4. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Very few people expected to get an album from J. Cole in 2014, but after his surprise announcement in November, fans were more than ready to hear what Jermaine had to offer. 2014 Forest Hills Drive came to us with no previously released singles and no features, & Cole showed us that he is fully capable of carrying an album by himself. Although Cole used a lot of his melodic side on this album, it still didn’t take away from his strong story-telling on tracks like ‘Wet Dreamz’. ‘Love Yourz’ is the most thought-provoking, as it gives the hopeless hope, & could become a staple of Cole’s catalog. The album features two hard-hitting tracks ‘A Tale of 2 Citiez’ & ‘Fire Squad’ that aren’t stereotypical bangers, but hit hard enough while also getting a message across. And the fact that this album sounds like nothing out might be the reason why the album is so fantastic.
3. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah
D’Angelo made the entire globe wait 14 years for his new album, but in December of 2014, he surprised everybody by releasing his third studio album out of nowhere. Black Messiah hasn’t even been out for a month yet, but it has been widely praised by practically every outlet, including a 95/100 mean score on Metacritic. The album is an experimental soul album that the world hasn’t heard since digital music came to the for-front. The album is as much of a political statement as it is a piece of work, as tones of racial awareness and romantic struggles are prevalent throughout. Needless to say, if you need a reason to listen to a D’Angelo album, there’s nothing anybody in this world can do to help you.