TIME released their annual top album list today and rounding out the top 10 are Big Boi’s Sir Lucious Left Foot (#9), Drake’s Thank Me Later (#5), and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (#1). Read what they had to say about each below.
Kanye West can seem like an attention-hungry young child who constantly tugs on his mother’s pant leg, saying, “Watch this! Watch this!” But once Kanye got our attention, instead of a simple somersault, he delivered the musical equivalent of a one-handed back handspring. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy layers complex computerized instrumentation over Yeezy’s effortless flow, moving from the heavy hip-hop of “Power” and “Monster” all the way to the poppy Michael Jackson tribute “All of the Lights.” Beyoncé, Jay-Z and others guest on several tracks. They don’t drop by just to deliver a verse or chorus; they are as integral to the tracks as Kanye himself. This is most evident on “Lost in the World,” a collaboration with Justin Vernon of the indie group Bon Iver that fuses hip-hop with rock until they morph into something else entirely. And that something is probably going to be played at every bar and dance party for the next six months.
The central theme of Drake’s debut album is his newfound fame — which is an interesting choice, considering it’s his debut album. But instead of extolling the celebrity lifestyle, Drake spends much of Thank Me Later grappling with his unexpected stardom. And for good reason: the rapper (real name “Aubrey Drake Graham”) went from self-releasing his music on the Internet to signing a record deal with Lil Wayne faster than Lady Gaga can change meat costumes. He lives up to the hype; Thank Me Later contains more hit songs than you can shake a bottle of Cristal at. “Find Your Love” made TIME’s list of best songs of the year, and “Fancy” was a close runner-up. Drake’s screed against “superficial gold-digging bitches” and women who take hours to get ready is the catchiest thing this side of Kanye. Not bad for a Canadian former child actor who had never released a full album before.
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty doesn’t have a hit single. This was a problem for Jive Records, which refused to release it — and then, when Big Boi took the disc to Def Jam, argued with the new label over allowing Big Boi’s OutKast partner (and former Jive labelmate) André 3000 to appear on the tracks. But the very thing that dissatisfied Jive is what makes Sir Lucious Left Foot so original. It’s an amalgam of beats, chants and raps mixed together with exacting precision. Big Boi deftly jumps between musical styles — from the booty-shaking “Tangerine” to the rock-influenced “Follow Us” — and his raps come so fast, he seems to never pause for breath.