The controversial leader of Odd Future, Tyler, the Creator, put out one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2013. Wolf combined beautiful melodies and rugged drum loops over Tyler’s abrasive lyrics. Somehow the two world’s colliding managed to work. Tyler’s evolution as a producer and a lyricist is evident on Wolf. His rhymes graduated from insulting to introspective on Wolf which should excite Odd Future fans. Wolf also has the best artwork in recent of memory of any album from any genre of music.
Three emcees and one producer, all from California managed to make one of the best “New York” sounding albums of 2013. Planet Asia, Killer Ben, and Tristate are Durag Dynasty. Their debut album as a group, 360 Waves, was produced entirely by Alchemist. Al’s signature raw samples meshed perfectly with the lyrics of the hard-rhyming trio making 360 Waves one of the best albums of 2013.
One of two albums released by Talib Kweli in 2013, Prisoner of Conscious is a diverse release from top to bottom. Kweli, labeled a conscious rapper from the first time we heard him spit on ‘Fortified Live’ displayed his versatility on POC as a way to quiet the critics. Prisoner of Conscious is an album full of storytelling, battle rapping, love songs, dance tracks, and positive messages.
Sequels are almost always bad ideas. Eminem making a sequel to his biggest selling 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP gave me a sense of excitement and fear. It could be really great or really bad. Turns out the Marshall Mathers LP 2 wasn’t all that bad, in fact it’s Eminem’s best album in over a decade. An older, wiser, kinder, gentler, Eminem surfaced on MMLP2 and offered fans a refreshing taste of what the 41-year old Eminem is like. Co-Executive Produced by Hip-Hop pioneer Rick Rubin, MMLP2 was a good mix of old and new musically, with Marshall Mathers rhyming with a renewed sense of purpose.
The Demigodz crew, Apathy, Celph Titled, Blacastan, Esoteric, Motive, and Ryu reunited in 2013 to release their first full-length album, KILLmatic. KILLmatic, a takeoff of Nas’ 1994 debut album title Illmatic, is a backpack rap fans wet dream. The album is chocked full of hard beats and rhymes that harken back to the mid-1990s when lyrics actually mattered.
After retiring from rap J-Zone got a real job and settled into civilian life. After writing his memoir, Root for the Villain (Rap, Bullsh*t, and a Celebration of Failure) in 2011, Zone decided that the real world just wasn’t for him. J-Zone returned to Hip-Hop in 2013 with a full-length album that detailed his time as a regular Joe. Peter Pan Syndrome is a funny, thought-provoking, and funky album that shows rap fans that it’s alright to be 30-something and still love Hip-Hop.
Roc Marciano released his third album in 2013 and it was on par or better than his first two releases. Marci Beaucoup was produced entirely by Marciano and boasted an all-star cast of guest appearances. Action Bronson, Freeway, A.G., Guilty Simpson, K.A., Blu, Evidence, Cormega, Quelle Chris, Boldy James, and Gangrene among others joined Marciano on Marci Beaucoup. Roc Marciano merged soulful samples with his signature laid back flow to paint a gritty picture of the New York streets.
Compilation albums can be a bad. Usually the albums have no direction or focus leaving the album to sound like a sloppy collection of throwaway tracks. Statik Selektah’s Extended Play destroys that trend. Extended Play is a cohesive compilation that features some of the best rappers on the planet. Produced entirely by Statik Selektah, sans one track from Alchemist, the album is extra grimy with an east coast feel. Black Thought of The Roots spitting arguably the best verse of the year on ‘Bird’s Eye View’ is worth the price of the CD alone. For those that love boom bap sample-based Hip-Hop with dope lyrics, Extended Play is for you.
Detroit emcee Denmark Vessey and Chicago producer Scud One joined forces to make one of the best albums of 2013. Cult Classic is a concept album about a man who uses religion to gain power, money, and control over people. The album takes veiled shots at organized religion and its practitioners in a way that doesn’t come off as offensive. Cult Classic is lyrically creative and musically superior to most albums released in 2013. Vessey and Scud provided a fresh sound that has been sorely missing in Hip-Hop.
The best Hip-Hop album of 2013 belongs to Pusha T. One half of the Clipse, Pusha T joined Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label in 2010 and laced several tracks and released a handful of mixtapes prior to dropping his official debut solo album in 2013. My Name is My Name is an album full of top-tier lyricism. Pusha takes listeners on a journey that includes the pain that comes along with pushing, to having and losing love, to flat out witty punch lines. There’s something for everyone on My Name is My Name. While not perfect, MNIMN is a damn good effort. Kanye West oversaw the project and while his touch can be easily heard on some tracks, he allowed Push to be Push. Pusha T’s My Name is My Name is the best Hip-Hop album of 2013.