The Top 10 Artists of the Decade



The decade of music that took place between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 will be remembered as the most fluid and fused blend of genres in musical history. Hip-Hop collided with Rock, Alternative, R&B, Pop, and even Country music at some points. There was really no telling what the next sound would be, but one thing that was relatively comprehensible was the group of ten people who were going to lead their generation from memorable to legendary.


These ten artists stood out and redefined their genre and/or subgenres in a dominant fashion. Together, they amassed well over a billion dollars and took Hip-Hop (which became the #1 genre in the world at one point in time this decade) from a respected genre to the most listened to form of music across the globe. Without further adieu, here are the ten most valuable, impactful, and best artists of the last decade...


AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU FOR READING AND ENJOY


10. Young Thug


Projects: I Came from Nothing Vol. 1 and 2 (2011), I Came from Nothing Vol. 3 (2012), 1017 Thug (2013), Young Thug Mane La Flare with Gucci Mane (2014), 1017 Thug 2 and 1017 Thug 3: The Finale (2014), Tha Tour, Pt. 1 with Birdman and Rich Homie Quan (2014), Barter 6 (2015), Slime Season (2015), Slime Season 2 (2015), I'm Up (2016), Slime Season 3 (2016), Jeffery (2016), Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017), Super Slimey with Future (2017), Young Martha with Carnage (2017), Hear No Evil (2018), On the Rvn (2018), So Much Fun (2019)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#1: Havana (Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug)

#3: Goodbyes (Post Malone featuring Young Thug)


My 10 Favorite Records: Halftime, Big Racks (featuring Lil Uzi Vert), I'll Tell You What, With Them, Tomorrow Til Infinity (featuring Gunna), For My People (featuring Duke), Gangster Sh*t, Quarterback (featuring Quavo and PeeWee Longway), Cruise Ship, No Cap (Future and Young Thug)


Overall Decade Review


There isn't a single rapper, or singer for that matter, that hit as many different notes as Young Thug in the last ten years. Whether it was the chopped not slopped remix of "Love Me Forever" which makes him sound like a codeine-intoxicated Ghetto Hagrid, or the high pitched squeal on "Stoner", Thugger excelled at experimenting with his vocals more so than anybody else in the industry. The sheer levels of uniqueness that Thugger baby has exhibited over the last several years alone will force the game to think of him as a staple moving into 2020 and beyond.


What's most exciting about the Jackson Pollack of vocalists is that he more likely than not hasn't reached his full potential. Although I consider to his 2015 run to be among the most legendary years in Hip-Hop's decade of ascension, I'm confident that there's a level of Thug that even he isn't aware of yet. Once he taps into that potential, the game's going to be in for an ever ruder awakening. Young Thug's decade of music will be remembered as redefining what is possible for Hip-Hop artists and his influence over rising stars like Lil Seed, Gunna, and Lil Baby, while also restructuring his own swagger in order to keep his style fresh along the way.


9. Mac Miller



Projects: K.I.D.S.: Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit (2010), Best Day Ever (2011), Blue Slide Park (2011), I Love Life, Thank You (2011), Macadelic (2012), Watching Movies with the Sound Off (2013), Delusional Thomas (2013), Live from Space (2013), Faces (2014), GO:OD AM (2015), The Divine Feminine (2016), Swimming (2018)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#9: The Way (Ariana Grande featuring Mac Miller)


My 10 Favorite Records: Here We Go, Rain (featuring Vince Staples), 2009, Avian, I’m Not Real (featuring Earl Sweatshirt), Earth (featuring Future), Inside Outside, New Faces v2 (featuring Earl Sweatshirt and Da$h), Life Ain’t Easy, ROS


Overall Decade Review


To watch Mac Miller progress as an artist over the course of 8 awfully short years was beyond a blessing. He evolved from a white rapper from Pittsburgh who made stoner anthems and frat-party bangers to one of the world's most well-rounded artists in such an unfathomably short period of time. The sheer difference in messages, themes, tones and quality between K.I.D.S. and Faces is mind boggling. However, he never lost his rarely paralleled penmanship ability which was always his strongest suit. He was one of the most gifted, fun, and unpredictable lyricists we'll ever have the privilege of listening to; and his music always kept you on your toes.


