One presumes that when an artist reaches album release time, they’ll approach each cycle with a fully conceptualized idea of what they want for the album and how they want it to be received. Consider all the creation, recording, sample clearances, planning, and shipping deadlines that have to be met before an LP makes it to fans’ ears. It can take months, even years, for an artist to get an album done. Only a handful of hip-hop artists have gone against traditional methods and accomplished the ambitious feat of dropping two albums in the same year.
DaBaby has already made a strong case for rap’s Rookie of the Year in 2019, with his March album Baby On Baby featuring the hit song “Suge” and standout appearances on Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III, Post Malone’s “Enemies,” and Lil Nas X’s “Panini” remix. But with Friday’s release of KIRK, he joins rare company. Rappers have been releasing multiple projects within a year in the form of mixtapes and EPs for a long time now, but putting out two full-length studio albums is a difficult task for any artist to shoulder. To accomplish such a feat is a testament to an artist’s dedication and drawing power if they take on the hefty task.
Albums: All Eyez On Me; The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
2Pac had always been known for his intense work ethic, especially following his release from prison in 1995. After signing with Death Row, 2Pac spent endless amounts of hours in the studio churning out music at a quick rate. By February 1996, Pac had enough music to release hip-hop’s first double-full-length solo album, All Eyez on Me. The 27-track album has 2Pac embracing the “thug life” mantra heavily, a sharp departure from the social and politically conscious rhymes on his previous albums. It spawned five singles (two No. 1’s with “How Do U Want It” and “California Love”) and topped the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.
He earned another No. 1 album with The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, two months after his murder in September 1996. Under his Makaveli alias, the album has 2Pac taking on a darker tone and sending shots to his rivals at the time, including The Notorious B.I.G, Diddy, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z and more. Both albums are amongst the most celebrated and best-selling hip-hop albums of all time.
Albums: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot; Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
DMX made a huge impact when he dropped his first two albums, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, in 1998. In a time where hip-hop was dominated by flashy suits and feel good records, fans flocked to DMX’s brand of tough, gritty street rap and propelled his first two albums to the top of the charts. It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is a grim introduction to the angry, chaotic mind of Earl Simmons. It featured Sheek Louch, Mase, The Lox, Drag-On and more. The album was a massive success, producing four singles with two of them earning a spot amongst (arguably) the greatest hip-hop singles of all time (“Get At Me Dog” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem”).
Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood has X embracing the dark, uncompromising aesthetic of his first album that his fans lauded. Its small guest list includes Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, and The Lox. Only “Slippin” and “No Love 4 Me” were released as singles but that didn’t stop the album from going three times platinum. There’s a six-month difference between the release of both albums, which made DMX the second rapper after 2Pac to release two No. 1 albums in a year. Despite his legal and addiction troubles in recent years, DMX is one of hip-hop’s most distinctive personalities and his first two albums are evidence of that.
Albums: I Am…, Nastradamus
In 1999, Nas was going through an intriguing phase in his career. After the commercial and critical success of his sophomore album, It Was Written, the Queens MC began work on his third studio album, I Am… The Autobiography. It was intended to be a double album that told his story from birth through the afterlife, but an internet leak forced Nas to record new material to replace the songs that were shared online – making him one of the first artists to have his music leaked by MP3 technology. The end result would be the creation of Nas’ third and fourth studio albums, I Am… and Nastradamus.
With I Am…, Nas earned his second No. 1 album and second best-selling release behind It Was Written. “Nas Is Like” and “Hate Me Now” were the only two singles off the album and helped push it to double platinum certification. Nastradamus didn’t fare too well with Nas’ listeners, with the lackluster production and rushed feel of the album, due to the leak, left critics and fans underwhelmed. It did manage to find moderate success as it hit platinum certification, but Nastradamus is widely regarded as Nas’ weakest album. Jay-Z dismissively referred to the two albums as “doo” during the two’s iconic battle, leading the latter to reinvigorate his career with Stillmatic in 2001.
