Hip Hop

The Realness Top Projects of 2014

Contrary to what mainstream media has to say, 2014 was a good year for rap music. Just because some of the genre’s biggest acts didn’t drop music doesn’t mean that quality bars can’t be located. There were a good amount of gems this year, including some incredible pairings of artists that produced some praiseworthy music. Without further ado, here are the top 20 (and one) hip-hop projects of 2014 in no particular order.

Statik Selektah: What Goes Around-

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  • Already one of the most talented producers in the game, Statik’s continuous passion and vast knowledge of all types of music makes this album something special. Infusing jazz perfectly into hip-hop instrumentation with some of the best rappers in the game really brought together a premium product that deserves recognition (Black Thought’s verse on Imperial is ridiculous).

Vince Staples: Hell Can Wait/Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2-

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  • Vince just keeps getting better and better, with both his new mixtape and EP serving as examples of his progression. His stories are bleaker than ever, his flow more refined and his focus very apparent. Both solid projects.

Run the Jewels: RTJ2- 

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  • Agression. That is what El-P and Killer Mike embody with their new Run the Jewels project, lyrically dismembering El-P’s top-notch production while providing commentary on governmental/societal issues.

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

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  • Krit takes you on the galactic adventure to the planet Cadillactica within his mind. He displays the typical strengths on this album that have always made him a great rapper, but has put together his most concise project yet and has finally taken that next step in his progression as an artist.

Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons-

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  • Tony Starks has made his return to Staten Island. Ghost is always at his best with his solo projects, and 36 Seasons is no exception. AZ going back and forth with Ghost works very well and brings something unique to this album.

Your Old Droog: YOD LP- 

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  • He isn’t Nas, but this New York artist can certainly put on with a mic. His debut LP brings lyricism and wordplay back to the forefront, helping remind listeners what made the 90s so great.

J Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive- 

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  • Cole has always been able to spit, but at times his music simply came across as boring. This album breaks that perception, vividly recalling Cole’s early years in Fayetteville and his own experiences and decisions that got him to where he is now.

Termanology: Shut up and Rap-

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  • The ShowOff MC is one of the most underappreciated lyricists in the game. This guy can flow perfectly at a rapid pace. His new album is hip-hop to the core and something any fan of respectable music can appreciate.

Kevin Gates: By Any Means/Luca Brasi 2-

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  • Gate’s music is so brutally honest that it can sometimes make you uncomfortable as a listener. This comes with the territory, as Gates is unwilling to hold anything back. These projects display the unapologetic nature of Gates and his personal versatility as an artist that gives you different sounding tracks.

Domo Genesis: Under the Influence 2-

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  • Raw mixtape all the way through, with Domo showing he is a force to be reckoned with. From the features he graced in 2014, it is apparent Domo is only getting better. Big things are coming.

CyHi The Prynce: Black Hystori Project-

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  • People sometimes forget about CyHi. This dude can really rap. Class is in session as CyHi takes on the personas of influential world leaders, aiming to prove he will be someone to remember.

Step Brothers: Lord Steppington-

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  • Legendary producer Alchemist teams up with Evidence to bring true hip-hop back into relevance. The chemistry between these two is undeniable and this album bumps front to back.

Isaiah Rashad: Cilvia Demo-

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  • The new TDE member’s debut really displays the versatility of Rashad as an artist, as he is able to balance making lyrical songs catchy throughout the project and bring a distinct style to his music.

Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron-

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  • Schoolboy’s dark new project hits hard with headknocking bangers throughout, but blends in introspection and insight into his checkered past well.

The Doppelgangaz: Peace Kehd-

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  • The thing that makes this group great is their commitment to making the type of music they want and saying whatever they want, yet remaining loyal to the craft of hip-hop and staying in that realm.

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib: Cocaine Pinata-

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  • As unlikely of a duo as you will ever see, Gibbs and Madlib come together to drop a brilliant concoction of music. Both bringing something completely different to the table and creating something altogether unique and new, this duo has made one of the best MUSIC albums of the year and in recent memory.

