In 2009, we spent so much time putting together our retrospective of the last decade (click here for our "Best of the 2000s" series) that we almost forgot about all the memorable things that happened this year. Well, 2010 ain't here yet, so we're spending the last week looking back at all our favorite stuff, including albums, movies, girls, video games, sports moments, books, style trends, and websites. Sure, everyone has already dropped their '09 lists, but no one has taste quite like Complex. Who else spent 2009 bumping everything from Nicki Minaj to Animal Collective? Look back on all our favorites with the Top 25 Albums of 2009 countdown...

#25: J. Cole The Warm Up 

The Complex Co-Sign: Jermaine Cole moved from North Carolina to NYC in the early 2000s to pursue his rap dreams, and this year they came true. The 24 year-old signed with Jay-Z's Roc Nation label and released his best mixtape to date, garnering comparisons to lyrical heavyweights like Nas. The artist formerly known as Therapist still has a long way to go before he hits the mainstream, but one listen to The Warm Up (and his scene-stealing guest verse on BP3) let us know he has a good chance of getting there.

Listen:
"Grown Simba"

[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE MIXTAPE FOR FREE]
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#24: Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca 

The Complex Co-Sign: Kanye isn't the only one who dropped out of school to make music. Dave Longstreth, the pulse of Dirty Projectors, left Yale to do the same, but that's old news. The band is on their sixth album, and they've learned a lot, even if it wasn't in the classroom. Their weirdo sensibilities are still in place, but not to the point that you're scared to play it in front of your friends. Experimental music is great, but making tweaked out records that everyone can enjoy is the real challenge, and Dirty Projectors did it on Bitte Orca.

Listen:
"Stillness Is The Move"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $6.99]
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#23: Lee Fields & The Expressions My World 

The Complex Co-Sign: Let's not let the influx of singing rappers allow us to forget that there's an entire generation of vocalists who do this for real. Lee Fields is one of them. After a decade of activity in the '70s, homeboy pretty much disappeared for the next 20 years, but true talent doesn't fade because he still put out one of the best albums this year. We love contemporary music's obsession with all things electronic, but nothing can replace soul backdrops and an amazing voice, which is exactly what Lee Fields brings to the table.

Listen:
"My World Is Empty Without You"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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#22: Clipse Til The Casket Drops 

The Complex Co-Sign: After two classics, Pusha and Malice can put another stripe on their arm. Maybe not for making another classic, but dropping one of the best albums of the year gets them something. They stepped out from under the exclusive production umbrella of The Neptunes and still did a great job of picking the weird beats they're known for rapping over. Add a gang of crazy verses, and you have one hell of an album.

Listen:
"Popular Demand (Popeyes)" f/ Cam'ron

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $9.99]
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#21: Theophilus London This Charming Mixtape 

The Complex Co-Sign: We knew about Theophilus before 2009, but this project made us believe in him. If Morrissey made hip-hop set to electronic beats, it might sound something like This Charming Mixtape. With seemingly every rapper going left field these days, it's getting a little tired, but Theo showed us that it's still enjoyable if done right. Others took notice too, and now this Brooklyn kid counts folks like Mark Ronson, Solange, and Passion Pit amongst his contemporaries.

Listen:
"Always Love U"

[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE MIXTAPE FOR FREE]
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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (ALBUM #20 - #16)

 

#20: Grizzly Bear Veckatimest

The Complex Co-Sign: These Brooklyn dwellers have been indie darlings for quite a while now, but there's no doubt that Veckatimest will be remembered as their breakthrough. Critically noted for its painstaking detail, it's hard to lump this record into one genre. For example, "Two Weeks" may be full of lush instrumentation, but it's more than ready for some rapper to spit a few bars over. We definitely rocked with this one, just like Jay-Z and Beyonce famously did at one of their shows over the summer.

Listen:
"Two Weeks"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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#19: Lupe Fiasco Enemy Of The State: A Love Story

The Complex Co-Sign: Even if it was a mistake, we're happy MTV left Lupe off their hottest MCs list. The exclusion clearly ignited a spark under the rapper and led to the lyrical onslaught that is Enemy of the State. Wasalu rips beats old and new alike, making it hard to leave him off any more lists, even if it gets him inspired.

Listen:
"Turnt Up"

[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE MIXTAPE FOR FREE]
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#18: Miike Snow Miike Snow

The Complex Co-Sign: The crew responsible for crafting pop classics like "Toxic" for Britney Spears, stepped out as artists of their own this year and the results were fantastic. You probably won't hear these songs on mainstream radio, but with catchy pop sensibilities for days, it's easy to see how their sound has landed other artists there.

