Did the first half of 2015 beat the entirety of 2014? The answer is yes.

Rae Sremmurd kicked off the year with the instantly enjoyable SremmLife, but it turned out that was just the tip of the iceberg. What followed in the next couple of months included surprise releases, an acclaimed opus and some label drama.

The latter came from DrakeKendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt. People suspect that Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late was dropped simply to get out of his contract with Cash Money, the label that Lil Wayne is still warring with. Kendrick and Earl saw the release of their albums fumbled by their labels, which led to immediate backlash via Twitter (Earl cursed out Sony, while TDE CEO Anthony Tiffith pointed the finger at Interscope).

This year was also when the saying that only good music lasts proved to be true. The drama behind the releases subsided pretty quickly, and everyone was left talking about the finest set of albums in months. At least one of them will be talked about for years.

2015 is also the rise of studio debuts for many artists, but only a few make the cut. It’s been much harder than last year to select the Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2015 (So Far), but we delivered. Check out some of the top-tier releases in hip-hop in the last six months.