YG: My Krazy Life-

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  • Making up for his limitations as an artist, YG pairs up with DJ Mustard to bring a menacing Compton tale to life. This album succeeds in its succinct nature, as well as the blending of the songs with interludes. As a package, it is a ghetto tale worth considering.

Dilated Peoples: Directors of Photography-

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  • Back Again! Finally, we are blessed with an album from one of the great underground groups. This album brings all the classic Dilated signatures in full effect, but blends in a darker sounding tone to make it refreshing.

Slaine: The King of Everything Else-

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  • This Boston MC brings bar after bar with the aggression and hunger you always look for in underground artists. Solid album throughout.

PRhyme:(Self Titled)-

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  • Classic cuts like Boom and Hip Hop had listeners anticipating more work from Royce Da 5’9″ and DJ Premier. Here it is. Royce goes in on arguably the greatest producer ever’s elite production, staking a claim for one of the best rap albums of the year.

Lil Herb: Welcome to Fazoland-

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  • Herbo fully embodies the environment he is trapped in across this project, putting a lyrical spin on Chicago drill rap that has grown quite popular over the past year.
  • Honorable Mentions: 
    • Pharoahe Monch: PTSD
    • Blueprint: Respect the Architect
    • Atmosphere: Southsiders
    • G-Unit: The Beauty of Independence
    • Black Milk: If there’s a Hell Below
    • The LOX: Trinity 3rd Sermon
    • Mac Miller: Faces
    • Logic: Under Pressure
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Hip Hop

Big K.R.I.T. Cadillactica Album Review

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As Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. geared up for his second album release titled Cadillactica, fans and critics alike pondered the musical direction Krizzle would take next. Live From the Underground failed to live up to the lofty expectations listeners placed upon it, as Krit’s music began to follow a predictable pattern. Progression was desired, something Cadillactica aims to appease.

Cadillactica is the wild ride through an imaginary planet within Krit’s mind. The planet itself is symbolic of life, with Krit rolling his candy painted caddy through the geographic ebbs and flows of existence. Even more so, it is a personal album about the hardships of growing old. Gone is the “soul food” we are accustomed to as youngsters and in comes the struggles of carving your own path within a very different looking society. Relationship struggles, societal issues and cultural shortcomings all rotate within Krit’s mind, helping shape the perception of Cadillactica from its creation to the destruction of the planet. Without further ado, a track by track breakdown of Cadillactica. 

1. Kreation (Intro):

This song is literally the birth of both the planet Cadillactica and the creative process within Krit’s mind, a soothing and soulful introduction into the rapper’s world. Krit’s pursuit of perfection is echoed throughout the track, something he seeks for both the planet he has created as well as his music. Strong intro.

2. Life

Krit oozes passion in this haunting anthem, searching for deeper meanings in both his own life and the life of the planet he has created. Krit also makes it clear that while life may be hard, he appreciates the chance to live it. Solid track with Krit showing off his ability to tackle deep concepts yet keep it entertaining.

3. My Sub Part 3 (Big Bang):

Banger. Krit brings all of the down south swagger on this one, finding himself chanting methodically atop of hard hitting bass. This song reflects the Big Bang explosion, something Krit uses as a celebration of his beloved trunk rattling bass.

4. Cadillactica:

One of the best tracks on the album. The intricate, yet knocking instrumentation on this track truly brings out the best in Krit lyrically, as he tears apart each verse he spits. This is a track where Krit aims to show off his lyrical ability and confidence as a rapper, taking you inside his world. The interlude leading up to the Soul Food track is amazing, as a Cadillactica fast food joint tries to sell Krit the “fast food” of the new generation.

