So 2014 is just about over and I just wanted to take the time to share some of my favorite hip-hop albums that have dropped this year. Here are my top 25 rap albums of 2014, in alphabetical order.
Apollo Brown and Ras Kass - Blasphemy - The first song on my list is a collaborative album from Detroit hip-hop producer Apollo Brown and West Coast veteran emcee Ras Kass. The project is definitely a banger, with Ras Kass spitting fire over chopped up soul samples that kept me nodding my head the entire time. To top it off, I still think Pharoahe Monch's verse on "H20" is my favorite verse of the year. I'll be playing this one for quite some time.
Azaia - Re-Animations - French hip-hop producer Azaia dropped his insanely dope "Re-Animations" album back in April and it definitely got a ton of spins from me. The project is fire the whole way through, keeping with the theme of resurrecting hip-hop while featuring appearances from Dirt Platoon, John Robinson, Blu, Skanks and many others. I really enjoyed the consistency of the production and the rhymes, making this album easily one of my favorites of 2014.
Brother Beatbox - Vol. III - UK producer Brother Beatbox also delivered a real ill album with his "Vol. III" project that was released in June. The beats on here all have a vibrant, summary feel to them and all of the featured emcees sound right at home over them. I played the hell out of this project this past summer, but I'm pretty sure it was slept on by most people.
Cormega - Mega Philosophy - It's no surprise to find Cormega's latest album on my Top 25 list since it was one of the most well received albums of 2014. The album is fully produced by the legendary Large Professor and finds Cormega spitting more thoughtful and mature rhymes than usual, but he keeps it street at the same time. I love the positive vibes of this album and can't wait to see what Mega can cook up next.
CunninLynguists - Strange Journey Volume 3 - CunninLynguists dropped the third release in their series of Strange Journey projects and it was definitely a banger. The beats, mainly produced by Kno with some help from Thomex and RJD2, were beautiful throughout and the rhymes from both Deacon and Natti (as well as all of the featured guests) all kept with the theme of the track they were spitting on.
Diamond District - March on Washington - D.C. based hip-hop trio Diamond District (consisting of Oddisee, yU and XO) released their second album earlier this year and it was real nice. The beats, all courtesy of Oddisee, were soulful and jazzy and all three emcees sounded great over them. While the album wasn't quite as good as "In The Ruff", it was still one of the better releases of 2014.
El Da Sensei - Try Again EP - Legendary hip-hop artist El Da Sensei came through with a 3 track EP that got quite a lot of play from me since it dropped. Each of the songs on here featured head nodding production and El rips it, as always. Hopefully we can get some more releases from El in the near future.
Fel Sweetenburg and DJ Brans - The Invisible Garden - I had initially slept on this project when it first dropped simply due to the large amount of music I receive daily. Man was that stupid. French beatsmith DJ Brans provides the soundscape of gritty, yet beautiful, boom-bap bangers and Fel Sweetenberg simply kills it with the rhymes throughout the entire album. Very dope.
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Pinata - I had really high expectations for this LP when it was announced a few years back, but the end result actually ended up exceeding them. Madlib's beats are absolute fire throughout the entire album and Gangsta Gibbs just spits his ass off on here. This one is incredibly dope and probably got the most play from me out of any album this year.
Ghostface Killah - 36 Seasons - Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah follows up his well received "Twelve Reasons To Die" project with another conceptual album, this time being fully produced by Brooklyn production team/band The Revelations. The beats are fire, Ghost's rhymes are ill and the guest appearances from AZ, Kool G Rap, Pharoahe Monche and others all help to tie the story together. Now he just needs to drop "Supreme Clientele 2" and that album with Killah Priest and I'll be set.
Isaiah Rashad - Cilvia Demo - TDE's Isaiah Rashad dropped his debut album, mixtape, whatever this is early this year and it was quite good. I really had no expectations going in so I was pleasantly surprised. The beats were all real dope, with some containing traces of that old Dungeon Family sound, and the rhymes were crazy as well, with Isaiah providing some really catchy hooks amid all the introspective rhymes.
June Marx - Eve of Victory - Brooklyn's own June Marx came through with an absolute banger of an album back in June that still gets a ton of play from me today. The production on here, all from June himself, is stellar and his militaristic, Wu-Tang-esque rhymes are top notch. June also dropped another EP a few months back, titled "Veterans Day", that was fire as well. This is another project that most people probably missed out on.
Ka and Preservation - 1200 B.C. - Brownsville emcee Ka hooked up with hip-hop producer Preservation and delivered another one of my favorite EP's of the year. Ka's rhymes were as vivid and poetic as ever and the beats by Preservation suited his flow perfectly. Too bad this was just an EP since it kept me wanting more.
