Well 2013 is already halfway over and I just wanted to take some time to reflect on some of the albums I reviewed and see if I still agree with the ratings. The year started off kind of slow and then picked up a lot in the last few months, with many big name artists dropping albums almost every week. There were a few big albums that dropped earlier in the year that I didn't get a chance to review (French Montana, Lil Wayne, etc), so keep that in mind when reading through. You can click on the album titles to jump over to the full track-by-track reviews of each album. In addition, make sure to check out my write-up of the Top 5 Hip-Hop Producers of 2013, So Far.
So what were the best new rap albums of 2013 (as of June 30th)? Lets start from the top...
Since this was my half-year list posted up in June, here is my end of year list of the Best Rap Albums of 2013.
Big K.R.I.T. - King Remembered In Time - After a somewhat disappointing studio album, Big K.R.I.T returned to drop another banging mixtape that is as good as his other free mixtapes in my opinion. The self-produced beats are beautiful and Big K.R.I.T. comes correct lyrically on almost every track. He has definitely cemented himself as one of the best new hip-hop artists in the rap industry in the past few years. This mixtape is fire.
Dirt Platoon and Kyo Itachi - War Face - Dirt Platoon and Kyo Itachi teamed up to drop an absolute banger. The beats are slammin and the lyrics are aggressive and hardcore. Fans of Wu-Tang Clan and Killarmy should eat this album up. Too bad this was slept on by most people because its one of the years best.
El-P and Killer Mike - Run The Jewels - The second collaboration album between Killer Mike and El-P was just as good as their first. El-P's production was pretty much flawless and both Killer Mike and El-P ripped it lyrically. To make the package even better, the album was released for free via the Fools Gold website. Nothing is better than free hip-hop music when it is this good.
Epidemic - Somethin' For Tha Listeners - Epidemic dropped their latest project just a few days ago and its crazy. The beats, by Esco, are consistently dope and both Hex One and Tek-Nition rip every verse on the album. If you are looking for that ill 90s hip-hop sound, look no further. This album bangs.
Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge - Twelve Reasons to Die - 2013 has been hailed as the "Year of the Wu-Tang." It's a bold claim, but it seems to be true based off the strong releases they dropped in the first half of the year. On this LP, Ghostface Killah teamed up with producer Adrian Younge to drop a gritty conceptual album with strong Italian Opera/Horror themes. Very ill.
Inspectah Deck with 7L & Esoteric - CZARFACE - Another Wu-banger. Inspectah Deck collabs with 7L & Esoteric and dropped a dope, comic book inspired hip-hop album. The beats are fire and Inspectah Deck sounds better than he has in years. Combined a reinvigorated Deck with beats by 7L and an impressive performance by Esoteric and you have a banger.
John Robinson and Kyo Itachi - The Path of Mastery - Another album that is highly slept on. The production by Kyo Itachi is lush and beautiful and perfectly compliments John Robinson's laid back delivery. Its definitely one of my most played albums of 2013. Absolute fire.
Killah Priest - The Psychic World of Walter Reed (Disc 1) - I broke up my reviews for double albums into two parts because I rated each disc separately and then combined them for a total at the end. The first disc on P.W.O.W.R. is definitely a banger and quite easily Killah Priest's best work since "The Offering". The beats are really dope and Killah Priest's lyrics are top notch, as always. Add to that a crisp, mastered sound that has been lacking from Priests recent works and you have a banger.
Killah Priest - The Psychic World of Walter Reed (Disc 2) - The second disc on P.W.O.W.R. is not as consistent as the first disc, but it's still really good. Priest was definitely in the zone when he made this album because he provided us with two full discs of great music. As on the first disc, the beats are slammin and Killah Priest rips it lyrically. Dude is a beast on the mic.
Prodigy and The Alchemist - Albert Einstein - This the best Mobb Deep related product to drop in years. The beats are crazy and Prodigy sounds reinvigorated. As usual with Mobb Deep records, the subject matter is dark and violent, but the beats provided by The Alchemist match the tone perfectly. I had originally rated the album as a 4.25/5 but bumped it up to 4.5/5 since it hasn't left rotation since it dropped.
