2014 was an interesting year for hip-hop. Without any projects from key figures like Kanye, Hov, Drake, or Wayne, it opened up the door for new faces. Below you can find my 25 favorite albums of the year. I tried to eliminate any mixtapes from the list, however there is some overlap with free projects. As another preface, 2014 was clearly the year of the single producer album. See how your picks stacked up against The #Trill25.
25. SD – Truly Blessed
2014 taught us that major label’s were beginning to distance themselves with Drill artists. Chief Keef being dropped was the strongest indication that the style had a commercially dismal future. Proving naysayers wrong, SD’s Truly Blessed was by far the best Drill record of the year with bangers throughout.
24. 9th Wonder & Jamla Records – Jamla Is The Squad
I’ve been following 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records for a minute. Armed with exceptional production from the Soul Council and extremely skilled MCs, it was not surprising that their 1st compilation was as dope as it was.
23. Rapsody – Beauty And The Beast
As noted above, Jamla houses some of the best lyricists in the game. As Jamla’s First Lady, Rapsody has adopted a leadership role. The 10 track extended play, reaffirmed that Rapsody is here to stay.
22. Sir Michael Rocks – Banco
Mikey Rocks quickly established himself as more than just 1/2 of The Cool Kids after the Chicago tandem went on hiatus. Banco was his first solo album after many successful tapes and continued the hot streak.
21. Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons
It was hard to imagine that any followup project could rival the cinematic beauty of 2013’s Twelve Reasons To Die. 36 Seasons stacked up nicely adding another gem to Tony Starks’ discography.
20. Jeezy – Seen It All: The Autobiography
Backed by a stellar Jay-Z assisted title track, Seen It All: The Biography was exactly what The Snowman needed to bounce back from TM103.
19. Skyzoo & Torae – Barrel Brothers
Barrel Brothers didn’t spawn any radio hits or charting singles but it didn’t need to. Skyzoo and Torae kept it gritty and crafted a pure-bred New York classic.
18. Common – Nobody’s Smiling
As a patriarch of Chicago hip-hop, Common used Nobody’s Smiling to bridge the gap between two generations. The project gained attention for the multiple covers that featured up and coming rappers from the windy season and the strictly No I.D. produced tracklist.
17. Bishop Nehru & MF DOOM – NehruvianDOOM
After a long wait, MF DOOM finally dropped NehruvianDOOM with NYC newcomer Bishop Nehru. The album matched Nehru’s promising flow and delivery with the eccentric production from the Supervillian. The oddball vibe launched the album into almost immediate cult status among diehard DOOM fans.
16. YG – My Krazy Life
YG had one hell of a year. My Krazy Life had several breakthrough tracks that made his debut a standout of the westcoast resurgence. His chemistry with DJ Mustard drew comparisons between Dre and Snoop, now let’s hope that their recent Instagram feud doesn’t prevent more material from being released.
15. Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]
The Water[s] opened up many people’s eyes to Mick Jenkins. With abstract symbolism and a great beat selection the Chicago MC caught many by surprise. “Jerome” the closer with Joey Bada$$ capped the project off with a fiery passion.
14. Stalley – Ohio
As MMG’s most unique member Stalley has faced some adversity in becoming the label’s next star. Rather than sacrificing his artistic integrity for a cheap hit he stayed true to his roots. Ohio is personable and sincere with a conscious delivery.
13. Blu – Good To Be Home
Blu has taken a strange path ever since he bursted on to the scene with Below The Heavens. 7 years later he has regained a definitive sound with Good To Be Home. The double album drips in L.A. charm proving that Blu still has a lot to offer to the game. Following the same one-producer format of his classic debut, Bombay’s instrumentals fit Blu and the impressive guestlist he has to offer.
12. The Wu-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow
After 7 years without a group LP, A Better Tomorrow is just what us Wu fans needed. While it is rumored that RZA took a massive financial hit on the record it didn’t seem to interfere with the overall atmosphere. Growth is unavoidable but even with apparent differences The Wu remained on the same page and adapted nicely.
11. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
With little to none marketing, 2014 Hills Drive still exploded by selling 371,000 copies in its first week. J. Cole was crowned as the people’s champ by his down-to-earth mentality and his intimate connection with his fanbase. The album was feature-less and kept the spotlight on Cole for the duration which worked in his favor.
10. Ab-Soul – These Days
Whenever you portray yourself as Jesus there is going to be a lot of negativity thrown your way. Ab-Soul dodged the controversy and crafted a suitable followup to Control System. These Days remained introspective while infusing more uptempo songs in between.
9. The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
The Roots have been pretty busy lately as the house band on The Tonight Show. …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, is the second consecutive concept album from the Philly band with a drastically darker tone. Black Thought shines even on the less accessible and melancholy efforts. The album is socially relevant, dramatic, and thought provoking, making it a necessity in your iTunes library.
8. Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
As 1/3 of the Cutthroat Boyz, Vince Staples is finally getting the recognition he deserves. After Shyne Coldchain 1 & 2 we were left wondering where the young MC was headed. Hell Can Wait is his Def Jam debut that keeps us eagerly awaiting his first full length album.
7. Step Brothers – Lord Steppington
The Alchemist and Evidence have a long history together. As Step Brothers, they carry on the same tradition of greatness. Alch continues to push the envelope with his instrumentals and Evidence flows effortlessly. The quirky lyrics and entertaining guests make the album genuinely fun. By the closing of the album you will recognize The Alchemist as one of the best beatsmiths of our generation and Evidence as tragically underrated.
6. Apollo Brown & Ras Kass – Blasphemy
Similarly to Step Brothers, Apollo Brown and Ras Kass have an undeniable chemistry. Apollo Brown is another legendary producer and Ras Kass is overlooked as well. The sample heavy instrumentals bring so much soul to the table that it is hard to walk away without a positive outlook on the future of hip-hop.
5. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
El-P and Killer Mike’s second project as Run The Jewels is as chaotic, intense, and entertaining as its predecessor. El-P’s off-kilter production somehow manages to make his Atlanta counterpart sound viciously perfect with their back and forth delivery.
4. Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
Krizzle faced a fair amount of criticism for his debut Live From The Underground. Cadillactica disproved any thoughts that he was down and out. The concept album of sorts is a dirty south masterpiece from one of the hardest working men in hip-hop.
3. PRhyme – PRhyme
DJ Premier might be the best producer of all time. PRhyme’s boom bap centered sound is perfect for Royce Da 5’9, who I felt has always underachieved. The album brings the best out in both Primo and Royce, and turns out to be even better than it sounds on paper.
2. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
At the turn of the century it seemed like gangsta rap was done for. The regional sound from Southern California captured the attention of the nation and was somewhat short lived. Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron shows that the sub-genre is alive and well. His high energy approach made this record another classic from TDE.
1. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
This was an easy choice for me. As another one-producer project, Piñata blended the extremely street content of Freddie Gibbs with the unique palate of Madlib. While this currently stands as the crowning jewel of Freddie Gibbs’ career it also favorably stands out in Madlib’s illustrious body of work.
Written By: @TrillGraham