So 2013 is already over and I just wanted to go through and highlight some of my favorite rap and hip-hop albums of the year. Below are my top 25 albums, in no specific order other than alphabetic, that got the most play from me throughout the year. Did I miss a few? Sure. I didn't get a chance to review every album that I heard and also didn't get to hear everything I wanted too. But, of the ones I did hear, these are my favorites.
1) Awon and Phoniks - Return To The Golden Era - Newport News, VA emcee Awon and Portland producer Phoniks dropped a collaboration album back in July that got a ton of play from me this year. Phoniks instrumentals on here are dope as hell and have a strong throwback feel to them while still managing to sound fresh and not just like rehashes of the "golden era". Lyrically Awon fares just as well and kicks some well thought out rhymes in a smooth, yet rugged flow. Very dope album. Don't sleep.
2) Big K.R.I.T. - King Remembered In Time - Big K.R.I.T. redeemed himself after his somewhat lackluster debut album with one of the better mixtapes of 2013. The beats range from beautiful soulful instrumentals to more upbeat, trunk-rattling bangers. K.R.I.T. delivers on the lyrics side as well, touching on a variety of topics and styles throughout the course of the tape.
3) Boldy James and Alchemist - My 1st Chemistry Set - Detroit emcee Boldy James dropped his debut album earlier in 2013 and it's absolute fire. The production is handled entirely by The Alchemist (who just happens to be my producer of the year) and is full of back to back bangers. This was my first real introduction to Boldy James as an emcee and he really impressed me on here, spitting some witty street stories in a slower flow that reminded me a bit of a younger Prodigy. Dope shit.
4) Dirt Platoon and Kyo Itachi - War Face - Dirt Platoon teamed up with producer Kyo Itachi to drop another of 2013's best hip-hop albums. Kyo Itachi's instrumentals this album are simply stellar, with most having a real gritty feel to them to compliment the hardcore and aggressive lyrics of Raf Almighty and Snook da Crook. The album reminds me of something Killarmy might have dropped nowadays if they were still making music. This shit is banging.
5) Durag Dynasty - 360 Waves - This is the second album fully produced by The Alchemist to make its way into my top album of the year list. The beats on this project are simply bonkers, with Al crafting the perfect backdrop for Planet Asia, TriState and Killer Ben to spit over. None of the lyrics are mind blowing, per se, but all three have dope flows, great mic presence and good chemistry together on the mic. Dope.
6) Ed Rowe and Concept - Essenchill - Atlanta emcee Ed Rowe and producer Concept teamed up for this collaboration album that dropped back in August and the end result was fire. Concept's instrumentals have a jazzy, soulful boom-bap feel to them and Ed Rowe's lyrics are inspirational and up-lifting. The whole album has a real laid-back vibe goin' on and is the perfect backdrop for when you just need to unwind.
7) Endemic - Terminal Illness 2 - UK producer Endemics followup to his 2009 project "Terminal Illness" was definitely a banger. The beats on here are darker and have a head-nodding boom-bap feel reminiscent of the "golden era" of hip-hop while still maintaining a modernized sound. The album features a slew of guest appearances ranging from Masta Killa and Roc Marciano to Planet Asia and Hell Razah - and all of them deliver. Very dope album.
8) Epidemic - Somethin' For Tha Listeners - Epidemic dropped their latest project back in June and its crazy. The beats, by Esco, are consistently dope and have a real laid-back feel to them. Both Hex One and Tek-Nition come through as expected and show off their mic skills while bodying every verse on the album. If you are looking for that ill 90s hip-hop sound, look no further.
9) Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge - Twelve Reasons to Die - Ghostface Killah teamed up with producer Adrian Younge earlier this year to drop a gritty conceptual record with a strong Italian Opera/Horror theme running throughout it. The album also had an alternate version released that was produced entirely by Apollo Brown, who puts his own spin on the songs. Dope shit.
10) Inspectah Deck with 7L & Esoteric - CZARFACE - This must have been the year of ill collaboration albums since many of the albums on my list are just that. For this one, Wu-Tang Clan's Inspectah Deck teams up with 7L & Esoteric and drops a dope, comic book inspired hip-hop album. The beats are banging throughout, Esoteric comes correct and Inspectah Deck sounded reinvigorated after his disappointing "Manifesto" album. Very nice.
11) John Robinson and Kyo Itachi - The Path of Mastery - New York emcee John Robinson joins forces with French producer Kyo Itachi to deliver yet another collaboration album that made its way into my Top Rap Albums list. The production by Kyo Itachi on here is lush and beautiful and perfectly compliments John Robinson's laid back delivery. Too bad this album was highly slept on since it's absolute fire.
12) Ka - The Night's Gambit - Brownsville emcee and frequent Roc Marciano collaborator Ka delivered another one of 2013's best albums back in mid July. Ka handles all of the production duties on the album himself and crafts a slew of spase, foreboding instrumentals that are absolute fire. As if that isn't enough, Ka comes through and bodies each verse on the album while keeping with the running chess theme. Very dope album.
13) Killah Priest - The Psychic World of Walter Reed - Wu-Tang affiliate and Sunz of Man member Killah Priest dropped his double album "The Psychic World of Walter Reed" back in February of 2013 and it was absolutely crazy. The beats are just beautiful throughout and Priest is on point lyrically for every track, dropping an insane amount of wisdom and knowledge in his rhymes. This is easily his best album since "The Offering" and I'd put it right up there with his debut, "Heavy Mental."