Albums: Sweat, Suit
At the height of his massive popularity, Nelly became the first rapper to release two albums simultaneously when he dropped Sweat and Suit on the same day in November 2004. He originally planned to release one album for his third solo effort, but he eventually decided to drop two albums that could hold all the music that was being recorded at the time.
The first album, Sweat, is an upbeat, party-orientated hip-hop album that aims to capture club vibes with tracks like “Na-NaNa-Na,” “Flap Your Wings,” and “Tilt Ya Head Back.” It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and went platinum two months after its release. Suit, on the other hand, had smooth, R&B-tinged production with songs meant for the grown and sexy audience. Nelly showed his evolution as an artist on Suit with the different musical sounds he took on and the mellow vibe he exuded on each track. The album spawned two Top 10 singles in “My Place” featuring Jaheim and the global hit “Over and Over” featuring Tim McGraw. It was Nelly’s third consecutive No. 1 and was nominated for best rap album at the 47th Grammy Awards.
Albums: Rebirth, I Am Not A Human Being
Lil Wayne went through a brief creative shift in 2010 when he dropped his seventh studio album Rebirth. The album is Wayne’s first and only rock record, a move that puzzled fans. It received negative reviews but did well on the Billboard charts, debuting at No. 2 and selling 176,000 copies in its first week. Each of the four singles obtained success on the charts, including the Eminem-assisted “Drop The World” which went quadruple platinum. Unfortunately, Wayne spent much of 2010 dealing with legal issues that landed him in Rikers Island to serve an eight month sentence for criminal possession of a weapon.
Before going away, Wayne recorded material that formed into his eighth studio album, I Am Not A Human Being. The album was another success for the Young Money boss, as it debuted at No. 2 and later topped the charts thanks to its physical release. This made Wayne the first hip-hop artist since 2Pac released Me Against The World in 1994 to have a No. 1 album while incarcerated. The album received favorable reviews from critics and earned a Top 10 hit with its lead single “Right Above It” featuring Drake.
Years: 2010 and 2011
Albums: Revenue Retrievin’: Day Shift, Revenue Retrievin’: Night Shift, Revenue Retrievin’: Overtime Shift, Revenue Retrievin’: Graveyard Shift
In 2010, E-40 adopted Nelly’s approach to releasing an album on the same day when he dropped the first two entries in his Revenue Retrievin’ series. Instead of focusing on two different types of personas like what Nelly did on his same-day releases, E-40 focused on the various types of hustling. The first album, Day Shift, focuses on the “around the clock” hustle and boasts a whopping 19 tracks with features like Too Short, B-Legit, and Suga T with production by Rick Rock, Droop-E and others. The second album, Night Shift, plays on the late night hustle of go-getters with much of the same features and producers from the previous album.
In 2011, E-40 accomplished the feat once more with the next installments of the Revenue Retrievin’ series, Overtime Shift and Graveyard Shift. The first entry focused on that extra amount of hustle necessary to stay at the top of your game, while the latter detailed the dark, gritty side of hustling. Both feature-filled albums were favorably reviewed by critics. The Revenue Retrievin’ series was an ambitious effort for the Bay Area legend as he released an insane 191 songs in the span of two years.
Albums: Endless, Blonde
Four long years after his magnum opus Channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean made his heavily-anticipated return in 2016 with Endless and Blonde. Despite a few interviews and Tumblr posts, the music world had little information on new music from Ocean or on the artist himself. On August 1, 2016 their questions would be answered when a live stream of Ocean cryptically building a stairway structure premiered on his website. On August 19, it was revealed the livestream was actually a visual album titled Endless that reportedly fulfilled Frank’s recording contract with Def Jam Recordings. The album’s mix of avant-soul, ambient pop and R&B set it up to be a proper prelude for Blonde’s genre-bending sound.
Blonde was released a day later to widespread critical acclaim and found itself on several year-end lists. It came in at No. 1 on several music charts and has been certified platinum. The album was lead by “Nikes,” which also found its place amongst the best songs of 2016 according to Pitchfork’s “The 100 Best Songs of 2016” list. Blonde mostly explored the themes of falling in and out of love with ties to depression, hate, self-love, and family. Critics and fans applauded the improvement to his extraordinary sound with many considering to be one of the greatest R&B/pop albums of all time.
