2010 brought us some of the most massively embraced albums. For starters, Rihanna and Kanye West returned to their roots while overcoming PR and personal crises — eaffirming their place in the recording landscape. Then, we had Rick Ross, who needed a hit album after an abysmal 2009 of being picked on by 50 Cent and hard evidence of his correctional officer days. Finally, freshmen MCs Nicki Minaj and Drake threw their debut albums out into world and they were happily devoured. In the case of this Fab 5, success came and their careers peaked...it was a good year.
Drake – Thank Me Later
If you can imagine, by the time Thank Me Later was released, Drake's debut was more anticipated than his third Meek Mill diss track. By itself, Thank Me Later is representative of all we've grown to love about Drake: slick bars with equally slick hooks. While his talent was highlighted, what was also confirmed was how beloved the Canadian rapper was within the artistic collective. Really, everyone was rooting for OVO. The album featured guest spots and production by Alicia Keys, T.I., Timbland, Kanye West, Jay Z, The-Dream and Young Jeezy. After that, the Degrassi jokes pretty much stopped.
(Five key tracks: "Over," "Find Your Love," "Fireworks," "Show Me a Good Time" and "Up All Night.")
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
A lot was at stake when Pink Friday made its Billboard 100 debut at No. 1. Even though Nicki had already proven herself to be a sick wordsmith, her new feat became cracking mainstream America — something only a handful of female MCs had done by then. Pink Friday delivered and then some. She gave us a little bit of everything: Mixtape Nicki, Dirty Nicki, Pop Star Nicki; a true chameleon with the talent to boot.
(Five key tracks: "Roman's Revenge," "Moment 4 Life," "'Blazin'," "Here I Am" and "I'm the Best.")
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy created a huge conundrum once it was released (one year after the whole Taylor Swift incident). Would the debate on where MBDTF ranked among Kanye's four previous albums ever be settled? It still stands as a magnum opus of concept, sampling, verses and visual tie-ins. Obscure samples provided hooks that would never leave your head. The bars gave us quotes and memes ("Yeezy Taught Me"). The videos, long or short, were heavy on vision. Less than two months from its release, the album had already gone Platinum, proving that not even Kanye himself could destroy Kanye.
(Five key tracks: "Monster," "Hell of a Life," "Power," "Lost in the World" and "All of the Lights.")
Rick Ross – Teflon Don
The year before Teflon Don was released, Rick Ross was getting hit hard on the credibility front. Photos of his days as a prison corrections officer were circulated, and yet whatever could have happened didn't for Ross. Teflon Don was every bit theatrical as it needed to be to make a statement. Critically, it was a smash as it was widely noted that his skills on the mic had relatively improved. Commercially, it's his second best-selling record. "Teflon" indeed.
(Five key tracks: "Aston Martin Music," "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)," "I'm Not a Star," "MC Hammer" and "Super High.")
Rihanna – Loud
Loud was album number five for RiRi and a return to sunnier pastures after the gloom she needed to explore on 2009's Rated R — her artistic response to the (emotional and physical) beating she experienced via the Chris Brown incident. The Rihanna we know today — a pop star juggernaut led by the power of singles — was born with this album. Three No. 1s came from Loud all while conceptually marrying Rihanna's dual sides: the darkness she explored in Rated R and glossy pop-hits.
(Five key tracks: "Only Girl (In the World)," "Man Down," "Skin," "What's My Name?" and "Fading.")
(Photos from top left, clockwise: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Vogue, Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Vogue, Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Jason Merritt/Getty Images, Aspire / Young Money / Cash Money / Universal Motown, Young Money / Cash Money / Universal Motown, Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam, Maybach Music Group / Slip-n-Slide / Def Jam, Def Jam / SRP)
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