So I’ve touched on 2013 a few times
Now that I’ve hit the best hip hop albums of the 2000s by picking one for every year, it’s time to dig a little deeper. That’s right, it’s time to talk about 2013. It might have been the best year in hip hop since the millenium turned.
After good kid, m.A.A.d city came out in late 2012, the bar was set damn high for hip hop in 2013. Hip Hop responded.
It was a damn good year for hip hop. 2014 had some great albums, but from start to end 2013 was filled with incredible hip hop releases, some of them completely free. These are my top 10 albums from 2013.
10. Doris – Earl Sweatshirt
Doris was created under absolutely ridiculous expectations for an 18-year old Earl (who was now free from Samoa). His 26-minute mixtape Earl absolutely blew up, but many people didn’t even hear it until he had “disappeared” (sent to a boy’s school in Samoa.) The only similar situation I can think of is everyone appointing LeBron James the next big thing after seeing him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Like LeBron, Earl lived up to the expectations. Doris retains the deep darkness from his earlier releases while discarding the immature shock value. It’s a complete album with great and slightly uncomfortable dark beats covered in Earl’s sleepy but cutting delivery. It wasn’t the best of 2013, but that says more about how great 2013 was than anything.
9. 12 Reasons to Die – Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge
Tony Starks returned to bless your ears with a fantastic concept album in 2013. Adrian Younge absolutely kills it on the beats, and you actually think he matches Ghostface even better than RZA by the end of it all. It is a brilliant concept album and an atmospheric masterpiece, and in my opinion one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums since Liquid Swords. If you haven’t heard it yet, you kind of have to.
8. Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors – Big Boi
The second solo album from Big Boi “one half of the mighty Outkast” (his own words on Ascending) is the work of a master. There are many, many points throughout the album where you’ll think “is this even hip hop anymore?” right before Big Boi comes through and straight murders a verse. It’s an experimental masterpiece that I would not want all of hip hop to start sounding like, but stands alone as a triumph.
Three features from Big Boi’s new best friends Phantogram show that this album does not follow genre conventions, with great success. It does not sound like any rap album you’ve heard before, and to be honest I hope it doesn’t sound like anything that comes after. By itself though, it’s pure genius.
7. INNANETAPE – Vic Mensa
INNANETAPE came on the heels of 2 major events for Vic Mensa. His friend Chance the Rapper’s mixtape Acid Rap (which he killed a verse on) had absolutely blown up, and many turned to Vic for the next great sound from Chicago hip hop. Second, his band Kids These Days broke up. It was a crucial moment in Vic’s career. Luckily, he was ready.
INNANETAPE, like Acid Rap, is a full-length mixtape and it hits on a few different genres (like a less revolutionary Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.) The mixtape ends with the same sound that it begins, making it hard to NOT start it over just when you finish listening. There are no high points on this mixtape because there are no low points. Go listen to it.
free mixtape! see below
6. Wolf – Tyler the Creator
Like Earl’s Doris, Wolf was also a step in a more mature direction. Tyler’s 3rd album is much more musical than Bastard or Goblin before it, as Tyler explores his super dope production while still hitting us with dope, even more intropsective rhymes. Jazzy isn’t exactly the right way to dsecribe it, but it comes close. Wolf makes me wish Tyler would release his next album, just to see what he does next.
5. Yeezus – Kanye West
I don’t need to tell you about the lead up to Yeezus’s release (complete with projector video parties), so let’s just agree there was hype and a little bit of confusion as to where Kanye was going. Where he was going was a place where hip hop is not defined by the type of beat but is defined by the production. The lyrics are dope and in some cases incendiary, but the beats are the showcase here.
As usual, Kanye does not disappoint. Teaming up with great producers from other genres, Kanye expands and blows up hip hop’s boundaries. It’s a hell of a pump-up album, but Blood on the Leaves will also leave you thinking. Every time you listen to Yeezus, you learn something new about history, the world, or just Kanye.
4. My Name is My Name – Pusha T
My Name is My Name is (somehow) the solo debut for Pusha T, and like any others on this list, lived up to high expectations. The beats are excellent, and some of Pusha T’s choices for his beats surprise and then impress you. The album starts and ends with songs in his comfort zone (many produced by Pharrell or Kanye), but the middle slows it down for a different side of Pusha T.
The album cover and album title both underscore the album’s message: Pusha T stands by his music and himself, and his music speaks for itself. That said, go check it out.
3. King Remembered in Time – Big K.R.I.T.
King Remembered in Time is pretty much a self-titled (free!) release from K.R.I.T., even though it’s far from his first. That said, it set the scene for one of 2014’s best albums (Cadillactica) with mindblowing production, flow, and versatility between and within his beats and his rap. If you’re looking for a confident rapper, an introspective rapper, or a smart rapper, you get all 3 with Big K.R.I.T.
free mixtape! see below
2. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
Acid Rap is also incredibly a free mixtape, and firmly put Chicago on the map (Kanye, Common and Lupe don’t count.) It’s a partially drug-fueled, mostly imagination-fueled adventure through all types of music and all types of delivery from Chance the Rapper (you gotta say the whole thing, it’s like a Tribe Called Quest.) Acid Rap does not disappoint at any point.
free mixtape! see below
1. Old – Danny Brown
Finally, in a sea of rap royalty, Danny Brown emerged king. Like Pusha T, Danny Brown is not a young rapper, although he is still coming up. Old was a hell of a way to extend that trajectory, tracing rap’s history through the beats on his album and tracing his own history through rhyme. Dope ass rhyme.
And that’s just side A, Old. Side B (starting with dope song) unleashes a confident Danny Brown on the world, who has worked through his past and come out as a force to be reckoned with. Some people didn’t take Danny Brown seriously before Old came out. Not only were they proven wrong, but so was anyone who hadn’t taken the time to listen yet.
2013 was a hell of a year in hip hop
and this was a hell of an article to write. I expect a lot of disagreement, so drop a comment and talk some spit. Treat yourself these holidays and support these dope artists by grabbing one of these albums!