Roc Marciano's 'producer' album doesn't feel like a solo album because of the abundance of mostly mediocre guests, but he still makes sure the album is a success by appearing on every song and keeping the production fresh throughout. He'll always be more well known for his rapping, but Marci Beaucoup is a reminder that Roc should always be in the discussion for the best producer/MC in the game.
Land of the Way It Is
Uncommon Nasa has worn many hats throughout his career as an engineer, producer, MC, and label head. His Uncommon Records label has always been a forward thinking independent outfit that puts the art first. Aeon Grey's self produced solo album Lead Breakfast (which also finds a home on my top 25 list) was perhaps the label's best release to date, but Nasa made sure to capitalize Aeon's success by dropping a standout solo album of his own in Land Of The Way It Is. Nasa is more known for his beats than his work behind the mic, but he outsources a ton of great production and shines lyrically on autobiographical tracks like "Pasta With Butter" and "Background Check".
Illogic & Blockhead
Capture The Sun
Chance The Rapper
Acid Rap is one of those little albums that blows up that truly warrants the hype behind it. It took me a minute to come around to it and it's still hard for me to listen to from beginning to end, but when it's good it's really good.
MarQ Spekt & Gary Wilson
MarQ Spekt is one of my favorite MC's and this short (6 songs) project made with old Gary Wilson tracks from the '70's had psych-rap classic written all over it from the jump, but for some reason or another it didn't last more than a week or two in my regular listening rotation. That all changed when I was in vacation in Jamaica furiously scanning my iPod for some hip hop to listen to that felt 'right' for the beach in between all the reggae. Enter Broken Mazes. When it dropped I said it felt like Bitches Brew with lyrics, and that dynamic can make a killer beach sunset in Negril that much better.
Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels
A 'victory lap' of sorts riding on the coattails of both of their superior El-P produced solo albums from the year before, Run The Jewels was still a smashing success and an uncompromising concept album from two hip hop veterans reaching their career climaxes at the same time. A followup has already been plotted out and this veteran odd couple is proving it's possible to raise your profile and stay true to your uncompromising roots at the same time.
All That I Hold Dear
18YC The Cynic
I'd never heard of YC the Cynic before some of his videos for GNK started gaining traction in promotion of it's late August release. He was clearly talented and thoughtful, but all it took was one listen to GNK to tell that YC was a fully formed artist and not just a young MC tracing a few legendary influences. Another newcomer, Frank Duke, produced the album front to back and gives the album a polish that helps YC's hard hitting concepts come to life.
The Psychic World of Walter Reed
If Killah Priest's monstrous double album The Psychic World of Walter Reed would have been trimmed to a single disc, I might have ranked it even higher than 16. The albums daunting length doesn't devalue it too much though because with Killah Priest it's not about the high points. It's about the journey. I prefer the first disc, but there's not a 'bad' song in the bunch from the veteran Wu-Tang affiliate who's quietly carved out a pretty legendary solo career.
Ghost At The Finish Line
Ghost At The Finish Line
Quelle Chris's outstanding debut album for Mello Music Group Ghost At The Finish Line didn't make my first draft for my top 25 albums of 2013 as I had just recently caved in and bought it on the strength of the single/video "Superfuck". I had been sleeping on Chris hard for the last couple years, but once I really gave the album a serious listen it not only forced its way on the list but climbed all the way up to number 15. One of the most fun listens of 2013, Ghost At The Finsh Line is filled with existential and even depressing subject matter, but Chris's sense of humor and ear for beats give the album balance and re-listenability.
The Pimpire Strikes Back
The Pimpire Strikes Back might have been the free mixtape lead in to Marci Beacoup, but in my opinion it's easily the stronger project of the two. While it features some great production from beat makers like Oh No, Alchemist, Madlib, and Evidence, Marciano supplies several memorable beats of his own and owns the project lyrically unlike the feature dominated Marci Beaucoup. Songs like "Doesn't Last", "Take Me Over", and "Ice Cream Man" are among the best solo rap performances of the year and Roc produces two of them, talk about an artist.
I've never been a big Danny Brown fan, but he won me over with Old, especially with the autobiographical Side A where Brown lets the curtain down on his rough upbringing and tones down his animated delivery proving he's not a one trick pony. Over the last couple years Brown has grown his fan base without compromising his artistic vision. He may not be your favorite MC, but after hearing Old it should be impossible not to respect his talent.
Earl's official debut album Doris was probably my most anticipated album of 2014. While it might look like a disappointment after landing outside of the top 10 on my list, I can assure you that is not the case. Earl's decision to produce so much of the album himself is my only serious gripe and the main reason why the album doesn't rank higher on the list. He didn't fall off lyrically, he grew up emotionally. The rhymes not be as shocking or even as fun as his work on his debut mixtape EARL from 2010, but they're every bit as good and much more revealing of his true perspective.
Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent
Kenny Dennis LP
My 1st Chemistry Set
The only album to crack my top 10 that I didn't have a chance to review, Boldy James full length project with The Alchemist My 1st Chemistry Set is an album that flat out delivers. The Alchemist owned 2014 as a producer and this collaboration with Boldy was the pinnacle of his year. From beginning to end there's not a better produced album from 2013 and Boldy fills the album with concept songs, catchy hooks, clever wordplay. The guests all hit their marks as well including standout turns from Earl Sweatshirt, Action Bronson, and Vince Staples.
Open Mike Eagle
For Madmen Only