DAR Hip Hop: 10 Of The Best Albums From TDE

By @TrueGodImmortal

Over the last 5 years or so, the premier crew in hip hop has seemed to be over at TDE. They have created countless solid albums over the last 5 years or so, with Kendrick stepping forth as the mainstream face of the label. Other artists like SZA, Isaiah Rashad, and Schoolboy Q have made some noise, but it's clear the mainstream darling of TDE is Kendrick. Still, this doesn't take away from the talent and the skill of the crew, as well as their consistent string of albums. Today, I wanted to look at the 10 best albums to come from the TDE squad so far. Let's take a look.

*Kendrick Lamar- Section.80 (2011)

-The breakthrough album for Kendrick is one that is somewhat slept on by many, myself included. I heard a few songs off the album and enjoyed it, but at the time, I leaned more towards Jay Rock and Q musically than Kendrick. When I finally sat down to hear this album, I was blown away. The production was exactly the style that I loved, the lyrics were profound, and Kendrick had one of the tightest flows in hip hop. With the jazzy and soulful sound accompanying his introspective lyricism, Kendrick crafts classics like "Hol' Up", "A.D.H.D.", "Fuck Your Ethnicity", "Ronald Reagan Era", "Poe Man Dreams", "Rigamortus", "HiiiPower", and my personal favorite "Kush And Corinthians" with BJ The Chicago Kid. Truthfully, I think Section.80 has a claim to be the best Kendrick album, as it's on par with To Pimp A Butterfly, is better put together than GKMC (IMO), and is just all around more cohesive than DAMN, which makes it hard to figure what's the overall best project from the Compton MC. Section.80 could be remembered and seen as a classic when it's all said and done. If you ask me, it is.

*Schoolboy Q- Habits And Contradictions (2012)

-Q hit the world hard with this project and it was my introduction to his music. I remember listening to this at work when it first came out and I kept playing it. In reality, this album just made it over Oxymoron, as I feel it's a more well rounded project. While not a perfect project, Q delivers for the most part on this album, with production ranging from smooth and soulful to upbeat and energetic, and although he's the weakest lyricist of the hip hop artists on the label, he still delivers solid verses all throughout the album. He shines heavily on tracks like "Tookie Knows", "Oxy Music", "My Hatin Joint", and created classic songs like The Alchemist produced "My Homie", the Dom Kennedy and Curren$y featured "Groovline Pt. 1", and of course the ASAP Rocky assisted "Hands On The Wheel". Habits And Contradictions has a claim to be the best Q album, but I'd give that honor to another one that you'll see here later.

*Isaiah Rashad- Cilvia Demo (2014)

-I remember the storm that came with this album. It was essentially an underground classic, as people instantly gravitated to it. It had solid production, with a lot of energy behind it, and each song came with its own brand of soul searching. It was as if TDE found the next artist to run in the introspective lane that Kendrick was beginning to own. Isaiah delivers with dense lyricism, thought provoking yet scatterbrained verses, and southern wit, a departure from the West Coast rap style that dominated the TDE sound courtesy of Black Hippy. Many have considered and classified this as an EP, but at 14 tracks long, this is definitely an album or at least a full length project (I'm like the EP that missed this list, the great yet short Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick), so it's listed here. Tracks like "Heavenly Father", "West Savannah", "Brad Jordan", and the Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q featured "Shot You Down" all helped to round out and complete this very enjoyable album. I think the songs are slightly better here than the next project from Isaiah, but it's actually closer than I realized. Cilvia Demo is still the album that woke up the world to Isaiah.

*Kendrick Lamar- DAMN. (2017)

-This recent release from Kendrick was very solid, and the music videos for the albums made it even better. Though not quite the classic that To Pimp A Butterfly was, DAMN has some great music on it, and the lack of rapping features on it also makes it a more personal album for Kendrick, who finally perfected the formula to break into the double platinum sales realm after two platinum albums. My favorite tracks on this album? I love "FEEL", "FEAR", "DNA", "ELEMENT", and even songs that weren't that great to me upon first listen like "LOVE" and "LOYALTY" began to grow on me. This isn't his best nor my favorite, but DAMN is an album within an album, which makes it much more interesting. Overall, I think I enjoyed this album more and more as I continue to listen to it. That's the mark of a really good project, even if it isn't as cohesive as his past work.

