots to meeting with the president to discuss social change. Cole has been an artist to take many young rappers under his wing behind the scenes and guide them through the industry, these are all reasons why he deserves this spot on our list.
3. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar is definitely a defining act within this decade. Even if he accomplished nothing else, his debut project Good Kid M.A.A.D city warrants his a spot on this list. That album is arguably the best Hip Hop project of this decade, another project that rivals that is also from his catalog, titled To Pimp A Butterfly. These 2 albums have inspired in-depth essays, lectures, and seminars on Kendrick Lamar's writing ability but also the topics he touches upon in his music and how they relate to everyday society. Since the mainstream success of his break out single Swimming Pools, Kendrick Lamar has been a consistent act on the charts with every project he releases. His most commercially successful album DAMN featured singles such as Humble, which reached No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, other singles such as Loyal and Love were to 20 on the same chart, cementing Kendrick as an artist that not only makes impactful music but commercially viable records.
Kendrick is also no stranger to accolades, from being top of lists throughout the years for his projects to willing 13 Grammy awards and a Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN, the first non Jazz or Classical artist to ever do so.
Kendrick has been named Lyricist of the Year many times by various media outlets and received the blessing from West coast legends Such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and The Game as the flag bearer for the West Coast for years to come (watch from 2:30). Kendrick was also Executive Producer of the soundtrack to one of the biggest movies of the decade Black Panther
We also can not forget the way Kendrick shook the Hip Hop industry with his Verse on Big Dean's song Control.
This verse sparked conversations and various diss tracks from rappers across the landscape, especially New York rappers after claiming to the King of New York. Kendrick also garnered accolades such as Headlining Coachella and receiving 2 Civic honors in the State of California.
4. Meek Mill
Meek Mill is one of the only artists on this list cut from the cloth of a vintage street rapper that we've seen in previous years. following the impact of artists from his city such as Beanie Siegal, Meek Mill is the face of Philadelphia. An artist that has inspired so many young kids from deprived backgrounds in his city and beyond. from his entry into the industry alongside Rick Ross' Label Maybach Music, Meek Mils energy and ferocious lyrics are a staple of this decade that is not easily replicated.
Meek Mill Has released a plethora of Classic mixtapes, such as the Dream Chasers series and given his audience impactful records such as I'm A Boss, Amen, Burn and much more. After the release of Kendrick Lamar's album Good Kid Maad City. Meek has a tough act to follow, even with the disruption of a natural disaster, His debut album Dreams & Nightmares still debuted at No. 2 on Billboard, with 165,000 sold the first week. The intro of that project is considered one of the best of the decade hands down.
Meek Mill has also been no stranger to legal troubles, speaking about his troubles with the law at every opportunity with no fear, and inspiring thing to do with his freedom on the line at such a successful time in his career. this has also added to his legacy as with every trip to jail, Meek would come back with a career-defining project, most recently with the release of Championships, which also fell in line with him being the current face of Prison reform in the United States, changing probation laws and more.
Meek is also an artist that looks up to the artists that came before him from a business standpoint. The Dream Chasers brand has continued to grow wand Meek has inspired such as Roddy Ricch and Tee Grizzley.
Future is responsible for many things in this era. One of them being an artist that was known to be a guy with the Midas touch at a certain point during this decade. Every song featuring Future was almost guaranteed to be a hit song, especially within Hip Hop, Club, and Strip Club culture. From the lineage of the Dungeon Family, Future is also an artist that has taken streel Hip Hop to new spaces and concepts. Future's use Autotune as almost been as defining as artists such as Travis Scott and dare we say T Pain.
On the mixtape circuit, Future has had one of the most legendary runs in Hip Hop thus far. The release of his Mixtapes Monster, Beastmode and 56 Nights projects resurging his career and brought him back to the pinnacle of Hip Hop. Future then solidified this run with a classic album titled DS2, a complete project with countless hits and a wide impact within music and culture. The opening line of the project was responsible for spiked sales in Gucci flip flops across the globe and Future took his place as the No.1 street rapper in the game - especially after the tumultuous time Meek Mill was having at the hands of Drake. Future then went on to release a joint project with Drake that year that sold 500,000 copies the first week. Future is also recognised as being part of many collab albums with artists such as Young thug, Juice WRLD, Gucci Mane and Zaytoven
Future continued to be an artist releasing music at an unprecedented rate with more mixtapes and albums months within each other. Future can be credited for changing how quickly fans require music from their favorite artists. This pace reached an all-time high with Future releasing 2 albums, one week after the next, and becoming the first artist to have 2 different albums go No.1 on Billboard within a week of each other.
Drug use culture within Hip Hop definitely does not begin with Future but he is one of the faces of that wave within Hip Hop from the music to his overall brand and connotations.
6. Nicki Minaj
Notable Songs: Moment 4 Life, Looking Ass N***a, Your Love, Right Thru Me, Beez In the Trap
Notable Albums: Pink Friday
Awards: Dubbed as the Queen Of Rap, 6 American Music Awards, 10 BET Awards, 1 Grammy
Cultural influence: Avid Cult Fan Base, Inpired Many women across te globe
Business Influence: Only woman to appear on Hip Hop Forbes Cash Kings, Addidas Endorement Deal, radio Show with Apple Music
Battle Tested: Remy Ma, Cardi B, lil Kim
7. Kid Cudi
Notable Songs: Day N Night, Presuit Of Happiness, Make Her Say, Mr Rager
Notable Albums: Man On the Moon, Man On The Moon II, Indicud
Awards: 1 Grammy
Cultural influence: Acted in feature films and TV shows, Inspired a new brand of artists, TED talk, Kanye West called Cudi "the most influential artist of the past 10 years"
Business Influence: Collaborations with Bape, Guiseppe Zanotti and APC
Battle Tested: Drake
8. Travis Scott
Notable Songs: 90210, Pick Up The Phone, Mamcita, Antidote, Sicko Mode, Yosemite
Notable Albums: Days Before Rodeo, Rodeo, Birds In The Trap, Astroworld
Awards: 1 BET Award, 1 Billboard Award
Cultural influence: Defined a sound within music, Has his own festival Astroworld, Apple Radio Show, Netflix Documentary
Business Influence: Collaborations with Nike
9. Young Thug
Notable Songs: Stoner, With That, Check, The London, Relationships
Notable Albums: Barter 6, Silme Season Series, Jeffery, So Much Fun
Awards: 1 Grammy, 4 Video Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards
Business Influence: Endoreded by Avianne Jewelers, Calvin Klein, Fendi
10. Wiz Khalifa
Notable Songs: Black and yellow, Roll Up, Young Wild and Free, See you Again
Notable Albums: Kush and Orange Juice, Rolling papers
Awards: 1 BET Award, 3 Billboard Music Awards
Cultural influence: The New Age Snoop Dogg, Movie Features, Pioneer for Independent artists
Business Influence: Endoreded by Avianne Jewelers, Calvin Klein, Fendi