Wale - The Gifted - So Wale just dropped a really ill album this year. The live instrumentation and Wale's carefree flow meshed really well together and made almost every track distinct from the others. Even the radio friendly tracks are really dope. There are a few filler songs, but not many. Very good album.
7 G.E.M.S. (Tragic Allies and Tragedy Khadafi) - Golden Era Music Sciences - Tragedy Khadafi teams up with underground hip-hop group Tragic Allies to put out one of this years best releases so far. The beats, by Purpose, are mesmerizing and the lyrics are full of substance. Fire.
Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap - Acid Rap is the second mixtape by Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper and is also one of the best mixtapes of 2013 so far. The beats are consistently ill and Chance the Rapper comes correct on mostly all of them. His voice and flow are unique, which helps the mixtape stand out in the oversaturated crowd of free mixtapes. Definitely check this out if you haven't already.
Durag Dynasty - 360 Waves - If 2013 is the "Year of the Wu", its also got to be "The Year of The Alchemist". We are only halfway through the year and he has dropped two really great collaboration albums with about five more projects on the way before the year ends. The beats on here are stellar and the emcees (Planet Asia, Killer Ben and Tristate) all bring it. Very, very dope. The Alchemist proves yet again that he is one of the best hip-hop producers of all time.
Havoc - 13 - Havoc, the other half of Mobb Deep, also dropped a banging album this year. While not quite as good as "Albert Einstein", the beats and lyrics on here are definitely a step up from his previous solo work. The album is pretty much fully self-produced and Havoc spits his usual aggressive and violent bars. Dope album.
J. Cole - Born Sinner - J. Coles definitely stepped up his game for the follow-up to his mediocre debut album. The self-produced beats were really good and J. Cole's lyrics and flow were much more refined than his previous works. The album was ill, but the "Truly Yours 3" bonus tracks pushed it up a notch to a 4/5 instead of my original 3.75/5.
Kid Tsunami - The Chase - This album is a must have for every boom-bap enthusiast. The beats have a strong underground hip-hop feel to them and the guest emcees are straight out of the 90s. Despite the throwback feel, the purpose of the album was to move the art form forward instead of getting stuck in the past, which is dope. Definitely check this one out.
Mac Miller - Watching Movies With The Sound Off - This is the surprise album of the year for me. I've really only liked a few Mac Miller songs in the past so I checked out this album mainly off the strength of the features. I must say, I'm glad I did. Mac Miller seems to have matured both lyrically and with his style of production (as many of the tracks as self-produced). The beats and rhymes are dope. Nice.
Moe Pope and Rain - Let The Right Ones In - Boston's Moe Pope and Rain came through with an album that successfully blended electronica-inspired instrumentals with ill lyrics. Rain's production is pretty much flawless, coupling lush live instrumentation with heavy ambient synthesizers. Moe Pope spits fire throughout the entire album and touches on a variety of topics from death to the pressures of life to growing up in poverty. This album was highly slept on in my opinion.
RA the Rugged Man - Legends Never Die - RA the Rugged Man returns after a long hiatus and ended up dropping one of the better albums of the year. The album has a little bit of everything - songs showcasing his rapid-fire flow ("Definition of a Rap Flow"), conscious songs ("Learn Truth") and crazy, over-the-top songs ("Shoot Me In The Head"). While there are a few tracks I'm not really feelin, the majority was really good.
ST 2 Lettaz - The G... Growth And Development - I don't know of many people besides myself who copped this album, which is sad because its definitely one of the highlights of 2013 so far. This is ST's first solo album after his group, G-Side, was dissolved and he and Clova decided to pursue solo careers. While their break-up was very disheartening, it seemed to put a battery in ST's back as the production and lyrics on here are banging. If you still haven't checked the album out, I suggest you do so ASAP.
ST 2 Lettaz - Prelude to G - ST 2 Lettaz dropped this EP of songs that were cut from "The G... Growth And Development" about a month before that album was released. Some of the songs on here ("Smokin Mirrors", "Crown") would have definitely contributed to the strength of the full release. Too bad they were cut, but at least they are available for free via ST's Bandcamp page.
