Skip to main content

Top 5 TDE Albums of All-Time, Ranked

'good kid, m.A.A.d city' or 'To Pimp a Butterfly'? 'Cilvia Demo' or 'Oxymoron'? A breakdown of our favorite TDE releases.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Cheap liquor will have you lying in bed contemplating why you do this to yourself time and time again, but I’ve played with that thought so often it didn’t come to mind Sunday. Instead, my hangover clarity was spent wondering about TDE’s discography and where Isaiah Rashad’s Cilvia Demo ranked within the Top Dawg conglomerate.

Trying to categorize a catalog of albums that have all blessed my ears at different times in my life only made my headache worse. TDE is excellent at crafting full-length projects.

After having a few days to stress it, I finally completed my personal top five TDE album list, but I quickly discovered that, like so many things, this was a conversation made better by including the squad. So the DJBooth writers got together to come up with their own personal top five. Forget sales or influence or all the other vague measurements we so often talk about, this is nothing but pure personal experience, the projects that resonated with us the most. 

Below are our selections. Argue amongst yourselves.

Yoh's Top 5

  1. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
  2. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  3. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo
  4. Kendrick Lamar, Section.80
  5. Ab-Soul, Longterm 2: Lifestyles Of The Broke & Almost Famous

5. Ab-Soul, Longterm 2: Lifestyles Of The Broke & Almost Famous

Control System is Ab-Soul at his best, I won’t attempt to argue that, but Longterm 2 is special. This is before TDE was the colossus record label that it is today. Human music is what he called it in the intro. Instead of fabricating a lifestyle he didn’t live, he accepted his circumstance. “Drift Away,” “Be A Man,” “Soul Cry,” “Mayday” and “Can Anybody Hear Me” are songs he could only make from the bottom staring toward the top. He’s lyrically strong throughout the 18 tracks but it’s the introspection of where he was in his life that perfectly resonated with me then and still does now. Top dawg underdog.

4. Kendrick Lamar, Section.80

Originally this was ScHoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions but I pressed play on "Hol’Up" and all the memories came flooding back. This is an album that you can close your eyes and visualize yourself and those around you in the words. It comes to life. Kendrick has a song on his EP called “Wanna Be Heard” but it was on Section 80 when he really had something to say. Something that you needed to hear.

3. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo

The album that soundtracked much of my 2015 and 2016. Zay captured his life in a way that reflects my early and mid-20’s. His demo was a TDE debut that could stand among their best albums. Call me and I’ll talk your ear off about all 14 tracks.

2. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly

The novel that you can’t put down, from cover to cover the pages bleed with knowledge, emotion, and self-realization. Audio literature for your soul. It’s been there on the brightest days and darkest nights.

1. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city:  

I love Section80 with all my heart, at times it’s my favorite Kendrick album, but time has really allowed GKMC to grow on me. It’s the masterpiece movie that you see in the theater, buy on DVD, and re-watch when it plays on B.E.T. You never get enough of it.

Lucas' Top 5

  1. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo
  2. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
  3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  4. ScHoolboy Q, Oxymoron
  5. Kendrick Lamar, Section.80

5. Kendrick Lamar, Section.80

Scroll to Continue



5 Songs You Need to Hear: Best of the Week

Tap in with new releases from Young Dolph, Zinoleesky, Central Cee, Simi, and Lay Bankz.


10 Rappers You Should Know Right Now

Finesse2Tymes, Luh Tyler, Antha Pantha, TS Lagga, and Xhulooo are among the artists on our radar — they should be on your radar, too.


5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Tell your friends about new releases from SZA, Rot Ken, Scorey, Bree Runway, and Alkaline.

This was a tough one, but in the end, I’m going with Section80 because it was my first real introduction to Kendrick and it contains some of my favorite Kendrick cuts. “Hol’ Up,” “Hiipower,” “A.D.H.D,” “Rigamortis” and arguably my favorite Kendrick cut of all time, “Blow My High.” Shit, now that I think about it, should this album be higher? Fuck. Ummmm, no. This feels about right. 

4. ScHoolboy Q, Oxymoron

You know what’s crazy? Three months ago I might not have included this album at all, but recently I’ve found myself going back to Oxymoron and loving every second of it. Well... almost every second. Some of the songs, “What They Want” and “Gangsta,” are automatic skips for me, but “Break The Bank”? I forgot how amazing that track is. “Studio”? Holy shit that bass. “Hell Of A Night?” I don’t care how commercial it sounds, shit goes hard. Don’t even get me started on “Collard Greens.” Oxymoron is an amazing album and I’m not quite sure I fully appreciated it when it was released, but I definitely do now.

