Author’s Note: If you missed part 1, you can check it here. In my first post, I went over the major releases of the year as well as my Honorable Mentions. The list below is the cream of the cop, my top 7. As I did last year, I kept the number down to a lucky 7 albums. As stated in my first post, Hip Hop is the only genre I really keep tabs on and listen to religiously. The albums below were in constant rotation on my Spotify for the entire year hence their inclusion below. Once again, this is my own personal opinion but I’d love to hear your own personal lists. Without further ado, here is my top 7 Hip Hop albums of the year 2019…
7. Ventura, Anderson .Paak:
Anderson .Paak might be the smoothest, most versatile artist in Hip Hop right now. While not technically a rapper, Paak can still string his bars together but his real strength is in his voice. His voice is so good that he might be the only person capable of having Smokey Robinson and Nate Dogg on his album without getting outshined. Ventura is his most concise and compact release in his “California beach towns” catalog. It might also be his best. Paak exudes so much soul over the 40 minutes of this project. “Make it Better” is quite simply one of the best songs of this year. If someone got in a time machine and played it in 1970, it wouldn’t feel out of place at all. “King James” utilizes a smooth, jazzy beat that Paak obliterates all on his own and “What Can We Do” takes you down memory lane with a Nate Dogg feature that feels like they raised him from the dead. Ventura is Paak’s best album to date but you can’t help but feel like his best work is still ahead of him.
- Notable Tracks: “Make it Better” f/ Smokey Robinson, “King James” and “What Can We Do?” f/ Nate Dogg
6. Revenge of the Dreamers III, Dreamville:
For the most part, I try to let the music speak for itsself. I’m not one to watch interviews or read reviews to tell me if an album is good or not. With ROTD3, I caught it at the perfect time. My first listen was on a train in New York City going out to my cousin’s wedding in Poughkeepsie. The album took up the entirety of the ride there and the vibes I felt while sitting on that train and listening to that album were pure and unencumbered. I continued bumping this album heavily and I liked it but I didn’t feel like I loved it. I skipped some songs and sometimes felt like the whole thing was rushed in its recording. But then I saw this documentary and it changed my mind. The vibes and authenticity that surround this album are too much to ignore. On that first listen, I felt the energy coming out of my speakers but I didn’t really understand it. Once I saw the documentary and saw the love and camaraderie that was had when creating these tracks, I understood it. This album is what Hip Hop is all about. Talented artists and producers coming together to make magic and push each other is what the golden age of Hip Hop was built on. J. Cole as an orchestrator does a masterful job but he also doesn’t allow his position to put him in the backseat. Cole buys the car, draws the road map and stays in the driver’s seat throughout the entirety of this album and it pays off in a huge way. Songs like “Down Bad”, “Wells Fargo” and “1993” are pure energy Hip Hop tracks where you can feel the vibes put forth to create them. “Sacrifices” is incredible, “Under the Sun” opens the album up like no other song could and my low-key favorite might be “LamboTruck” in which two of the most underrated rappers in the game, Cozz and REASON rap about robbing their respective bosses. This was an album I enjoyed immediately but also the rare album that continued to grow on me.
- Notable Tracks: “Down Bad”, “Under the Sun”, “Wells Fargo” and “Sacrifices”
5. The Lost Boy, YBN Cordae:
YBN Cordae raps with a grace that belies his 19 years of age. It’s hard to believe this is his first full length album when listening to The Lost Boy front to back. His raps exude an experience of life that seems hard to believe for someone so young. Cordae suffers from the same afflictions other young men in his generation suffer from such as drug abuse, anxiety and depression. But the way he tackles those issues and owns up to them is so much more mature than anyone else in his bracket or any other rapper for that matter. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the first time I heard College Dropout while listening to The Lost Boy. The honesty and soul this album is naturally imbued with is something you don’t see very often. Cordae also benefits from extraordinary production throughout as well as some pitch perfect guest verses. Despite having Pusha T, Andersen .Paak and Chance the Rapper on his debut album; Cordae always remains the focal point. This is a tremendous start to a promising young career and one I can’t wait to see blossom into superstardom.