Although he may never have been a chart-topper, his level of consistency and artistic integrity superseded the need to dominate the mainstream's recognition. Mac Miller's decade of music will be remembered as one of the most unique ones in Hip-Hop history for the progression he exuded, and the incalculable, unbelievable talent that he possessed as an artist. Rest in Paradise, Mac.


For more on the Genius of Mac Miller, check out Evan Linden and I's Genius of the Month piece dedicated to Pittsburgh's finest.


8. The Weeknd


Projects: House of Balloons (2011), Echoes of Silence (2011), Thursdays (2011), Kiss Land (2013), Beauty Behind the Madness (2015), Starboy (2016), My Dear Melancholy (2018)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#2s" Blinding Lights, False Alarm

#3s" Prisoner (featuring Lana Del Rey), Price On My Head (Nav featuring The Weeknd)

#4s: Wicked Games, Party Monster, Power is Power (SZA, The Weekend & Travis Scott), Live For (featuring Drake)

#5s: Acquainted, 6 Inch (Beyonce featuring The Weeknd)


My 10 Favorite Records: The Morning, Loft Music, House of Balloons - Glass Table Girls, Reminder, Tell Your Friends, Privilege, Drunk In Love (Remix), I’m Good (Dedication 5 Intro), King of the Fall, The Party & The After Party


Overall Decade Review


The Weeknd shot out of a cannon this decade and became one of the most popular artists in the world in only four years of publishing music. House of Balloons put him in the spotlight for people with a keen awareness and a lucky eye for finding new music, and Beauty Behind the Madness solidified him as an absolute monster on the charts and in the hearts of women and men alike.


There are few voices in the industry that can be mentioned in the same breath as Abel Tesfaye, and the fact that he's well aware of that only adds to the mystique and deserved cockiness that he's mustered up over the last decade. As a guy who typically sings about drugs, fame, and women; it's refreshing to see him both rap and sing about the level of untouchability he's acquired since those themes drove him to the top of the R&B/Pop scene. He also ended the decade on a high note by making a startling cameo in the Safdie brothers's new film, Uncut Gems, in which he performs one of my ten favorite Weeknd tracks of all-time. The Weeknd's decade of music will be remembered for reinvigorating, over-sexualizing, and overall bringing back the innate coolness that was relatively absent in the R&B/Pop genre prior to his ascension.


7. Tyler the Creator


Projects: Goblin (2011), Wolf (2013), Cherry Bomb (2015), Flower Boy (2017), IGOR (2019)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

N/A


My 10 Favorite Records: She, Yonkers, Boredom, WHAT’S GOOD, 435, Where This Flower Blooms... (featuring Frank Ocean), Oldie (featuring Taco, Hodgy, Left Brain, Domo Genesis, Mike G, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and Jasper Dolphin), I Think, 911 / Mr. Lonely, I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE


Overall Decade Review


There is no artist who came further, and made more of a drastic difference in his musical progression than Tyler the Creator. From the inclusion of polarizing lyrics and artistic suggestions that have been realized as performance art including themes like rape, murder, defamation, graffiti, destruction, and practically anything else that is evil. Tyler has come a long way from the release of his first studio album, Goblin, which was an album that I personally adored throughout my adolescence. However, Tyler's talent for classic musical instruments such as the strings, and the piano have been apparent since Bastard, it's just that he's using them now better than ever and has completely different themes, messages, and tones on Flower Boy and IGOR.


