BE HUMBLE

Proof that the best musician of the 21st century is Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar frequently refers to himself as the world’s “greatest rapper.” He might be selling himself short.

Quartz analyzed data from the website Metacritic to identify the best-reviewed albums of the 21st century, and found that Lamar is on an unparalleled critical run. According to music critics, Lamar might not only be the best hip-hop artist, but modern popular music’s greatest artist in general.

Metacritic takes music reviews and converts them into a numerical score, and then combines those scores to give albums a 0-100 rating. For example, Beyoncé’s critically lauded 2016 album Lemonade received a 92, while Meaghan Trainor’s 2016 release Thank You received a 60.

Lamar, the Compton, California-born virtuoso, is the only artist to release three albums since 2000 that all received scores of 90 or above: Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012), To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), and DAMN. (2017). In addition to being a critical darling, Lamar is a commercial force. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and To Pimp a Butterfly both sold over 1 million albums worldwide, and at the time of writing DAMN. sat at number one on the Billboard charts for the third-straight week.

The table below ranks artists according to the average score of their three best rated albums since 2000. The vast majority of reviews are from US publications, so the albums that received enough reviews to be rated are mostly from America. Also, jazz albums and rock albums may be reviewed by different publications, so ratings should be thought of as the critical reception for the artist within their genre.

Eat your heart out Kanye West.

The most critically lauded artists of the 21st century

Rank Artist Avg. score of 3 best-rated albums
1 Kendrick Lamar 94
2 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds 90
3 Leonard Cohen 89.7
4 Sufjan Stevens 89
5 Kanye West 88.7
6 Mount Eerie 88
7 Arcade Fire 88
8 Wadada Leo Smith 88
9 Sleater-Kinney 87.7
10 Drive-By Truckers 87.3
11 Frank Ocean 87.3
12 Bon Iver 87
13 Radiohead 87
14 The Roots 87
15 Bjork 86.3
16 The White Stripes 86.3
17 Vijay Iyer Trio 86.3
18 Destroyer 86
19 Joanna Newsom 86
20 LCD Soundsystem 86

For the uninitiated, we recommend the following tracks as entry points into Lamar’s catalog: Money Trees (Good Kid, M.A.A.D City), King Kunta (To Pimp a Butterfly), and Duckworth (DAMN.).

home our picks popular latest obsessions search