From Kanye to J.Cole: Critics Weigh In On Most Anticipated Albums

By Paul Cantor

The fourth quarter of 2010 is upon us and over the next few months, some of hip-hop’s most acclaimed acts will be dropping albums. The question is, who do we reallywant to hear?

Kanye West (Dark Twisted Fantasy, date TBD), Nicki Minaj (Pink Friday; Nov. 23rd), Kid Cudi (Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager; Nov 9th), and Soulja Boy (The TDeandre Way; November 2nd) are all dropping records. But then there are also projects coming just before the fourth quarter hits, like Young Jeezy’s TM103, Ice Cube’s I Am The West, Gucci Mane’s The Appeal, and newcomer Donnis’ Fashionably Late, among others, all due to hit retailers September 28th.

We spoke to a host of hip-hop music critics for what albums they’re anticipating before the end of the year. Not surprisingly, a few obvious mainstays topped their wish lists.

The Game's R.E.D. Album

"I think the constant push-backs have pulled him out of the conversation a bit," said Jake Paine- Editor in Chief at "Game has been amazingly consistent in his three existing albums, despite controversy and setbacks, though I hope he's not as guest-heavy as he was on L.A.X. Truth be told, I haven't liked what I've heard leak thus far, but I think that Game is the best voice for Dr. Dre beats since Slim Shady recovered and Snoop Dogg started ego trippin'."

Kanye West's Dark Twisted Fantasy

"Kanye West by leaps and bounds because of the 'Can he do it again?' sentiment that's been surrounding him lately," said Alvin “Aqua Boogie” Blanco, freelance writer. "Actually, it's more like, 'Will he f--- this up?' I think "Power" is a great song but it's not the runaway smash he was probably banking on it being. "Runaway" won back some of his detractors—though they were probably never on his side to begin with—and with Cam'Ron throwing shots his way it looks like he's hitting all the key points needed in the run up to a major hip-hop release."

"‘Ye is perhaps the game's most passionate artist and after pushing the envelope on 808s & Heartbreak, you have to believe he is back with something to prove on this new joint," added XXL's Deputy Editor Rob Markman. "He's enlisted Rza, Q-Tip and Pete Rock to help with the production, that's a must-hear if there ever was one."

Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday

"I'm really interested to hear what [this album] will sound like," said Brian “B. Dot” Miller of "Aside from "Your Love" it still remains to be seen if she can hold her own for an entire album without it sounding like a mixtape."

"While I look forward to seeing who Nicki collaborates with and hearing her re-visit that raw flow she exhibited earlier in her career, the biggest anticipation I have for this album is how many units it sells," said Hot97 and Sirius/XM radio personality Dee Vazquez. "As unfair as it may be Nicki has to make an impressive debut in order to prove the female emcee is a viable investment."

Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager

"Even though Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music's marquee man, his recent leaks- "Runaway" and "Monster"- show that his current musical practices are more mortal than the superhuman nature we know him for," said Trent “TC” Clark, Managing Editor at "Instead, I'd say the hints Kid Cudi has given us from Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager could be the infectious sing-a-long of the winter."

Clark wasn't the only Cudi fan.

"I'm sold off the audacity of the album title alone," Ernest Baker, Complex's Assistant Editor. "Like several polarizing rock stars before him, Kid Cudi is the spokesperson for this generation of cynical, lonely, heartbroken drug abusers and he knows it. The five songs that have leaked so far sound great, too."

Tyler's Wolf

"[He’s] the creator of LA's Odd Future collective who are quickly becoming the teenage skate punk equivalent to Wu Tang and Tyler is their RZA," said Andrew “Noz” Nosnitsky of "His [beats] are built from sloppy and squashed Neptunes synths and his raps are like a half speed amalgamation of MF Doom, early Eminem and Lil B."

J. Cole's Cole World

"History shows that many of our current greats started their runs with their debut albums," said John Gotty of "The one where they gave us their life's living and waiting crammed into a one shot deal to share who they are with the world. He seemed to go through an apprenticeship while on the road for The Blueprint 3 tour and didn't release much recorded material. In recent months, he's picked up the pace by releasing several notable freestyles and releasing "Who Dat" - presumably one of the album's singles - all of which have been noteworthy. And now that he's begun to add producing to his repertoire, the Faytettenam rookie is poised to make his mark in 2010's last quarter."

Gucci Mane's The Appeal

"I'm looking forward to Gucci's project but almost less for how it sounds and more for how it's received," said Benjamin Meadows-Ingram, Senior Editor at XXL. "Soulja Boy gets more and more interesting with every release so I'm looking forward to seeing how that project plays for him. Lil Boosie’s a great, underrated rapper who's in jail, and that sucks. It will be great to hear new material from him but it will only serve as a reminder of what could have been if he'd been free this whole past year and able to put in even more work. I’m looking forward to the Webbie album as well. He talks slick and his beats bang."

Yelawolf's Trunk Muzik

"Along with rappers like CyHi and Pill, Yelawolf is a newer artist who realizes the values of underground rap can happily exist within the music that’s currently popular in the clubs and on the charts," said Ben Detrick, writer for XXL, The Village Voice and the New York Times. "It’ll be interesting to see if his full-length LP can draw these strands together as effectively as his “Trunk Muzik” mixtape did. Also, he’s white-which always makes for fascinating socio-political arguments within hip-hop."

David Banner and 9th Wonder's Death of a Popstar

"David Banner has been handcuffed to the conformity of southern rap since the days of “Cadillac on 22s,” said Steve Horowitz, Associate Editor at YRB. “Variety” doesn’t really come to mind when the Mississippi native’s name hits the tongue. But based on the preliminary leaks from his full-length collaboration project with producer 9th Wonder, there’s more than one musical shade to a dude whose rap star tunnel vision birthed songs like “Syrup Sipping” and “F--- You Hoes.” The duo stretches out a concept about how there will never be another pop star of Michael Jackson or even Usher-caliber over nine tracks of crackly beats that, so far, sound comfy beneath Banner’s guttural, jagged rhymes. With this joint, North Cackalacka and Mississippi could be more in-tune than ever before."

Foreign Exchange's Authenticity

"The grown man in me is heavily anticipating Foreign Exchange's Authenticity," Andreas Hale, writer for XXL and, told RapFix. "What Phonte and Nicolay have done as a group puts them on another level musically and it's a pleasant departure from the hyper-sexual R&B and the windfall of hip-hop albums slated for release in the fourth quarter. If it is sonically anything like Leave It All Behind, I think we'll be in for a treat come this October."

What album are you anticipating this fall? Kanye, Nicki, J. Cole? Tell us in a comment below!