Listen:
"Animal"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $5.99]
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#17: DJ Quik & Kurupt BlaQKout

The Complex Co-Sign: These two West Coast legends joined forces to create a hip-hop album so focused and fresh that it puts all their over-30 peers to shame. The combination of Quik's creative samples and way-too-fonky drums with Kurupt's brash, rapid-fire lyricism made BlaQKout the perfect Beach soundtrack for the summer. Looking beyond the boundaries of traditional g-funk, the duo's explorations of reggae, middle eastern sounds and robotic electro-pop hint at greater experimentations to come.

Listen:
"Ohh!"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $9.49]
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#16: Girls Album

The Complex Co-Sign: The story behind a band is often just as important as the music itself, and the tragedy-ridden bio of lead singer Christopher Owens is hard to match. Dude grew up in the Children of God cult, dealt with the death of a sibling, saw his mother prostituted, and succumbed to drug addiction, all before linking up with Chet White and forming Girls. We'd never wish those hardships on anyone, but they're clearly responsible for the raw emotion evoked on the band's 2009 debut, and that emotion is what makes Album one of the year's best.

Listen:
"Lust For Life"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (ALBUM #15 - #11)

 

#15: Lil Wayne No Ceilings

The Complex Co-Sign: Weezy is always a factor in the rap game, but the problem is, he spent the better part of 2009 doing everything but rapping. With so much focus on his court dates and Auto-Tuned rock vocals, we needed a reminder of why this guy calls himself the Best Rapper Alive. We got it this Halloween. Using some of the most popular beats of the year as his backdrop, Wayne delivered verse after verse filled with his signature style of punchlines and unrelenting delivery.

Listen:
"Single"

[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE MIXTAPE FOR FREE]
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#14: Major Lazer Guns Don't Kill People Lazers Do

The Complex Co-Sign: We didn't expect a dancehall album to be one of the year's standouts, but these guys are the ones who helped M.I.A. put gunshots and cash register sounds on the Hot 100, so you can never count them out. Even better, Diplo and Switch remained true to their roots, interjecting electro into the reggae rhythms for a body of work that's just as original as it is good.

Listen:
"Hold The Line" f/ Santigold & Mr. Lex

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $5.00]
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#13: Fashawn Boy Meets World

The Complex Co-Sign: As our many favorite rappers linger in middle age territory, 20 year-old Fashawn's stellar debut reminds us that rap is still a young man's game. Exile laced the kid with heat rock production, and boy does he go in. We have a feeling mad people slept on this one, but we didn't. Boy Meets World is one of the nicest LPs of the year and if he keeps it up, we might be looking at the new face of West Coast hip-hop.

Listen:
"Samsonite Man" f/ Blu

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $8.99]
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#12: Nicki Minaj Beam Me Up Scotty

The Complex Co-Sign: Female rappers have basically been extinct for the last decade, but all that changed this year thanks to Young Money's ridiculously sexy (and ridiculously talented) MC. On her DJ Holiday mixtape that hit the streets and radio this summer, Nicki twisted the Lil' Kim femme fatale cliché with her unpredictable personality, throwing in weird accents, quirky flows, and laugh-out-loud quotables. Forget the ladies—every rapper should be very afraid of what she has in store for 2010.

Listen:
"Itty Bitty Piggy"

[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE MIXTAPE FOR FREE]
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#11: Eminem Relapse

The Complex Co-Sign: After a few years of relative obscurity, the best-selling artist of the decade re-emerged with what has proven to be one of the best albums of the year. The shock tactics didn't hit quite as hard as they used to, but the rhymes did. For over an hour, Marshall consistently spit some of the best bars of his career over equally impressive Dr. Dre production. The message was clear: Eminem is back. Months later, he's outshined some of hottest rappers out on their own shit, proving the return sparked by Relapse was no fluke.

Listen:
"Underground"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $5.00]
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HIT NEXT TO SEE THE REST OF THE COUNTDOWN! (ALBUM #10 - #6)

 

#10: Yeah Yeah Yeahs It's Blitz!

The Complex Co-Sign: Karen O and company used to make records filled with distorted guitars and indecipherable screaming. This year, they switched things up and made a synth-heavy, borderline electro album. The risky choice paid off and the band proved themselves just as capable of producing bangers for the dancefloor.