The Creator is exactly that, a creator. He oversaw every aspect of production on his Grammy nominated album IGOR and created what is one of the best albums of the decade with both that specific one and the one that preceded it, Flower Boy. He's utilized a special amount of features and has transformed their voices into hardly recognizable on the former (Lil Uzi Vert particularly), and allowed artists like Jaden and Lil Wayne to shine on the latter. All in all, Tyler the Creator's decade of music will be remembered for the sheer juxtaposition between his early decade's releases and the latter, all the while creating some of the most memorable music of the last ten years regardless of tone, theme, and genre.


For more on the musical genius of Tyler the Creator, check out Evan Linden's Genius of the Month piece dedicated to the man, the myth, the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Legend.


6. Travis Scott


Projects: Owl Pharaoh (2013), Days Before Rodeo (2014), Rodeo (2015), Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho (2017), Astroworld (2018), Jackboys (2019)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#1s: Sicko Mode (featuring Drake), Highest in the Room

#2: Zeze (Kodak Black featuring Travis Scott and Offset)

#8s: Take What You Want (Post Malone featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott), Stargazing

#9s: Portland (Drake featuring Quavo and Travis Scott)

#10: Let It Fly (Lil Wayne featuring Travis Scott)


My 10 Favorite Records: Houstonfornication, The Ends, Astrothunder, 3500, Maria I’m Drunk, Oh My Dis Side, Hell of a night, Drugs You Should Try It, Basement Freestyle, DBR / The Prayer


Overall Decade Review


Travis Scott married, or rather collided R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop, and Rock-n-Roll together this decade on projects like Owl Pharaoh, Days Before Rodeo, and Rodeo before removing Rock from that equation on his latest two projects, BITTSM and Astroworld. That isn't as much of a criticism of his artistic decisions as it is an example of his progression as an artist, because while he's removed Rock, he's also added in the Alternative genre. Songs like "Piss On Your Grave" simply don't exist anymore in his most recent discography, but songs like "Astrothunder" and "Houstonfornication" weren't as prevalent nor necessary to his earlier projects as they are now. Travis Scott's decade of music will be remembered for reigniting the most pit mentality, and reigniting the Rock-n-Roll/Punk vibe of the 80's and 90's into the mainstream. Inspiring adrenaline, a zero fucks given mentality, and the encouragement of blending genres.


For more on the rambunctious rager, check out Evan Linden's Genius of the Month piece on LA FLAME.



5. Future


Projects: 1000 (2010), Kno Mercy (2010)

Dirty Sprite (2011), True Story (2011), FDU & Freebandz (2011), Free Bricks with Gucci Mane (2011), Streets Calling (2011)

Astronaut Status (2012), Pluto (2012)

F.B.G: The Movie with Freeband Gang (2013), Black Woodstock: The Soundtrack with DJ Esco (2013), No Sleep with DJ Esco (2013)

Honest (2014), Monster (2014)

Beast Mode wtih Zaytoven (2015), 56 Nights (2015), DS2 (2015), What a Time to Be Alive with Drake (2015)

Evol (2016), Purple Reign (2016)

Future (2017), HNDRXX (2017), Super Slimey with Young Thug (2017)

Beast Mode 2 with Zaytoven (2018), Wrld on Drugs with Juice Wrld (2018)

The Wizrd (2019), Save Me (2019)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#5: Mask Off (featuring Kendrick Lamar)

#6's: Bugatti (Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross), Fly S**t Only

#7's: Loveeeeeee Song (Rihanna featuring Future), 3500 (Travis Scott featuring Future & 2 Chainz), Darkside (Ty Dolla $ign & Future featuring Kiiara), Rollin (Calvin Harris featuring Future & Khalid)

#8's: Where Ya At (featuring Drake), Turn on the Lights, 100 Shooters (featuring Meek Mill & Doe Boy)

#9: Do You Mind (DJ Khaled featuring Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross)


My 10 Favorite Records: The Percocet & Stripper Joint, Throw Away, Afterlife, Kno the Meaning, Solo, Monster, Rotation, I Be U, Hardly, March Madness


Overall Decade Review


The hardest worker in hip-hop has never taken a year off, let alone a day. I actually had to restructure the format for the projects list above in order to provide a better aesthetic, and that was purely influenced by Future's work ethic.


