Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums

2. Pusha T
My Name Is My Name
(Def Jam)

With the Clipse getting chopped in half — brother Malice found God, lost his maliciousness — one might expect the purity of Virginia's dope to diminish. But those trapped know the product can be just as potent if you cut it and cook it right.

My Name Is My Name is the crack confessions of the Clipse bubbling in a Kanye West beaker. Pusha T's solo salvo thrusts our slick-talking kingpin into his own beautiful dark fantasy, distilling the best from his Grade A guest MCs (no mail-in verses from the prolific Rick Ross or Kendrick Lamar) and producers (No I.D., Pharrell, 88-Keys), who pitch in but never overwhelm. Chris Brown and Swizz Beatz, a couple of guys prone to bogarting a track, recede to the shadows on "Sweet Serenade," leaving Pusha's impassioned cold raps to bristle. And the Bad Boy throwback "Let Me Love" (featuring Kelly Rowland) shows Pusha's ability to switch up his flow; you'll have to lean in to the speaker to figure out that's not actually Ma$e.

Despite his numerous connects, MNIMN is all Pusha — the charismatic cocaine cowboy — in his Ric Flair-hooting prime: "My Ouija board don't ever lie to me/ The best rapper livin', I know who's alive to me," he crows, with good reason. Ounce for ounce, this is one of the year's best. (Luke Fox)