Friday, 10 January 2014

Top 25 Albums of 2013

ASAP Ferg Trap Lord
Spotify / iTunes
A$AP Ferg emerged as A$AP Mob’s second viable star with his debut album, Trap Lord. Powered by the street smashes, “Shabba” and “Work,” Fergenstein’s first full-length cracked the top 10 on the Billboard 200.

But it’d be plain rude to ignore the wealth of impressive album cuts on Trap Lord. From the raucous “Murda Something” featuring Waka Flocka Flame, the hypnotic “Lord” with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and the sobering solo cut “Cocaine Castle,” Ferg tested his versatility with success. — Andy B.

Spotify / iTunes
Thanks to it leaking well before its January release date, A$AP Rocky’s LONG.LIVE.A$AP feels like it’s been out way longer than 12 months. Plus, “Goldie” and “Fuckin’ Problems” were doing damage before we even brought in 2013. But Lord Flacko’s debut album shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle. The Harlem sensation tweaked his widely-influenced mould to a studio album format without losing the essence of his much-loved mixtape, LIVE.LOVE.A$AP. With the record debuting at that No. 1 spot, Rocky proved his worth as a star of the new school. — Andy B.
Comically crude rhymes, obscure sports references and that traditional New York sound spiced with multi-cultural flavors; Blue Chips 2 was everything you loved about last year’s original — and then some. Now a bona fide star in the game, Action Bronson’s personality was as big as his waistline (sorry, Bam Bam) on this eagerly-awaited sequel. The Queens chef-turned-MC sounds great over Harry Fraud and The Alchemist beats, but we can’t help but feel like Party Supplies is his true sonic soulmate. — Andy B.
Spotify / iTunes
Beyoncé sat back for 11 out of the 12 months in 2013, took notes from Kanye and Jay Z, and then one-upped everyone with her fifth studio album. Released completely out of the blue (pun intended) at midnight on December 13, Queen B slid right back into the throne with this surprise new project, which was paired with 17 videos and a mini-documentary. Oh yeah, the songs were pretty good, too. Serfbort. — Andy B.
King Remembered in Time BIG K.R.I.T. — KING REMEMBERED IN TIME
Big K.R.I.T. may get flack for being too one-dimensional, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Following 2012′s release of his Def Jam debut, Live From the Underground, Mississippi’s shining talent returned to the mixtape circuit and dropped King Remembered In Time.

With a little help from Bun B, Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y and more, Krizzle served up more hearty Southern soul (“Life is a Gamble,” “Big Picture”) and trunk-rattling anthems (“Talkin’ Bout Nothing,” “My Trunk”) to hold his loyal fans over ’til his sophomore album, due later this year. — Andy B.

Killa Cam had a breakout year in 2013. And we’re not just talking about in music. Obviously, he’s a veteran in the rap world by now, but his presence on Instagram solidified him as a new viral sensation with a whole new audience. Capitalizing off his rejuvenated Internet fame, Cam’ron also launched an online movie series with a new mixtape dubbed Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1. Admittedly, it wasn’t our favorite Cam mixtape, but it had some shining moments. With freestyles over classic R&B records and a handful of gutta Harlemworld records, it was enough to hold us over until the new year. Look out for a new mixtape every month this year from Killa. — Mikey Fresh
What can you say about Chance The Rapper’s AcidRap that hasn’t already been said? You knew when it leaked several hours before its release that this project would be something special. Aside from being a compelling and cohesive body of work from one of rap’s most exciting youngsters, AcidRap‘s impact is very tangible: it landed Chance on the cover of magazines like Complex, The Source and Dazed Digital; earned him a solo headlining tour, as well as opening slots for Eminem and Kendrick Lamar; and even climbed as high as No. 63 on the Billboard 200 from the sales of bootlegged copies. If that doesn’t scream “Chance got next,” I.O.E.N.O. what does. — Andy B.
Spotify / iTunes
Ever since he announced his desire to make rap music, Donald Glover has been fighting an uphill battle with critics (most notably Pitchfork, who absolutely trashed his debut album, Camp) who refuse to see him as anything other than a corny comedy writer. Donald’s sophomore album, Because the Internet, however, was a step in the right direction to being taken seriously as the rapper known as Childish Gambino. Backed by lush, evolving production, ‘Bino showcased a variety of styles while creating a compelling narrative, which ties into the album’s accompanying screenplay. In fact, conspiracists even suggest that Donald was living out an alternate reality based on this plot. All we know is that Because the Internet is a pretty dope album. — Andy B.
Danny Brown Old DANNY BROWN — OLD
Spotify / iTunes
That Danny Brown guy is a complex character. Comprised of “Side A” and “Side B,” the Detroit MC’s third studio album, Old, explored the equally intriguing faces of his personality in vivid detail. The first half appeased his old fans with raw, introspective efforts (including a “remake” of OutKast’s “Return of the G” with Freddie Gibbs), while the latter half transported us into the eye of the molly-fueled storm. It all came to a graceful close with the dreamy “Float On,” on which Danny reflected on the whirlwind journey he just guided us on. — Andy B.
Drake Nothing Was the Same DRAKE — NOTHING WAS THE SAME
Spotify / iTunes
Drake may not have been as omnipresent as Kanye West in 2013, but the anticipation for Nothing Was the Same was unmatched; like the man said himself, “I’ve been so quiet, I got the world like, ‘What the fuck is he planning?’” While it didn’t manage to crack a milli first week, Drizzy’s Take Care follow-up was another hit record from top to bottom. He sparred with Jay Z on “Pound Cake,” sung his heart out on “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and threw a middle finger to the motherfuggers who never loved him on “Worst Behavior.” The third highest-selling album of 2013 and placing all but five tracks on the Billboard 200, Nothing Was the Same was simply undeniable. Let’s see if it adds to Aubrey’s Grammy cabinet later this month. — Andy B.

