Here Are the Best Surprise Hip-Hop Albums of All Time

There’s something about the element of surprise, when it’s possible to give someone something they didn’t expect or couldn’t prepare for that leads to the ultimate excitement. Hip-hop albums dropping with little promotion (or in some cases with no warning at all) are always a fascinating experiment, and a true gamble for the artists. In the world of hip-hop, there’s a sizable amount of both successful and well-made albums that released quickly, with a very short time between knowing the project exists to playing it on your computer or phone. Today, XXL highlights the best surprise albums of all time, which is sure to include some of your favorites.

One project that isn’t highlighted in our final but deserves an honorable mention is Drake‘s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape. In 2015, Drizzy, already a rap superstar at the time, shock-dropped with this project and upended the game. The effort came with no real warning on the day before Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. Feb. 13). Not only was it an excellent project and one of Drake’s best, it also revealed a more serious and gritty rapper, detailing how angry he was with both people targeting him and his rumored label issues at Cash Money Records. The project is full of songs that would go on to define Drake’s career, too, like “Energy,” “Know Yourself” and “Jungle.” IYRTITL also sold 495,000 copies in its first week, making it both a commercial and critical success.

When it comes to official album releases that ended up being a surprise, Lil Uzi Vert‘s highly anticipated LP, Eternal Atake, is certainly one of the stellar projects. After giving fans the sneak attack treatment with the initial effort in March, then he dropped another album the next week. Double the Baby Pluto energy.

The strategy around surprise rap albums has worked multiple times, whether it’s years ago or in 2020. Since it’s worked to many rappers’ benefit, more artists will try it for themselves, leveraging both their star power and talent to present their music in its purest form.

Take a look in the gallery below to see some of the biggest and best surprise albums out there, including Playboi Carti’s Die Lit, J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Future’s DS2, plus more. Click through and check it out.

See the Best Surprise Hip-Hop Albums of All Time

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