Saturday, 11 January 2014

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2013

2013 has come to an end and just like everyone else its time for me to share my personal top 10 list of some of my favorite albums of the year. I remember saying that 2013 wasn't a great year for Hip-Hop in the midyear list and while I still don't believe it was a stellar year, I do believe that there were many memorable albums released in the second half of the year. I would like to remind you that this is MY personal list - not your's - so some of your favorites probably might not make my list and vice versa. Is that a bad thing? No, everyone has their own personal music taste. This list is not what I believe are the best albums, but my favorites. So without further adieu, I give my own personal top 10 favorite albums (including mixtapes and EPs) of 2013.

10- The Marshall Mathers LP2 - Eminem:
Even though I have stated in the review that many of the hooks didn't move me and some tracks were unbearable, the reason why this album made the list is that there was no denying Em was on his A-game when it came to straight up lyricism, spitting, storytelling and humor. Yes tracks like Legacy and The Monster didn't do anything for me, but tracks like So Far, Love Game (with my man Kendrick Lamar), Rhyme or Reason, Bad Guy and Evil Twin made it impossible for me to leave this album off. Em proved that he didn't lose a single step when it comes to making a cohesive album and that Recovery wasn't an introduction to a new side of him. I hope he continues to make albums like this in the future but getting rid of the flaws that exist. At the end of the day, this album received heavy replay value for me and some of my favorite tracks of the year are on it. It definitely grew on me and became more enjoyable as time went by. Me being a big Stan, this album had to make the list and I highly recommend you check it out. For a detailed review, click here.

9- King Remembered in Time - Big K.R.I.T.:
Big K.R.I.T. is easily one of my favorite up-and-coming rappers. His smooth flow, excellent lyricism, and soulful production make his music very unique and reminiscent of the classic southern Hip-Hop sound such as the Aquimini era OutKast, With this mixtape, I felt Big K.R.I.T. stepped up his production by experimenting with more trap and rock based sounds while still staying true to his southern roots and productions style. The way the album starts off is excellent with tracks like Purpose, Shine On, Talkin Bout Nuthin, and REM and ends off perfectly with some of my favorite K.R.I.T. songs yet; WTF, Big Picture and Banana Clip Theory. I do believe this mixtape lost steam through the year because of the mid tracks which featured some lackluster guest appearances, but this mixtape still gets occasional listens from me. I highly recommend you check out this mixtape and the rest of Big K.R.I.T.'s catalog as well.

8- Better Off Dead - Flatbush Zombies:
Better Off Dead was my introduction to Flatbush Zombies as a group and I gotta say this mixtape is a great representation of what they're all about. I loved how creative all of the MCs were and the production on this mixtape was very well layered and some of the best of the year. The beats were hard-hitting, soulful, boom-bap influenced and very well put together so shoutout to Eric "Arc" Elliot. Eric, along with Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice all  have a unique individual style, but their chemistry is uncanny and all are crazy on the mic. Some of my favorite tracks on the mixtape are Amerikkkan Pie, Nephilim, Bliss, Minephuck (lead solely by Juice perfectly), 222 and Palm Trees. They are a part of the Beast Coast movement along with Pro Era and are truly bringing a new flavor to the New York Hip-Hop scene. So download this mixtape and give it a listen. I love this project and I highly recommend it.

7- Tape Two - Young Fathers:
This project was one that took a while to grow on me because I was absolutely in love with their debut EP Tape One because of how industrial and unique it sounded. Tape Two on the other hand starts off a lot lighter than the first and has a more mellow mood. However as time went by, I gave this album another try and I couldn't stop listening to it. Young Fathers are an experimental Hip-Hop group from Scotland. While only a 24 minute EP, this project is full of character, personality, and originality. This may not appeal to the average Hip-Hop listener, but if you're into alternative Hip-Hop like Shabazz Palaces maybe you might dig this. There is not a skip-able track on this project and the tracks themselves are very personal, strong, and hardhitting. I love tracks like I Heard, Come to Life, and  The Queen Is Dead. If you're willing to take an experimental trip, I highly recommend you check this EP out (as well as Tape One - it's just as good). 