Styles P - Float - Styles P dropped my favorite Lox solo album, "A Gangster and a Gentlemen", back in 2002. Ever since then he has been pretty hit-or-miss, dropping solo albums and mixtapes every few years. "Float" is definitely a hit though. Produced entirely by Scram Jones, the beats are fire and Styles P comes correct with the rhymes. Very nice.
Swollen Members - Beautiful Death Machine - Swollen Members first album, "Balance", is a personal classic for me. After that album dropped, I lost track of the group as they went on to put out a ton of group and solo material, some of which I really wasn't feeling. I decided to check out their latest release and I'm glad I did, since this is my favorite album by them since "Balance" (yes I went back and checked out the others). The production is crisp and both emcees sound great, especially Mad Child who seems to have gotten much better since kicking his drug habit.
The Doppelgangaz - Hark - The Doppelgangaz dropped another fire album earlier this year. The beats are grimy and dark, exactly the kind of sound I prefer, but they lost a few points due to the lyrics. They are not bad lyricists, by any means. They just chose to spit in an almost nonsensical fashion, which may go over the head of casual listeners. Still, the album is dope and you should definitely check it out.
Ugly Heroes - Ugly Heroes - For those that do not know, Ugly Heroes is a collaboration album between producer Apollo Brown and emcees Verbal Kent and Red Pill. Apollo Brown is one of my favorite producers in the rap industry and he crafted another really dope album here. I was unfamiliar with Verbal Kent and Red Pill going into the album, but they held their own and came correct with the lyrics. The only negative about this album is that the subject matter gets a bit repetitive and it lacks any standout tracks. I know the theme of the album is about coming up from nothing, but I was hoping for a little more diversity. Still, this is one of the best albums of the year.
Wiz Khalifa and Currensy - Live In Concert - Wiz Khalifa and Currensy finally released their second collaboration album this year and it turned out pretty ill. All of the beats on this album are pretty much straight from the 1975 jazz album "Fancy Dancer" by Bobbi Humphrey, which gave the album a consistent feel. Wiz and Currensy do their thing and spit some smooth rhymes for the smokers. Looking back, I'd probably drop the rating on this a bit (to a 3.75/5) since I haven't played it much since release.
Action Bronson and Harry Fraud - Saab Stories - This album was something I had been looking forward to for quite some time and I was a tad disappointed when the final product came out. I was hoping for a full length project, but instead we got only seven tracks. Usually this would be fine, but not every track was hittin as hard as some of the others, which definitely hurt the score for the album. If you are gonna come with a seven track EP, make sure all the tracks are fire. With that being said, the EP is still really good for what it is and definitely delivered a few classic tracks. Hopefully we get to hear more from them in the future.
First Light (Pep Love and Opio) - Fallacy Fantasy - Hieroglyphics, along with Wu-Tang Clan and a few others, were one of my favorite crews back in the 90s. Their beats were always dope and their rhymes were fresh. Fast forward two decades and these guys are still here making ill music. This album teamed up Pep Love and Opio (of Souls of Mischief) and it was really good. The lyrics were fire and both emcees had great chemistry together. What held back the album for me was the beats. Unjust came through in most cases, but I was really hoping for some A-Plus or Domino contributions. Looking back at the album though, I'd probably raise the rating for this to a 4/5 since its grown on me a bit since the review.
Freddie Gibbs - ESGN - Freddie Gibbs finally released his first studio album after a string of really ill mixtapes. The beats and lyrics are consistently dope and Freddie's voice and flow are definitely unique. The only problems with this album were an overabundance of weak guest features and a few filler tracks. If the album was a strong 14 or 15 tracks instead of 20, it would have scored much higher. Still, this shit is dope.
Kanye West - Yeezus - Kanye West ended up dropping this album pretty much out of nowhere, with no real singles or videos to promote it. I'm not sure if this was done on purpose or not, but the album felt really rushed to me. The beats took on a strong industrial vibe and Kanye's lyrics were the worst I've heard from him in years. I consider myself a big Kanye fan, but this album is his worst so far. That being said, there is still some really good material on here...if you come with an open mind.
