Saturday, 20 December 2014

Top 15 Favorite Albums of 2014

It's finally that time of the year again. 2014 is almost over and we're at a point where we can discuss some of the albums that stood out to us the most, whether they were great or terrible. However, I personally don't care much to talk about the albums that disappointed me, because those won't get anyone anywhere and it would bother the fans of those albums. Instead, I will talk about the top 15 albums I loved the most this year. I was going to make this a top 10, but there were too many great albums that came out this year to leave them off a list, so I decided to extend the list for this year. I mean 2014 isn't as amazing as 2011, but it was a definite improvement from last year. I discovered a lot of new artists that moved me, and many older artists remained consistent with excellent albums. Like last year, this list will feature albums, mixtapes and/or EPs because they're all the same to me (especially since mixtapes are pretty much free albums these days). So without further adieu, I present my top 15 favorite albums of 2014!

15- These Days... - Ab-Soul:
I know, the hardcore fans probably won't agree because this album isn't as good as Control System. Hell some might claim it's not as good as Longterm Mentality either. But for me personally, I was still able to enjoy this album a lot mainly because Ab-Soul started showing some diversity and versatility, which a lot of people might disagree with. He did commercially appealing tracks like Twact and Nevermind That, but to me he did those track well. They were made so that Ab-Soul can appeal to a larger audience. I know some fans might say I'm making excuses, but this is my list so whatever! At the end of the day, you can't deny the dopeness of creative tracks like Tree of Life and Just Have Fun, the explosive Kendrick Lamar's Interlude, the heartbreaking Closure, the tough and hard Stigmata and Drive Slow, and the laid back Feeling Us. The beats all across this album (with the exception of maybe Dub Sac and World Runners) are all colorful, well layered, and have a lot of bass that will bump on large speakers. Features range from the entire TDE roster (with the exception of Isaiah Rashad unfortunately), Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Assad, Lupe Fiasco and Rick Ross who all do their thing. The album ends with an epic battle between Ab-Soul and Daylyt and even though Daylyt won in my opinion, Ab-Soul definitely held his own. I was told that the concept of the album is to be some sort of satire of modern Hip-Hop, hence the title These Days..., which makes a lot of sense. I guess the enjoyability of the album narrows down to if the listener is willing to hear Ab-Soul experiment with some more modern and current trends. I know I did! So be sure to check this album out if you haven't and approach it with open ears. 

Favorite Tracks: Tree of Life, Just Have Fun, Kendrick Lamar's Interlude, Ride Slow, Stigmata, W.R.O.H.

14- 36 Seasons - Ghostface Killah:
Wu-Tang had a big year releasing their long awaited come-back album A Better Tomorrow. While that album was okay, more people, including myself, seemed to be more gravitated towards Ghostface Killah's new solo effort 36 Seasons. Like Twelve Reasons to Die, 36 Seasons is a concept album that involves a drug lord, betrayal, death and resurrection. Some people were disappointed by the concept because it seemed to resembled that of his previous album too much. While I can see and agree with that to a certain degree, this album has enough changes and differences to still be enjoyable. Here, Ghostface recruited legendary MCs Kool G Rap, AZ and Pharoahe Monch to play major characters that contribute to the story. The album also has more tracks with strictly singing that actually fit well without sounding corny. As always, Ghostface's rhymes are packed with cartoonish violence that paint the vivid pictures of the story he is trying to tell. This album has fast paced action, drama and even heartbreaking moments just like a movie. The production handled mostly by The Revelations is very well done. They feature wonderful soul samples that bring life to the album. So if you're into concept albums with a good story, great rapping and awesome production, be sure to check this album out,

Favorite Tracks: The Battlefield, Love Don't Live Here No More, Emergency Procedure, Double Cross

13- Your Old Droog EP - Your Old Droog:
For a short period of time in the beginning of the year, Your Old Droog had the world convinced that he was Nas under another alter ego. Even I didn't totally dismiss this theory, but earlier in the year this album lost some steam because of that idea. However, once it was revealed that Your Old Droog was in fact NOT Nas, I decided to go back to this album to check it out and I loved it a lot. Clearly any artist who is compared to Nas should say something. While his voice may sound like that of Nas, his flow and rhyming patterns are distinctly different. He has a gruff New York East-Coast flow and can flow on a beat immaculately. The beats he raps over are obviously 90s era influenced, maybe even more so than the beats Pro Era usually go over. They sound very choppy and old school without trying too hard. Drop this EP in 93' and it would blend in just fine. His self titled full length album didn't come out until later in the year, but I felt like the additional tracks didn't make the album more special. All in all, this is a great mini project that's definitely worth your time so be sure to check it out. I wish this EP had more hooks like Droog's Anthem because he can do those very well, but other than that this was a great debut for Your Old Droog. I'm sure he is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Favorite Tracks: Bad to the Bone, Nutty Bars, Loosey in the Store with Pennies, Droog's Anthem, Gunsmoke Colgne 

12- Cadillactica - Big K.R.I.T.:
I say this all the time: Big K.R.I.T. is easily one of the most consistent artists in recent years. From his early mixtapes to even his major label debut (which I thought was fine, many fans were disappointed), Big K.R.I.T. has always given me quality music, whether its ignorant, introspective, or socially conscious rap. He produces all his music and as a result he blends perfectly with the beats. On this album, Big K.R.I.T. does something new and creates a complete new world within the album called Cadillactica. A planet he created himself, the album follows the planet's inception, creation and culture. The songs within the album discuss various topics that appeal to Big K.R.I.T. such as his love for cars and women, but it also touches on this generation of kids, love, and his place in Hip-Hop. The intro and Life give the album a great start, the title track feels like a futuristic ride through space, and his southern roots and love for cars can be heard on My Sub Pt. 3. While it is slightly inconsistent, the album has enough variety to keep me interested and I end up enjoying it more and more with each listen. Tracks like Mind Control are very catchy and fun, while tracks like Lost Generations are very socially conscious. The features do their thing for the most part, with the exception of maybe E-40. Bun B, Big Sant and Raphael Saadiq have impressive contributions to the album and most of the hooks are very fun and catchy. Be sure to give this album a listen. It's the type of album that can appeal to a wide range of Hip-Hop listeners. 

Favorite Tracks: Cadillactica, Life, Soul Food, My Sub Pt. 3, Standby (Interlude), Lost Generation, Kreation (intro), Lac Lac (Bonus Track)

11- PTSD - Pharoahe Monch:
This is the first album from my mid-year list to survive to my year-end list just outside the top 10, but this album is still as good as ever. With the surplus of newer albums, PTSD unfortunately got bumped down, but I still love and enjoy it a lot. Pharoahe Monch showcases his ability to create a well put together album with a consistent theme. He talks about PTSD from the perspective of multiple characters including war veterans, stressed lower class workers, and troubled teens and how this disorder affects their lives. He can create a heartfelt track, with grand, braggadocios and hardcore songs that still fit the theme of the album, and even up lifting and comedic moments near the end of the album. For the first time in a while (since Desire), Pharoahe Monch is provided with beats that suit him perfectly. He can display his multi-syllable flows, coded and clever metaphors, and his authoritative voice that demands attention with ease. He brings in seasoned veterans like Talib Kweli and the legendary Black Thought to drop some fantastic features, and being a veteran himself, Monch can keep up just fine. Be sure to check this album out if you haven't. It's a great experience and a very well thought out album.

Favorite Tracks: The Jungle, Damage, Bad M.F., Rapid Eye Movement, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, D.R.E.A.M.

Now we enter the top 10!