Years: 2016 and 2017
Albums: Everybody Looking, The Return of East Atlanta Santa; Mr. Davis, and El Gato: The Human Glacier
Becoming a free man in 2016 following a two-year prison sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Gucci found himself back in the studio releasing a string of projects in the subsequent years. Gucci evolved into a new and improved artist throughout this time, working with some of the newest and biggest names in hip-hop. In 2016, Gucci dropped Everybody Looking, a personal look into his wild life. It featured production by Boi-1da, Drumma Boy, Murda Beatz and more, with Drake, Kanye West and Young Thug lending their vocals. Months later, Gucci dropped the next entry in his East Atlanta Santa series, The Return of East Atlanta Santa with features by Drake, Bryson Tiller, and Travis Scott.
Gucci did it again a year later when he dropped two more studio albums with Mr. Davis and El Gato: The Human Glacier. Mr. Davis debuted at No. 2 and boasted a stellar list of guest features and production credits including Chris Brown, The Weeknd, Hitmaka, Danja, former NBA player Chris Bosh and more. For El Gato, Gucci kept it to a minimum and found his lane taking on the rhymes on his own and enlisting Southside as the sole producer of the album. Each of the four albums were well-received by fans and critics and cracked the top 30 of the Billboard 200 with Everybody Looking becoming his highest charting album.
Albums: FUTURE, HNDRXX
Future became the first artist in Billboard’s history to have two albums top the charts in successive weeks with this pair of releases in 2017. FUTURE finds the Atlanta native tapping into his fiery, no-nonsense trap persona, rapping about money and warning his enemies. Through 17 featureless tracks, Future weaves his way through the heavy trunk-rattling production of Metro Boomin’, 808 Mafia, !llmind, and more. There are a number of fun records on the album like “Draco” and “Super Trapper,” but the five times platinum “Mask Off” was the breakaway hit on the album.
On HNDRXX, Future took a different approach by embracing a melodic R&B vibe for the album. As opposed to the examination of his ego on FUTURE, is a look inside Future’s emotions and soul where he croons about the pitfalls of the lavish, dangerous life he rapped about on FUTURE. The avant-pop sound of the album had Future go from toxic masculinity (“My Collection”), to admiring a woman despite his trust issues (“Incredible”), to betrayal (“Turn On Me”). HNDRXX was highly favored over FUTURE due to the emotional vulnerability, but both albums were platinum certified and gave Future his fourth and fifth No. 1 albums.
Albums: Lil Boat 2; Nuthin’ 2 Prove
Lil Yachty had a major year in 2018. To go along with starring in the sequel to the 2001 comedy How High and voicing Green Lantern in the animated film Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, Lil Boat became the latest rapper to join this matchless group of hip-hop artists who’ve released two albums in a year. Lil Boat 2 and Nuthin’ 2 Prove have Lil Yachty rapping about his expensive lifestyle and sumptuous riches all over various pounding trap-laden beats by Pi’erre Bourne, DJ Durel, Tay Keith, 30 Roc and more. Lil’ Boat 2 serves as a sequel to his debut mixtape Lil Boat and was a response to the day one fans who wanted to hear Lil Boat rap as opposed to the melodies he sang on his debut, Teenage Emotions. Regardless of the mixed reviews from critics, Lil Boat 2 did well commercially, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, becoming his second top five album after Teenage Emotions.
Nuthin’ 2 Prove, however, was a mix of Lil Yachty’s auto-tune reliant melodies and boisterous raps. It was propelled by its lead single “Who Want The Smoke?” featuring QC labelmates Offset of the Migos and Cardi B. Its guest list also included Lil Baby, Juice WRLD, Gunna, Playboi Carti, Young Nudy and more. Critics gave the album mixed reviews, commenting on its lack of direction. Fans felt Lil Yachty had a lot more growth to show. The project debuted at No. 12 on the charts, selling only 40,000 copies in its first week.