Slum Village - Evolution - Slum Village returns with their latest lineup of T3, Young RJ and Illa J. The beats on here are really dope, with Young RJ handling the bulk of the production. Lyrically the group is about on par with how they have been in the past, being good but not great. The album comes together very nicely though and manages to recapture some, but not all, of that classic Slum Village sound.
Statik Selektah - Extended Play - Statik Selektah came through with a pretty dope album, but I was slightly underwhelmed with it in the end. The beats and rhymes were good, but there were a few filler tracks and I felt the album dragged on a bit. Cut out that filler and the album would have easily jumped up to a 4/5.
Binary Star - Binary Star EP - This is the first time we've gotten to hear a new Binary Star album in quite some time. While One Be Lo and Senim Silla have released some solo material since "Masters of the Universe" dropped in 2000, everyone was still waiting and hoping for a reunion album. While not a full album, we did get an EP in 2013 and its pretty damn good. It's really great to hear them rhyming together again and I hope we do end up getting a full length project some time in the near future.
Gensu Dean and Planet Asia - Abrasions - Here is another dope album that would have benefited from having some of the filler cut out of it. The beats and rhymes are dope, but there are a few tracks that don't hit as hard as the others. If the album was shortened, say to 13 or 14 tracks, then it would have been much better. That being said, the album is still pretty good.
Hannibal Stax and Marco Polo - Seize The Day - Hannibal Stax and Marco Polo teamed up to release a really dope album that lost some points due to lack of diversity. The beats were all really ill, solidifying Marco Polo's place as one of the best underground hip-hop producers in the rap industry today. Hannibal Stax sounded really good as well, but every track ended up blending together due to the lack of diverse topics in the songs.
NORE (aka PAPI) - Student of the Game - So NORE changed his name to PAPI and set out to make an album with a little bit of everything to show that he was a "student of the game." This lead to an inconsistent album that tried to mix old school boom-bap tracks with modern day radio/club tracks. The result is an album that is half dope and half trash, with nobody really checking for the same tracks. Still, there were some definite bangers on here.
Papoose - Nacirema Dream - Papoose finally dropped his long-awaited album this year and the results were mixed. Some of the songs sound dated, feeling as if they were recorded back in 2005 (and they probably were), while others had a modern day vibe. There are a few really ill songs on here, but there are just not enough of them to propel the album out of getting just an average rating.
Talib Kweli - Prisoner of Consciousness - This is another album that wasn't entirely sure what it wanted to be. There are a bunch of songs on here that are absolute fire, while the others are just crossover attempts at radio play. I can't really picture Talib getting much play on the radio in today's market, so I'm not quite sure what he was going for with this one.
Trinity (A.G., Sadat X, DJ Jab) - 20 In - Trinity could have easily been a really dope album, but it was held back by some filler tracks and lackluster beats. While there is a good amount of bangers on here, there is just as much filler. Its a shame too, since the line-up looked really good.
Cappadonna - Eyrth, Wynd and Fyre Disc 1 - Cappadonna probably shouldn't have attempted to come out with a double disc, as most of the dope music got spread to thinly across the two discs. Sure there are a few songs on here that bang, but the majority is just bland beats coupled with bad choruses and uninspired verses by Cappadonna. What a shame.
Cappadonna - Eyrth, Wynd and Fyre Disc 2 - Disc 2 doesn't fare much better than disc 1 on this album. If you combined all the dope tracks from both discs onto one disc, you would definitely have a banger. As it is though, the good music comes too few and far between. There are definitely a few gems on here though.
Tonedeff - Glutton - Tonedeff is actually one of my favorite underground hip-hop producers and emcees, so it pains me to see his EP at the bottom of this list (although French Montana and Lil Wayne would have had lower scores had I reviewed them). I just wasn't feeling the poppy/dance club direction he took with the album. Lyrically he is still sharp, but I just couldn't get into the beats at all and some of the subject matter was too over-the-top. Maybe it will fit into his "Polymer" album better than it fares as a standalone product, but for now I just wasn't feeling it. And yes, I understand that the crazy lyrics and pop beats fit into the "Glutton" theme, but its just not for me.
And there you have it. Sound off in the comments section below and let me know your thoughts. Did I get it right? Was I way off the mark? What were your top albums? Let me know.