49. Kendrick Lamar "HiiiPower" (2011)
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Producer: J. Cole
For years L.A. has been looking for a young rapper who can combine the infuriated truth-telling of the N.W.A school with the technical virtuosity prized by rap purists. Well, Kendrick Lamar might be that rapper-but let's not rush it. Talking about the pyramids and slave ships doesn't make you a messiah, nor does it make you truthful.
What is certain is that Kendrick is pushing. Pushing to be better, pushing not to regurgitate the same watered-down malt liquor. He can rap as well or better as anyone from New York, or Philadelphia, or Chicago, or Oakland, or New Orleans, or any other city. If he doesn't forget the city he came from, and refuses to pander to know-nothings who are always in search of the next lyrically lyrical lyricist, then his name will be at the top of the city's next chapter.