10- PRhyme - Self-Titled (Royce Da 5'9'' & DJ Premiere):
When you consider the people involved with this album, you know you're gonna get something excellent. Royce Da 5'9'' is a legendary MC from Detroit, fully capable of going toe-to-toe with the best and is 1/4 of the infamous group Slaughterhouse with a bunch of other stellar MCs. DJ Premier is responsible for having his hands in some of the best and most influential rap albums of all time including Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, The Sun Rises in the East and all the iconic Gang Starr albums. With this record, Premo worked with samples supplied by Adrian Younge which gives the album a live sound. This may be a good or bad thing, but for me it worked. The beats are great and Royce sounds hungrier than ever. Although the album is only 9 tracks long and spans about 35 minutes, it hits you hard with great wordplay, nice flows, and very impressive features from Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Electronica, Killer Mike, Common and others. Killer Mike probably had the best feature to me on Underground Kings. The album flows well so the momentum is always there, and Royce keeps a hold of your attention bar for bar. So if you haven't checked this out yet, be sure to do so. It's a short and sweet listen with nice bars and beats. What more can you ask for?

Favorite Tracks: Underground Kings, Courtesy, U Looz, Dat Sound Good, Wishin', To Me To You

9- Cilvia Demo - Isaiah Rashad:
The second album to survive from my mid-year list, Isaiah Rashad (surprisingly) has the best TDE release of the year. He came out the gate with something extremely original and creative with this album. For one, the album is filled with incredible airy and spacy production from top to bottom. They're very layered and atmospheric, which provides room for Isaiah to fit perfectly within the beats. Isaiah himself is very lyrical. He isn't very cryptic or coded, but his rhyme patterns are very nicely sequenced and delivered with a lot of passion and conviction. Throughout the album, Isaiah discusses the impact his father's departure from his youth had on him. He talks about how it led to him becoming a better father to his son. The album also contains braggadocios moments where you can relate to the things he says like on R.I.P. Kevin Miller, and he also has those moments where he's just going off lyrically like on Soliloquy. Isaiah has an awesome personality, great lyrics, and an ability to write some infectious hooks. It came out very early in the year, and I still bump this album on occasion. Check it out!

Favorite Tracks: R.I.P Kevin Miller, Soliloquy, Cilvia Demo, Webbie Flow, Heavenly Father, Banana

8- 2014 Forest Hills Drive - J.  Cole:
After last year's Born Sinner, J. Cole proved that he is a force in Hip-Hop, outselling Kanye West's Yeezus, but it still left me wanting more in terms of hunger and passion. Born Sinner felt like an album with a lot of filler and not enough variety to make me revisit it again and again. It was a mood album, and not a mood I was always in. I expected all these mistakes to be corrected for future projects if I were to be impressed by another J. Cole album. So 3 weeks before it dropped, J. Cole announced that he would be dropping this album with no promotion or singles, which I thought was great because it meant he was sticking to something specific in terms of a concept and not giving in to commercial appeal. Thankfully, my wishes were granted and I received an album that is exactly what I wanted from J. Cole. Like previous efforts, J. Cole is still personal, but the production has been elevated big time, with contributions from different producers and the inclusion of a lot of live instrumentation, which I loved. J. Cole also seems hungrier and motivated to release a classic, and while I think this album isn't perfect, it still met my expectations. J. Cole is no longer overly humble, but is still relatable through his stories. He takes shots at the mainstream with tracks like Fire Squad, has introspective tracks like Wet Dreamz, and experiments with more singing which I actually enjoyed on tracks like Hello. Overall, I got what I wanted which is a cohesive, mature, introspective album that is still aggressive at points. Oh, and that outro was hilarious. It's very long, but Lupe did it on Food & Liquor and it worked fine. The initial singing on it was awesome and the Jonah Hill joke in the middle killed me! It was good enough from me to get through the whole thing with every listen. Pick it up!

Favorite Tracks: Fire Squad, Wet Dreamz, G.O.M.D., Love Yours, No Role Modelz, 03' Adolescence

7- You're Dead! - Flying Lotus:
Flying Lotus is easily one of my favorite producers right now. His beats and albums contain some of the most creative fusions of Jazz, Hip-Hop, Funk and Electronic music you'll hear in the music industry. And while this blog mostly focuses on Hip-Hop releases, this is not a straight up Hip-Hop album. The reasons I'm including it though are because it has a lot of elements that exist in Hip-Hop, rap features that include Snoop Doggs, FlyLo's alter ego Captain Murphy, and my favorite feature from Kendrick Lamar. The elements of Jazz that are present in this album are beautifully well put together and resemble beats that could be present on a Hip-Hop album. Unlike his previous albums, You're Dead! is a lot more upbeat, especially when compared to Los Angeles or Until The Quiet Comes, which is the main reason why this is my favorite album of his so far. The music can be fun, chilling, exciting, and even sad when the album reaches the end. FlyLo takes many risks which include adding vocal features from rappers and even singing on the album himself and they all pay off. I highly recommend this album to any music fan, regardless of genre. 

Favorite Tracks: Turkey Dog Coma, Never Catch Me, Fkn Dead, Turtles, Ready Err Not, Descent Into Madness

6- Under Pressure - Logic:
I've been a Logic fan ever since he dropped his first Young Sinatra mixtape. I always thought he was an excellent lyricist, had great flows, and an ability to appeal to both hardcore and commercial Hip-Hop fans. After 4 good to great mixtapes, I was anxiously waiting for Logic to drop a fully realized major label debut that I can support. After signing to Def Jam, a debut became inevitable and I couldn't wait. However, I was still worried that Logic may go way too mainstream and my expectations were set very high. October finally came eventually and Under Pressure dropped and from first listen I knew this album was going to be one of my favorites. I do have to admit that at the time there was another album I was listening to that prevented me from fully indulging into Under Pressure (this album will be discussed when I reach the number 2 spot), but this album eventually picked up steam and was getting daily plays. On this album, Logic displays every aspect of what made me love his music without sacrificing his artistic input. He is very lyrical, aggressive, and even playful. What blew away the most was the amazing storytelling he displayed on tracks like Gang Related, Growing Pains III, and the back end of the title track. He talks about the violence he saw as a child, but from his perspective as the observer and not the enforcer. He also includes a clever concept that includes a "character" named Nikki, but I refuse to spoil the true meaning behind that. Logic can still be braggadocios on tracks like Never Enough, the beginning of Under Pressure, and my personal favorite Bounce. He also shows his softer side on tracks like Buried Alive and the gorgeous Metropolis. He has his socially conscious moments as well like on Soul Food. The closing track Till The End was a prefect ending to the album, sounding like something Kanye and Common would've put together back in the day. He absolutely seals the album and finishes off with a very triumphant track. The production on this album handled by 6ix, Logic himself, and others is damn near perfect. Every song sounds amazing, and the live instrumentation sounds very grand and expensive. This is probably because Logic put half a million of his own money on top to make his debut sound as perfect as possible and I think he did it. You have to respect someone that loves the craft as much as Logic and puts his all to make sure his place in Hip-Hop is set in stone. This is the best debut I've heard in a long time and if you haven't checked it out yet be sure to do so. Welcome to Hip-Hop Logic, I know you'll be here for a long time!

Favorite Tracks: Bounce, Under Pressure, Metropolis, Soul Food, Till The End, Gang Related

And now, I give you my top 5!

5- The Water[s] - Mick Jenkins:
Mick Jenkins' The Water[s] was probably one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. I walked into it expecting something good, but walked away absolutely floored. I never heard of Mick Jenkins before this project, but he has definitely earned himself a new fan with this excellent piece of work that should have been an album I can pick up and buy from any CD store. As the title suggests, Mick Jenkins creates a very watery atmosphere with the production and makes you feel totally submerged in water when listening to this album. He uses water as a metaphor for many things that include music, spiritually, one's self, and even the literal significance of water to create a theme of positivity and importance. His voice is very deep, but he has so many flows that showcase his versatility as a rapper. His bars can be straightforward and blunt at times, but can even be very clever and dense at other times. He is very creative with his wordplay and rhyming patterns and can totally pull you in. At 15 tracks, this album is never mediocre, it's always impressing me, and like Isaiah Rashad he has an incredible ability of writing infectious hooks. From the chilling Shipwrecked to the perfectly structures Jazz to the emotional Black Sheep and the aggressive Jerome with Joey Bada$$, this album is damn near flawless from front to back. If you're a fan of Hip-Hop, you'd be missing out if you don't give this album a listen.  

