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40 Best Rap Albums of 2015

Ambitious LPs, masterful mixtapes and more

Kendrick Lamar

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was shot in black and white. Color version not available.) Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar performs onstage during the Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock concert at Staples Center on June 27, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Christopher Polk/BET/Getty

The year's most outstanding hip-hop music includes protest anthems, melodic coups, the return of grime to Stateside awareness and a Broadway soundtrack about a Founding Father.

18. Raury, 'All We Need'
18

Raury, ‘All We Need’

Raury's discerning, Andre 3000-inspired philosophizing helps portray him as a storybook hero, while his expansive folk rock makes his universe feel foreign. But this precocious newcomer, otherwise known as the artist who wore a Mexican soccer jersey with Donald Trump's name crossed out to his late night TV debut, stresses that he isn't daydreaming or depicting some fictional world: "I could be MLK, I could be Juicy J/Or a lame on Instagram that shows the world his AK." To listen to All We Need, where Big K.R.I.T. is a wizened sage and RZA a boho-hippie balladeer, is to view the world with fresh eyes, and from someone who actually seems to puff out his chest when he calls himself a "millennial." C.L.