6. Kendrick Lamar, 'good kid, m.A.A.d city'
The year's most talked-about major-label rap debut turns out to be worth all the hype. An immersive concept album about growing up on Compton's gang-scarred streets, good kid, m.A.A.d city is packed with vivid stories painted in complex moral shades. Lamar's rhyme schemes are intricate, his confidence infinite ("I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower/So I can fuck the world for 72 hours," he raps on "Backseat Freestyle"). No wonder Dr. Dre gave him a record deal: The West Coast hasn't seen such a dazzling street poet in a generation.