25. Big K.R.I.T., '4eva Is a Mighty Long Time'
Mississippi's ever-reliable Big K.R.I.T. has been this decade's most brilliant artist when it comes to keeping the flame alive for what Pimp C called "country rap" – the Southern-accented, bass-blasted dispatches of groups like U.G.K., Eightball & MJG and Outkast. His third album enters his Stankonia stage, complete with a heady conceptual framework and an exploding, lush musical palette. The first disc plays like a master's degree in Southern rap with help from some of the greats: A manic rhyme from T.I. ("Big Bank"), a huge bass display from Cash Money's Mannie Fresh ("Subenstein [My Sub IV]") and a slow-riding, wah-wah-ing track that teams the Organized Noise production team with Bun B ("Ride Wit Me"). The second disc – under his birth name Justin Scott – paints with soul, gospel and jazz, with acclaimed trumpeter Keyon Harrold adding bluesy solos on "Drinking Sessions" while Scott raps about label woes, racism, insecurity and the limits of fame and money, saying he "can't control these tears, I mean after all these years/I'm still the kid writin' poems, too shy to eat in the cafeteria." C.W.