5. Soul Food (Featuring Raphael Saadiq):

Standout track. This song is truly incredible. Under smooth instrumentation, Krit brings listeners back to the old days of childhood, where living was easy and “soul food” represented the comfort of life. Yet this feeling of protection begins to disappear and the “soul food” begins to rot as you grow older, exposing you to the hardships of the new generation you are a part of. Very touching track, as Krit’s ability to be introspective and incorporate concepts truly makes him a special artist in these moments. Raphael Saadiq blends in perfectly on the hook.

6. Pay Attention (featuring Rico Love): 

You knew Krit had to make one for the strip clubs. This stripper anthem is one for the clubs and shows Krit’s progression in making marketable yet respectable singles.

7. King of the South:

“I’m here bitches and I’m not going anywhere.” That is essentially what Krit is saying on this southern banger. Krit’s brazen lyrics and viscous flows serve to stake his claim for the crown. Even more so, Krit is sending a message that he is underappreciated and deserves more recognition than what he has been getting. This song is country to the core and one of the most aggressive songs on the album.

8. Mind Control (featuring E-40 and Wiz Khalifa):

This soulful beat finds Krit trying to get into the head of a woman and seduce her, something he croons out on the hook. Decent track, although both E-40 and Wiz Khalifa share forgettable verses.

9. Standby (Interlude):

This jazzy instrumental has Krit attempting to navigate the hardships he is facing, while sending the message to always continue trying. Meaningful interlude.

10. Do you love me? (featuring Mara Hruby):

Krit had to dedicate a song to his one true love, his cadillac. Real life girlfriend Mara Hruby serves as Krizzle’s car on this soulful track, singing to him on the hook as Krit raps of his appreciation for all aspects of his whip. Really smooth, southern track, something Krit is very comfortable making.

11. Third Eye:

Very melodic anthem, as Krit’s search continues for love and relationships. Even more so, this song shows where he sees his future heading and represents the visions of where he believes his life could go.

12. Mo Better Cool (featuring Devin the Dude, Bun B and Big Sant):

Funky instrumentation has Krit flexing his confidence with the ladies all over this record, with Devin the Dude practically floating on the chorus. Bun B delivers a solid guest verse and Big Sant shows he embodies Krit’s sound.

13. Angels

Very soft sounding song, with Krit detailing his confusion as to the type of person he will be. He explores good vs. evil on this track, using the allusion of bad acting angels throughout the track. This song shows Krit trying to persevere despite all the questions he has about what is going on around him. Solid track.

14. Saturdays=Celebration(featuring Jamie N Commons)

Very vintage sounding record, with the message being to not let your sorrows bring you down. Blues rocker and folk artist Jamie N Commons brings a very unique sound to this track, making it a very interesting combination of artists.

15. Lost Generation(featuring Lupe Fiasco)

Finally comes the destruction of the planet Cadillactica to round out the project, but with the reminder within Krit’s mind that “We will create again”. This concluding track has Krit and Lupe playing good vs. evil in regards to the perceptions of the “Lost Generation”. Krit is on the good side, stressing that living the right way and avoiding temptation is the best course of action. Lupe then negates this, stating getting to the top by any means is the motive and showing total disregard for life. Really cool concept to go out on, as both rappers equally thrive on this banging conclusion to Cadillactica.

Big K.R.I.T. has always been a talented rapper with much to offer. His songs often carry deeper meaning and his passion resonates with listeners. But some of Krit’s recent projects lacked that next step in progression that would take him to new heights. In Cadillactica, Krit has taken that next step. Handing over just a smidgen of his creative control does wonders for this project, as the addition of other production credits only enhances Krit’s brilliance. Every song seems a little more put together, Krit’s flows a little smoother and the album as a whole a little more concise. Cadillactica, both the planet and the train of thought racing through Krizzle’s mind, is a galactic adventure worth exploring.

How real was this album? 9.1/10

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Albums We Love: Vince Staples-Hell Can Wait

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The progression of Long Beach rapper Vince Staples from Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1 to now has been staggering. His songs are sounding more complete, his lyricism more refined and his imagery more distinct than ever. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Staples’s debut EP, Hell Can Wait. From the sounds of screen doors creaking to helicopters buzzing, as well as vivid stories of Vince’s father doing anything to make ends meet, Staples has crafted grim imagery depicting the streets of California almost perfectly. This EP feels like a musical rendition of Menace II Society, something definitely worth a rotation.