- Notable Tracks: “Bad Idea” f/ Chance the Rapper, “RNP” f/ Andersen .Paak, “Broke As Fuck” and “Nightmares Are Real” f/ Meek Mill
4. IGOR, Tyler, The Creator:
It seems like a lifetime ago I was listening to Tyler’s debut album “Bastard” while cursing my lungs out and screaming “fuck Steve Harvey!” Over these last 10 years we’ve seen an angry, moody teenager grow into the refined, musical genius Tyler has become today. 10 years is a long time in the rap game and during that time, we’ve all grown up. This album marks the continued growth of Tyler in a positive direction. “Flower Boy” was one of my favorite albums by Tyler because of his honesty and ability to craft a succinct and perfect soundscape. IGOR builds on that foundation. Tyler thrives in crafting sounds that are both agreeable to the ear and incredibly unique. He picks collaborators who he knows can get his message across and he deploys them expertly. Much like a Kanye album, Tyler is better served as the orchestrator and the man behind the boards than a straight rapper. He’s still the evil genius from Bastard and Goblin, he just sporadically adds that aspect of himself rather than letting it take over. That’s not to say his voice absent from the album, far from it. Tyler sings more than he ever has on this project and it works really well. The NERD influences run rampant with this album more than any of his other projects and I think that’s a good thing. IGOR is the album Tyler has wanted to make when he first heard “in search of…” or “fly or die” by NERD. He’s just now gained the ability to do it successfully. I wouldn’t put this album over Flower Boy and I personally probably wouldn’t put it over Goblin but this album is fantastic and you love to see the growth.
- Notable Tracks: “EARFQUAKE”, “NEW MAGIC WAND”, “WHAT’S GOOD” and “A BOY IS A GUN*”
3. FEET OF CLAY, Earl Sweatshirt:
- I’d forgive you for giving Earl’s last album “Some Rap Songs” a pass. Superfans like myself loved it for the off kilter, stream of consciousness flows but I know for others, it was a little much. FEET OF CLAY helps fix that problem. Earl doesn’t deviate from his style but this album (EP?) is somehow more accessible than his last offering. At a brisk, 15 and a half minutes, you can listen to the whole thing on your drive to Del Taco for lunch. It’s brevity doesn’t take away from Earl’s skills as a rapper though. He packs so many messages and #bars into 15 minutes that you hear something new on each listen. Check out my steez post for some of my favorite lines but listen to this album for the soul and feel of Hip Hop music. Earl is raw and untouched by any machinations of the commercial machine and his music always reflects that.
- Notable Tracks: “EAST”, “MTOMB” f/ Liv.E, “EL TORO COMBO MEAL” f/ Mavi and “TISK TISK/COOKIES”
2. Everything’s For Sale, Boogie:
Boogie’s ability to rap about life, love and loss continues to be his greatest strength as a rapper. He could rap in any style or craft any sort of album he wants but he continues to perfect his self introspective/conscious rap which has resulted in his best album to date. He speaks candidly about his relationships and his failures and it makes his music personal to him but also accessible to his listeners. Oftentimes, Boogie can sound like your homie just sitting there chopping it up with you while talking about relationships and life. Boogie’s pace is like a Paul Pierce or Luka Doncic in that he never gets sped up. His flow is always even keel and he gets his point across every time. Even on tracks where he’s paired with the rapid fire flow of JID or Eminem, Boogie doesn’t compromise his style. Everything’s for Sale stayed in my rotation for a full year and I still listen to the lolsmh-interlude at least once a week. It’s great to see an artist of Boogie’s caliber get the shine he deserves and this album is the step we always knew he could take since the Thirst 48 projects.
- Notable Tracks: “Lolsmh – Interlude”, “Soho” f/ JID, “Skydive”, “Skydive II” f/ 6LACK and “Self Destruction”
1. Bandana, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib:
The second MadGibbs full length project comes 5 years after Piñata and Bandana picks up right where it left off. The combination of Mablib’s production and Freddie Gibbs lyricism is a match made in heaven. Freddie constantly switches up his flow throughout this project and Madlib switches up his beats to match him. Soemtimes vice versa. Freddie goes from rapid fast to gangsta, to sing-songy and back to his underground flow. He literally hits every pocket Madlib sets up for him like a running back following his blockers. Madlib is really on his shit on this project and it seems that in Freddie Gibbs he’s found the perfect compliment to his off-kilter sample driven music. All respect due to the villainous one MF DOOM but I think Freddie finds a way to make the most out of each and every Madlib beat. Gibbs slips and slides all over this project spitting rapid fire verses and touching on everything from Trump to flat tummy tea. Some of my favorite lyrics from him ever are from this project. It’s crazy to think that this could be better than Piñata but I think that it is. It’s more focused and concise and the journey Madlib and Freddie take you on while listening to Bandana is pure unadulterated Hip Hop cocaine. Freddie raps “I want it all” and him and Madlib got it this year.
- Notable Tracks: “Freestyle S**t”, “Half Manne Half Cocaine”, “Palmolive” f/ Pusha T & Killer Mike, “Fake Names” and “Education” f/ Yasiin Bey & Black Thought