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20 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2013

Kanye, Jay Z, Eminem and more – who made the best albums this year?

2013 was a huge year for hip-hop, with high-profile releases from some of the biggest names in rap – including Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, Eminem, Lil Wayne – doing battle on the charts and in fans' hearts. It was also a great year for underground flag-carriers like Run the Jewels and Ka and regional stars like Yo Gotti. At times, it felt like (almost) every rapper in the world put out an album this year. So who did it best? Read on for our Top 20.

Contributors: Jon Dolan, Will Hermes, Jeff Rosenthal, Rob Sheffield, Matthew Trammell, Simon Vozick-Levinson

Drake, Nothing Was the Same

Courtesy of OVO Sound

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Drake, ‘Nothing Was the Same’

With Kanye breathing fire in rarified air, Drake is the people's rapper, a smart kid conflicted about his fame, heart, family, everything except his mic potency. But what makes his lonely fantastic voyage matter is its emotional weight, which gets crucial amplification from Noah "40" Shebib's whirlpool beats.

Kanye West, Yeezus

Courtesy of Def Jam Recordings

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Kanye West, ‘Yeezus’

Kanye's electro masterpiece is his most extreme album ever, which is saying something. No wonder the late, great Lou Reed embraced Yeezus, since it's basically the Metal Machine Music concept translated into futuristic hip-hop, all industrial overload and hypertense egomania and hostile vibes. The music is part Eighties synthblitz dark wave, part Jamaican dancehall. But it's all Kanye, taking you on a guided tour of the dark shit inside his brain. He rages about racial politics ("New Slaves"), he demands his damn croissants ("I Am a God"), he comes on like a robot sex machine ("I'm in It"). He kibitzes with the Lord, who agrees Kanye is the shit. And he ends with the Seventies-soul send-up "Bound 2," maybe the most audacious song he's ever written, not to mention the most beautiful.