2014’s Best LPs and EPs
The list begins here.
10. Rapsody- Beauty and the Beast
Rapsody’s Beauty and the Beast EP was one of this years biggest surprises. Until this release Rapsody hadn’t fully found her sound, her releases She Got Game and The Idea of Beautiful suffered from a unifying idea from track to track there were flops and successes. On this EP though Rapsody knows what she’s good at and does it so very well. Produced almost entirely by Jamla Records elite Eric G and 9th Wonder this release plays well through all ten tracks. Rapsody is a no muss, no fuss, no bullshit kind of woman give her a good drum beat and 16 bars and there’s nothing she can’t do. It has everything we love in hip-hop a little cocky, a bit angry, and really smart.
Favorite Track(s): Feel It, Who I Am, Drama, The Word, Godzilla, The Man, Coming For You
Least Favorite Track: Waiting On It (Baby Girl)
Best Production: Godzilla (prod. by 9th Wonder)
X-Factor: Add some diversity to your music collection, because Rapsody is still the only woman out here who can really rap.
9. Vince Staples- Hell Can Wait
Vince Staples is just too smart for his own good, for my own good, for your own good. It’s just lucky for us he put all this pent up youthful energy into making music and not taking over the world. Hell Can Wait is seven angry tracks from your favorite West Coast rapper. Vince is no brilliant wordsmith, the beauty in his lyrics comes from the emotion, laid back flow, and incredible story telling ability. Hell Can Wait is thematically Vince Staples most ambitious release to date taking on topics like dying friends, police brutality, and a rare love song.
Favorite Track(s): Fire, 65 Hunnid, Hands Up, Blue Suede, Limos
Least Favorite Track: N/A
Best Production: Feelin’ the Love (prod. by Hagler)
X-Factor: “I’m going to put the burner in your mouth and free your mind.” violence, genius, what more could we ask for?
7 tie. Clipping- CLPPNG
Clipping. is a noise-hop trio from Los Angeles California; and CLPPNG is their sophomore release. One of my favorite parts about last years Midcity was clipping. mixing the lyrical themes of classic gangster rap with the abrasive and somehow catchy production of Rale and Captain Ahab. CLPPNG, unlike their first full length LP feels a lot like a concept album where, especially in the middle of the LP, the tracks seem to speak to each other. CLPPNG is dark, challenging, and experimental and includes some excellent features from some big names like Gangsta Boo and King T.
Favorite Track(s): Body & Blood, Summertime, Taking Off, Tonight, Get Up, Or Die, Inside Out, Story 2
Least Favorite Track: N/A
Best Production: Dominoes (prod. by clipping.)
X-Factor: Few people have ever combined two things that seemed so different as gangster rap and noise music and done it so well.
7 tie. Logic- Under Pressure
Logic’s Under Pressure is his full length LP premiere. Up to date the most appealing aspect of Logic’s music has been his unapologetic honesty and introspection. Under Pressure is no exception to that, tracks like “Buried Alive” and the title track, “Under Pressure” are some of my favorite on the project just for that reason. The production is catchy and the hooks snappy but the rapid flow and clever one-liners that Logic is known for shine through also. Through it’s 15 tracks there is little to complain about and unlike some of Logic’s earlier projects doesn’t fall off in the second half. In fact, the 9:20 “Under Pressure” opens the epilogue of the album having a more personal and toned down feel of the first two thirds of the album.
Favorite Track(s): I’m Gone, Gang Related, Buried Alive, Bounce, Never Enough, Metropolis, Nikki, Under Pressure, Till the End, Driving Ms. Daisy, Now, Alright
Least Favorite Track: Intro
Best Production: Gang Related (prod. by 6ix)
X-Factor: “Under Pressure” might just be the biggest single track undertaking any artist has taken this year.
6. Divine ScienZe- Divine ScienZe 2: The Wake Up Album
Everything I loved about Divine Scienze returns in Divine Scienze 2: The Wake Up Album. Scienze’s unceasing joy and optimism are contagious and combined with King I Divine’s Dilla inspired production The Wake Up Album is one of this years most fun albums. ScienZe continues to be one of the best lyricists in underground hip-hop. ScienZe has no intent on being philosophical or conceptual, he raps about whats in front of him which is something we can all relate to far more than say an album about the story of a fictional mafia don. The Wake Up Album is about love, hip-hop, growing up poor, and New York.
Favorite Track(s): Push, The Wake Up, Other Shoe, We Are, The Come Up, The Life, The Coffee, No Chaser, Beyond The Point, Outro
Least Favorite Track: Whole Half
Best Production: Beyond the Point (prod. by King I Divine)
X-Factor: The only happy music I can truly get behind.
