A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP (Buy Here)
Although the album suffered a severe month-early leak, A$AP Rocky’s debut album Long.Live.A$AP still had a successful run on the charts. The album, for me, was solid from the day it leaked. The Easter bunny gave me this album this year (I’m white, deal with it), but it definitely was not one of my favorites. Drake handed Rocky his hit ‘Problems’, ‘Wild For The Night’ is an auto-skip for me, ‘Goldie’ was cool, and ‘Fashion Killa’ never really popped off but that was one of my favorites from the album. I think the main problem for me with this album was that it lacked too many moments beyond ‘good’. The album had a bigger impact on the Tumblr culture then it did on the music industry, and that’s kind of expected from Rocky from now on.
Ace Hood – Trials & Tribulations (Buy Here)
I am a borderline Ace Hood stan, I’ll be the first one to admit it. I love Ace Hood’s ‘I’ve made it but I’m starving on the inside’ mentality he gives off in his music. You can actually feel the passion in his music, and that’s fantastic to hear. Trials & Tribulations was his most complete project to date, even with some of the repeated topics (yes, four albums in, Ace Hood’s mom still needs a new house). When ‘Bugatti’ dropped, I knew that was a HIT record from the get-go, and as the leaks continued to drop I was impressed with the album. It was a first day purchase for me. But the album doesn’t have much replay value. It’s… good, but the trap sound is starting to get overplayed. Ace’s flow is on point, but maybe it’s time for Ace to step away from the 808 Mafia & Sonny Digital beats and use his tremendous flow on some soulful beats.
Big Sean – Hall Of Fame (Buy Here)
I really liked Big Sean’s sophomore album Hall of Fame. The problem is, I only liked 10 of the 15 songs on the album. Five auto-skips is never a good thing. Big Sean had a better cohesive sound through HoF over Finally Famous, and his honesty and his ability to create relate-able situations in his music for his target fan-base was refreshing to hear. The production on this album was outstanding, regardless of what Sean is saying on the songs. But, man, whoever thought it was okay to have ‘MILF’ on the album needs to be fired and begin a career at American Eagle.
Denitia & Sene – His & Hers (Buy Here)
Denitia & Sene are probably going to end up getting married. Their chemistry in and outside of music is remarkable. And thankfully for that, they blessed us with this project His & Hers. The project features ambient yet funky production and it’s honestly one of the most soothing listens of the year. The production on the album also reminds me sometimes of stuff you’ll hear in a video game, which is pretty cool. There really aren’t any highs or lows on the album, just a bunch of pretty goods. If you want something new to have on the background when you need to vibe out, this is it.
The Internet – Feel Good (Buy Here)
The Internet’s sophomore album was a huge step above their debut album Purple Naked Ladies, and even that album wasn’t too shabby. Feel Good features just that, feel good music with live instrumentation. The group continued to drift further and further from the normal Odd Future sound and their experimentation worked mightily for them. You can hear more confidence in Syd’s voice as well as the improvement in her songwriting, yet there are still moments where you realize Syd is still only 21 years old on her second album. If this group sticks together and continues to improve the way they have thus far? I expect a timeless record that will be known on more than just the internet.
JAY Z – Magna Carta…Holy Grail (Buy Here)
I’m not going to lie, i was AMPED for this album. And even when it dropped, I turned off everything and went in my bed & listened to the album front to back. I listened to this album for damn near four days straight non-stop. I think it was because this was the first solo JAY Z album I was ‘fully’ into rap with. I was fresh in the whole game when The Blueprint 3 came out, but that doesn’t get spins. Ever. Over time, I had a hard time coming back to this album. You can’t deny it’s commercial success, but I feel like that’s all this album was made for. While their were some good songs like ‘Oceans’ ‘FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt’, ‘Nickels & Dimes’, and that damn 55 second cancer-curer ‘Beach Is Better’, there is just as many tracks I never want to hear again. Those tracks felt like forced marketing ads in the form of rap music. Nawh, I’m good.
Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience (Buy Here)
Similar to the JAY Z album, who WASN’T ecstatic for this new Justin Timberlake album this year? I know I sure as hell was. Even when it dropped, I felt like the album was INCREDIBLE. I still think it’s very.. solid. The album as a whole has some great songwriting provided by James Fauntleroy and was a HUGE commercial success, but it’s really a chore to listen to in it’s entirety. Sometimes less is more, and there’s no other way around it, JT. For your next album, give me ten songs like ‘Blue Ocean Floor’, and I’ll be beyond satisfied.
Kid Cudi – Indicud (Buy here)
Indicud might of been the biggest disappointment for me this year. While Cudi delivered a SOLID product, I don’t want solid from Kid Cudi. I want GREATNESS. And Indicud didn’t deliver that. It’s disappointing too because you know Kid Cudi has the talent and resources around him to create greatness, but he just didn’t use both of those effectively. Kid Cudi handled all the production on this album, and while it wasn’t AWFUL, it surely wasn’t anything to brag about. Subject matter was there, as always, but the production really held back this album, and usually it’s the other way around.