Kev Brown and Hassaan Mackey - That Grit - Hassaan Mackey and Kev Brown dropped their collaborative EP, "That Grit", last month and I'm still playing it daily. The beats were grounded in that classic 'golden era' sound and Hassaan Mackey ripped them all while changing up the subject matter on every song.
PRhyme (Royce Da 5'9" and DJ Premier) - PRhyme - When I first heard that Royce and Primo were coming together for a full album, I immediately knew that this shit was going to bang. Luckily I was not disappointed, despite my high expectations. The album finds Royce spitting fire over a handful of head nodding DJ Premier instrumentals, all sampling from the discography of Adrian Younge. While this is a departure from Primo's usual crate digging, the album turned out beautifully.
Raf Almighty (of Dirt Platoon) and DJ Brans - G.T.F.O.M.Y. - Raf Almighty (one half of Baltimore hip-hop group Dirt Platoon) dropped his solo album produced entirely by French hip-hop producer DJ Brans and it's really ill. The beats all have a modernized boom-bap sound and Raf rips them in his signature aggressive flow. Very dope album.
Schoolboy Q - Oxymoron - This is the second TDE release on my Top Rap Albums of 2014 list and I honestly was really surprised the reviews were so mixed on this one. Some people just weren't feeling it, which is fine since music is always subjective. I, however, was really feelin' the album, from it's darker street tracks to more radio friendly bangers like "Man of the Year".
Shabaam Sahdeeq - Keepers of the Lost Art - Brooklyn emcee Shabaam Sahdeeq dropped his latest album back in April and it was quite good. Sure there were a few tracks that I wasn't feelin' that much, but the Lewis Parker produced tracks and Shabaam's lyrics more than made up for the few missteps.
Shinobi Stalin - Invisible Man - Shinobi Stalin also dropped a real dope album this year that featured the Orlando-based emcee spitting some really personal rhymes over a variety of boom-bap instrumentals. The production and rhymes on here were top notch, easily getting the album into my top 25 list. If you haven't heard it, make sure you check it out.
Skyzoo and Torae - Barrel Brothers - Brooklyn emcees Skyzoo and Torae also delivered a banger of an album this year, with both emcees wrecking beats from DJ Premier, Apollo Brown, Black Milk and others. Can't go wrong there. Another very dope release.
Souls of Mischief - There Is Only Now - While PRhyme found DJ Premier sampling Adrian Younge for the entire album, the Souls of Mischief actually decided to do a full project with the prolific hip-hop producer and it turned out really good. The album is a conceptual album, with each member of SOM rhyming from the perspective of multiple characters and Adrian Younge adding a cinematic flare to the instrumentals.
Statik Selektah - What Goes Around - Statik Selektah followed up his inconsistent 2013 album "Extended Play" with one of my favorite albums of 2014. The production on here was beautiful, with all of the instrumentals having a jazzy boom-bap vibe and with mostly all of the many featured emcees coming correct over them.
Step Brothers (Alchemist and Evidence) - Lord Steppington - Alchemist teamed up with Dilated Peoples emcee Evidence and dropped another of my favorite rap albums of 2014. The beats ranged from boom-bap bangers to more experimental production and both Al and Ev came correct with the rhymes, as should be expected.
Wu-Tang Clan - A Better Tomorrow - Wu-Tang Clan reunited for what is being billed as their final album and the end result was very different than any of their other projects. The album seems to have been bashed by most other reviewers, but I was (and still am) really feelin' almost all of the tracks on here. Sure its not their best, but I'd still put it up there just under "The W".
Willie The Kid and Bronze Nazareth - The Living Daylights - Willie the Kid and Bronze Nazareth? Cmon son. You know this is going to be dope before even listening. Bronze definitely delivered with the beats on this project and Willie sounded right at home over them, helping to push this album up near the top of Willie's discography along with last years "Aquamarine" mixtape.
Awon and Dephlow - Dephacation
Big KRIT - Cadillactica
Buckshot and P-Money - BackPack Travels
Chief Kamachi - Radio Raheem
ChillxWill - Almighty LP
Choosey - Left Field
DJ Tek-Wun - Cassette Music
El P and Killer Mike - Run The Jewels 2
J-Live - Around The Sun
Meyhem Lauren and Buckwild - Silk Pyramids
MindsOne and Kev Brown - Pillars EP
Mobb Deep - Infamous Mobb Deep
Pharoahe Monch - PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Raw Product - Supplying The Demand
String Theory (Hex One and B.B.Z. Darney) - String Theory
The AbSoulJah - Dim The Light
The Legion - Lost Tapes
uMaNg - The Black Rose Certificate
Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait EP
And there you have it. Did I miss some? Sure. I didn't get a chance to hear everything I wanted to hear and surely didn't get a chance to review everything I wanted to review. Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts. I'd love to get some other recommendations of albums I missed or to see some of your lists. Thanks for reading.