6- My Name Is My Name - Pusha T:
Pusha T's highly anticipated solo debut was something I was looking forward to for a while. With all the push-backs, I was afraid this would become another Detox or Act II: Patents of Nobility. However, a release date was finally announced and this album became a reality. From the first glance of the tracklist, I thought this album would disappoint with features such as Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Future, Kelly Rowland and Big Sean. I still had high hopes though because the first single Numbers on the Boards was absolutely incredible, with Pusha's wonderful wordplay and Kanye's simplistic yet hypnotic beat. When this album finally dropped, I was pleasantly surprised. Many of the features I was dreading actually came through, with Chris Brown dropping a cool hook and Rick Ross dropping a great verse. Future's hook worked and Big Sean and 2 Chainz were tolerable for me. However the star of the album is Pusha T. His lyricism, storytelling and wordplay was on point throughout the whole album (except Let Me Love You - the only track I would take off). He truly fits in perfectly with the minimalistic beats he was provided with which created a great vibe in the album. Nosetalgia was easily a highlight, but I'll dig into that track in a later entry. For now, I highly recommend that you listen to this album. It is Pusha T at his most comfortable as a solo artist and I look forward to more of his solo work. 

Now we're getting into the top 5!

5- Kismet - Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire:
Right now, eXquire may as well be one of the most creative rappers out there, especially with the release of his best project to date Kismet. From the minute this album starts, you get a menacing atmospheric feel that is so hypnotizing and beautiful. There is not a single beat on this whole album that I don't like so a huge shoutout to the producers. However, it is eXquire's incredible lyricism that  makes this album absolutely fantastic. His rapping content ranges between philosophical concepts, African gods and tribes, and of coarse money, alcohol and women. His music can be very topical or can be instances of sophisticated ignorance. Tracks like The Cauldron, I Was Drunk When I Wrote This, Chains, and Hoes I Don't Remember can be very personal and ignorant. Don't let the titles of these tracks and the art cover fool you, eXuire is one of a kind. All the features do their thing, including Danny Brown and Flatbush Zombies who are on the posse track of this album. I wish tracks like Never Running Again and Noble Drew Ali were longer but that's about it for negatives. It truly is an amazing project that blew me away from the second I heard it. I highly recommend it. It's up for free download so go get it asap!

4- Left in the Deck - Brother Ali:

Brother Ali is slowly becoming one of my all-time favorite artists because of how great of a lyricist and a storyteller he really is. I loved his 2012 release Mourning In America... and I dug into his previous releases such as The Undisputed Truth and Shadows on the Sun and I'm loving his music a lot. For this project, I didn't know what to expect because I didn't even know it was coming out until its release date. Jake One is back on production and I feel him and Brother Ali once again delivered a great project. On this album, Brother Ali displays every aspect of his rapping style, when it comes to the preacher, the storyteller, the spitter (with the double-time), and the social commentator. This albums is structured in the way you would listen to a tape were its basically two 15 minute tracks filled with songs (so that you can't easily skip between tracks like back in the day). Brother Ali shows off his versatility with tracks like Dial Tone, Digital Age, Not A Day Goes By, Well Okay, and Steerange (which sounds like something from the Golden Age of Hip-Hop). My favorite track is easily Grandma And Them where Brother Ali displays his excellent storytelling. Jake One did an amazing job with the production, with each track sounding unique and different from the next. I really look forward to Brother Ali's future projects and I highly recommend this project as a start if you're unfamiliar with Brother Ali's work. 

