2013 was a great year for hip-hop overall. Lots of strides were made creatively and there were plenty of emerging stars that staked their claims as leaders of the new school. Speaking of which, several older vets were also out to prove that they still have what it takes to be relevant. With so much to choose from, it’s almost impossible to compile a comprehensive list of the year’s best releases, but I did manage to come up with a list of ten of my favorites from the year. I never got around to checking out the projects from Tyler, Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, J. Cole and so forth but here goes nothing.
10. 7 Days of Funk – 7 Days of Funk
As I said in my review of this project, Snoop Dogg just transcends genres and mediums. With this “7 Days of Funk,” he’s just having fun. It’s not a very long running collection of songs, but it’s not brief to the point where the funk can’t get into your bones and make you get your boogie on to a song or two.
9. Kanye West – Yeezus
Yeezy Season hit full stride during the summer’s early months when Kanye West dropped one of the internet’s most buzzed about albums in recent years. Most either loved it or hated it, but no matter what everyone felt something and that’s really all Kanye wants in the end. It’s interesting to note that the instrumental for his “Black Skinhead” ended up in a commercial for the Moto X even after he brazenly said “Fuck you and your corporations!” Go figure.
8. Jay Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
Never one to be outdone, the now-hyphenless Jay Z also made a waves of his own with his #NewRules campaign. The partnership with Samsung basically netted Hov a platinum selling album before it was even available for purchase. On the music side of things, “Picasso Baby” and “Tom Ford” made some noise but amazingly even with all the hype surrounding it, MCHG is a distant memory for most.
7. Dee-1 – Psalms of David
A couple months ago, I had the opportunity to interview Dee-1. In preparation for the interview session, I listened to his “Psalms of David” project and was really impressed by both the quality and positive message of it all. The newest addition to the RCA Inspiration family has a way of being positive without being corny and inspirational without being preachy. It’s a real breath of fresh air.
6. The Stuyvesants – Refined
“Refined” was my first foray into the work of the Bed-Stuy based duo, The Stuyvesants, but it wouldn’t be the last. Released over the summer, the instrumental project is largely built on hard hitting drums and obscure soul samples that make for both the perfect compliment to either a quaint social gathering or a late night drive through the neighborhood.
5. Goodie Mob – Age Against The Machine
Sure, Cee-Lo has been releasing solo albums, judging singing competitions and being a full fledged pop start, but that didn’t stop him from recording some new shit with his Goodie Mob brethren for the first time in 14 years. They are embracing their positions as hip-hop’s elder statesmen with pride. As one might expect, Cee-Lo gets his time to shine but content-wise, this is a Goodie Mob album through and through. Standout cuts include “I’m Set,” the Janelle Monae-featuring “Special Education” and “Father Time.”
4. Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2
When Bronsolino stepped onto the scene, all that most people could say was that he sounds like Ghostface. Sure, that may be true in some capacity but as time has passed, Brons has carved out his own identity as well. Vividly zany tales and a shitload of toilet humor dominate this second collaborative effort between Action and Party Supplies. He snags samples from a variety of sources including an Applebee’s commercial, an ad for Enbrel and Elton John’s “Island Girl” to name a few. Songs like “Flip Ya” and “Man & The Mirror” solidify Bronson & Supplies as a winning team.
3. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name
Yuugh. After three mixtapes and an avalanche of delays, Pusha T’s debut album finally made its way to store shelves. Even though the guest list is extensive, it remains clear in most cases that MNIMN is King Push’s album. “Let Me Love You” features Kelly Rowland and Push giving a spot-on impression of none other than Mason Betha. Other standouts are “40 Acres,” “Numbers On The Boards” and the Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Nosetalgia.”
2. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
The first time Killer Mike and El-P hooked up for an album was for Mike’s “RAP Music.” That album featured Mike spitting the rhymes while El-Producto handled the production. This time around, El still handles the beats, but comes from behind the boards to flow as well. As Run The Jewels, the effort can be categorized with one word: Grimey. The tracks, the rhymes, the feel…it’s all grimey as hell and the duo are about as uncompromising and unapologetic as it gets. Standouts are the Big Boi-featuring “Banana Clipper,” “Get It” and “A Christmas Fucking Miracle.”
1. Big K.R.I.T. – King Remembered In Time
It seems like Krizzle is always perched atop these lists of mine, but the position is always warranted. When his album “Live From The Underground” dropped in June of 2012 and didn’t perform quite like he expected it to, he took full blame and vowed to do better for the fans that he felt like he failed. The result of that mixture of frustration and dedication would help to create the seventeen-track deep “King Remembered in Time.” For the most part, the project follows the same formula as most of his previous releases, just at a higher level. Technically, it’s a mixtape but to be honest, the quality surpasses a lot of stuff that’s sitting on store shelves gathering dust. Tracks like “King Without A Crown,” “Serve This Royalty” and “REM” help to support this belief but it’s best to judge it as a whole and complete project rather than on a song by song basis. A great release.