Although T.I. and Young Jeezy are widely recognized as trap music's initial pioneers, Future is considered the father of the genre. He cemented its value in hip-hop with DS2 after giving both trap music and himself a strong reputation with what is perhaps the most impressive year in hip-hop from this decade (2015: Beast Mode, 56 Nights, DS2 and WATTBA).


I for one wouldn't have given a damn about "mumble rap" (I will argue till the day I die that Future is not a mumble rapper and is a legitimately gifted lyricist) or trap music if it weren't for Super Fire Fire Marshall Future Hendrix The Wizard. Future's decade of music will be remembered for taking trap music from a subgenre to the most prominent and popular genre in Hip-Hop today, while also releasing some of the most relatable and connectable "sad boy" tracks alongside some of the most groovy and chill-inducing slappers.


4. Kanye West

Projects: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010), Watch the Throne (2011), Yeezus (2013), The Life of Pablo (2016), Ye (2018), Kids See Ghosts (2018), Jesus is King (2019)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#1: E.T. (Katy Perry featuring Kanye West)

#4: FourFiveSeconds (Kanye West, Rihanna and Paul McCartney)

#5: Ni**as in Paris

#6: I Love It (Kanye West and Lil Pump)

#7: Follow God

#8: Yikes


My 10 Favorite Records: Devil in a New Dress (featuring Rick Ross), Gorgeous (featuring Kid Cudi), Father Stretch Your Hands Pt. 1 (featuring Kid Cudi), On Sight, Clique (featuring Big Sean and Jay-Z), Hell of a Life, Lost in the World (featuring Bon Iver), Hold My Liquor, Cold (featuring DJ Khaled), 30 Hours


Overall Decade Review


As a lifelong Kanye disciple, and somebody who has defended him at nearly ever turn of his career; this last couple of years has been really difficult for me. I didn't connect with Ye like I thought I would. Jesus is King left a hole in my heart. And I've filled that ever-expanding hole with other artists in that time, further distancing my relationship to a man I once considered a God. To be fair, I will always think of him in that light because of how deeply I feel about Late Registration, Graduation, 808s, MBDTF, and TLOP, but it's becoming more and more apparent that my hero will likely never capture that same energy again.


If it weren't for this last couple of years, I'd still think of Kanye as the Number One or Two artist in the game, but that's simply not the case. His bar-for-bar rapping has fallen off drastically, and it seems like he released all the gas out of his tank in that area on "No More Parties in L.A." on TLOP. Luckily for us Yeezus Apostles out there, Ye still has the pragmatic sailing producer touch which was evident on Pusha T's Daytona in which Yeezy executively produced. But his return to being a better producer than an overall singer and rapper feels like a movement backwards to his old self during The Blueprint days; and that may just be what Kanye needs to get back on track to GOAT status. Kanye West's decade of music will be remembered for what is perhaps the most beautiful and genius album of all-time in MBDTF, and the tragic fall-off from his critically acclaimed status in the last two years of the decade.


3. Frank Ocean


Projects: Nostalgia Ultra (2011), Channel Orange (2012), Endless (2016), Blonde (2016)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

N/A


My 10 Favorite Records: Nights, Forrest Gump, There Will Be Tears, Ivy, In My Room, Super Rich Kids, Provider, Chanel, Pyramids, Seigfreid


Overall Decade Review


Frank Ocean may not have any Top 10 Billboard hits, but is that really a surprise to anyone? The fact that his most recent studio album, Blonde, charted at #1 and his debut studio album, Channel Orange, peaked at #2 shouldn't come as a surprise either. Frank isn't an artist that's defined by one memorable chorus, verse, or single. He's celebrated for being an enigma in the genre that is inimitable and untouchable in such an elegant fashion that his artistic presence has become its own subgenre of music. Frank Ocean's decade of music will be remembered for putting him at the forefront of the R&B/Pop genre by providing the most refreshing and original series of music productions in recency history, while also infuriating his fans for not having released enough music overall.