Favorite Tracks: Jazz, Shipwrecked, Black Sheep, Comfortable, Vibe, Martyrs, The Waters

4- Pinata - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib:
I know this was my favorite when I placed it at number 1 for my midyear list, but so much good music came out that it unfortunately dropped down a few spots. But this album is so good that I still can't find it in me to place it any lower than the top 5. Everything about this album is damn near perfect. The production handled entirely my the legendary Madlib is very jazz influenced and low-fi at some points, but not in a bad way. The beats sound very well aged and layered, but then again what do you expect from Madib, the mastermind behind classics like Madvillainy and The Unseen? At 17 tracks, this album doesn't have a single wack moment. Freddie Gibbs compliments Madlib's beats flawlessly without missing a single step. I've said this before, I was never a huge fan of his, but this album truly changed that. It gave Freddie Gibbs the beats he needed to reach his full potential. Freddie can be aggressive, laid back, spit some double-time flows, and even emotional, which is a characteristic I'm not usually familiar with in Freddie Gibbs. The first half of the album doesn't feature that many guest appearances, but they do start to pile up during the second half. But the features are so dope that it's not even an issue. There are appearances from Raekwon, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, Scarface, Ab-Soul, Danny Brown, and a lot more on the posse cut that finishes this album off. All the features do their thing. BJ the Chicago Kid also brings awesome soulful singing to the song Shame. Back to Freddie Gibbs. His rhymes are full of great stories, hilariously cartoonish bars, and even emotional bars on tracks like DeeperShitsville has Freddie Gibbs ranting on the double standards and fakeness people portray, yet they still point fingers at him for being immoral. Thuggin' is a perfect track to describe the persona Freddie Gibbs portrays, and Harold's is a laid back and fun track. And let's not forget Real, Freddie Gibbs' vicious and ruthless diss track aimed at Young Jeezy. Overall, I love this album from front to back, it's easily one of the best things I heard all year and I highly recommend it. Pick it up!

Favorite Tracks: Shitsville, Harold's, Shame, Deeper, Lakers, Real, Thuggin', Bomb, Pinata 

3- Dark Comedy - Open Mike Eagle:
This album was another big surprise for me, as I would've never thought I would love an album like this as much as I do. Open Mike Eagle is a member of the Hellfire Club, which also includes Nocando, Busdriver and Milo. Even though I respect all these artists (and I even enjoyed Busdriver's Perfect Hair), none of their material sticks to me as much as Open Mike Eagle's. His witty and sarcastic personality appeals to me and his wordplay and pop-culture references are hilarious and clever. He doesn't present himself as a hard and aggressive rapper, but instead he shows you how nerdy and geeky he is through his rhymes. The album is filled with some of the best production I heard all year that match Open Mike Eagle perfectly. Most of the beats are layered, atmospheric, but there are some that can be very experimental and exciting like the beat on A History of Modern Dance. As the title implies, the album has a very sarcastic tone to it, with many tracks being very serious but still playful. Tracks like Qualifiers, Thirsty Ego Raps, Jon Lovitz and especially Doug Stamper have some of the funniest moments in Hip-Hop you'll hear all year. The Hannibal Burress verse on Doug Stamper is so over the top and ridiculous that I can't help but laugh every time I hear it. However, some tracks can be very personal and genuine like Idaho, Very Much Money, and Big Pretty Bridges. Idaho is one of my favorites and it talks about that feeling when you're driving all alone at night with no one to talk to and you're just sitting there stuck with your thoughts. Very Much Money talks about all these people Open Mike Eagle looks up to and considers very talented but don't make nearly as much money as they deserve. Informations with Kool A.D. is the closest this albums comes to an accessible banger. This album is very consistent and has no skippable tracks. When listening to it you'll find yourself submerged in the atmosphere and themes Open Mike Eagle brings to the table with his awesome personality and schizophrenic flows. Be sure to pick this album up if you haven't! 

Favorite Tracks: A History of Modern Dance, Dark Comedy Morning Show, Doug Stamper, Idaho, Qualifiers, Jon Lovitz 

2- Searching Sylvan - QuESt:
I'm going to be very honest here. Before this mixtape, I never heard of QuESt or any of his music. After listening to this project, I learned that his was featured on Logic's 24 Freestyle, which I completely forgot about at that point. The only input I had about QuESt before listening to this album was when Dead End Hip Hop reviewed this project and all 4 members praised it. I figured how can an album this good be out there and I never heard of it? So I decided to go ahead and download this mixtape with absolutely no expectations. However, from first listen, I was absolutely blown away. Searching Sylvan has probably some of the most personal, depressing, uplifting, and relatable moments in a Hip-Hop album in the past few years. Me placing it at number 2 was a very tough decision because the reason why it isn't at number 1 is due to some small technical aspects of the album. This album can be exchanged with my number 1 album depending on the mood I'm in, but the reason I'm putting it at number 2 and not 1 on this official list is because my number 1 spot is perfect on every level. This album is perfect in terms of gripping me emotionally, but production wise and hooks it isn't as perfect as the number 1. Regardless, you can technically consider this album tied with my number 1 (which I will reveal next) for the top spot. This album is pretty much a concept album that involves real life situations that happened with QuESt that include him almost becoming famous, losing his deal somehow, and having to pretty much start over from the beginning. The album has a very dark start with Maybe I Should, in which QuESt contemplates suicide and continuing his rap career. Make It Out Alive continues these issues and how he now faces other responsibilities living with his mother but still wanting to pursue his rap career. Automatic is proof of how lyrical QuESt can be as he talks about his frustrations with the Hip-Hop industry. Biscayne Blvd is one of my favorite songs on this album. It is a very touching love song where QuESt discusses his relationship with his girlfriend and how much she means to him. C.O.T. Dreams Dreams Dreams is another favorite, but I don't wanna spoil the story in that song that much, just know it very creatively shows QuESt's braggadocios side without sounding too cocky and selfish. Erase Me brings QuESt back to the real world, discussing his rocky relationship with his father. QuESt then delves into some social commentary with Lost Ni**as and No Love In The City in terms of black communities. Struggle Rapper features QuESt venting about the experience of almost making it, falling back to square one, and feeling no motivation to continue. Dying Words is a heartbreaking song with a chorus that will leave you in tears. The closing track May 10th 2012 finishes off the album perfectly and loops the album back to the start for a full rounded experience. QuESt is so emotive as a rapper, and his bars can even sound very poetic. He is highly relatable, very personal, and very charismatic and skilled on the mic. The production is stellar all across the board, so there are no complaints there. I really hope QuESt has success coming his way after this project because he truly deserves it all. If he keeps putting out music this good, I'm sure he'll make it and he will be a problem. QuESt has a lot of potential and if he remains consistent he may become one of my favorite rappers right now. Be sure  to check this mixtape out and support the dude. This album made me connect to the artist in such an amazing way that this may become one of my all time favorites. A project hasn't made me feel this way since Childish Gambino's Camp. GET IT ASAP!

