Man, I hate to say this but people will castrate me for it anyway: this was a GREAT year for hip hop.
There, I said it. You don’t have to believe me. I’m going to show you in two different posts.
This post will be about my personal top ten albums for the year of 2014. And yes, in my eyes these are some great albums. Some may eventually be considered classics in their own right (see Freddie Gibbs and RTJ 2). Some will get lost in the shuffle because too many people aren’t hearing the music. Still, I will present to you the top 10 albums that I bumped:
Hip Hop 2014 Top 10 Albums
10. J-Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
This is J. Cole trying to be openly honest, free, and talk about the things he care about without feeling forced. This is also J. Cole actually making music without concern for album sales. He got a chance to talk about his childhood, his beliefs, and even the state of hip hop and appropriation. I must say I am thoroughly impressed from an artist that I was already a fan of.
9. Big K.R.I.T – Cadillactica
Big K.R.I.T. always had the ability to make great mixtapes. However, his first album was too imbalanced (as dope as it was). This time, he regained a lot of that balance between twerking the speakers in his old school car and making music with a message. I just wish he kept the original version of Mt. Olympus as the bonus track. Wishful thinking, though. Wishful thinking.
8. Skyzoo & Torae – Barrel Brothers
Skyzoo and Torae came together to make an album that was so NY that all I could imagine was graffiti, subways, and bodegas. These two took it back to the time where Blahzay Blahzay referred to Timbs and blunts on Broadway. Anybody that misses that full time NY type of rap should have bought their album.
7. Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons
Ghostface Killah might be up there with Slick Rick and Andre 3000 when it comes to narrating songs and albums that actually give a worthwhile tale. Telling the tale of a man that returns home after 36 seasons, Ghostface recalls all of the emotions and actions that transpire to “regain his old life back”. Yet, he realizes that some things will never be the same. Plus, the use of AZ and that infectious old school R&B throughout the album is ingenious.
6. Logic – Under Pressure
Logic went out and proved that he can make an album as good as anything that you are listening to at this moment. Under Pressure, as a title, should be taken literally. It deals with the pressure of being an artist that is actually trying to do something real with the music. From his dedications to his “favorite girl” (“Nikki”) to the elongated track that actually doesn’t feel that long (the 9 minute title track), the songs stay on point. Welcome to the “big leagues” Logic. You earned your roster spot.
5. Black Milk – If There Is Hell Below
This album is on the level of Common’s album with its gritty and dark honesty about the urban landscape. Don’t believe me? Listen to tracks like the sad ending to “Story and Her” and “Leave The Bones Behind”. Plus, you get to hear great guest verses from Bun B, Random Axe, and the soul stealing verse from Blu (see the aforementioned “Leave The Bones Behind”) and crooning from AB. Sometimes, the bleak and blight won’t sound as good as this.
Oh, and it’s self-produced. Enough said.
4. PRhyme – PRhyme
When your “rappity rap” albums sound inspired with a soundtrack from a reformed legendary hip hop producer, PRhyme is what occurs. Many will want to think that “Preemo (DJ Premier) fell off” or “Royce Da 5’9 should have dropped this album years ago” and the rest of that malarkey laced rigamarole. However, Adrian Younge played the instruments and gave Premier something to sample. Preemo chopped up the samples and Royce spits furiously over each and every track. You can’t lose.
3. Pharaohe Monch – PTSD
This is an album that each and every human should be listening to. This is what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sounds over hip hop tracks. Although there is a song here and there that is straight rhyming (“Rapid Eye Movement” featuring yet another fire verse from Black Thought), most of the songs are quite thematically accurate. Once you hear “Eht Dnarg Noisulli”, you will fully understand what I am talking about.
2. Freddie Gibbs – Pinata
Freddie Gibbs, the CTE stalwart representing my home town of Gary, Indiana, dropped one of the best albums bar-by-bar and beat-by-beat for 2014. And no, I am not being biased. He enlisted Madlib over the beats. What we got was soulful gangsta music that left no words unsaid and no groove manipulated. Gibbs gave his hometown mentality from his favorite fried chicken spot to references to love lost. Gangsta Gibbs won in 2014.
1. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
When I first realized that Killer Mike and El-P were going to collaborate, I knew something great was happening. That was 2012. Now, it is the end of 2014 and their professional lives have not slowed down since. In fact, it has only picked up the pace and helped them grow their combined forces to create a cult following. Run The Jewels 2 is that avant garde album of social commentary and human lecherous actions that Ice Cube and Charles Bukowski would be proud of. It is just that awesome of an album.