For more on Frank's brilliance, take a look at Evan Linden's Genius of the Month episode dedicated to him.


2. Kendrick Lamar

Projects: Overly Dedicated (2010), Section.80 (2011), Good Kid M.A.A.D. City (2012), To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), untitled unmastered. (2016), DAMN. (2017)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#1’s: HUMBLE., Bad Blood (Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar)

#2: Mona Lisa (Lil Wayne featuring Kendrick Lamar)

#4: DNA.

#6: Don't Wanna Know (Maroon 5 featuring Kendrick Lamar)

#7's: All the Stars (featuring SZA), Pray For Me (featuring The Weeknd)

#8: F***in Problems (A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz, & Kendrick Lamar)


My 10 Favorite Records: The Art of Peer Pressure, Institutionalized (featuring Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg), ELEMENT., Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst, untitled 02, Backseat Freestyle, You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said), Nosetalgia (Pusha T featuring Kendrick), YAH., Wesley’s Theory (featuring George Clinton and Thundercat)


Overall Decade Review


Kung-Fu Kenny will never be the chart-topping darling and slapper connoisseur that his rival Drake is (you can hardly compare the two), but he will always have one accolade his peer will likely never obtain: a Pulitzer. An award that's more often than not celebrated as an honorary and historical device for journalists was given to Kendrick Lamar in 2018 for his critically acclaimed album, DAMN. Although the project isn't my favorite Kendrick piece, it did play a crucial role in the culture at that time. I will always think GKMC as Kendrick's magnum opus because it was such a bold mode of storytelling that I hadn't really had an experience with since Kanye's MBDTF.


Kendrick will go down in history as one of the most gifted lyricists that the game's ever seen, and his role in hip-hop will always be pivotal. He has this innate ability to capture a crowd and his audience's attention with the slightest hint at an album release, and his decisions regarding said releases are intensely calculated by his team at Top Dawg Entertainment. Kendrick's decade of music will be remembered as one that made me inspired about the purity of hip-hop in a time where trap music had become more prevalent than ever, and Lamar was the ringleader at the forefront of the movement who revitalized the poetic portion of the craft instead of giving into what was popular.


For more on Kendrick Lamar's unique skillset in contemporary hip-hop, check out Evan Linden's Genius of the Month article dedicated to the Top Dawg Entertainment Top Talent.


1. Drake


Projects: Thank Me Later (2010), Take Care (2011), Nothing Was the Same (2013), If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015), What a Time To Be Alice (2015), Views (2016), Scorpion (2018)


Billboard Chart Peaks for Top 10 Hits

#1’s: Work (Rihanna featuring Drake), One Dance (featuring WizKid & Kyla), God’s Plan, Nice For What, In My Feelings, What’s My Name? (RiRi featuring Drizzy)

#2’s: Hotline Bling, Best I Ever Had, Nonstop

#3: She Will (Lil Wayne featuring Drake)

#4: Hold On, We’re Going Home

#5’s: No Guidance (Chris Brown featuring Drake), MIA (Bad Bunny featuring Drake), Look Alive (Blocboy JB featuring Drake), Find Your Love

#6’s: Going Bad (Meek Mill featuring Drake), Yes Indeed (Lil Baby featuring Drake), Right Above It (Lil Wayne featuring Drake), Started From the Bottom, Summer Sixteen

#7’s: Take Care (featuring Rihanna), Money in the Grave (featuring Rick Ross), I’m Upset, Diplomatic Immunity

#8’s: F***in Problems (A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz, & Kendrick Lamar), Fake Love, Passionfruit, Emotionless