Favorite Tracks: Dying Words, Biscayne Blvd, C.O.T. Dreams Dreams Dreams, Hunger, Erase Me, Struggle Rapper


1- RTJ 2 - Run the Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P):
One word accurately describes this album and that word is "Perfect". I thought their self-titled debut was damn near flawless and I had no idea how they were going to top it. Well, somehow  they did and in doing so they put out one of the best Hip-Hop albums in recent years. This album will go hard when it has to, it will bang when it has to, and it will throw some politically driven bars when it has to. Killer Mike and El-P have elevated their chemistry to a point where it's undeniable. Killer Mike is aggressive, blunt, and straight to the point. El-P is the same, but has a more subdued flow filled with more coded bars. Track after track, Killer Mike and El-P throw some tough bars we many quotables that will stick in your brain for a long time. The album kicks off perfectly with Jeopardy, and Killer Mike starts off yelling at the top of his lungs letting you know that shit is about to go down. He raps authoritatively "You know your favorite rapper ain't shit and me I might be/the closest representation of God you might see" with a lot of conviction that you can't deny the power he has. El-P follows with "I aint never been much of shit/by most measurements don't exist/on the radar a little blimp in the shadow of motherships" showing you his poetic side but then picks up the pace and ends off his verse saying "Run the Jewels is the answer, your question is 'what's popping?'" solidifying the group and the album's importance. What follows are three of the hardest tracks you'll hear all year with Oh My Darling Don't Cry, Blockbuster Night Pt. 1, and Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck), the latter featuring Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine who gives one of his best performances in a while. The beats have a lot of bass, energy and are undeniably menacing, each rolling perfectly into the next with ease without losing any momentum. Lie Cheat Steal takes a look at the political and social inequality that exists, Early has a great verse from Killer Mike talking about police brutality. Early also features a beautiful hook from Boots. All Due Respect is another banger that features awesome drumming from Travis Barker and Love Again is pretty much a very explicit track about Killer Mike and El-P's sexual encounters but done very playfully. Gangsta Boo also hops on the track and gives a very dirty verse that compliments the theme of the song. The album ends of with two of the most serious tracks of the year; Crown and Angel Duster. Crown is probably my favorite song on the album. It features a heartbreaking verse from Killer Mike who reflects on regretfully selling a pregnant women cocaine but later bumping into her in life and she eventually forgives him. El-P on the other hand delivers a verse from the perspective of a soldier fighting for his country and sacrificing your mental health and individuality for the government's gain. Its a very powerful song with great hook delivered by Killer Mike and an even more jaw-dropping beautifully layered beat. It perfectly transitions into Angel Duster which is a lyrical attack at authority, society, and especially religion. It is succeeded by some gorgeous instrumentation that finish the album off perfectly. Every beat on this album is different, bringing a lot of diversity to the album and showcasing El-P's genius behind the boards. It just goes to show how El-P has produced for over a decade and has never repeated himself, and that has to be commended. In conclusion, this album is a lot better than I'm saying it is because words cannot describe the experience this album brings. It's that type of album that you find playing over and over again because it is literally that good. It's short, sweet and straight to the point. It is all I have been listening to ever since it came out which sucked because I couldn't focus on the other music that came out after. Be sure to pick it up, support them by going to their concerts, and if you don't feel like doing that then THE ALBUM IS UP FOR FREE LEGAL DOWNLOAD SO YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE!

Favorite Tracks: Crown, Early, Blockbuster Night Pt. 1, Jeopardy, Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck), Lie Cheat Steal

Honorable Mentions:
- Black Hystori Project - CyHi the Prynce
- House Rules - Slaughterhouse
- Oxymoron - ScHoolboy Q
- Welcome to Fazoland - Lil Herb
- There Is Only Now - Souls of Mischief
- Lord Steppington - Step Brothers (Evidence & The Alchemist)
- Strange Journey Vol. 3 - CunninLynguists
- Cozz & Effect - Cozz

What were some of your favorite albums released this year? What did you think of my list? Anything I missed? Please let me know by leaving a comment and also be sure to share your top 5 or top 10 list! I'll be back soon with a list of some of my favorite songs of the year. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums of 2014 So Far...

It's been a while since my last post, but I've been on a short "hiatus" due to finishing my senior year of high school and making sure everything goes perfectly. But I got some ideas on what I can make posts about so look out for blog posts this summer! Anyway, it's that time of the year where June is over and we are officially in the second half of the year. Like last year, I will do a mid-year review of some of my favorite Hip-Hop albums that came out so far this year. There were many fantastic Gangsta rap albums, melodic albums, concept albums, and experimental albums this year. I do admit that I missed some albums this year, and there are many notable projects that I will mention later, but this list is still in order. So without further adieu, here are some of my favorite albums of 2014! 

5- Oxymoron - ScHoolboy Q:
This latest third album from West Coast MC ScHoolboy Q has grown a lot on me since it's release in February. I do have to say however that when I look at this album, I'm only looking at the standard 12-track edition (up to Man of the Year) because the bonus tracks have really lost their luster (and His & Her Friend still didn't get better). Regardless, I felt like ScHoolboy Q managed to create a cohesive album filled with many great club bangere such as Man of the Year and Collard Greens but also many conceptual and deep tracks such as Blind Threats, Hoover Street, and Break the Bank. All of the features on this album (excluding 2 Chainz) contribute great material and solid verses to this album and the production as a whole fits the theme and concept ScHoolboy was trying to convey. You can really feel the emotion and passion ScHoolboy has behind these tracks and how he had to subject himself to a life of crime, drugs and violence to feed his daughter. It's a great listen and I highly recommend it. 

4- Strange Journey Volume Three - CunninLynguists:
This is CunninLynguists' first album in 3 years since their stellar and top 5 worthy 2011 release Oneirology, which was filled with beautifully layered production and excellent lyricism. However, I gotta admit that I have not heard the first two albums in the Strange Journey series, I'm most familiar with Oneirology and A Piece of Strange. But after listening to this album, I can honestly say that this is a very enjoyable album filled with production by Kno that puts most producers to shame. Deacan and Nati come through with many concept tracks, and the concept of the album is also very enjoyable. This is a very feature-filled album, but many guest rappers deliver stellar verses such as Aesop Rock, Sadistic, Blu, and especially Del the Funky Homosapien and Tonedeff. I do have complains about the Miley 3000 skits and the track Drunk Dial is very underwhelming for me, but the rest of the album is a great listen and I highly recommend it. 

3- PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Pharoahe Monch:
This latest album from seasoned Hip-Hop veteran Pharoahe Monch is easily one of the best concept albums of the year so far. This album is one of the most focused I heard all year and from Monch himself. From the title of the album, you can guess what the concept is. It shows how PTSD affects people from different places caused by different events such as war, stressful jobs, poverty and many more. Pharoahe Monch paints pictures of various characters and their experiences and how they deal with the stress. Damage, Bad MF, Rapid Eye Movement, and The Jungle are some of my favorite Hip-Hop songs of the year. The production on this album is stellar and the guest verses from Black Thought and Talib Kweli are amazing. Its a very solid listen and I highly recommend you check it out because the topics are relatable and happen to everyone at some point in life. 

2- Cilvia Demo - Isaiah Rashad: 
Cilvia Demo was an absolute surprise for me as I didn't really expect to be blown away by it as much as I was. Isaiah Rashad managed to release the best project from the 6-TDE albums this year so far in my opinion, which is something I would've never guessed. He has a distinct style and a great ear for beats and his world play and lyricism is on point. What also pulls me in is his immaculate flow and catchy hooks. All of these characteristics can be seen in tracks like R.I.P. Kevin Miller, Soliloquy, Heavenly Father and Webbie Flow. He proved that he can hold his own next to Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q on the Shot You Down remix and managed to create a very original and creative album in the process. I think its amazing that this album dropped as early as January and still receives heavy rotation in my books. So if you haven't checked this album out, be sure to cop it and support great independent artists. You won't be disappointed.

