15. The Massacre by 50 Cent
14. Trilla by Rick Ross
13. Take Care by Drake
11. These Days by A-Soul
Mr. Fisherman satisfied his day one fans with the pop-infused Blue Slide Park, but it didn't succeed as highly in bringing in new fans from the other realms of hip hop, nor did it receive a ton of critical applaud. That all changed with his second album, where he clearly evolved stylistically. Prior to its release, the Macadelic mixtape marked a clear departure for Mac, his move to the West Coast having an influence on his music going forward, not to mention, a foray into drug usage. While his excellent sophomore set was slightly overshadow at launch by the simultaneous release of Kanye's Yeezus and J. Cole's Born Sinner, it still did very well at retail, selling just over 100,000 copies its first week.
9. Word of Mouf by Ludacris
Luda's best selling album to date, it was a parade of hits, every song a bigger banger than the last, including "Roll Out", "Move Bitch", "Area Codes", and "Saturday". Ludacris has always had the unique ability to blend his humorous bars with a furious flow, set to some of the biggest, boldest beats in the south, and it was never more evident than on this triple platinum classic. This album was up for a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2003, but ultimately lost to Eminem's The Eminem Show.
8. Trap Muzik by T.I.
After disappointing results with Tip's first album, I'm Serious, he left Arista and signed with Atlantic, launching his Grand Hustle Records. The album changed the course of his career, going platinum within a few months on the back of singles like "Rubber Band Man". It's considered one of the best southern hip hop albums of all time, setting Harris up for a long, illustrious career ahead.
7. The Cool by Lupe Fiasco
The follow up to Lupe's critically acclaimed Food & Liquor was a concept album that is a fan favorite among his following. This album found Lupe exploring more sociopolitical topics in his music, from world hunger to school violence, while maintaining his signature flow and style. The album did very well critically and commercially, helped by singles like the smash hit "Superstar". It was also nominated for four Grammys, including Best Rap Album.
6. Doctor's Advocate by Game
The follow up to his highly successful debut album, The Documentary, this was Game's first release after the rift between him and 50 Cent grew so large that Game was forced out of Aftermath and onto Geffen. With no production from Dr. Dre or features from his former G-Unit counterparts, there was wide speculation on whether Game would be able to carry his own weight and deliver a great album. We didn't have to wait long, as his first single, "One Blood", was the raw, gritty, west coast street rap we had come to expect from Game. Other songs, like the Kanye West-produced "Wouldn't Get Far" only proved further that Game was a star in his own right, and wasn't going anywhere any time soon.
5. good kid, m.A.A.d City by Kendrick Lamar
Though many Kendrick fans will argue that Overly Dedicated was his debut, Section.80 truly was for the majority of listeners worldwide, making his first major label album Good Kid... his sophomore set for our purposes. We all know the buzz the album created, as well as the comparisons it drew. It may be too fresh in some people's memory to consider the album this high on the list, but it truly is a masterpiece that will be appreciated for years to come. It is a concept album, called a short film by K. Dot himself, that follows Lamar through the trouble and tribulations of a world most of us will never know. Songs like "Money Trees" and "Backseat Freestyle" elevated his status to the upper echelons of the genre, while even the most mainstream sounding of his singles were lyrically and conceptually so far ahead of what the rest of the game was doing at the time.
4. Hell Hath No Fury by Clipse
Probably one of the most highly anticipated albums on this list at the time of its release, this album was the subject of many a label dispute, and even a lawsuit. Malice and Pusha T were in serious label limbo at the time, which kept fans everywhere waiting for the follow up to the hip hop classic, Lord Willin'. Once it finally came out, fans weren't disappointed, as The Neptunes handled all of the production, just as they'd done on the debut, and it was amazing. The futuristic production was ahead of its time, mixed perfectly with the coke-fueled rhymes of Virgina's finest. The album gave us songs we'd not soon get unstuck from our heads in "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)" and "Mr. Me Too" while also receiving critical acclaim, including being just the sixth album to receive a "XXL" rating from XXL Magazine.
3. Late Registration by Kanye West
After College Dropout, we didn't really know what to expect next from the Louis Vuitton Don, but he didn't disappoint. His sophomore album was laden with hits, single after single, from "Gold Digger" and "Touch the Sky" to "Diamonds From Sierra Leone". It was beloved by fans, selling almost 900,000 copies first week, and critics alike, Rolling Stone including it at number 118 on their list of the 500 best albums of all time. The production set the stage for how far out West would take it on his next album, Graduation, by incorporating strings and synths that hadn't really been used prominently yet in hip hop.
2. Supreme Clientele by Ghostface Killah
This album paved the way for so much of today's street rap. Artists like Dipset, Smoke DZA, A$AP Mob all were influenced greatly by Ghost, especially this album. It was a departure from the style of his solo debut, Ironman, but held true to the Wu, with RZA doing all the final mixes on each track, making it one of the most cohesive, complete albums in hip hop history. It is still considered not only Ghostface's best work, but possibly the best solo album by any Wu Tang Clan member ever. Peep the robes though.
1. The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem
There really shouldn't even be an explanation necessary.
OK, fine. This album is in the conversation for best hip hop album ever. After Slim had come down from the high that was his major label debut, The Slim Shady LP, this album felt like Em talking to himself, trying to cope with his newfound fame and fortune. It was him being as transparent as possible, showing us the other side to celebrity. Tracks like "The Way I Am" and "Stan" were monumental, in that they put the fan in his shoes for the first time, and made them feel like they shared his struggle and pain. Yes, we know that technically Infinite was his first album, but shut up. Knowing now what kind of hold the drugs had on him at the time, it's amazing this masterpiece even came together as succinctly as it did. Hip hop in its rawest form is storytelling, and nobody embodied it better in album form than Marshall on this legendary set.
Mac & Devin Go To High School Part 2 is coming January 2015.
In music we tend to glorify the debut album, always craving the newest and shiniest thing out. The downside of that is usually we're slightly disappointed in the follow up sophomore album, possibly what led to the phenomenon known as the "sophomore slump".
Our expectations are set so high that we tend to discount the second effort, sometimes leading us to be pleasantly surprised by the third album. But in most cases, after some time has passed, we come to appreciate the sophomore effort a little more. Some artists debunk the sophomore slump theory right away by dropping undeniable albums that cement their place in history. We'll explore plenty of examples of such albums as we countdown the Top 10 Sophomore Albums of the 2000s, as well as some that just missed the cut.
Let us know if we missed any stand-out sophomore efforts (they have to be from the 2000s, mind you) in the comment sections. If there's a subject you want us to tackle, shout that out too.