We’ve been pretty quiet this year but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been listening to good music. In fact, after a relatively slow start to the year, the second half of 2014 produced some real classic material (we had to wait until December for our #1 pick!). Hip Hop is alive and well and for that we should be grateful. So without further ado, here’s our top 10 of 2014. Enjoy the music and have a great 2015!
10. Wu-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow
Let’s face it. Any record the Wu puts out as a collective will be dissected and over-analysed ad nauseam. So can’t we just enjoy a solid Wu record that appeals to both 36 Chambers heads and younger generations alike? Yes, there are some really mediocre tracks in there but standout pieces like ‘Ruckus in B Minor’ and ‘Keep Watch’ compensates for that. The RZA has certainly evolved but he maintains his versatility with the use of sung hooks and scratches (respect the dj!). All in all, A Better Tomorrow should probably not have made out Top 10 but I guess I’m a romantic.
PS. The GZA continues to dazzle:
Storms circles like the rings of Saturn
Dust rocks and ice in a particular pattern
Then this fascinating picture has emerged from surface
A wonder of the young world with an urgent purpose
A wild fire engulfing every home
It's history, chiseled and carved in every stone
A workshop where skills are learned
Handcrafted and drafted, written works our main concern.
9. Diabolic – Fightin Words
Diabolic's sophomore release is pure fire! That classic hard hitting revolutionary imprint is omnipresent in the record and the dude has LYRICS! With A-List guest appearances from Vinnie Paz and R.A. the Rugged Man, Diabolic really delivers. Also, the Preemo produced ‘Diabolical Sound’ is simply amazing.
8. Jeru The Damaja – The Hammer
I don’t care if The Hammer is an ‘EP’. This album pretty much has everything you want from a rap record in just 9 tracks - super-scientific, cosmic and other-worldly lyrics delivered with Jeru’s usual panache over a coherent set of sick beats. Seriously, this must be the most underrated project of 2014. ‘Solar Flares’ featuring a Large Pro beat and A.R.M.E.D. with the Beatnuts are the standout tracks.
ATTACK THE WACK!
7. Cormega – Mega Philosophy
This album almost brought tears to my eyes. What 90’s nostalgia? Cormega packs a punch for the millennials with his wisdom and unchanged metronomic flow over a ridiculous set of Large Pro instrumentals. With the likes of Raekwon, AZ, Redman, and Styles P regaling verses, Mega Philosophy is definitely one for posterity.
6. Dilated Peoples - Directors of Photography
Evidence, Rakaa and Babu clearly had one thing on their mind when they made this record; they wanted to make a RAP record for the purists without sounding stale. With production jobs given to Diamond D, Alchemist and Jake One, Evidence and Babu also hold their own on beats. Rakaa really impressed and Babu’s cuts are simply divine. So where does that leave Evidence? Well, Mr. Slow Flow NEVER disappoints. He’s cemented his position as one of the best in the game.
5. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
It really is difficult to review this masterpiece of a project. EL-P (a RapBuzz favourite) has once again confirmed to the world that he is a genius. In fact, I reckon he’s demoralised so many new producers with ‘fresh’ sounds that they’ve probably put their MPCs on Ebay. The sonic force of this record is complemented by an excellent Killer Mike who tackles themes related to carnal pleasures and police brutality with equal elegance. Not to forget the power of EL-P on the mic. Oh and Zach de la Rocha makes an insane appearance. OH MY!
4. Ras Kass & Apollo Brown – Blasphemy
Blasphemy is a truly remarkable album. Thought-provoking, informative and challenging are some adjectives that come to mind. From destroying the very concept of organised religion in ‘How to Kill God’ and tackling relationships in ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’, Ras Kass proves once again why he has gained legend status in the game. All this before even considering Apollo Brown’s heavy beats laced with beautiful soul and blues loops. Some really inspired sampling makes this a near flawless production job. Featured artists include Pharoahe Monch, Rakaa, Xzibit, and Royce Da 5'9”.
3. PRhyme – PRhyme DJ Premier and Royce Da 5’9”
Who needs a review when these cats team up? Seriously, this is one for the ages. Preemo masterfully chops up Adrian Younge samples and concocts unreal beats with a musicality rarely heard of late in hip hop. Royce’s wordplay hasn’t lost its touch one bit and arguably sees him prosper more than on his outings with Slaughterhouse. Plus with the likes of Common and Jay Electronica dropping next-level verses, this 9 track album is pure hip hop gold. Thank you Preem and Royce!
2. Pharoahe Monch – PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Y’all know the name?! While I’ve always had love for the Pharoahe, it is this album that has really made him an icon in the pantheon of hip hop. His obvious lyrical prowess is used to extreme effect in this thematic record. The way he tackles his experiences with depression with wisdom and wit is astounding. By no means does the record ever feel monothematic or repetitive. In fact, in ‘Damage’, he raps from the perspective of a bullet. Pharoahe also takes multi-syllable rhyming to the next level! The album features Black Thought, dEnAuN and Talib Kweli on the mic and Marco Polo, Lee Stone and the Pharoahe himself on beats.
1. Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons
36 Seasons is one for the kids. Released a week after the Wu’s collective offering, 36 Seasons is a Christmas present of epic proportions. The live instrumentation masterfully played by the Revelations is insane. As a concept album, it cannot be more coherent and thorough. Ghostface is simply the KING of concept albums. Also, the decision to put AZ on 5 tracks was simply a masterstroke. If you want to hear stories of corrupt cops and crime-ridden streets rapped over instrumentation of rare brilliance then this album is for you! Thank you Tony Starks (and the evergreen AZ) for the album of the year!
Honourable Mentions (In No Particular Order)
Diamond D – The Diam Piece
(DITC baby! A few names to whet your appetite…Pete Rock, Talib Kweli, Skyzoo, Rapsody, Hi-Tek, A.G., FAT JOE, Alchemist, Pharaohe Monch, Black Rob, ELZHI, Kurupt, Ras Kass, Scram Jones, Guilty Simpson, Tha Alkaholiks, and Nottz)
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata
(Gibbs delivers with only a handful of verses going astray. Madlib does his thing like only he can. He creates an incredible sound while maintaining crazy standards of musical integrity. Should probably have made our Top 10)
Reks – A Better Tomorrow
(Just listen to ‘Garvey’ featuring Noreaga and Saigon. POW!)
Black Milk – If There’s a Hell Below
(Another one that should have made our Top 10. Black Milk has matured on the mic and is effervescent as ever on the pads)
Homeboy Sandman – Hallways
(STONES THROW! Sandman is a supreme talent)
Diamond District – March on Washington
(If you like Oddisee or the Mello Music sound, give this album a listen. Pure quality)
Constant Flow – Ascension
(Newcomer of the year although the dude been around for a while. Revolutionary rhymes delivered in style. Viper Records represent!)
Skyzoo and Torae - Barrel Brothers
(Torae and Skyzoo link up again to great effect. Watch out for these cats. They are taking over)
Step Brothers – Lord Steppington
(Evidence and The Alchemist. ‘Nuff Said.)
Canibus – Fait Accompli
(Military sound and hard-hitting rhymes)
CunninLynguists – Strange Universe
(The first ‘democratically crowd sourced’ rap album. Nice!)
Army Of The Pharoahs – Heavy Lies the Crown
(Always got love for AOTP)
Statik Selektah - What Goes Around
(Incredible array of artists over sure-shot Statik Seletah beats).