1- Pinata - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: 
The reception for this album so far seems pretty unanimous. I'm sure every Hip-Hop head already has this on their list, as do I, because this is easily my favorite and the most perfectly executed album of the year so far for me. Freddie Gibbs has never been a personal favorite of mine, but here, he finds himself fitting perfectly with Madlib's spacious, jazzy, and eccentric beats. His flow, lyricism, and stories are all fantastic over tracks like Deeper, Shitsville, Thuggin', Broken, Shame and many others. The title track on this album is probably the best posse cut of the year so far with stellar verses, and all the guest features do their thing. Madlib's beats are very layered and well put together fitting in perfectly with Freddie Gibbs' style. This album is very cohesive, smart, and well executed. I still listen to this album and will continue to do so in the future. If you haven't heard it, be sure to check it out as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed!

Favorite Tracks of the Year:
- Break the Bank - ScHoolboy Q
- R.I.P. Kevin Miller - Isaiah Rashad
- Tree of Life - Ab-Soul
- Sanctified (Feat. Kanye West & Big Sean) - Rick Ross
- Better in Tune with the Infinite - Jay Electronica 
- The Jungle - Pharoahe Monch
- Shitsville - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib 
- Understand (Feat. Dice Raw & Greg Porn) - The Roots 
- Napoleon - CyHi the Prynce 
- Nutty Bars - Your Old Droog 
- Mt. Olympus - Big K.R.I.T.
- Lac Lac (Feat. A$AP Ferg) - Big K.R.I.T.
- See the Rich Man Play (Feat. Roc Marciano)  
- Body and Blood - clipping
- Made in Black America (Feat. Ab-Soul) - Common 
- Offshore - Slaughterhouse
- Qualifiers - Open Mike Eagle 

Honorable Mentions:
- Black Hystori Project - CyHi the Prynce 
- House Rules - Slaughterhouse 
- Your Old Droog EP - Your Old Droog (AKA Nas in my opinion)
- Lord Steppington - Step Brothers (Evidence & The Alchemist) 

Albums That Received Acclaim That I Haven't Heard Yet (But Will ASAP):
- Dark Comedy - Open Mike Eagle 
- CLPPNG - clipping
- Copper Gone - Sage Francis 
- Connecticut Casual - Apathy 
- So It Goes - Ratking 

Disappointing Albums:
- ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin - The Roots 
- Good to be Home - Blu
- Dead - Young Fathers 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

ScHoolboy Q's Oxymoron & Isaiah Rashad's Cilvia Demo - TDE DOUBLE ALBUM REVIEW

Isaiah Rashad is one of TDE's newest members, and unlike the other Black Hippy members that reside from California, Isaiah is from Chattanooga Tennessee, however it is very difficult to pick up on his southern style. If I didn't know any better I would've thought he was also from California because his rhymes and flows bleed West-Coast Hip-Hop (at least to me). I didn't know what to expect going in to this project due to the minimum amount of material I heard from Isaiah, however the BET Cypher did impress me and the track Ronnie Drake was very smooth and enjoyable so I was hoping Isaiah would turn out to be a star lyricist because of being signed to such an influential rap label. So when the album was released, I downloaded it and listened to it and was pleasantly surprised with what I got. 

From first listen, you can easily pick up the theme of father issues and abandonment from tracks like Hereditary, Soliloquy, Heavenly Father and others. Throughout the album, Isaiah raps about how his father has left him and how he learned to cope with a fatherless life. However, he also raps about how he has a son now himself, and how he doesn't wanna become a spitting image of his father. Isaiah does this over smooth and atmospheric production that is absolutely stellar. He doesn't use the TDE producers but has his own team which supply him with the best beats that suit his style. Some might complain the album sounds too samey, but Isaiah's performance on these beats make the album worthwhile. The title track is excellent where Isaiah raps over one of the best beats on the album about his relationships and his new-born son. It has a very catchy hook, which is something I feel the album benefits from - dope hooks. R.I.P. Kevin Miller is another standout track, with the smoothest feel and the catchiest hook. It incorporates Masta P's hook from R.I.P. Kevin and he does it very well. He raps with two or more inflections and layers them on top of each other bring a lot of diversity to the tracks. 

Soliloquy is by far my favorite track because it has the most gruesome and hardest beat that is absolutely infectious and Isaiah spits some of the his best bars that include clever wordplay, metaphors and double entendres. Lines like "Don't you put me on freshman covers, I'm posing with lunch", and "If you gon' be trippin' like a bitch, you should be a mom" stick out to me and the way he starts the track off by saying he left his dad was original to me. At less than 2 minutes, I believe Isaiah's skill as an MC and lyricist can be clearly outlined in that track. Another standout track is Menthol with great flow from Isaiah and and nicely sung hook by Jean Deaux. Heavenly Father is also a beautiful song, where Isaiah raps about his fatherless past, his spirituality and his way of life, and its done over a peaceful and smooth beat. The last track Shot You Down with Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q shows how Isaiah can hold his own with heavyweights. However Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q murder their verses and add a lot to the original version of the song. All three of them have ferocious verses, no prisoners were taken. I would've loved to see Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul contribute to that song as well. 

In conclusion, Isaiah Rashad managed to amaze me with a completely original project that has great beats, lyrics and flows. It seems like Isaiah is absolutely comfortable making this type of music and I hope he blows up like the other TDE members and gets the recognition he deserves. I still listen to this album and it has great replay value so be sure to check it out. It is probably my favorite release of the year so far!


Favorite Track(s): Webbie Flow, Cilvia Demo, R.I.P. Kevin Miller, Soliloquy, Tranquility, Menthol, Heavenly Father, Banana. 

Least Favorite Track(s): Modest 

While not my favorite TDE member, I have always preferred ScHoolboy Q over Jay Rock (Kendrick and Ab-Soul are easily my favorites) because I always felt like he was a bit more original and diverse. Don't get me wrong I love Jay Rock, but ScHoolboy had the better album with Habits & Contradictions and has better production on his tracks. I felt like Habits & Contradictions was a great album, but it wasn't one that I revisited much because it did have a lot of filler for me. Tracks like Sacrilegious, THere He Go, Hands on the WHeel, and Blessed were stellar, but many other tracks were forgettable. But ScHoolboy has progressed over the past couple of years and after the set backs for this album, I was getting excited to see how Oxymoron would turn out. And upon release, I was happy with what ScHoolboy Q released. 

I would like to say that from the first listen I wasn't very impressed because I thought many tracks were underwhelming, but from the second listen and on, the album clicked with me. The album starts off with Gangsta, a song with a very chilling piano based beat and ScHoolboy goes off and raps about his drug dealing days. ScHoolboy Q may not be the most lyrical rapper, but his enthusiasm and energy make his songs awesome. Los Awesome follows and it is easily one of my favorite tracks because of its high energy. I wasn't hot on it at first because of the way they dealt with ScHoolboy's voice, but it definitely grew on me. The beat sounds like something Swizz Beats would produce, but it is produced by Pharrell and it sounds very dense and energetic. Jay Rock drops a great verse as usual and fits in perfectly with the beat. Collard Greens comes next which features King Kendrick himself who drops a great verse partially rapped in Spanish which sounds fantastic. ScHoolboy does his thing too and the beat sounds experimental, but it works for the album's favor. I wasn't hot on this track at first, but within the context of the album it sounds great. Then the album hits a low point for me. 

WHat THey Want with 2 Chainz is probably my least favorite track on the album because  because I did not enjoy the atmospheric beat and 2 Chainz had a very weak verse. While ScHoolboy dropped solid verses, the beat and the hook didn't work at all for me and I usually feel the need to skip this track when I listen to the album. The album picks right back up with Hoover Street, a very conceptual track were ScHoolboy displays his lyrical ability. He raps about his childhood growing up in a violent environment watching his uncle steal, do drugs and commit crimes. He also raps about how his involvement in this environment shaped him and his actions. The beat sounds very menacing and ScHoolboy rides the beat very well with a great flow. Then there's Studio which is a great song for the ladies that has commercial appeal. Prescription/Oxymoron follows which is a pair of heartbreaking and emotional songs. ScHoolboy raps about his past drug addiction and seeing his daughter attempting to wake him up from his overdoses and how that almost ruined his life. He then transitions into talking about how he now sells drugs and not taking them, but for the reason of supporting his daughter which bring the concept of the album into fruition. 