3- Legends Never Die - R.A. The Rugged Man:

I know this was originally my number one in the mid-year review, and I'm not saying the album lost steam or anything (it is clearly still a stellar album) it's just another album gained steam and a new release blew both away. I remember not being able to go through the first 3 tracks in over an hour because with every track, I replayed it like 5 times before going on to the next one! Legends Never Die is R.A.'s triumphant comeback as a solo artist into the Hip-Hop scene. The albums is filled with excellent wordplay, incredible breath control, great stories, and of coarse stellar features. Brother Ali, Vinnie Paz, and Talib Kweli dropped some of the best verses of the year. However, they did not outshine R.A. as he delivered some of the best verses of the year as well. Tracks like Definition of a Rap Flow display how much of a technically capable rapper his is. Learn Truth is a great attack at the political hypocrisy that exists in the world, and tracks like Legends Never Die and Still Get Through The Day are some of the most personal and heartfelt tracks you will hear this year. He truly displays a wide variety of rapping styles on this album, but he still shows you his humorous side as well, like on Shoot Me In The Head and Luv to Fuk. The Dangerous Three and Sam Peckinpah are some of my favorite tracks of the year. The production on the album may not be the best of the year, but it still works for the feel of the album. Its all about dope beats and great rhymes which is what Hip-Hop should be. If you like that old school double-time type of rappers or if you just wanna be absolutely blown away like I was, I highly recommend this album. 

2- Self-Titled - Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike):
El-P and Killer Mike are some of the few rappers were I don't have to worry about them dropping anything wack. They had top 5 releases in 2012 (the stellar Cancer 4 Cure and the hard-hitting R.A.P. Music) and with this release, they again were able to blow me away. It surprises me how they can continue to drop quality music in such a short period of time, which shows how they are a problem and a force to be reckoned with in the Hip-Hop scene.What amazes me about this album the most (other than the incredible lyricism) is how El-P was able to create a sound that was unlike Cancer 4 Cure or R.A.P. Music but distinctly different. This shows how El-P refuses to repeat himself as a musical genius. Now with the lyrics, El-P and Killer Mike are two totally different type of MCs, but their chemistry is incredible. Killer Mike has the complex yet straight to the point hard-hitting and blunt lyrics and delivery while El-P is the more complex and coded dude (which adds to the replay value trying to decypher what he's saying). They both have immaculate flows, so even if you're not paying attention to what they're saying, you can still enjoy this album. The album starts and ends perfectly with Run the Jewels, Banana Clipper and Christmas Fucking Miracle. Tracks like Sea Legs and Get It are highlights as well. In conclusion, this album has everything a Hip-Hop fan needs; dope beats, great flows and lyrics, and tons of personality. Its up for free download so check it out for yourself. 

1- Because the Internet - Childish Gambino:
To me, this album is an absolute masterpiece. Childish Gambino truly outdid himself and dropped the most conceptually dense album this year. Unlike Camp, this album has a more of a serious undertone rather than a humorous one which makes it a polar opposite. Gambino creates a story that is supported perfectly by not only the lyrics, but also the production, which I believe is the best of this year. Tracks like Shadows, Telgraph Ave, No Exit, Earth: The Oldest Computer, and Life: The Biggest Troll are absolutely amazing, which contain some of Gambino's deepest moments to date and absolute emotion. He makes characters out of these tracks and not only makes a great album, but transforms it into an experience. Gambino still shows you that he still has those clever punchlines on WORLDSTAR and Sweatpants showcasing that he shouldn't be challenged lyrically. In old Gambino fashion, there are barely any features on the album (and no guest rap verses) so Gambino has to carry the whole album by himself, which he accomplishes easily. I really hope people start to take him seriously as a musical genius and give him the credit he deserves. For an in depth review, click here. It truly is one of the best albums to come out in a while and I highly recommend it. 

Honorable Mentions:
- Dour Candy - Billy Woods
- Welcome to Forever - Logic
- Gold PP7's - Clear Soul Forces
- 8 Miles to Moenart - Tall Black Guy
- Twelve Reasons to Die - Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge

What are your favorite albums of 2013? Post your top 5 or top 10 in the comment section and let me know! Happy New Year :)

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