*ScHoolboy Q- Blank Face LP (2016)

-This album was seen by many as one of the best projects from 2016, and had a lot of momentum behind it. It felt like an improvement from the Oxymoron project from Q, and it was as close as to perfection as he's gotten so far. Production here and the features are definitely amazing, as the beats for tracks like "Torch", "Lord Have Mercy", "John Muir", and more just flow beautifully. This is the perfection marriage for Q of production and lyrics, and I would consider it to be the best album of his. The features from Kanye West (which is entertaining), Jadakiss, Vince Staples, Tha Dogg Pound, Miguel, and SZA all work well. My favorite songs here? I would list the aforementioned "John Muir" and "Lord Have Mercy" along with "Neva Change", "Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane", and the super "Black Thoughts". The Blank Face LP is definitely one of the best TDE albums and revisiting it again reminds you how Q had to be in a great zone to make this.

*Jay Rock- Follow Me Home (2011)

-I thought about putting the 90059 album on this list or even the Ab-Soul album that was recently released, but the most underrated member of the TDE crew definitely deserves some love on this list. This album feels like it's far too slept on, as the gravel voiced rhymer has some of the most aggressive rhymes in the crew and his sound on this album is as close to the traditional West Coast sound as any TDE album honestly. Jay Rock is a solid lyricist, with raw and gutter raps that fit well over his production of choice on this album. Tracks like "Code Red", "Westside", "No Joke", "Hood Gone Love It", and "Just Like Me" help paint the picture of who Jay is, and I can't deny the smoothness of the Rick Ross and BJ The Chicago Kid featured "Finest Hour". Overall, Jay Rock delivers an extremely solid project, one that should get more love and credit, just like him as an artist. 

*Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (2012)

-The "debut album" from Kendrick is really his 2nd official album, but TDE has a tendency to ignore the actual first project or pass it off as a mixtape or EP. After Overly Dedicated, Kendrick came with this album that showed his life as a kid from Compton who wasn't necessarily involved in the streets, but was surrounded by it all, which definitely can be heard in the sounds from production to the lyrics. The two part title track is a highlight, along with tracks like "Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst", "Money Trees", and of course the Drake featured and Janet Jackson sampled "Poetic Justice". Almost every song here is an anthem in its own right, and the way the story flows throughout the album is top notch. Many consider GKMC as Kendrick's best album still, and while I disagree there, it's certainly one of the best albums of not only this decade, but easily one of the best albums from TDE.

*Ab-Soul- Control System (2012)

-Lyrically, Soulo is technically the most gifted of the crew, or at least he was that at the time of this release. I remember thinking that Soul seemed to have something special at the time of this album, and I know I wasn't alone. For a few weeks, my favorite song was "Bohemian Grove". I loved the production, the verses, and of course the hook. I played that song at least 50 times and then when I heard the full album, I was pleasantly surprised. Control System is as close to a classic as Soulo will likely get, and with songs like "Pineal Gland", "Double Standards", the Kendrick assisted "Illuminate", and another personal favorite in "Lust Demons" with Jay Rock and BJ The Chicago Kid, this is Ab-Soul's magnum opus and definitely one of the best TDE projects.

*Isaiah Rashad- The Sun's Tirade (2016)

-When I first heard this album, I noticed that one thing that stood out above all else: the production. I had to decide between this album and Q's breakthrough album Oxymoron, and it came down to two reasons for me deciding on this album over that: lyrical ability and production. Though at times it feels like Isaiah tries a bit too hard when making some of the songs here, for the most part, on tracks like "Brenda", "Free Lunch", "Rope", "Wat's Wrong", and my personal favorite "Silkk Da Shocka", he sounds quite comfortable. I think production wise, this album is actually better than Cilvia Demo (less energetic but that's fine), and more experimental, but overall it's just slightly below that album. Still, on repeat listens and revisits, this album has some great music and some classic tracks for sure.

*Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

-The album that has been considered controversial by many on social media honestly. There's something about this album that really stands out at the top of the Kendrick's catalog, so naturally it would stick out over the rest of the albums here. While not a perfect album, I actually think this is still Kendrick's best album (with Section.80 knocking on the door and GKMC standing on the steps), and it's the most mature and concise project. It's daring in a way, full of thought provoking music, soulful yet funky and jazzy production, and high class lyricism. It's admittedly a dark album at times, which fits into the theme as Kendrick tackles depression, self love, self worth, and many other topics that require internal reflection while still discussing the issues affecting our community. It's essentially the most well rounded Kendrick album, with tracks like "u", "Momma", "Alright", "Wesley's Theory", "These Walls", and "Complexion", and it's honestly responsible for one of my favorite humorous moments in music recently as I find Ronald Isley's part on "How Much A Dollar Cost" to be absolutely hilarious yet still dope. Overall, TPAB is a great album, a classic, and certainly one of the best, and possibly the best TDE release.



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