Author’s Note: This year I really focused on listening to what I wanted to. In years past, I’d tried to listen to every Hip Hop/Rap release and it got overwhelming. I’d find myself trapped in my room listening to an album because I felt I had to as opposed to me wanting to listen to it. In spite of this, I still managed to discover and listen to some new artists that I think really put out some special projects. Guys like YBN Cordae and Kota the Friend had been on my radar but listening to their full length projects really put them in a new stratosphere for me. Of course, the mainstays put out some quality material this year as well but I think the new cats caught my attention more than anything. As I did last year, I’ll rank my top 7 Hip Hop/Rap albums of 2019 including some honorable mentions as well as some releases I felt needed mentioning. The following is what I personally prefer listening to and projects that I continued to listen to as the year went on. Feel free to drop your own top 7 in the comment section or simply feel free to tell me how wack my list it. Bring it on!!!! This year, I had a lot to say so I split the post into two parts. In this part 1, I’m gonna go through some of the “big releases” that didn’t move the needle (for me personally) but who I felt deserved some shine; as well as the Honorable Mentions section which includes projects that didn’t quite make my cut. Part 2 will follow shortly with my top 7. Enjoy…
Major Releases Worth Mentioning:
- The Big Day, Chance the Rapper: Chance is one of my favorite rappers doing it in Hip Hip today. Acid Rap, Coloring Book and #10Day are classic releases in my opinion. As a result, I hold Chance to a pretty high standard. His most recent album, The Big Day didn’t quite make that cut for me. For one, it’s too long. I think a little more focus and less features would have helped this album out a lot. It’s also too preachy for my taste. I realize Chance is at a different point in his life but that doesn’t mean he has to shove that new lifestyle down our throats (again, this is just my opinion). I think what most disappointed me about this album though was the fact that his preview singles like “I might need security” and “95th & Ingleside” were so much better than any of the songs on the album. All that being said, there were some high points and some songs that I still listen to. “Hot Shower” is a banger, “Roo” is heartfelt in a way that only Chance can convey and I also really enjoyed the Randy Newman feature on “5 Year Plan.” Overall, the album wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as I expected.
- So Much Fun, Young Thug: I know “today’s rap” is much different than the rap I grew up with. Sometimes I hear songs on the radio and I think “what the fuck are these kids talking about?” But Hip Hop (and rap) is a young man’s game in that the new generation always dictates what the future will bring in terms of style. Young Thug is the epitome of the shift we’re currently going through in Hip Hop. “So Much Fun” is undoubtedly well….fun. It took me 3 separate listening sessions to get through the whole album (mostly because I got tired of Thug’s free form mumble sing-songy style) but I was nodding my head to the infectious sounds throughout the entire listen. It’s catchy and it makes you move and I can see why people love this album so much. It’s certainly unique with songs like “Hot”, “What’s the Move” and “Mannequin Challenge” blazing a trail throughout the industry but for me personally, I guess I just don’t get the appeal.
- Rap or Go to the League, 2Chainz: I really wanted to put this album in my top 7 but ultimately, it just has too much filler. There’s songs I’ll probably be listening to for the rest of my life. Songs like “Threat 2 Society” and “Money in the Way” are 2Chainz at his best: talking his shit over a trap beat with a fire sample. Chainz is on top of his game in this album I can respect it. I just couldn’t put this album over a Tyler, the Creator, Boogie or a Freddie Gibbs.
- KIRK, DaBaby: DaBaby is my ultimate guilty pleasure. I love listening to everything he does. He almost had two albums on this list but I decided to keep it with his debut, KIRK. KIRK is honest, crass and filled with southern influence throughout the entirety of the album. Nearly every song is a certified “bop.” This album is 35 minutes of hard hitting lyrics and pounding beats but unfortunately, they all sound similar. It is my guilty pleasure and I don’t mind the monotony on this album but I just couldn’t rank it very high compared to other more complete releases. However, it’s definitely deserving of my love and praise as this is an album I’ve bumped time and time again in the gym, on the court or simply walking around.
Author’s Note: So the problem with keeping my list to only (7) releases means that some projects are going to fall through the cracks. The albums below are all pieces that I personally have loved and played the shit out for most of this year. Some of them will probably be in other bloggers top ’19 lists but for me, these ones just missed the cut:
- FOTO, Kota the Friend: Kota the Friend is a guy I discovered this year that became a revelation for me. His flow and beat selection is so smooth and chill that listening to this album immediately transports you to a time and place where nothing matters but listening to his voice. Kota raps so soft that you almost have to crane your ears to catch every word. He packs each verse with heartfelt, introspective rhymes that are easy to relate to. He does a great job of staying in his preferred lane and style and his honesty is refreshing. He stays true to his strengths and everything he raps about sounds like it’s a personal experience. My favorite song has gotta be “Bagels” as it’s one I continue to go back to. “Solar Return” featuring Saba is incredibly heartfelt and “Alkaline” shows more energy and lyrical dexterity than any other on the album. In short, FOTO was one of my favorite albums this year and I can’t wait to see what Kota continues to bring to the table.