Earl Sweatshirt Doris EARL SWEATSHIRT — DORIS
Spotify / iTunes
It took Earl Sweatshirt over a year since returning home from Samoa, where he was studying at a reform school on mom’s orders, to release his hugely awaited debut album, Doris. There’d be a natural readjusting period for any kid in that situation, and for 19-year-old Thebe Kgositsile, his maturity was reflected in his music. Long gone were the crude-for-the-sake-of-it rhymes that fans adored on EARL; Doris was an intricate and introspective listen from one of the game’s most natural spitters. Even though it performed relatively well commercially, debuting at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, Doris feels like it’ll be one of those future underground classics you place next to Madvillain’s Madvillainy and Eminem’s Infinite. — Andy B.
Spotify / iTunes
El-P and Killer Mike’s Run the Jewels was a critics’ favorite in 2013. A year after collaborating on Mike’s R.A.P. Music LP, the veterans from New York and Atlanta teamed up in official capacity on this hard-hitting, no-nonsense hip-hop album. With its blend of bellowing beats and dark humor, Run the Jewels is a jewel of an album that deserves to be ran through again and again. — Andy B.
Spotify / iTunes
Freddie Gibbs had fire in his belly and a chip on his shoulder after leaving Jeezy’s CTE squad on not-so-amicable terms, and it showed on his independently released album, ESGN (Evil Seeds Grow Naturally). The former dope boy from Gary, Indiana powered out merciless yet melodic heaters like “Eastside Moonwalker,” “F.A.M.E.” and “One Eighty Seven.” As well as acting as a platform to showcase his ESGN crew’s talents like G-Wiz, Hit Skrewface and G.I. Fleezy, Gangsta Gibbs landed choice guest spots from Daz Dillinger, Jay Rock and Problem. ESGN flew under a few radars, but this was secretly the toughest album of 2013. — Andy B.
James Blake Overgrown JAMES BLAKE — OVERGROWN
Spotify / iTunes
Thanks to the overwhelming acclaim of “Retrograde,” James Blake’s sophomore set, Overgrown, was one of the most anticipated pre-summer releases of 2013. The unsuspecting Brit merged sparse electronic textures with classical soul into one of the most captivating bodies of work of recent memory. Blake’s subtle, shimmering voice held the spotlight throughout, and with a sole guest spot from the legendary RZA, it took no time at all for Overgrown to grow on you. — Andy B.
John Legend Love in the Future JOHN LEGEND — LOVE IN THE FUTURE
Spotify / iTunes
John Legend made the comeback we were all waiting for with Love In the Future. With his first solo album in five years, G.O.O.D. Music’s long-time resident crooner took it back to that classic, soulful R&B sound, and with plenty of personal emotion poured into this project, it was the album to canoodle to in 2013. Our only gripe with Love In the Future is that it didn’t drop around Valentine’s Day. — Andy B.