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Artist of the Week: Action Bronson

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Upon first listen, certain comments often arise. It usually begins with, “does this guy think he is Ghostface?” But to frame Bronsolino’s music in the same light as the heralded Wu Tang rapper is unjustified and simply wrong. Bronson is very much in his own lane and offers unique subject matter that few can rival. The man weighs over 300 pounds and has as much bravado to accompany it. He spits intricate raps about the lavish lifestyle he lives, detailing sexual encounters, drug experiences and the exquisite tastes he possesses. The former culinary chef mentions the finest cuisines in nearly every track he touches and has many facets to his music that go beyond sounding like an established rapper. Not to mention, the dude has bars. So sit back, fire up some octopus and lamb on the grill and take a listen to the artist of the week.

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Songs We Love: Vince Staples- Hands Up

Long Beach lyricist Vince Staples delivers a grim take on America’s current conflict with the boys in blue. Staple’s vivid tales of friends lost to the corruption of police that has shaped his rebellious attitude is an intriguing take on the current issues stemming from Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri. Hit the link below and make sure to pick up Vince’s Hell Can Wait EP, which should drop later this year.

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Schoolboy Q Oxymoron Album Review

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Prior to the release of Q’s highly anticipated Oxymoron, the social media world was abuzz with high hopes and impatience; often paralleling expectations with Kendrick Lamar’s highly coveted and celebrated Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. To be clear, Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q are two different rappers possessing completely different skill sets. To plug in Q’s album with expecting Kendrick’s narrative of trying to navigate the hardships of his environment would be an injustice to the uniqueness every Black Hippy member brings to the table. While Q can relate to Kendrick in the environment they were raised in, his serving Oxymoron offers a less introspective, more menacing tale of a violent and grimy Hoover Street existence.

 Oxymoron starts out with a bang, dropping dark keys after a brief, somewhat sinister introduction from Schoolboy’s daughter. Gangsta is the type of sound that works well on this album, with Q’s loud, menacing flow accompanying a head nodding instrumental. Schoolboy truly excels in his execution of bridges and hooks on this project, having smooth transitions between verses to complete songs. While ghetto anthems like What they Want and Yay Yay will have you ghost riding the whip, Q does a nice job blending in songs reflective of the experiences that have shaped him. Hoover Street, one of the best songs on the album, has Q bringing it back to the block he was raised on, spitting stories of fascination with OGs as a youngster and his discovery of his grandmother’s gun. Prescription/Oxymoron examines the often-hypocritical roles Q has played in his life, both as a user and supplier. This introspective record shows Q at his most vulnerable, losing control as his addiction heads off the rails. The Purge and Blind Threats are solid hip-hop offerings, with Kurupt delivering one of the best verses on the entire project.

With all said, Oxymoron delivers what you would expect from Q. Despite some standout tracks and generally well-constructed songs, Q falters at times with forgettable verses and records running just a bit too long. This is a solid album overall, with Schoolboy adding a much darker, sinister chapter to his impressive catalogue.

Rating: 7.6/10

Best Songs: Break the Bank, Hoover Street, Prescription/Oxymoron

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Albums We Love: Troy Ave-New York City:The Album

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Too often rappers sacrifice the integrity of their music to step outside of the box and create something innovative and new. While innovation is an essential aspect of the growth of hip hop, staying true to formulas that have worked in the past has never been a bad option. Enter Troy Ave. The New York rapper stays true to the roots of the early 2000s east coast sounds, channeling his inner 50 Cent/Dipset on New York City: The Album. There is nothing groundbreaking about this album, yet it returns to the sounds we thoroughly enjoyed a decade ago. It serves as a refreshment to the “groundbreaking” swag rap currently being jammed down our throats. Respect. 

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