14) Killer Mike and El-P - Run The Jewels - "Run The Jewelz" is a free collaboration album between Atlanta emcee Killer Mike and Brooklyn producer El-P that dropped back in June of 2013. The production on here is handled entirely by El-P himself and its dope, with many of the instrumentals having a hardcore, electronic sound to them. Lyrically both El-P and Killer Mike rip the beats, as should be expected. I still can't believe this was released for free. Very dope.
15) Marco Polo: PA2 - The Director's Cut - Canadian hip-hop producer Marco Polo delivered his latest album back in November and its fire. The album features guest appearances from Organized Konfusion, Large Professor, Inspectah Deck, O.C., Tragedy Khadafi, A.G. and many others, while all production is handled by Marco Polo himself. If you are looking for your favorite "golden era" emcees kicking rhymes over boom-bap production, then this album is definitely for you.
16) MKV and Concept - When The Pieces Come Together - This is the second album on my list that is fully produced by New Zealand producer Concept. The beats on here are lush and vibrant boom-bap bangers that had my head nodding throughout the entire album. Lyrically, Chicago born emcee MKV is on point as well, kicking some thought-provoking lyrics that mostly all have a positive message to them. Oh, and it was released for free. Can't beat that.
17) Natti (of CunninLynguists) - Still Motion - Natti, who is one third of the hip-hop group CunninLynguists for those that dont know, dropped his first solo album back in September and its definitely a banger. The album features production from Kno and SunnyStylez, but is almost entirely handled by Deacon The Villain, who steps out from the shadows of being the "lesser known CunninLynguists" producer on here. The production is simply beautiful and Natti's rhymes are as strong as ever. This album is fire.
18) Neek The Exotic - Hustle Don't Stop - Flushing, Queens veteran Neek The Exotic delivered his latest solo album back in August and it's got a ton of play from me since. The beats are banging throughout, with many of the songs having a consistent "golden era" feel despite having a multitude of producers present. Lyrically Neek the Exotic hasn't lost a step, dropping gems in his smooth, yet rugged, flow. Very ill.
19) Paranom and Purpose - Life Outside The Frame - This album is the first collaboration album between Purpose (of Tragic Allies) and the latest member of Tragic Allies, Paranom. Purpose really came correct with the beats on here, crafting some absolutely beautiful instrumentals for Paranom to just body. And body he does. Paranom's rhymes are intricate and densely packed with witty punchlines and thought-provoking lyrics, all of which are delivered in an intense, multisyllabic flow. I'm still picking up on all the lyrics, double-meaning and rhyme schemes that I didn't notice the first twenty times listening. Dope shit.
20) Prodigy and The Alchemist - Albert Einstein - 2013 was definitely a hallmark year for The Alchemist, who ending up making it onto my Top Rap Albums list three times for fully produced collaboration albums. On this album, Alan the Chemist teamed up with Mobb Deep's Prodigy for their second collaboration album following 2007's "Return of the Mac". As usual with Mobb Deep records, the subject matter is dark and violent, but the beats provided by The Alchemist match the tone perfectly. Easily one of the best albums of 2013.
21) Roc Marciano - Marci Beaucoup - Roc Marciano's latest solo album dropped not to long ago and its definitely a banger. The production on the album is handled entirely by Roc himself, with each song featuring a head-nodding instrumental that has a gritty, street vibe while still maintaining that unique "Roc Marciano" feel. Lyrically the album fares just as well, with Roc sharing the mic with a gang of guest emcees ranging from Evidence to Ka and from Cormega to Action Bronson. This shit is fire.
22) ST 2 Lettaz - The G... Growth And Development - Alabama's ST 2 Lettaz dropped his first solo album back in March and it was real dope. If you still haven't checked the album out, I suggest you do so ASAP. The beats on here are slamming and ST rips them all, showing that he can stand on his own for an entire solo album. Just a few months back I heard that G-Side was back in the studio together, hopefully cookin' up something nice for 2014. Don't sleep on this album.
23) Talib Kweli - Gravitas - This was Talib Kweli's second album of 2013 and it's head-and-shoulders above the first in my opinion. Where "Prisoner of Conscious" felt somewhat disjointed and aimed more for radio play, Talib returned to his lyrical roots and flows on "Gravitas" and the end result is a banger. The beats are simply beautiful and Talib's lyrics have meaning and substance throughout the entire album. This one is going to be in rotation for a while I think.
24) Willie the Kid - Aquamarine - Michigan emcee Willie the Kid dropped his free mixtape, "Aquamarine", back in August and its real ill. The beats and lyrics all keep with the water/ocean theme throughout the entire mixtape, with Willie coming with his trademark stream-of-consciousness type flow while incorporating tons of aquatic metaphors and imagery into his lyrics. I had high expectations for this, but he actually managed to exceed them and drop one of 2013's best albums/mixtapes...for free.
25) YC the Cynic - GNK - YC the Cynic is an emcee hailing from Bronx, NY who dropped his second full-length digital album back in August. The album is produced entirely by Frank Drake, who crafts the perfect soundscape to compliment YC the Cynic's deep lyrics and intricate flow. YC himself is just a beast on the mic, spitting thought-provoking rhymes in his trademark intricate delivery. He has a way of putting words together that makes it sound effortless and yet the lyrics have actual substance behind them. Very ill album.
7 G.E.M.S. (Tragic Allies and Tragedy Khadafi) - "Golden Era Music Sciences"
Black Milk - "No Poison No Paradise"
Deltron 3030 - "Event II"
Dus - "Ambassadors"
Ed Rowe and Klim Beats - "Exercise inTuition"
Havoc - "13"
Kid Tsunami - "The Chase"
Shoda Ish - "FoxP2"
Tech N9Ne - "Something Else"
The Doppelgangaz - "Hark"
Ugly Heroes - "Ugly Heroes"