Mac Miller – Watching Movies With The Sound Off (Buy here)
I really wanted to put this in my top ten. In fact, it was in my top ten but after a last minute change of mind, it winds up as an honorable mention. Mac Miller really surprised me with his sophomore album, Watching Movies With The Sound Off. His mixtape Macadelic was an interesting listen but left me clueless on what direction Mac was headed musically. Even the leaks off Watching Movies With The Sound Off had me confused, but when the album leaked that one summer morning, everything came full circle and we got a good ass piece of work. ‘Objects In The Mirror’ & ‘REMember’ are timeless records from this album, where you can feel the emotion Mac is projecting with his voice in those where it just reaches you head on. Sometimes pain feels good, and sometimes hearing others project it correctly feels even better.
Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (Buy here)
Finally, in 2013, Pusha T released his debut solo album. My Name Is My Name started off great with the introduction ‘King Push’, which is a head nodder in any culture. When that song dropped? Man, I had to of played the song’s video about 7 times back to back. The album features solid cuts throughout, with Pusha T showing out with his superb charisma on the mic with his just as impressive bars, but you can definitely hear the label forced tracks on here. Sure as hell doesn’t sound like Pusha-T wanted to be rapping on that Kelly Rowland featured track ‘Let Me Love You’, and we were okay without having Chris Brown on ‘Sweet Serenade’. ‘Nosetalgia; seems to be a fan favorite, but honestly the track is snoozefest for me and it’s skipped until you end the album on a high note with the Pharrell assisted ‘S.N.I.T.C.H.’. With the surprising commercial success with the lack of radio singles, don’t be surprised if in 2014 we get a better product from Pusha. Hell, him and The Neptuens (Chad AND Pharrell) are hitting the studio for almost a month to record King Push. If that doesn’t excite you? You have no soul and need to start listening to bluegrass.
Skeme – Ingleworld (Buy here)
Skeme is inching closer and closer to the top ten. Ingleworld joins his 2012 release Alive & Living here on the honorable mentions list. Skeme’s flow is still one of the best in the game, as showcased on ‘Oversick’, and the more focused sound on Ingleworld was refreshing to hear, but he’s still missing something to put the full product together. I still think he needs to expand his subject matter a little bit more, and try using some less ‘trap-orientated’ beats and kicking it over some more soul inspired beats.
Terrace Martin – 3ChordFold (Buy here)
Terrace Martin had an outstanding 2012, with him producing quite a bit on Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, and in 2013 he expanded his production discography even more while also releasing his long-awaited album 3ChordFold. His album-wide concept of love and relationships was great and he had some legends provide some help and even got some unexpected results from other of the guest features. Problem & Wiz Khalifa stood out on their tracks, while Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Snoop Dogg, Robert Glasper, Musiq Soulchild, and James Fauntleroy all did damage on the tracks they were featured on. The album did drag on quite a bit, and honestly I can only take Terrace on the vocals for a little bit as his flow just doesn’t do it for me, but if he crafted an album of 13 tracks like ‘Something Else’, he’s got a full blown classic on his hands.
TGT – 3 Kings (Buy here)
If you are an R&B fan and you got news that Tyrese, Ginuwine, & Tank are creating a new album as a trio, you had to be loving your life. And the trio certainly didn’t disappoint. Their Grammy-nominated album Three Kings was eaten up by the urban adult contemporary crowd, with ‘Sex Ain’t Never Felt Better’ & ‘I Need’ tearing up the radio charts on that format. This album definitely isn’t for everybody, but if you’re an R&B lover, you NEED this.
The-Dream – IVPLAY (Buy here)
The-Dream’s fourth (1977 was a retail mixtape) solo album IVPLAY did not perform well commercially, but the album was still a very good add to his discography. As always, Terius put the album in his hands, with him writing and producing EVERY song on the album, but there were definitely some features that Def Jam added to the album that was not really needed for the album. The album’s title track was arguably the R&B track of the year, and other tracks such as ‘Michael’ and the ever so crucial ‘Yall’ really helped the album get through the what seemed like the never-ending sexual themes throughout the album. If you want a more in-depth review, check out my review of IVPLAY from earlier this year.
Yo Gotti – I Am (Buy here)
I Am was the first album in Yo Gotti’s career where it felt like his record label had the resources and believed in him enough to push it out, and Yo Gotti arguably created his best all-around project in his career. Gotti’s street tales were arguably the best of the year, with his J. Cole & Canei Finch assisted track ‘Cold Blooded’ being one of the best of the year, and of course, Gotti came through clean with his normal slappers on this one. ‘Act Right’, ‘King Shit’ & ‘LeBron James’ are all certified bangers while that Rich Homie Quan assisted track ‘I Know’ is taking over the streets right now. If you were ever interested in getting into Yo Gotti & haven’t yet, I am telling you to start here.