Kanye West Yeezus KANYE WEST — YEEZUS
Spotify / iTunes
Yeezus was an album you either loved or hated; there was no sitting on the fence with Kanye West’s sixth solo effort. Critics adored the record for its daring lyrics and avant garde production, but that seemed to have turned off a lot of fans who were hoping for another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Still, “New Slaves” was typically provocative, “Blood on the Leaves” was a straight-up banger and “Bound 2″ closed the curtain on a soulful note, leaving fans guessing which sonic direction Ye will take on his next LP (which could arrive this summer). — Andy B.
Chief Keef and GBE may have opened the flood gates for young gun-toting rappers to break through the mainstream in Chicago, but Lil Bibby has already mastered the new sound that will propel the Windy City into greater heights. As the young man says, “this ain’t no drill shit.” Combined with his one-of-a-kind baritone voice, the Chiraq hitta encompasses a level of maturity and street savvy range that passes the majority of his Chi-Town peers. At this point, I can’t say Bibby is reinventing the hip-hop wheel, but damn, this kid killed it with Free Crack. — Mikey Fresh
Spotify / iTunes
Mac Miller cut out the corniness and proved critics wrong with his impressive sophomore album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off. His relocation out West clearly paid off as Pittsburgh’s most dope delivered one of the best rappity-rap albums of 2013, even landing a verse from the elusive Jay Electronica. Smooth singing efforts like “Objects in the Mirror” and his extensive production work made this a nicely well-rounded project. The album may have sold slightly less than his Blue Slide Park debut, but WMWTSO solidified Mac as a serious MC who we’re sure will be sticking around for a while. — Andy B.
SoundCloud / iTunes
While a lot of fans were quick to put a “replacement for The Weeknd” label on Canadian singer/songwriter/producer PARTYNEXTDOOR upon his introduction via Drake, most learned that they were so wrong with the release of his debut album. We had a couple of his songs in rotation before Drizzy put his stamp of approval on this new artist, and were confident that his diversity and range would set him apart from any singer out. Sonically, PARTY definitely has some elements of R. Kelly, The-Dream and a few other auto-tune-loving singers, but that is far from a bad thing. The 22-year-old’s debut project has joints perfect for cruising South Beach, cooling with your significant other and zoning out solo. We’ve had the project in rotation for a minute now. — Mikey Fresh
Spotify / iTunes
Was Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name really “hip-hop album of the year?” Considering its closest contenders, Kanye West’s Yeezus and Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, explored other avenues, that claim doesn’t sound so audacious. After years as one of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music goons, King Push failed to disappoint on his long-awaited debut solo album, slicing up quality beats from the likes of Kanye West, Pharrell and Nottz with razor sharp bars straight from those Virginia streets. — Andy B.

Sampha Dual SAMPHA — DUAL
Spotify / iTunes
Sampha kinda snook up on folk in 2013. The soft-spoken South London singer had a huge hand in SBTRKT’s excellent self-titled album in 2011, but reverted to his reclusive ways the following year. Last year however, the Young Turks-signed talent spread his wings by cutting two impeccable cuts with Drake (“The Motion” and “Too Much”) and dropping his debut full-length, Dual EP. The project was laced with breezy, wondrous production which complimented Sampha’s stunning voice. But at only six tracks long — two of those being interludes — he’s left us thirsting for more. Let’s hope he quenches it in 2014. — Andy B.
Toro y Moi Anything In Return TORO Y MOI — ANYTHING IN RETURN
Spotify / iTunes
“Sincere pop” is how Chaz Bundick, best known as Toro y Moi, described his third LP, Anything In Return, and he wasn’t wrong. The concise 13-track project was a melting pot of funky riffs, rubbery synths and bluesy keys. While “So Many Details” and “Say That” moved the needle a notch, it’d be doing a disservice to Anything In Return‘s cohesion and consistency to even pick a standout. — Andy B.
Tyler The Creator Wolf TYLER, THE CREATOR — WOLF
Spotify / iTunes
You get the feeling Wolf was the album Tyler, The Creator was always trying to make. Odd Future’s chief rebel had cut out the gimmicks and delivered a focused and vibrant full-length, rich with neo-soul (“Treehome95,” “Lone/Jornada”), dusty boom bap (“Rusty,” “Pigs”) and flawless Neptunes impressions (“IFHY,” “Bimmer”). Of course, there were still flashes of Tyler’s goofy personality (“Domo23,” “Trashwang”), but for the most part, Wolf was an album you just couldn’t dismiss as Satan-worshipping, rape-referencing teenage rap. — Andy B.
Vic Mensa’s breakout came at kind of an unfortunate time. Earlier in the year, his close friend and fellow SaveMoney member Chance The Rapper had catapulted into that blurry space between online stardom and real-life fame off the strength of AcidRap, ultimately (and unfortunately) eclipsing Vic’s very commendable achievements. Still, the former Kids These Days frontman built up his own budding fan base and dropped one of the year’s most enjoyable mixtapes, highlighted by summery jams like “Hollywood L.A.” and intricate lyrical cuts such as “Time as Money.” There’s even a collaboration with Chance on there that shows why Chicago’s non-drill scene is one of the most exciting of any region. — Andy B.
Stolen Youth was two relative rap rookies coming into their own. First, there was Vince Staples, the Long Beach youngster with a monotone delivery and whose rhymes carry a sobering realism far beyond his teenage years. Then, Mac Miller, who proved Larry Fisherman was more than just a silly moniker for him to play around with beats under. Boasting appearances from ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Mac Miller (the real Mac Miller), Stolen Youth was a must-download for any fan of slick raps and dope beats. — Andy B.

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