2014 was a year of tremendous releases. Big names delivered discussion-worthy records, while newcomers provided some shock and awe. Collaborations, independent releases, last minute tapes; it’s all represented here for your bitching and whining. Feel free to comment below and let me know how you feel. I’m looking forward to a fun 2015, full of posts here on Shiny Glass Houses, as well as through Mishka NYC. Check out my work on their Bloglin here. As always thanks for the traffic, I truly appreciate it. Enjoy my twenty best hip hop records/releases of 2015. Cheers.
1. Stalley: Ohio- The theme for this year’s list is ‘staying true’, and no one did that better than Massillon Ohio’s Stalley. For the past few years he’s paid dues and kept his head up while his entire MMG family ate and ate and ate. Ohio is a record that speaks to Stalley’s perseverance and patience, and the ends completely justify the means. It’s the album Stalley fans are happy to have waited for. No compromise, no wasted space. #BCG
2. Run The Jewels: 2- El-P and Killer Mike returned as Run The Jewels with a sick vendetta in 2014. They aimed and fired at each and every sucker MC. No retreat, no regret. If you’re looking for a record that defies every single tried and true hip hop formula, this is it. Shout out to Zach de la Rocha for rising from the ashes and crushing his verse on “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”.
3. Your Old Droog- Self Titled- 2014’s most polarizing story is that of Your Old Droog. The Coney Island MC had the internet ablaze with debate and skepticism surrounding his identity, pitch control, and just how bored Nas had become with the game. Turns out Droog is a 25 year old student of hip hop, who put together one of the most solid, nuanced, and grimy recordings of the year. My heart tells me this is just the first of many bangers from one of rap’s most powerful newcomers.
4. Atmosphere: Southsiders- Atmosphere made the best record of their career with Southsiders. There’s not one second of let up throughout, with Slug delivering his trademark Twin City musings over Ant’s flawless production. It’s a record that delivers on the strength of emotional investment and high quality creative risks. Total class from end to end.
5. Ratking: So It Goes- Ratking is the electric voice of NYC’s youth. So It Goes plays like a frantic city day in the summer full of blunt smoke, paint cans, and foamy, half-swigged Colt 45’s. Unconventional and utterly chaotic, it’s the best debut I’ve heard in a long, long time.
6. Kevin Gates: By Any Means- Kevin Gates creates art with a focus that’s second to none. His no-bullshit flow draws you in and begs you to see the world through his cinematic sights. Gates is easily my favorite discovery of 2014. Whether you’re riding in a 6 Series or a minivan, it’s hard not to thug when you’re knee deep in his world.
7. J. Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive- A few YouTube previews popped up, then the blogs got buzzing, and all of a sudden we had J. Cole’s newest full length record. His approach this time? Straight up selfishness. He made an exact record for this particular moment in his life. Cold verses and rock solid production; more clear and evident proof that J. Cole is at the very top of this new crop of quality MC’s.
8. Ghostface Killah 36 Seasons- Ghost’s solo release dwarfs the calculated mess his crew unveiled a few weeks back. 36 Seasons is Marvel comic brought to life, pulsing with grimy and heartfelt tales from the Staten Island streets. Ghost’s grizzled cadence is like a fine wine. He can put out a record a year until he’s 80, and it’s always got a place on this list.
9. Giant Gorilla Dog Thing: Horse- Albany, NY’s finest put the finishing touches on Horse back in March, and I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been on steady rotation ever since. Real talk, Dood Computer and Dezmatic can go bar for bar with each and every rapper on this list. Get your hands on this record ASAP, play it loud, and get your beard game up.
10. Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron- While the world focused on suction-cupping itself to Kendrick’s balls…I was busy vibing out heavy to the life and times of LA’s true bad boy, Schoolboy Q. Oxymoron is part boast, part confessional; the true Hollywood story of blue rags to riches. An instant west coast classic.
11. Prhyme: Self Titled- This one is a no-brainer. Royce is one of the heaviest hitters in rap, stacking up punchlines and metaphors like a boxer lining up the kill shot and Premier doesn’t know the definition of half-stepping. Together, they rock the new-era like it’s the height of the golden age. Pure beats and rhymes. If you can’t appreciate this, you probably have Migos on your year-end list.
12. AJ Suede: Gold and Fire- Harlem representative AJ Suede’s Gold and Fire is the type of record that makes me proud to call myself a fan of hip hop. DIY from the beats to the stunning accompanying visuals, Suede is recording and releasing some of the most forward thinking work on the internet. Been a fan of his for many years, and he’s only getting started.
13. Kavyy: #KavyyGottaEat- Harlem’s on the rise. If I said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times… my man Kavyy is destined for big things. Step into his world, and witness a young stunner doing what he does. There’s a few DIY artists I’ve been riding with since day one, and Kavyy fits the bill. He loves what he does, and I fuck with it. Heavy.
14. Tunji Ige- The Love Project- Tunji’s debut is testament to his love for songwriting. He’s young, gifted, and bubbling over with ideas. Limitless on the mic and behind the boards, Ige is dual threat; a voice that will certainly make waves in 2015.
15. Zachg: South Florida Mountains- Zachg is a rare breed…a one of a kind rapper/producer/dancer who feels zero pressure when compiling a project. South Florida Mountains is a concept all to its own. Zach spins tales of life and love for hip hop unlike any other musician on earth. Flying high, doing it on his own dime and schedule, Zachg is a sure fire talent in a super saturated game.
16. Diamond District: March On Washington- Mello Music Group’s Diamond District is the DC Voltron of Oddisee, yU, and X.O. Their March On Washington project dusts off the tried and true formula of boombap, samples, and dense lyricism. It’s a record that balances good looks and brains; the type of album you bring home to mama. All around superb sounds.
17. Mac Miller: Faces- Mac Miller has shown real growth with each release. Faces is his time to shine. He’s got some cash in the bank, hefty credibility in the game, and a rolled up twenty to put to the plate. Even in the center of a whirlwind party he’s got sense enough to root his sound in the textures of jazz-rap icons A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Little Malcolm is truly on the come up.
18. Wale: Festivus- A late addition to the list, Festivus is here strictly on the promise of what’s coming next. Wale is back on his rapping shit. Known once as maybe the most promising young MC in America, Wale jumps all over these 11 tracks to plant his flag once again. It’s more about nothing, and entirely entertaining.
19. Swag Toof: Evans Gate EP- Harlem’s adopted children continue to creep out the game. There’s not a fuck to be given on this 9-song affair produced entirely by Ryan Evans. The Toof Gang bring me back to the heyday of horror-core. Try not to fiend for the Gravediggaz after spinning this one. Shout out Ouija and Choirboy for the pool ball merch connect.
20. Aaron Cohen: You Wouldn’t Know EP- Aaron Cohen’s steady rise has been impressive to witness. From the jump I’ve been quietly moved by his nonchalance, and that silent assassin mentality powers him through You Wouldn’t Know. Paired with some dope visuals, Cohen’s punchlines stand and deliver. Another newcomer who has barely scratched the surface.
–There you have it. I’m sure I missed a few bangers, and passed on some critics favorites, but that’s life. Please comment below. Post your top twenty. Or ten. Or three. Happy new year, and thanks again for rocking with me for the last 12 months. See you in 2015.