#9’s: Love Me (Lil Wayne featuring Drake and Future), Make Me Proud (featuring Nicki Minaj), Portland (featuring Quavo & 2 Chainz), Don’t Matter to Me (featuring Michael Jackson)

#10’s: I’m On One (DJ Khaled featuring Drake, Rick Ross, & Lil Wayne), Walk it Talk it (Migos featuring Drake)

My 10 Favorite Records: Come Thru, Know Yourself, Over My Dead Body, Feel No Ways, Furthest Thing, Gyalchester, 4PM in Calabassas, Fire & Desire, Scholarships

“I should probably sign to Hitboy, cause I got all the hits boy!” - 0 to 100


My 10 Favorite Records: Come Thru, Know Yourself, Over My Dead Body, Feel No Ways, Furthest Thing, Gyalchester, 4PM in Calabassas, Fire & Desire, Scholarships


Overall Decade Review

Before I write about Drake in the style of what my pretentious douchebag of a Journalism teacher called a “blowjob piece”, I have to get something off my chest (well, that was just bad timing on my part). I used to hate Drake. I remember being a stubborn Kanye, Lil Wayne and Eminem stan in 2010, refusing to admit that I actually enjoyed tracks like “Best I Ever Had”, “Over”, and “Find Your Love”, until one blessed day I had no choice but to let the OVO wave wash over me and replenish me from all of my hatred. I had converted to Drizzyism, and couldn’t have been happier. What was about to unfold over the next 10 years was a series of special things that I could have never predicted nor imagined...



Nick Saban told Bill Beliciek in HBO’s The Art of Coaching documentary that once you’re at the top of the mountain for a certain amount of time, you then become that mountain. People try to knock you off the top, but if they succeed then it’s up to you take make sure that it’s only for a short amount of time. Whoever is perennially on top of that mountain is responsible to keep going higher and higher, so they can further separate themselves from their competition and fellow climbers. 

There aren’t many people that can be considered equivalent to football’s two most historically decorated coaches, but if there’s one in Hip-Hop right now, then it’s inarguably Aubrey Graham.


The facts are the facts, check the stats: Drake has been the best, most dominant, and most valuable artist in the music industry regardless of genre for the last ten years. Toronto’s Don has explored several different avenues and has brought each of them to forefront of the culture whether it be Dancehall or R&B/Hip-Hop fusion all while remaining at the top of the Modern Day Musician’s Mountain. “House on both coasts, but I live on the charts” isn’t an exaggeration, but a factual statement. His voice and lyrics are better, purer and more refined than your favorite singer’s, and his bars, delivery, and flows are a hell of a lot more attractive than your favorite rapper’s too.


I’ve been a LeBron fan for about 5 years longer than I have a Drake one, but the amount of hate and criticism that the two have received from talking heads and Twitter fingerers is unparalleled in their professions. The narrative that the Six God doesn’t have a classic project is just another example in a long line of “it’s easy and cool to hate on Drake cause he’s the best in the game” bullshit. If you don’t consider Take Care, Nothing Was the Same, or If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to be a classic or a trio of classics, then you should consider a different genre to specialize in cause this ain’t the one for you.


The most valuable artist of this decade is flowing seamlessly into the next one and is poised to drop yet another chart-topping project to start the next ten years off with a bang. His competitive edge and love for music have always been and will continue to be the driving force behind his engine, but his versatility and allegiance to self is what has separated him thus far.


Drake's decade of music will be remembered for both its stunningly overwhelming chart-topping popularity, while also appealing the more dedicated Drake fans that have been with him for the jump, not for the hits (although those are really nice to have) but for his Time in Location series, box-music anthems, and ability to bounce back between bars and R&B King-level singing.


For more on The Boy turned The Man, check out Evan Linden's Genius of the Month piece dedicated to The King of Modern Music.


Before I end this piece, I'd like to thank you once again for reading, and to wish you a Happy New Year. I hope that we both get everything we want in the next decade as far as music goes.

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