As 2014 fast approaches, we reflect back on the year in music… and oh what a year it was. Some incredible albums were released this year that will remain on playlists for years to come. There were some exceptional hip-hop releases this year that hopefully will help shape the sound of hip-hop to come in the upcoming years. Without further ado, here’s our list, and as we have in the past, we’ve included some new live audio for each artist selected…
1. SHAD – FLYING COLOURS
Always a bright spot on the Canadian music scene, Shad continually delivers stellar lyricism. With Flying Colours, Shad’s insightful words remain on full display, but equally impressive is how the musicality shines to the forefront as well. Flying Colours is firmly ahead of all other releases this year and was a clear cut choice for the top slot on our list.
2. TANYA MORGAN – RUBBER SOULS
Rubber Souls was a daring attempt to shake up TM’s successful formula in the pursuit of pushing progressive hip-hop. The result was a lush album, packed with tons of live instrumentation intertwined with Donwill and Von Pea’s signature clever wordplay.
3. MAC MILLER – WATCHING MOVIES WITH THE SOUND OFF
Now that Mac has successfully rebranded himself and his music, his talents are shining through. Watching Movies is a big evolution in his career and features some truly top notch production. He’s still not going to rap circles around anyone, but he’s evolved into a much more complete artist.
4. BONOBO – THE NORTH BORDERS
The North Borders is more of the same that you would expect from a Bonobo album, but it is one of the strongest releases in his catalog. Bonus points for his insane collaboration music video with Cyriak for Cirrus.
5. FAT FREDDY’S DROP – BLACKBIRD
The New Zealand crew returned to the scene with year after a long hiatus between releases with their highly anticapted album, Blackbird. Thankfully, their signature reggae/dub/funk/hip-hop/blues/rock/everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mash up of sound is in rare form as Blackbird provides some of their more noteworthy endeavors.
6. ODDISEE – THE BEAUTY IN ALL
Fresh off taking the crown for ATWL’s best release of 2012, Oddisee kept the wheels in motion during 2013 with two releases. The Beauty In All is the latest in his string of instrumental albums, but what sets this release apart is his clear growth as a composer and producer. He’s crafted much richer music, with deeper layers than his previous work, and is hitting his full stride as an artist.
7. KLAUS LAYER – THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN CROOK
When I first heard Damu The Fudgemunk, I said to myself “holy shit, Pete Rock has been reborn!”. That same feeling was duplicated when I heard Klaus Layer, who happens to be Damu’s labelmate. Hailing from Germany, “Vintage” is the best word to describe Klaus’ music and his keen artistic vision. He’s not only managed to flawlessly capture the early 90s hip-hop sound, he’s mastered it.
8. RAW POETIC – CHARLIE BROWN’S PARENTS
Whether hes doing projects with K-Murdock (as Panacea), his band RPM or working on collaborations with Kev Brown, K-Def or Damu The Fudgemunk, Raw Poetic is a machine. On his debut solo album, Charlie Brown’s Parents, he branches out, taking a unique approach to blending indie with hip-hop, which forms a very organic and original sound.
9. P.SO THE EARTHTONE KING – THE GATEWAY TO GREATNESS
P.So is not one to rush through projects, and its evident in Gateway To Greatness as its a well polished body of work throughout. The diversity of the songs is a real strong point, from a live band backing on one track to industrial spacey soundscapes on the next, Gateway To Greatness offers a wide palate of music that constantly feels refreshing.
10. EARL SWEATSHIRT – DORIS
Arguably the most talented member of Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt stepped to the forefront this year with the release of Doris. His complex rhymes coupled with gritty production provide a window into his dark mind, but the journey is well worth taking.
- K-Os – BLack & BLonde
M.anifest – Apae
8thW1 & PVD – Lux DeVille
K-Def – One Man Band
ScienZe – Ella
Grand Analog – Modern Thunder
Ohmega Watts – Pieces of A Dream
TOP 10 MIXTAPES / FREE RELEASES / EPs:
- Big KRIT – King Remembered In Time
- Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights
- Damu The Fudgemunk – Spur Momento Trailer
- Blitz The Ambassador – The Warm Up EP
- Cobe Obeah – Song of The Starz 2: The Dark Knight
- Raw Poetic – Uncivilized Lit 101
- Asher Roth – Greenhouse Effect, Volume 2
- Oddisee – Tangible Dream
- G-DO & Xception – Felatastic, Volume 2
- Brother Ali & Jake One – Left In The Deck