- The Recipe, Villain Park: West Coast Hip Hop has always shown itself to have a certain vibe and sound. Sure, some rappers or groups buck that trend but for the most part, growing up on the West Coast (Southern California in particular) results in a specific type of sound. Villain Park exudes that sound completely while managing to sound fresh and original. This album just straight up bangs. From start to finish Bunge, Smoke and Dj Coly Cole take you through their own experiences of growing up on the West Coast. When listening to this album I couldn’t help but think of them as “West Coast Dead Prez.” Their rapid fire flows over hard hitting beats is such a cool and unique way to present themselves and in a group setting, their collective is dangerous. Songs like “Visions,” “Cold Game” and “We Out Here” all represent that classic West Coast stye but also stay personal and honest enough to know that you’re listening to VP. Like Kota above, I can’t wait to see what is in store for this group in the future.
- TrillStatik, Bun B and Statik Selektah: Sometimes, the old heads gotta show that they still got it. Some of my favorite rappers are featured on this album helmed by Bun B and Statik Selektah. Method Man, Fat Joe, Westside Gunn, Smoke DZA, Meechy Darko and Termanology all make an appearance resulting in a star studded affair of rappers who bring nothing but #bars. The finished product is an album filled with old school Hip Hop flavor over scratchy golden age production brought to us by the legendary Statik Selektah. In short this shit bangs. All that being said, it’s an album that was made around a specific gimmick. That gimmick is “could an entire album be made during a livestream on YouTube?” The answer obviously is a resounding yes. The album is a success and is a credit to Bun B and Statik’s ability to craft quality music in a short period of time. My only problem with this album is you can feel the rushed aspect of it. The verses feel more like freestyles and a little more cohesion and time would have made this a classic but I realize that wasn’t the point. More of a compilation album than anything but nonetheless, Bun B shows he’s still a lethal rapper in today’s Hip Hop industry and Statik has proven he’s more than capable of putting out bangers year after year. Solid release overall.
- Uknowwhatimsayin?, Danny Brown: Danny Brown has really elevated his rapping pedigree on each new album he’s released. When I first heard DB in 2009, it was the crazy voice and manic energy that drew me to him. On uknowwhatimsayin? it’s his bars and control of the mic that take center stage. The crazy voice inflections are still there but are not nearly as prevalent. DB raps with a much more refined flow now that it almost seems subdued (but not in a bad way). This was a tremendous album from start to finish. DB raps over all kinds of sample-driven beats and he fits into their pockets perfectly to make his voice stand out while also giving space for the beat to do its thing. Songs like “Combat” and “Best Life” showcase a Danny Brown that is at peace with who he is as a rapper and an emcee who’s making music that he loves and is proud of. DB will always be underrated when compared to his peers who he came up with (J. Cole, Kendrick) but his style and flow has aged like fine wine.
- Czarface Meets Ghostface, CZARFACE and Ghostface Killah: Similar to last years collaboration album, Czarface Meets Metalface, the guys from Czarface link up with yet another emcee of villainous proportions. Ghostface Killah certainly fits that bill. Ghost is a “larger than life” rapper who seamlessly fits into the outlandish skits and samples CZARFACE employs and it works like a matchmade in comic book heaven. Obviously, Inspectah Deck and Ghostface have chemistry from their previous group (you may have heard of them, a small little outfit named Wu-Tang Clan), but Esoteric and Ghost have a good repore as well as seen on one of my favorite tracks “Morning Ritual.” This album is long and filled with references and samples from days long past but any CZARFACE fan will enjoy it just like they would the others.
- Zuu, Denzel Curry: I mention this album last because this was the closest call I had to make. I feel like this should have been in my top 7 but I just couldn’t find a spot for it. Denzel Curry is a being a pure Hip Hop energy. From the jump, Curry attacks this project with an incredible amount of vigor and Floridian pride. Curry’s rap skills have gotten better and better with each project none more so apparent than Zuu. Songs like “RICKY” and “SPEEDBOAT” are filled with rapid fire flows full of dense lyrics which also manage to maintain a catchy, sing-a-long vibe that goes well with today’s Hip Hop landscape. Curry really crafted the perfect “Florida Rap Album” with this project and established himself as a staying power in Hip Hop with two back to back classic albums (TA1300 being the other one). When it came down to it, I dropped this album a slot because of its short runtime. I loved this album though and it’s really the project that brought me back to listening to Denzel Curry in my everyday rotation.
Look for part 2 (and my top 7) coming tomorrow…