Art by TTK

The 18 New Classics of the Past Five Years

“Classic.” The word itself evokes images of ancient Greece. When music critics speak of a classic album, we’re talking about a contradiction in terms: contemporary popular music that is both of its moment and, at the same time, timeless. It must be an album of the highest quality, in a class by itself—and yet it should serve as a guide to others, inspiring fellow artists to go harder, do better.

Over the course of its not-quite-half-a-century history, hip hop has anointed a few acknowledged classics. Criminal Minded. It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. The Chronic. Illmatic. Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers). Ready To Die. Reasonable Doubt. Aquemini. The Low End Theory. The College Dropout. You know the drill. And if you listen to certain old head curmudgeons, they might have you believe that rap’s “golden era” is a thing of the past. That the album is obsolete. That they don’t make ’em like they used to.

MASS APPEAL begs to differ.

Over the past five years, specifically since Kendrick Lamar dropped his major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city, rap listeners have witnessed an explosion of truly great, even classic, albums. This in the midst of what many would describe as the SoundCloud era. Call it a contradiction in terms. Call it what you will. But trust and believe that we are living in the era of the New Classics.

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