Top 50 Albums of 2013: Top 5
Start here… trust me
5. York- Blu
York (previously NoYork!) was not the critical success that Below the Heavens or a few other of Blu’s releases are, but if we really cared what the critics thought Avatar wouldn’t be the number highest grossing movie of all time. A lot of you may recognize this this album because it was technically released in 2011 but the official remastered version was released in March of this year with three additional tracks. Some people might be crying foul play putting a two year old release on here, but the fact is only official release dates matter, leak your album in 2006 for all I care if the record book says 2042 than that’s when it was released. This experiment in electro-hop by the West Coast rapper went over like gangbusters for me and all the Blu fans I know and the remastered release and the vinyl made me go back and give it a listen when you realize this was released right before the huge electronic , EDM madness this album is an amazing triumph.
Favorite Track(s): Never be the Same ft. Sa-Ra & Nola Darling, Above Crenshaw ft. Cashusking, SLNGNGrs!, Soupa ft. Suziana Loouge, Annie Hall ft. Chopcherry Pop & Tiom Belockhart, Down To Earth ft. Donel Smokes, Definite Mass & Dubbleoh, My Sunshine ft. Nia Andrews
Least Favorite Track: Everything OK ft. Jack Davey
Best Instrumental: Keepushinn (Prod. Knxwledge)
X-Factor: You’ll sound super smart when you tell your friends you knew about this album two years before them.
Must Listen Rating: 8/10
4. Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels
How do you follow up the 2012 masterpiece R.A.P. Music? If you’re Run the Jewels you do it with the year’s best example of what can come out of the producer-rapper duo. From the first bass drop to the last, this ten track LP does not disappoint. El-P’s production and signature backpack stylings are a perfect contrast to the guttural delivery of Southern MC Killer Mike. A more perfect union could not have been dreamt up even if Rob Reiner and Woody Allen teamed up to make a movie.
Favorite Track(s): Run the Jewels, 36” Chain, Sea Legs, Job Well Done ft. Until the Ribbon Breaks, No Come Down, Get It, A Christmas Fucking Miracle
Least Favorite Track: Ddfh
Best Instrumental: Job Well Done (Prod. El-P)
X-Factor: “They done let that fucking Mike out it’s like Tyson in the 80’s nigga snap and put your lights out”
Must Listen Rating: 8/10
3. Yeezus- Kanye West
The climax of what proved to be a pretty turbulent year for the Chicago rapper. Yeezus was a welcome sight in the straight stream of shit that was coming out of popular rap music this year. It was genius, is genius and you can tell it was genius because it pissed everyone and their mothers off. I couldn’t care less that he called himself a god or jesus he could have called himself the second coming for all I care if you’re gonna drop shit like that you can die for my sins all you want. If you haven’t heard Yeezus already I don’t know what the hell you are doing, I really don’t. It’s the best 41 minutes you could spend with Kanye’s music unless you put “Spaceship” on repeat 7.59 times.
Favorite Track(s): On Sight, Black Skinhead, I am a God ft. god, New Slaves, I’m In It, Blood on the Leaves, Guilt Trip, Send It Up, Bound 2
Least Favorite Track: Hold My Liquor
Best Instrumental: Blood On The Leaves
X-Factor: Kanye is a mad genius.
Must Listen Rating: 10/10
2. The Night’s Gambit- KA
In an effort to mirror the subtle understated genius of New York MC, KA. I will just say this about The Night’s Gambit; this is head and shoulders the best release from KA and the sort of concept style of the album works perfectly with the reflective introspective nature of the release. KA uses chess to represent the complexity and intelligence needed to navigate the life in the streets that he has experienced. Honestly just listen to it.
Favorite Track(s): You Know it’s About, Our Father, Barring the Likeness, Knighthood, 30 Pieces of Silver, Off the Record
Least Favorite Track: Jungle
Best Instrumental: Our Father (Prod. KA
X-Factor: The chess imagery on this LP is genius, making for one the best, most challenging releases of the year.
Must Listen Rating: 8/10
1. Race Music- Armand Hammer
This officially makes Billy Woods the only MC to top my list twice. Half Measures was okay, not amazing, it was rushed and not really polished and because of that I was not really excited for this release. But I was not disappointed. I love an album that takes 5 or 6 listens until you really understand it. And Billy Woods is amazing and his dark humor and spacious flow still remain my favorite rap style. He may not have a real head bobbing flow or one that will catch the eye of the casual listener but he makes up for it with raw, visceral emotions. The LP is very emotionally taxing with topics like mental illness, or failing school system, war and mangled children, heartbreak, familial violence, the list really goes on. Each individual track seems to be a story in its own right but while listening to the LP you realize they all come together to tell a separate story. While the first three listens will be just hard and rarely rewarding it starts to pick up after that, once you realize things like Elucid’s verse at the end of “Sunni’s Blues” where he is describing the mangled children but from the point of view of their attacker where you get a narrative along the lines of “for the greater good”. The LP is rewarding as well as emotionally taxing, if you’re a casual listener maybe you should pass this over but if you stick with it I promise you’ll thank me.
Favorite Track(s): Hatchet Job, Shark Fin Soup, Sunni’s Blues, Frog and Toad are Friends, Willie Bosket, No Roses, Duppy, Hand Over Fist ft. Creature, Where the Wild Things Are, New Museum ft. Busdriver & Open Mike Eagle
Least Favorite Track: N/A
Best Instrumental: The Rent is Too Damn High (Prod. DOS4GW)
X-Factor: Two amazing story tellers come together to give you a very dense release.
Must Listen Rating: 6/10
If you happen to be an avid reader and are wondering if the lower ratings this year mean this year was worse than last. No, quite the opposite in fact, actually I just spent the last year realizing if I’m going to say 91-99 is “legendary” then I should stick to that and a 100 rating should be near impossible to achieve.