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Rap Genius

"Top 20 Rap Albums of 2014"

20. Apollo Brown & Ras Kass - Blasphemy



Producer/rapper collaboration albums are a rare sight in modern hip-hop, but Apollo Brown and Ras Kass make it work. This concept album has it all: religious fallacies, love songs, street life, and of course, raw rhymes. Production-wise, Apollo continues his trend of selecting and chopping up perfect samples, providing the perfect canvas for Razzy's sharp rhymes

Did we mention that it features artists such as Royce da 5'9", Sean Price and Pharoahe Monch? It'd be blasphemous to say you support hip-hop and not give this album a spin - streetlights


19. CyHi The Prynce - Black Hystori Project


In 2011, CyHi appeared in XXL's Freshman Class along with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Lil B and YG. Three years later, he proved himself worthy with the release of Black Hystori Project, his 6th mixtape and first released under the G.O.O.D. Music imprint. Executive produced by none other than Kanye West, Black Hystori Project serves more as a concept album than an ordinary mixtape

The project started when CyHi's nephew wanted to do an in-class Black History project on him. When his teacher said that he wasn't a big enough figure, he embarked on his own project. The tape highlights social issues, Black pride, and even has songs named after notable Black figures including Coretta Scott King, Nelson Mandela, and CyHi himself. Although the lyrical component of BHP is phenomenal, don't disregard the production. Handled primarily by M16 and TEC BEATZ, the uplifting, sample heavy instrumentation coincides perfectly with CyHi's proud take on Black history. - streetlights


18. Shady Records - ShadyXV






It's been 15 years since Eminem was thrust into superstardom with the release of the The Slim Shady LP. As a result, Shady Records commemorated the milestone with the release of ShadyXV - a double disc LP featuring classic, and fresh material

The second disc functions as a greatest hits compilation and Shady Records had every hip hop fan feeling nostalgic. Reliving classics like “Lose Yourself” and “In Da Club” over a decade later painted a timeless picture. While the latter half provided the nostalgia, disc one was what we'd really been waiting for. The highlight of the new material was “Detroit Vs. Everybody” featuring Big Sean, Danny Brown, Royce Da 5’9”, Eminem, Dej Loaf, and Trick Trick, proving cool delivery and cut throat lyricism continues to define Shady 15 years later. - Slickk


17.Ghostface Killah - 36 Seasons





The most consistent member of the Clan slapped a single up the middle with this one. While the execution and ambition of his previous LP 12 Reasons To Die leaves this highly similar offering looking a bit plain, 36 Seasons is still another notch in GFK’s belt that achieves more than most 2014 releases

A concept album revolving around Dr. X’s resurrection of Tony Starks 9 years after his death, 36 Seasons is aided by AZ, Kool G. Rap, and Kandace Springs who each play a character in this story. Composed of themes we’ve seen before and a vaguely nostalgic, but rather ordinary soundtrack courtesy of The Revelations, 36 Chambers wasn’t designed to shake up the game. However, Ghostface’s consistent rhymes and a tracklist that cuts out all the fat combine to make this an album worth listening to. - Heisenferg


16.Childish Gambino - STN MTN / Kauai






Childish Gambino gets the world we live in. because the internet exposed us to a postmodern compendium of multimedia genius and allowed us a glimpse into the frenetic mind of Donald Glover. STN MTN / Kauai allows us to see “mixtape Gambino” - the no-frills assault rapper who impressed the hell out of us on R O Y A L T Y, and the deep thinker we fell in love with on because the internet.

The postmodern bent remains on skits and beats, but only as an enhancer to the dichotomous hip-hop storyline weaved into the mixtape. Donald Glover wants Kauai, an idyllic escape where he can free himself from the perils of fame. Childish Gambino can’t help but bring the Stone Mountain out of him, the grim realities of life in America, whose only way of being communicated is through blistering rhymes. - nietzsche


15. Flying Lotus - You're Dead






The fifth album from Flying Lotus is the definition of a headphones album. Soundscapes presented throughout You’re Dead! are pure bliss; Flying Lotus blessed us with another thirty eight minutes of delectable ear candy. He blurs the line between stoner philosophy and serious ruminations on death, providing surprising clarity on metaphysical happenings in the form of astral projections and out of body experiences

This meditation on death throughout You’re Dead never gets conquered by the weight of its own concept. Instead, Ellison is able to maintain his playful spirit and in turn delivered one of the albums from 2014 that made us feel most alive. - BennySwans


14. Ab-Soul - These Days…






Unlike Control System, the self-proclaimed genius takes an unorthodox approach with These Days... by poking fun at ignorance present in the hip hop landscape. Soulo dips a bit outside of his comfort zone as he plays around with various styles. The abstract asshole that we all fell in love with proves both entertaining and enlightening

He touches more on the death of his girlfriend Alori Joh on "Closure", features Action Bronson and Lupe Fiasco on album highlights; "Stigmata" & "World Runners" respectively, and lets Kendrick Lamar steal the show on his interlude. A 23-minute battle as the outro, where he holds his own against battle rapper Daylyt is the icing on the cake. - SemGro8


13. Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait






While this EP consists of stories on the gang culture of Long Beach, Vince brings a crisp perspective to the “thug life”. Instead of embracing the violence like other mainstream rappers, Vince delivers stories from the streets. He's not the rapper you look to deliver double entendres and pop culture references, he captures the listener with gritty and descriptive lyrics

Vince's beat selection has gained a pinpoint accuracy. Whether he's snagging production from the legendary No I.D, or the buzzing Hagler, he makes the jump between bangers like "Blue Suede” to compassionate tales such as “Limos” with ease. Forget Hell waiting: the world will be at his fingertips come 2015. - DC26


12. Mac Miller - Faces






For a mixtape that could only be downloaded if you made Mac a virtual sandwich and an album cover that looks like it was done by Picasso on codeine, this was a pretty grounded project. Despite fears that Mac was going to go off the deep end on the mixtape follow-up to his impressive left-field LP Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Faces was a shift towards the center if anything

From Rozay features to eschewing the depressing WMWTSO instrumentals in favor of a jazz-influenced and uplifting sound, Mac is one of the few artists that can say his mixtape is more of an easy listen than his commercial release. That isn’t to say that Faces is a celebration of life - he’s still grappling with suicidal thoughts, drug addiction, and fake friends hanging with him for his money. But he is able to present these issues in a way that allows us to let out a laugh (albeit an uncomfortable one) rather than sincerely worry about his well-being. - Heisenferg


11. Mick Jenkins - The Water[s]


I does it with the flow and started talking all this water shit, it's like I started drowning

With different tales and themes, Mick connects everything back to the most abundant and important source on Earth - water. His soulful river of truth seems to splash on any listener and cause provoking, enlightened thoughts. Every beat feels like waves patting against the morning shore, but fits the theme of each song perfectly. Tracks like "Shipwrecked" start off soothing with ocean synths then suddenly transform into aggressive instrumentals filled with hi-hats and booming bass

His soothing, yet aggressive voice coupled with creative wordplay and sheer lyricism, Mick demonstrates why he's one the best in terms of lyrical ability and cohesiveness in 2014. Yes, Mick, Water is more important than the gold. SIP! - TheWaters


10. Travi$ Scott - Days Before Rodeo






While many of the year’s best releases taught us about the artist(s) behind the project or the state of American race relations, Travi$ schooled us in the virtues of sound. The churning chants behind "Skyfall" provide a steady momentum of adrenaline before Young Thug bursts forth with characteristic energy. The beat on "Quintana Pt. 2" abruptly jolts forward to make way for the best verse on the album, one that goes uncredited to T.I. And the crowning achievement, fitting because it is Travi$ and nobody else, is the temptation anthem "Drugs You Should Try" - urging you to act on your basest desires while sounding like the impending regret that so often comes from such decisions

In a genre shifting toward prioritizing sounds over syllabic superiority, Travi$ Scott’s Days Before Rodeo serves as an exciting preview for his debut full-length Rodeo. What’s most exciting is that, given his history, it’ll be a mastering of a sound we’ve yet to even hear. - nietzsche


9. PRhyme - PRhyme






Premier provides a slick backdrop, with his trademark sound sampling solely from Adrian Younge's material. Not only is the production a nod to the 90's, but it's also sprinkled with semi-modern vibes. In other words - it transcends time. Royce hits the booth with a sober mind and is arguably more focused and polished as an emcee than ever before. His raps are intricate and effortlessly display a plethora of phenomenal flows while dropping plenty of gems along the way

It's worth noting this is the first feature heavy album Royce has crafted, and it's very rare for him to collaborate with people outside of his clique. The features that join the ride all have solid contributions and compliment the tracks they appear on. Royce even got a hand of Jay Electronica, something only a few have dared before him. There's no doubt this will be cherished for quite some time, as Royce said - "consider it a gift to hip hop". - ScopeY


8. YG - My Krazy Life


Not getting nominated for a Grammy is like a slap in the face

Bompton’s YG had one of the best records of the year. Whether it’s his infectious flow, or DJ Mustard’s dirty beats, this LP is the quintessential West Coast sound. Featuring fellow L.A MC’s ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock & Kendrick Lamar, "I Just Wanna Party” & “Really Be (Smokin & Drinkin)” are stand out tracks. We get bangers like “My Nigga”, but we’re also blessed with a storyline that culminates to the beautiful “Sorry Momma”.