The Purge is a great dark track produced by Tyler the Creator and features a fantastic verse from Kurupt. However, the next track, Blind THreats with Raekwon, is easily another favorite. ScHoolboy raps about feeling the need to leave the drug-selling lifestyle and praying to God his sins be washed away. However he feels like if God won't help him he'll have to resort to more violence to meet ends meet. Raekwon drops a stellar verse on this track making it even more enjoyable. Break THe Bank produced by The Alchemist is another favorite with a great hook and excellent production. Man of THe Year  is a great banger and the album ends on a high note with Fuck LA. (Although I am not a fan of the song His & Her Friend at all) 

In conclusion, I feel ScHoolboy Q dropped a very cohesive and enjoyable album that I personally believe outdoes what he attempted to to with Habits & Contradictions. I feel like a lot of people are hating on this album because of the amount of anticipation it had. However, I don't understand why. Did they think this was gonna be on par with good kid m.A.A.d city? I believe that is an unfair thing to do because ScHoolboy is a completely different artist from Kendrick. He does music in his own lane and I believe he pulled it off well on Oxymoron. ScHoolboy proved that he can keep up with legends and his ear for beats still benefits him when it comes to making bangers, slow jams and introspective tracks. TDE is starting off strong this year and it only makes me even more excited for the remaining 4 projects to be released from this label. I also hope Black Hippy does come together and release a mixtape this year. 


Favorite Track(s): Gangsta, Los Awesome, Collard Greens, Hoover Street, Prescription/Oxymoron, Blind Threats, Break THe Bank, Man of THe Year. 

Least Favorite Tracl(s): WHat THey Want, His & Her Friend

Friday, 14 February 2014

Hip-Hop's Most Precious Love Songs

With Valentine's day becoming a huge part of our society, I thought it might be a cool idea to talk about some of my personal favorite Hip-Hop love songs. You see, a long time ago, before Drake attempted to "soften-up" the culture with overly sentimental love songs, rappers have always expressed their emotional happiness, struggles, and pains in their music. From A Tribe Called Quest to Common to The Roots, wonderful ballads have been introduced into the Rap game that have stood the test of time and were able to illicit emotions from the listener. There are many great love songs that still come out now that are just as touching, but some of my personal favorites are classic old-school tracks. So without further adieu (in no particular order), here are some of my favorite Hip-Hop love songs.

I think it would be a sin in Hip-Hop to not include this track, as I'm sure it's one of the most popular love songs in Hip-Hop history. Common has always been a top 5 rapper to me because of his poetic way of rapping, which is evident in The Light. I believe Common recorded this song (for his classic album Like Water For Chocolates) during his relationship with Erykah Badu. He wrote The Light as an ode to her and the way she made him feel, and from listening to the song, you can tell that Common was at a very positive place. With lines like "I never call you my bitch or even my boo/There's so much in a name and so much more in you" and "Because of you, feelings I handle with care/Some niggas recognize the light but they can't handle the glare" you can feel the love Common had for Erykah. The beat is produced by the legendary J Dilla (R.I.P.) and it's one of the best beats I've ever heard. The hook is very soulful and the ending is perfect. I highly recommend you check this track out. The Light

Black Thought of the legendary Philadelphia Hip-Hop band The Roots (yes, band) is another rapper that I would place in a top 5. Like Common, he is very poetic with his verses but can also spazz out on a track and hit you with some of the most clever wordplay and rhyme scheme you will ever hear. His voice sounds so urgent that you have to listen to what he has to say. From their classic album Things Fall Apart, The Roots released one of the most heartfelt Hip-Hop songs; You Got Me. On this song, Black Thought raps about this beautiful and smart woman he met during a show and how they eventually crossed paths later in life and fell in love. Eve drops a verse in response from the perspective of the woman talking about her love for him and how she fully trusts him regardless of the temptation of being out on international shows. The production is beautifully put together, with an acoustic vibe and Erkah Badu's hook (written by Jill Scott) is smooth and beautifully sung. This song got The Roots a Grammy award and has been acclaimed by Hip-Hop listeners everywhere so be sure to check it out! You Got Me

Cannibal Ox is a legendary Harlem based Hip-Hop duo consisting of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega. Haven't heard of them? Check out their classic debut The Cold Vein and see what you've been missing out on. Solely produced by El-P (one of my favorites producers AND rappers), The Cold Vein paints a grim picture of New York and displays hard-core and grimy lyricism. Where's the love in that you ask? On one of their songs entitled The F-Word, this duo released in my opinion one of the best and most emotional love songs in Hip-Hop. The beat on this track is so grand and futuristic, and the bass and the synths are so well layered that it's hard to believe a beat like this was produced 14 years ago! Vast Aire handles the verse on this track and Vordul does the hook. Vast Aire's verses are absolutely amazing. He raps about the entire friend-zone concept and how he feels like his love interest is shafting him for another man. However when things don't work out, he'e the guy she goes back to because he's a great friend, hence the title The F-Word. The subject matter may seem immature, but Vast Aire's verses are written and delivered very poetically. Lines like "Cupid had me runnin' circles blindfolded/In the daytime with a flashlight looking for her", "Yo, you burnin' the candle at both ends/I'm supposed to be the friend, I'm gettin' fried in the end" and "Penny's for her thoughts/She's my very own American Beauty, red petals when we talk" are incredible. There are other great lines but I don't wanna give all of them away. So in conclusion, this track is easily one of my favorite tracks of all time (regardless of genre). It truly is a song that can appeal to just about anyone because it describes something we all go through. It may not be a love-dovy love song, but its a powerful one nevertheless. The F-Word

Immortal Technique is known for his political and socially conscious tracks that talk about hypocrisy, conspiracy theories, criticizing the government and the social laws that we must abide by. He has solidified himself as a legend in the underground Hip-Hop scene and he isn't a rapper you want to challenge lyrically. However, back in 2003, Immortal Technique did something rare and dropped an emotionally heartbreaking song entitled You Never Know. He already showcased his storytelling abilities with Dance With the Devil but with this track he went on a whole other level. In the song, he talks about how he fell in love with a woman who is perfect on almost every level; well educated, morally conscious and beautiful. He wasn't into her for the sex but for the connection they have, and he raps about how she helped change him by getting him off the streets and stop hanging with the wrong people. After confessing his love, she reacts a certain way and the story goes on but I refuse to spoil it because it's not something you want spoiled. It's hard to describe the track without spoiling the story because of its tone and theme so check it out! The beat is awesome and Jean Grae's hook was well done. Be sure to check this 7 minute epic of a track for stellar storytelling and raw emotion. You Never Know

Let's fast-forward 8 years to 2011, the Hip-Hop renaissance, an absolutely stellar year for Rap music with the introduction of many great MCs. In that year, a Detroit rapper by the name of Elzhi did something that is taboo in Hip-Hop and attempted to remake a Hip-Hop classic, Nas' Illmatic - the Rap Bible. Initially hesitant among the Hip-Hop community, the release of Elzhi took everyone by surprise and released an absolute masterpiece with incredible live instrumentation and stellar lyricism. I believe his album was on-par with the experience one could get from Illmatic but I don't believe it surpassed it. However, one interesting re-vamp absolutely impressed me to the point were I like it more than the original and that's Elzhi's version of One Love. Elzhi raps about meeting a woman whom he was solely impressed by looks at first but soon fell in love with her as he got to know her. Through her stories, he learned about her troubled past and her painful childhood and how she got to where she is now. They became an item and started learning from each other to the point were they became inseparable. Elzhi's flow and lyrics are stellar, but its Will Sessions live instrumentation that gives this song soul. The piano and drum solos are absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful and made this song perfect. I highly recommend you check this track out! One Love 

Love has always been a topic that rappers have talked about in their songs. It brings a different side to the culture were rappers are more sensitive and human rather than over-the-top and grimy. These songs are some of my favorites in this aspect of Hip-Hop but of coarse there are plenty more, I just wanted to go in detail about these for now. I hope you like these songs and I hope you are introduced to some of the great music some of these artists make. Have a great Valentines Day everyone!