5. Mick Jenkins- The Water[s]
Mick Jenkins’ brings us this years annual conceptual album representative in the top ten. Everything on this LP is soaked in water imagery (pun intended) from the word play to the production which sounds like it was mixed at the bottom of a ten foot pool. The only downside, and I do mean only, is a series of really lackluster features saved only by Joey Bada$$ on the closing track, “Jerome.” The Water[s] is heavy, it took me three listens to really appreciate the metaphors and themes of Mick’s lyricism. His flow is intoxicating and the unifying feel of the entire album keeps you hooked through the handful of listens it’ll really take to appreciate it.
Favorite Track(s): The Waters, Comfortable, Vibe, Jazz, Drink More Water, Canada Dry, Who Else, Dehydration, 514, Martyrs, Jerome
Least Favorite Track: Shipwrecked
Best Production: Comfortable (prod. by Cam from J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League)
X-Factor: “You were never for the flow”
Okay admittedly I may have cheated and just done a four way tie but I honestly don’t know how to separate these four albums for the top spot. All equally well done and uniquely different. All classics that at least I will be talking about in 20 years. Tell me which you think deserved the top spot, how about that.
1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib-Piñata
If you had told me when Freddie Gibbs made the XXL Freshmen cover that he would eventually team up with Madlib of Madvillain and produce one of my favorite albums in years I would have laughed in your face. Admittedly this album would be nothing without Madlib’s lo-fi production but without a doubt the exact same can be said for Freddie Gibbs smooth flow, punchy one liners, and classical gangsta rap swagger. There’s something about the 1960’s Blaxploitation aesthetic of this LP that is fantastically endearing.
Favorite Track(s): Deeper, High, Harold’s Shitsville, Thuggin’, Uno, Robes, Broken, Lakers, Knicks, Pinata
Least Favorite Track: Watts
Best Production: Lakers (prod. by Madlib)
X-Factor: This is the turning point of Freddie Gibbs’ career, its the best lyrically, thematically, and musically he has ever performed and I want/need this to continue.
1 tie. Murkage- Of Mystics & Misfits
Of Mystics & Misfits is the 214 grim release from UK based hip-hop group Murkage. It plays more like a action movie soundtrack than anything else. Possibly the most fitting thing about their theme of choice is that much like another film obsessed group, Wu Tang Clan, Murkage Cartel is about 100 members deep. The chaotic verse delivery from their lead MCs Murkage Dave, Two-One, and Gaika and pounding beats draws the listener into the album in an almost intoxicating way. Inspired greatly by UK grime music the LP plays like nothing else I’ve heard with brash vocals and abrasive instrumentals and it works together perfectly with their film references and imagery from life in the inner city.
Favorite Track(s): La Plage, Officer Parker, Burntout, Manifesto, Can I Live, Excellent Adventure, Spaghetti,
Least Favorite Track: N/A
Best Production: Manifesto (prod. by Murkage)
X-Factor: Few people have ever done grit and grim better than these Manchester natives.
1 tie. Open Mike Eagle- Dark Comedy
The only one of our four number one LPs that is not produced by one single entity and thus not nearly as cohesive as many of the others. But cohesion would have been a detriment to this LP. The most enjoyable part of Dark Comedy is that is is a trip through Open Mike Eagle’s mind which is at times eccentric, introspective, and often philosophical. I love Mike’s flow and his of-the-people singing style. The second verse of “Qualifiers” sums up pretty much everything I love about the LP, its different from everything you thought the radio taught you about hip-hop and in the best possible way.
Favorite Track(s): Dark Comedy Morning Show, Qualifiers, Thirsty Ego Raps, Golden Age Raps, Doug Stamper, Jon Lovitz, Sadface Penance Raps, A History of Modern Dance, Informations, Big Pretty Bridges
Least Favorite Track: Idaho
Best Production: A History of Modern Dance (prod. by Jeremiah Jae)
X-Factor: If you can make it through these 13 tracks without wanting to chill and get a drink with Mike then I don’t want to know you and you probably drown kittens for fun.
1 tie. Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 2
What more is there to say about Run the Jewels? You were here for R.A.P Music, you were here for Run the Jewels, and now you’re here for this. Aggressive, clever, the most unlikely of partnerships but like Peanut Butter and Chocolate or Remy and Alfredo Linguini. The best part of this LP is the bag of tricks they stole from Death Grips, brutally violent lyrics and often comically so are the most stand out moments of the LP. The production and dichotomy of the two MCs flow pulls you in and then keeps you for 12 luxurious tracks.
Favorite Track(s): Jeopardy; Close Your Eyes; All My Life; Lie, Cheat, Steal; Early; All Due Respect; Love Again; Crown; Angel Duster
Least Favorite Track: N/A
Best Production: Early (prod. by El-P)
X-Factor: Everyone loves an unlikely duo…. everyone.