3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

If we were going by sales, artistry, impact, and all of that jazz, this one would be number one, but in terms of Lucas’ personal favorites, I just can’t put it ahead of Cilvia or GKMC; no matter how profoundly heartbreaking “u” is.  It says more about my love for Zay than a knock on this album. To be fair, I haven't had nearly as much time to get to know this album as I have the others, check back with me in two years.

2. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city

I may not be able to relate to Kendrick as deeply as I do Isaiah, but that doesn't mean I don’t go Chiquita bananas when “m.A.A.d City” comes on. The thing I love most about GKMC is Kendrick’s ability to tell a cohesive, thoughtful story but also make me go absolutely fucking nuts. To this day, I’m still finding new things I love about this album. Fuck, I just love this fucking album so fucking much.

1. Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo

There’s not a single album, TDE or otherwise, that I listen to more than Cilvia. If it's sunny and 70 degrees or pouring rain, if I'm hyped or exhausted, Cilvia always finds a way to fit my mood. It’s probably why Cilvia accounts for a quarter of my top 25 most played on iTunes. "Heavenly Father" has 125 plays alone. I think what separates Cilvia from the pack is the ability to relate to Isaiah. When I listen to Q or KDot, I nod my head and rap the lyrics, but there's a gap between us. They are like gods descended from the heavens, but Isaiah feels like a peer. I get him on the level of a 20-something who loves smoking weed and hates advice. That relationship, that closeness, has resulted in Cilvia being my favorite album rain or shine.

Brendan Varan's Top 5

  1. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
  2. ScHoolboy Q, Oxymoron
  3. ScHoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
  4. Ab-Soul, Long Term 2: Lifestyles of the Broke and Almost Famous
  5. ScHoolboy Q, Setbacks

5. ScHoolboy Q, Setbacks

Narrowing down TDE projects to a personal top-5 is like choosing which of my five fingers I'd like to keep, so I'll start off by saying this: hearing Kendrick's OD for the first time all those years ago set off an obsession for all things TDE that project along with ScHoolboy's Setbacks became a personal tag team of great albums. Though OD was the spark, and it saddens me to not include it here, Setbacks had to be included off its importance and omnipresence in my formative early-to-mid college years.

4. Ab-Soul, Long Term 2: Lifestyles of the Broke and Almost Famous

Kendrick was always the master lyricist, but it was Ab-Soul who I initially connected with the most. He was the broke, flawed everyman with a penchant for wordplay, weed and deeper thinking. From depressed to cheerful, hopeless to confident, the project was everything I needed at the time of its release.

3 & 2. ScHoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions and Oxymoron (Tied)

ScHoolboy was by far the coolest of the hippies, and when Setbacks dropped it became essential any time that I wasn't sober - basically my entire sophomore year of college. In the years that followed, ScHoolboy's remained one of my favorite artists in all of music. H&C and Oxymoron were not just artistic steps forward for Q but two of my favorite albums. They've had me uncontrollably hyped up ("There He Go," "Nightmare on Figg St.," "Collard Greens," "The Purge"), floating on a cloud ("My Hatin' Joint," "Studio," "Man of the Year"), wrecked with emotion ("Blessed," "Prescription") and rapping along with every word until my voice was hoarse ("Break The Bank").

1. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city: I expect GKMC to make everyone's list, personally it soundtracked an entire year of my college existence. For six months after the album dropped, no car ride or walk to class existed without hearing "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe," "Backseat Freestyle," "Money Trees," "Poetic Justice," "m.A.A.d city" or "Swimming Pools," and it wasn't surprising to hear all of them each and every night I went out. Side note: “Sing About Me” is perfect. Side note 2: GKMC had some of the worst bonus tracks ever.

Apologies to Jay Rock, Cilvia DemoODTPAB and Control System, I would have loved to include you as well.



10 Rappers You Should Know Right Now

Finesse2Tymes, Luh Tyler, Antha Pantha, TS Lagga, and Xhulooo are among the artists on our radar — they should be on your radar, too.


5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Tell your friends about new releases from SZA, Rot Ken, Scorey, Bree Runway, and Alkaline.


5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Press play on new releases from Metro Boomin, The Mavins, Babyface Ray, brakence, and Tiggs Da Author.


Tahj Keeton Makes Beauty Through Chaos

Georgia artist Tahj Keeton gets real about his bubbling sound with Audiomack World.


10 Rappers You Should Know Right Now

Get familiar with FNF Chop, skaiwater, BabyDrill, 21 Lil Harold, BigXthaPlug, Gloss Up, and more.


5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Press play on new albums from Wizkid, GloRilla, SleazyWorld Go, Sarkodie, and SoFaygo.