Other Great Love Songs:
- Bonita Applebum - A Tribe Called Quest
- I Need Love - LL Cool J
- Sunshine - Lupe Fiasco
- Song Cry - Jay-Z
- White Dress - Kanye West
- You're All I Need To Get By - Method Man and Mary J. Blige
- Me & My Bitch - The Notorious B.I.G.
- Mahogany - Eric B. & Rakim
- Receipt - Lil Wayne (Yes, he used to make good music)

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Top 20 Favorite Tracks of 2013

As a conclusion to 2013, I wanted to talk about some of the tracks that I have replayed constantly over the past year. These tracks can range from official album/mixtape tracks to non-album singles. Like last year, I tried to included only one track from an individual artist so I don't include like 4 songs from the same artist and not have any variety. I'll try to go through the first 10 quickly, and then get into more depth with the top 10. So without further adieu, I give you MY personal favorite tracks of 2013!

20- Continue? - Clear Soul Forces:
Clear Soul Forces are becoming one of my favorite new groups. This Detroit based group has 4 of the most lyrical MCs out there right now and with this track they just hit you with classic Detroit boom-bap Hip-Hop over a crazy 8-bit sounding beat. The comic book and video game references are awesome and nostalgic and Noveliss absolutely murders this track (and the whole album). I highly recommend you check out this group if you're into the type of Hip-Hop were you just wanna here MCs continuously rap over dope beats. The album is called Gold PP7's and I recommend you check it out.

19- Manteca - Billy Woods:
Billy Woods is a New York rapper who I put in a similar lane with Aesop Rock were you need multiple listens to decypher their lyrics. His verses are very dense and verbose yet very vivid and creative. I loved his album Dour Candy and this track is an easy favorite for me because of its huge beautifully layered beat produced by the underground legend Blockhead. I love the sample used in between the verses and Billy Woods delivers solid verses. If you're willing to take an experimental route, check this track out and the album itself. 

18- Demigodz Is Back - Demigodz:
Killmatic was my first introduction to Demigodz and I gotta say that I was impressed with the group's lyricism. The reason I love this track is because it starts off the album in a huge way with the Rocky soundtrack sample looped in a clever way. I like how they handled the chorus and all three verses are solid (especially the first verse). So if you're into boom-bap Hip-Hop, check this track out. The album itself has a lot of energy and solid tracks as well. 

17- Beware of the Stare - Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge:
Even though I still love the album, it did eventually lose steam as the year went by and more albums came out. However, that doesn't take away the fact that Twelve Reasons To Die is an absolute experience. With this track, Ghostface showcases his storytelling abilities by introducing the main character that dominates the album. His rapping on this track shows why he's my favorite Wu member. However, I believe the true star of this track (and the album) is Adrian Younge's stellar production. He doesn't produce a track in the traditional Hip-Hop format, but in his own way. Like a movie soundtrack beat, it just continues to grow and is able to show you a story without an MC needed. So props to Ghostface and Adrian Younge for delivering a great album and one of my favorite tracks of the year! 

16- Savagely Attack (Feat. Ghostface Killah) - CZARFACE:
Another project that lost steam for me, I felt like many other albums outshined this one. However, Inspectah Deck came back and proved that he still got some energy in him with stellar verses on the album, including his verse on Savagely Attack. Esoteric then comes in with a crazy verse with an immaculate flow and impressive breath control (you never hear him take a breath!). Then Ghostface comes in and totally destroys this track with a viscous verse. 7L delivers a fantastic 90s sounding beat. Drop this track in 94 and it would totally blend in. If you're a fan of the 90s sounding Hip-Hop, check this song and the album out. 

15- Chum - Earl Sweatshirt:
I thought Earl's Doris was a great project and this track is my favorite from the album. It could be Earl's most personal moment to date. He raps about his fatherless childhood and how he actually misses his father rather than constantly hating him. He also raps about his rise to fame and his relationship with Tyler the Creator, referring to him as a big brother figure. It truly is a heartfelt track that I appreciate from Earl. The beat is also very beautiful, produced by Earl himself under the name randomblackdude and also Christian Rich. It's one of my favorite beats on the album. Earl is a lyrical beast on the whole album, though his monotone-ness might distract some. However, I highly recommend you listen to this track and the album if you haven't yet. 

14- Nephilim - Flatbush Zombies:
This track is an easily favorite from the acclaimed Flatbush Zombies mixtape Better Off Dead. The beat is absolutely mesmerizing, sounding very calm at first but has a hauntingly beautiful feel to it like something from a horror movie. Then Darko comes in with a menacing verse reflecting on himself and his music. Juice finishes this track off with a very dope verse talking about similar topics and his personality as well. He is probably my favorite member in the group but that doesn't take away the skills of the others. The whole mixtape is great and I recommend you check this track out and see what this group is all about. 

13- Nasty - Logic:
Logic's latest mixtape Welcome to Forever was a pleasant surprise because I felt like it was a huge improvement on his previous Undeniable mixtape (while I didn't feel it topped Young Sinatra). I liked how consistent it was and Logic's lyricism was great as ever. With Nasty, I though Logic completely went the fuck off over a very soulful beat that I that was fantastic. He raps about his style and aspirations as well as dropping some braggadocios bars (but done very well). This track is very irresistible and will definitely get you nodding your head while it plays. 

12- Grandma and Them - Brother Ali:

The second the beat switched up from Dial Tone into Grandma and Them, I quickly took notice because the juxtaposition was incredible. The Jake One produced beat is stellar, sounding very soulful yet hauntingly depressing in a sense. The organ based beat and the "nothing" sample are amazing. Brother Ali displays impeccable storytelling on this track, rapping about a pair of brothers who were raised by their grandmother but ended up giving into a life of crime to make money. One day when they're grandma falls in and needs an expensive surgery, they feel obliged to rob a bank. I'm not gonna spoil how that track ends, so you'll have to listen to the track itself it find out the finale!

11- The Cauldron - Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire: 
The opening track to one of my favorite projects of the year is an absolutely hypnotic track. The beat is very spacious and atmospheric and eXquire's flow in immaculate. He has a voice made for Hip-Hop (just like Dr. Dre). He raps about his youth, his mother, his sexual encounters as well as the sacrifices he had to make for his musical career. It is a perfect mood setter for the mixtape because he uses the same formula in more diverse ways throughout the project. For a taste of who eXuire is, I highly recommend you check this track out. 

