Posthumous rap albums come with a lot of questions, namely, the innumerable logistical and ethical ones about whether said projects should be released in the first place. One question that isn't discussed as much is which posthumous LP is the best.
Taking a look at posthumous-released rap LPs over the years, the answer isn't a simple one. By nature, a posthumous album is usually one comprised of outtakes and first drafts; projects the artist didn't have the time or interest in finishing. With that in mind, many of the songs are unfinished, and so that leaves the work to be updated or completed by people who aren't the rappers. This, of course, leaves room for the works to be a big departure from both the quality, themes and musicality fans are used to.
Over the years, plenty of albums that dropped after a rapper passed away have been labeled cynical cash-grabs aimed at sentimental fans. However, the best posthumous hip-hop albums manage to reflect an artist's attributes and find their own favorable space in their legacy.
A bad posthumous album might include a bunch of sub-par verses, thrown-together a cappellas and beats that don't fit the artist. A decent one might include good verses with beats and feature guests that complement the artist but it doesn't have the completed conceptual framework to be a noteworthy entry in the artist's catalog. A good to great posthumous album merges the best qualities of the artist with production that makes sense and the wholistic vision to make the LP more than the sum of its parts.
With the posthumous album Circles, Mac Miller's team managed to deliver a project that was not only faithful to the rapper's vision—executed by his collaborator, instrumentalist film score composer Jon Brion—but managed to become one of his best albums. The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death, which was either completely finished or very close to being done by the time Biggie was shot and killed on March 9, 1997, earned the same critical acclaim as his debut album, Ready to Die, while ultimately going on to sell many more copies.
In a similar release situation was Tupac Shakur's The Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory, an LP that earned mixed reviews at the time but was beloved by fans and sold over 4 million copies since its release in November 1996.
Which posthumous hip-hop album is the best? Let's take a look. Today, XXL examines releases from Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Mac Miller, Lil Peep and more to rank the best posthumous rap albums of all time. Check out the rankings in the gallery below.
See 11 of the Best Posthumous Hip-Hop Albums, Ranked