The picture YG paints makes us want to "bick back and be bool" at Roscoes on a beautiful Cali day. So make sure to tell your friends when they watch the Grammys: the cousin of good kid m.A.A.d city lives up to the hype. - Tyrant


7. Isaiah Rashad - Cilvia Demo





Cilvia Demo is more than just a strong freshman album, it is a testament of the new Golden Age of Hip-Hop we've been blessed with. Through vivid story-telling and aptly balanced nostalgia and melancholia, Isaiah paints pictures of innocent childhood and angst teens; working his way up to a confused and hectic entry into adulthood

He offers us a prime example of cohesive structure, seamlessly flowing over the grandiosely mood encompassing instrumentals. Each feature and beat selection works in tandem to build the frame on which Isaiah splashes his life and soul onto. Hip Hop's best kept secret is out - Isaiah is in the front row of the New School’s best lyricists. - LewAshby


6. Logic - Under Pressure





Under Pressure has Logic putting every aspect of his craft on display. He makes a clear break with the past Young Sinatra mixtapes and shows his intent to have a serious interaction with fans. Logic brings some old lines from his lesser known songs back to life, and even pays homage to other rappers' album concepts. He also gets more personal, revealing details like his nicotine addiction

With NO I.D executively producing this album, and the in-house producer 6ix on most of the beats, everything was done to make a perfect sound for this piece of art. Whether hip hop heads or music lovers in general listen to this album for the intricate lines or for the sound, one thing’s sure, they’re in for a treat. - Adelin


5. Big K.R.I.T. - Cadillactica


Cadillactica is the perfect follow-up to K.R.I.T.'s previous works. What we end up with is the jazzy Southerner we are all familiar with mixed with even better lyrics, vocal presence and 808's

For about a year Young Krizzle has been describing Cadillactica as a complete planet he created and it's nothing short of that. There aren't many flaws to find in an album which subtitles "Kreation" and "Mt. Olympus"" as its intro and reprise, respectively - that is, if there are any at all. The irony is Life From the Underground made some people think he would be better off creating mixtapes. Whether intentional or not Cadillactica is a response to that, and proves KRIT doesn't plan on leaving the Major Leagues any time soon. - Dyazz


4. J.Cole - 2014 Forest Hills Drive





Regarded as one of the elite artists of his generation, J. Cole has yet to release an acclaimed album that matches the success of his earlier mixtapes. With the surprise release of his third LP, Cole aims to change that as he goes back to his roots in 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Beginning with a young Cole in the Ville, we see him grow through his teenage year to eventually move to New York. After realising his potential and making it to Hollywood, he gets trapped in the glamour and starts to doubt himself. After this epiphany in the latter third of the album, we hear some of Cole's most introspective words to date

While standout tracks include “03' Adolesence”, “Fire Squad”, “Love Yourz” and "A Tale of 2 Citiez", the album hasn't received the critical acclaim he would have hoped for. Good thing for Cole he doesn't care for what the critics have to say - the fans have certainly enjoyed it, and as Hov once said, "men lie, women lie, numbers don't". - zk123


3. ScHoolboy Q - Oxymoron






EverytHing ScHoolboy Q does just oozes of cHarisma, and tHis creates a dope album experience from front to back. WHile THe paradoxical nature of his fatHer-daugHter relationship puts tHe trapping aspect into perspective, Q has plenty in tHe clip with bangers like "Gangsta" and "Man Of THe Year". He's not a one trick pony tHougH, Q provides personal/introspective lyrics on tHe likes of "Studio" & "Prescription".

THis album made gun rap cool again. His influence was so strong even grannies across tHe globe was rocking bucket Hats and enjoying some strong kusH. THe success ScHoolboy acHieved witH tHis pusHed Him to tHe forefront of Hip Hop as our current go-to party gangsta. THis bumps in tHe wHip for sure, word to Feefo. - ScopeY


2. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib- Piñata





There's always less to say with the best albums. It's crack-rap done in the best ways possible. Flawless soulful beats throughout accompanies vivid narratives from a more than capable MC. Is it Madlib's best work? It's up there. Is it Freddie Gibbs' best work? Yes. Gibbs' flow over the violins on ’‘Shitsville’‘ is nothing but superb, and is one of a ton of impressive moments from Gibbs on the LP. The flaws are rare so with tracks like ’‘Thuggin’‘ ,’‘Uno’‘ ,’‘Shitsville’‘, ’‘Shame’‘ & ’‘High’‘ this album is definitely worth investing your time and money in. - AlvvaysSavvy


1. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2





El-P provides a rattling, gritty sound that packs a heavy punch on every song. Killer Mike launches a war against all the fuckbois of the world, so if you identify yourself as one, it's best to go into hiding. Sucking dicks, running backwards into dicks and generally being dicks are all common occurrences on the LP. We aren't mad at it though - it's stated so eloquently it's like the Queen of England was saying it. Not to mention, "Jeopardy" the intro track of the year could make the most peaceful person want to beat the shit out of their neighbour, for no reason at all. And they don't feature just anyone, every addition thrown into the mix are unique as well in their own right offering their own flair. We have a rare appearance from Zack de la Rocha, a raunchy verse from Gangsta Boo, and something very mysterious from the talented boots, plus more

In the midst of all the violent antics there are political undertones and social commentary. On "Early" Mike speaks with the same urgency that makes Run The Jewels 2 such a powerful experience. He knows what it’s like not to have asylum, and he knows that we’re not in a post-race America

It's intense, it's aggressive, it's dynamic, it's loud and we are still in awe over its crazy beauty - necks were broken during the listening sessions. One things for sure, magic like this doesn't happen every day, so if you're yet to enter the world of RTJ - you're probably listening to cats meowing. Oh wait... - ScopeY, nietzsche, & Tyrant










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