While 2014 may go down as the worst year in history for Hip-Hop albums, there were several artists who cut through the clutter. This is for all of those who didn’t follow the trends and made some of the best music of 2014. For the rest of the list, check out Part I.
5. Isahiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
How does a 22-year-old unproven rapper make an album about a ’95 Honda Civic? Isaiah Rashad does it quite deftly. Just mix in some smooth Southern funk with some alternative concepts influenced by everyone from West Coast legends to Master P’s inaudible boasts. This is technically labeled as an EP but with 14 tracks and a cohesive theme, Rashad made a hell of a debut and stood up to the challenge of dropping the first project for the illustrious TDE label. No small feat.
4. Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
That purple Cadillac crashing landing on Big K.R.I.T.’s “Live From the Underground” all makes sense now. Everything that K.R.I.T. was doing on his debut was a lead up to Cadillactica. That planet sounds like one of the funkiest places in the galaxy. From the Intro’s opening with smooth funked out sythns, it sounds like a must place destination. Here K.R.I.T. is striving for better.
By the time this outsider ends his journey there studies show that the people here on earth are more self-centered and misogynistic than ever. K.R.I.T. is here to bring his best presentations to help us all strive for better. When the message is this clear and set to funky-superlative beats, you better be listening.
Cadillactica effectively makes K.R.I.T. the undisputed king of the South. Good thing this king doesn’t disappoint his people.
3. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Although this album was released late in the year, it is too good to leave off the list. It is J. Cole’s most complete album. This is an album without any recognizable singles. Cole has come a long way from his mixtape days when his label wouldn’t release his album because they didn’t think they could sell it. J. Cole’s perseverance shines thorough on this record.
While the album landed as 2014’s biggest hip-hop chart debut, it feels like none of that matters. It’s nice not to hear “Hollywood Cole.” We’ve never seen him this stripped down before. J. Cole may be talking about having no role models but he effectively becomes one by encouraging us not to listen to what anybody thinks and appreciate ourselves. We are all better for it.
2. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Schoolboy Q immediately set the bar high for his major studio debut when he tells Kendrick to move from the throne. A pole-vaulter couldn’t even surmount the bar Q set Oxymoron by stating that K. Dot left him no choice but to release a classic after good kid, m.A.A.d. city. Consequently the comparisons are inevitable but this bravado is exactly what makes this album an essential in the long storied tradition of West-Coast hip-hop.
Q describes the album title as doing all this evil to do good for his daughter. But this isn’t Habit’s & Contradictions Pt. II. This isn’t even bad kid, m.A.A.d. city. This is Q leaning more on confidence and an extravagant persona than complex rhyme schemes. In a similar manner of how Ol’ Dirty Bastard was essential to the Wu-Tang Clan, Q is to T.D.E. Schoolboy redefines gansta rap with Oxymoron and it all hasn’t sounded this good since 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” Accomplishing all of this while wearing a bucket hat? Even better.
Notable Cuts: Gangsta, Collard Greens Feat. Kendrick Lamar, **** LA, Man Of The Year
1. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
No album was more relevant in the wake of police brutality in 2014. El-P and Killer Mike did not stand idle. The duos debut would have made the best-of lists on any music website in 2013. But Run the Jewels 2 because it challenges the status quo. Not only in hip-hop but the political and social climate of America. It is in light of “Fight the Power” of Public Enemy. They raged against the machine just as much as Zack de la Rocha who happens to be featured on this album. Here is to 2015, where hopefully we will see Run the Jewels 3.
Want to see the rest of the list? Check out Part I for albums 10-6.