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