9. A$AP Rocky, Long. Live. A$AP (2013)
Label: ASAP Worldwide, Polo Grounds, RCA
New York rappers have long struggled to honor the lyrical legacy of hometown icons like Rakim. Ironically, it was a kid born Rakim Mayers who broke out of the nostalgic rut that often holds back New York MCs from reaching a national fanbase, incorporating influences from all over the map to emerge as a new kind of mainstream star.
Instead of "bringing New York back," A$AP Rocky simply brought it forward, and topped the Billboard 200 with his debut album in January, becoming the first new NYC rapper to join the No. 1 club since Nicki Minaj (who herself ended the long drought since Lloyd Banks' debut in 2004). With a diverse palette of sounds courtesy of everyone from Hit-Boy to Skrillex to Clams Casino to Danger Mouse, LONG.LIVE.A$AP depicts a Harlem world that acknowledges the world outside Harlem.