Listen:
"Heads Will Roll"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $5.00]
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#9: Gucci Mane The State vs Radric Davis

The Complex Co-Sign: This was undoubtedly Gucci's year, but after what felt like a million mixtapes and guest verses, there was reasonable concern about whether there would be Gucci Mane burnout by the time the album dropped. No worries. No burnout. In fact, we love this album for the focus it has that was lacking on some of his tapes, mixing in some surprising moments of clarity with his goofy lo-fi trap anthems.

Listen:
"Worst Enemy"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $8.99]
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#8: Passion Pit Manners

The Complex Co-Sign: Indie critics are great at building bands up just to tear them down, and it seemed like Passion Pit might be the next victim. They had all the tell tell signs: overhyped EP, Pitchfork approval, that one song ("Sleepyhead"). Then Manners dropped and it was clear that this Massachusetts band meant business. Every hipster has some snobby opinion about Passion Pit, but sift through all of that and you have an undeniably dope collection of songs.

Listen:
"The Reeling"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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#7: Jay-Z The Blueprint 3

The Complex Co-Sign: Since his return to rap a few years ago, Jay-Z has done plenty, but he hadn't been able to come through with a definitive album. Well, until Blueprint 3. The third chapter of his trilogy isn't perfect, but with production and features from some of the biggest names in the game and a strong lyrical showing from Hov himself, it's pretty damn good.

Listen:
"On To The Next One" f/ Swizz Beatz

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $8.99]
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#6: Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

The Complex Co-Sign: All things considered, Phoenix is probably the breakout band of the year. Yeah, WAP is their fourth album, but no other project in their catalogue landed them on every late night TV stage and in multiple commercials. Not to say that endorsements are the ultimate signifier of a good album, but their exposure increased because their songs got better. Whether it's the urgency of "1901" or the delicate buildup of "Rome," most of the records on WAP will be remembered as staples of 2009.

Listen:
"1901"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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HIT NEXT TO SEE COMPLEX'S TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2009!

 

#5: Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

The Complex Co-Sign: It's been years in the making, but in 2009 we finally saw the release of OB4CL2. Sure, it didn't match its classic predecessor, but when are sequels ever as good as the original? Ditch the unrealistic expectations and you have one of rap music's highest points this year.

Listen:
"Gihad" f/ Ghostface Killah

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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#4: Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavillion

The Complex Co-Sign: Released at the very top of the year, Animal Collective's eighth studio album still holds up after 12 months of new music. We've been into the band's trippy sound for a few albums now, but we dig how they channeled their bizarre sensibilities into something a little more accessible this time around. The music community has been sweating this album all year, so it feels like backlash should have set in by now. Nah, son. MPP is as dope as everyone says it is.

Listen:
"My Girls"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $9.99]
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#3: Drake So Far Gone

The Complex Co-Sign: Ubiquitous radio presence. A multi-million dollar record deal. Two Grammy nominations. These are just a few of Drake's 2009 achievements, and all of them stem from the success of So Far Gone, released in February. It's still hard for some to comprehend how this Toronto kid became a household name in less than a year, but the truth is, his mixtape is just that good. When re-released as a seven song EP in September, it still did impressive numbers despite the availability of the full version as a free download. Not a bad setup for Thank Me Later.

Listen:
"Best I Ever Had"

[CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE MIXTAPE FOR FREE]
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#2: The-Dream Love Vs. Money

The Complex Co-Sign: Fuck the Grammys—Dream's brilliant sophomore album is a futuristic pop masterpiece that deserves its shine. Everyone tries, but no one is writing songs quite like the Radio Killa, whose pithy lyrics are disarmingly funny and instantly relatable to anyone who's ever felt lust, love, and heartbreak. With his trusty production partner Tricky (and young-gunner LOS Da Mystro) expertly crafting searing slow jams and epic electro beats, Love Vs. Money is an eye-opening glimpse at the potential of modern R&B when an artist really loves what they're doing.

Listen:
"Love vs Money Part II"

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $7.99]
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#1: Kid Cudi Man On The Moon: The End Of Day

The Complex Co-Sign: Hip-hop's lonely stoner threw the "debut rap album" blueprint out the window with his bold opening statement, a somber trip into the mind of Scott Mescudi. With producers Emile, Plain Pat, and Ratatat driving most of the music, Man On The Moon shows a remarkably fully-formed sound—dark, melodic, spacious—a feat that most unfocused artists strive for their entire career. Mixing the easy thump of hip-hop with the relentlessly introspective sensibility of indie rock, Cudi pushed the boundaries of both worlds, perfectly capturing 2009's unapologetically creative spirit.

Listen:
"Pursuit of Happiness" f/ MGMT & Ratatat

[CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MP3 ALBUM FOR $5.00]
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• Complex's Top 100 Songs of the Decade