Ian Sayres Revisits his Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2014

2014 seemed like a quiet year in Hip-Hop.  A lack of releases by big name artists like Drake, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar left the charts open for the lesser known underground artists to make a name for themselves. Promising young emcees walked into the game with numerous major label debuts alongside a few seasoned veterans making much anticipated comebacks. Needless to say, what this list is lacking in “star-power” is made up for in pure lyricism and creative production.


*Honorable Mentions*

Nobody’s Smiling- Common

Blasphemy- Apollo Brown and Rass Kass

Copper Gone- Sage Francis


Bas-Last-Winter10. Bas, Last Winter

Fiend Bassy may not have many fans but he’s finally starting to get the recognition he deserves with his first studio album. The J. Cole Dreamville signee has been quietly killing it with his Quarter Water mixtapes and aims high with his iTunes debut.

“According to the artist, Last Winter is ‘a conceptual project about hoping to break away from tough times.’ An audible example can be found in the form of pre-released buzz record, ‘Charles de Gaulle To JFK,’ a record that highlights the stark difference between figuratively sitting in coach and enjoying the amenities of first class” – DjBooth.
9. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Piñata

The combination of Freddie Gibbs’s cigarette-filter voice and Madlibs’ 31st century production doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven, but Madlib finds his inner gangster and crafts a combination of ghetto/indie beats that compliment Gibbs’ voice perfectly. The unconventional duo manage to come up with a deft, eccentric street-rap epic in Piñata.


8. Pharoahe Monch, PTSD

Pharoahe makes his return to Hip-Hop after a two year vacation and delivers an aggressive vent session that captures his frustration with rap music. PTSD allows a break from typical rap stereotypes by attempting to impress the listener with his own creativity. Pharoahe’s smart, nerdy bars make him seem like some kind of unimpressed hipster, but with lyrics as clever as his…that’s okay.

darkcomedy7. Open Mike Eagle, Dark Comedy

Speaking of hipsters, Mike may just be indie-rap’s golden boy. From his beginnings with Thirsty Fish, and Busdriver Mike has never been afraid to stray from Hip-Hop’s norms and express himself as a “Suburban gangster”. Mike’s newest project, Dark Comedy journalizes his thoughts, ranging from his distrust of social media to his annoyance with social conformities. Open Mike Eagle puts together a project that has the capability to bring in a new age of artists, and help soften the public view of rap music.



6. YG, My Krazy Life

YG had a bit of a coming out party in 2013 with the release of his thug-rap anthem “My N****” and appeared as a one-hit wonder to some. The release of his debut studio album My Krazy Life shocked his critics and solidified YG as the next hardcore gangster rapper.



KRIT started his campaign to the throne of underground rap back in 2010 with the release of his mixtape K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and continued to construct a fanbase with the 4eva mixtapes. In 2012 KRIT decided it was time to make his studio album debut and released a disappointing, mediocre album Live from the Underground. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice and comes back with a fantasy driven concept LP Cadillactica.



4. Step Brothers, Lord Steppington

The Alchemist and Evidence came together to form one of the most talked about duos on the west coast rap scene. The Alchemist crafts some of his richest, deepest, most luxurious beats in years and it fits Evidence’s laid back flow near perfect. The Brothers In Step have bars… Enough to carry this project from start to finish but this album really shines with the guest verses. With features from Domo Genesis, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and more. No punches were pulled and it pushed Lord Steppington over the top.



3. Logic, Under Pressure

Logic is another young emcee who built up a fan base through a series of mixtapes, and his success makes me wonder if its the best way to make an impact when stepping under the worlds spotlight. Logic’s Young Sinatra trilogy gained critical acclaim and left many wondering when he would make his major label debut with Def Jam. We didn’t have to wait long, just over one year later Logic released a gem in his debut. Under Pressure is nothing we haven’t seen before. A teenager with aspirations to be the greatest of all time must turn to dealing drugs and gang violence in order to provide for himself. The only difference is Logic’s impeccable delivery and interesting bars. He may be young but he has proven that he wasn’t sleeping in class; he payed attention and the final project is A+ work.


2. J. Cole, 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Jermaine may not have the credibility of rappers like 50 Cent, Killer Mike, or YG, but this doesn’t stop him from trying to connect with his audience and above all. Making quality music. Cole’s first two projects didn’t turn many heads… At least not towards the music. Cole’s ambition and courage caught the attention of many when he released his second LP: Born Sinner on June 18th of 2013. The same day Kanye West dropped his highly anticipated and critically acclaimed sixth studio album: Yeezus. So when Cole announced 2014FHD’s release a week before hand he took the music world overnight. FHD is Cole finally getting to put together a record that he wanted. This LP is Cole’s story, and by god if he isn’t the guy I want reading it.


rtj21. Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels 2

Killer Mike and El-P’s first collaborative project wasn’t a disappointment, but the recognition the duo gained for their hard work could only be described as such. Mike and El came back this year with a vengeance. Two great friends in the studio just dropping bars, verses, and even hooks. El-P’s menacing beats just set the tone for one of the darkest, grittiest, most awe-inspiring rap albums of this generation. RTJ2 is a non-stop joyride filled with cruel insults and vicious punchlines.




Bonus Mixtape: Cyhi The Prynce, Black Hystori Project