10- Born Sinner (Feat. James Fauntleroy) - J. Cole:
While Born Sinner was a bit of a disappointment, I do believe the album had many great songs, and the standout to me was the title track. I thought J. Cole did a great job with putting this song together, from the production to the lyrics. The synths and the instrumentation worked very well to create a personal vibe throughout the song to match J. Cole' s lyrics, which were incredible. He touched on his fame and how it influenced others around, but in a negative way. He talks about how it influenced his family but there is more of an emphases on his relationships, which J. Cole handles very well. The hook is done beautifully and the way the track ends is very touching, with the choir singing the hook making the song sound very soulful. It's J. Cole at his finest and I hope his approach to his next album is more consistent, lively and diverse than Born Sinner

9- Rusty (Feat. Domo Genesis & Earl Sweatshirt) - Tyler, the Creator: 
Wolf was a great way for Tyler to come back from a lackluster Goblin which was a very disappointing album. On Wolf, Tyler was more cohesive, personal and lyrical throughout the whole album. He also stepped his production game up too, dropping some stellar beats. With Rusty, Tyler drops one of his best songs to date. Domo opens up with a ferocious verse and does the hook as well. Earl ends the track off with a cool verse but the real star of this track is Tyler himself. While Earl is recognized as a bigger lyricist to many, Tyler's extra lengthy verse outshines both of the other MCs. He raps about the general assumptions and stereotypes that are placed on him from his music, such as his "homophobia" and lack of respect for women. He even addresses the MTV incident, but in a clever way. The way he finishes off his verse is perfect and jaw-dropping. I wish the song was done in the order it was performed on Letterman, but I still enjoy listening to this track. Go check it out, I highly recommend it!

8- WTF - Big K.R.I.T.:
Originally written in the structure of a poem, WTF is Big K.R.I.T.'s rant and vent at the stereotypical yet real problems that people get involved in and have a hard time of getting out of. This includes dealing with poverty, selling drugs and finally getting caught up with complicated relationships. He criticizes how people totally ignore the warnings in life that are thrown in people's directions, which are ignored and gets people in those "what the fuck we gon do now" situations. Big K.R.I.T.'s energy and performance on this track is so inspiring and touching that you feel his anger and struggles which makes the song ten times better. The beat is produced by K.R.I.T. himself, and its absolutely breathtaking. The strings and saxophones and vibe throughout the whole track is amazing, and shows how Big K.R.I.T. is not only a great lyricist, but a great producer as well. It is one of my favorite K.R.I.T. songs yet and I highly recommend you check it out!

7- Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels: 
I've praised the album enough by now but it truly deserves all the praise it's getting. Its raw, energetic, and the chemistry is uncanny, and all of that is displayed perfectly on this self-titled track. The beat is huge, and totally compliments both Killer Mike and El-P's styles perfectly. They both trade off killer verses, and this type of track brings back the competition vibe back to Hip-Hop because it feels like each rapper is trying to outrap the other. Its quick, efficient, and catchy as hell too. If you want to know what this collab is all about and where it's heading, check out this track and the album too. You won't be disappointed.

6- The Dangerous Three (Feat. Brother Ali & Masta Ace) - R.A. the Rugged Man: 
From the title of this track you should know what to expect. Three super dope rappers laying back to back verses over one of my favorite beats of the year. While there are many tracks to choose from Legends Never Die like Learn Truth, Sam Peckinpah and Still Get Through The Day, this track is easily my favorite. Brother Ali starts the track off with a verse that he usually doesn't rap like these days, but his ignorant style is untouched by anyone. His flow was great and his bars were awesome. R.A. and Ace follow with great verse as well. While I do believe Brother Ali slightly outshined R.A. a bit, he still held his own and had great double-time throughout the song. R.A. put out a great album this year and I highly recommend you check it out. This track acts as a great way to introduce what the album is all about.

5- 1 Train (Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T.) - A$AP Rocky:
This track is the best posse cut of the year, including some of my favorite new wave rappers of this new rap renaissance. I love the beat behind this track, which samples a Syrian song bringing a great fusion of Hip-Hop and Middle Eastern music. The loop works well for me and never gets tiring to listen to. Now with the MCs, I love how each brings their own flavor and the song is filled with East Coast, West Coast and Southern sounds making it very diverse. I can also respect how A$AP Rocky held his own against the other rappers even though he is by far the least lyrical (to me). The two standout verses to me were easily Yelawolf and Big K.R.I.T., both delivering lengthy, menacing and ferocious verses. They both had the best flows and delivery to me, followed by maybe Joey and Kendrick. That's not to take anything away from all the other MCs, but with tracks like this comparisons had to be made. It came out super early in the year and I still listen to it which says a lot. Check it out asap! (no pun intended)

4- Control - Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica:
I'm pretty sure every Hip-Hop has heard this track by now because if you haven't then I'm pretty sure you've been living under a rock. Big Sean leaked this track because he wasn't allowed to have it on his album due to sampling issues. It featured Jay Electronica and Kendrick Lamar and I had to check it out because of those two (and the fact that the internet blew up the second this track dropped). Big Sean had decent bars and Jay Electronica had a great verse but it's Kendrick's 3-minute verse that makes the entire song! His ferocious delivery was jaw-dropping and his claim as king of Hip-Hop was done perfectly. But the most controversial part is calling out the top rappers in the game (by name) and basically saying "I got love for you all but I'm tryin' to murder you niggas!". Many took this as a diss and feelings were hurt (cough*Drake*coughs) but I thought it was done in a respectful way. Kendrick merely challenged Hip-Hop and ignited the competition that the game lacks. I feel No I.D.'s beat didn't get the credit it deserved, but I absolutely loved the beat. It sounded so triumphant and well layered. I still replay this song and I absolutely love it.

3- So Far... - Eminem:
I've said this before: Rick Ruben had two strikes this year and then a home-run with The Marshall Mathers LP 2. He produced 4 of my favorite tracks on Eminem's new album but So Far is easily my favorite. The beat sounds so Country influenced and corny but so catchy and dope at the same time. Eminem on the other hand came through with stellar verses. He was absolutely hilarious, especially when it came through not coping with the new technology and how he handled the fan that wanted his autograph in the bathroom. The beat becomes atmospheric half way through and samples of The Real Slim Shady and I'm Back which was very nostalgic. Em's flow is immaculate and the hook is catchy as fuck; a Detroit anthem. The sample worked perfectly and it had high replay value for me. I highly recommend you check this track out. It's stellar.

2- Telegraph Ave. ("Oakland" by Lloyd) - Childish Gambino:
A track from this album was obviously expected on this list. If I could cheat I would combine this track with Shadows which comes right before it on the album because they are connected to each other. Shadows is the love story and the paranoia while Telegraph Ave. is Gambino's frustrations, retrospect and desperation for love. He sings about how he would run all the red lights and the stop signs and he would risk dying just to get to his girl. It's truly a beautiful track. The singing works perfectly and it sounds like what a good Drake song should be. Gambino's rapping is also excellent and the meaning behind the album is revealed for the first time in this song. The production is amazing as well. I loved how Gambino layered basically the beats of two tracks on top of each other and the iPhone samples are chilling as well. The base comes through and the nostalgic sound works as well. I highly recommend you listen to this track.

1- Nosetalgia (Feat. Kendrick Lamar) - Pusha T:
Where to begin? This is my most played track of the year. To me, this track is the best Control response of the year. While it wasn't Pusha T firing shots back at Kendrick, it was Pusha T proving that he can go toe-to-toe with the so called "King". Pusha T's flow on this track was incredible and his word-play was stellar. His approach to coke rap is very original and his ability to tell stories is displayed well in this track. I loved how each line flowed into the next with the content and pop culture references. The Ivan Drago line was crazy (IF HE DIES HE DIES) and the way he ended his verse was vicious. Then Kendrick comes in and absolutely destroys the track with one of the best verses of the year. Kendrick has stated before that he never indulged in the drug game when he was younger and tried to distance himself from it. So with this track, he completely flipped it. He raps about how he will become his father's connect for cocaine but in the end he says "go figure motherfucker every verse is a brick/your son dope nigga!" relating everything he said in his verse to his rap career, which I think is genius. The few bars in the middle of the verse with the play on the 9's and 10's was stellar as well and his flow was absolutely menacing and hypnotizing. It clearly shows how creative of an MC Kendrick is and I would love to see the direction he takes with his music. The beat is amazing and the vibe throughout the whole track is awesome. If you haven't checked out this track than you missed out. Its easily my favorite track of the year.