Admittedly, 2013 was all about beats and rhymes. There were plenty of anticipated records, and some delivered. Others swung and missed. I even heard Kanye put out a new one. Overall, 2013 was a winning season for rap. The east coast roared back into first place while Kendrick tried to “Control” his way at the top. Hopefully, we’re in for another banner 365 days in 2014. These twenty albums aren’t in any particular order. Enjoy.
Childish Gambino- Because the Internet: I love it when a rapper (slash actor, slash comedian, slash writer) can harness the shit storm between their ears and make honest (and somewhat delusional) art. It’s part sunshine part Paxil, and that frailty is what makes it one of my favorites of 2013.
J. Cole- Born Sinner: The Prince of the Roc put his cards on the table for his sophomore release. Amidst the standard rapper boasts you’ll find a young man struggling to make sense of fame and faith simultaneously. It’s packed with singles, without sounding overly hooky. Cole’s also starting to put the pieces together as his own producer.
Danny Brown- Old: Love him or hate him, Old is a phenomenal album. Split it down the middle and you have the sound that elevated him to cult status, juxtaposed with a more grounded Danny who seems weathered from the non-stop party. A rush from end to end that manages to stay in rotation.
Action Bronson & Party Supplies- Blue Chips 2: The weird duo of Queens bred Bronsolino and Brooklyn producer Party Supplies came with another batch of sample-heavy, head scratching hilarity. I’ll be damned if Bronson’s stock isn’t rising with each release. Pee Wee Herman fans immediately cracked a smile three minutes into this one. Bonafied classic.
Chance The Rapper- Acid Rap: Chance likes acid…acid likes Chance, and the rest is history. Maybe the most creative music this side of Andre 3000’s The Love Below. It’s an intimate glance into the mind of a young musician on the rise to stardom. One of the many impressive records to come out of Chicago this year.
Run The Jewels- S/T: El-P and Killer Mike are the odd couple of hip-hop. Heavyweights in their own right, their combination of skill and technical prowess made this one a marvel to hear for the first time. It’s a headphones record that dares you to ignore it. The minute you look away, your chain and Bel Air 5’s vanish into the night.
R.A. The Rugged Man- Legends Never Die: He doesn’t care what you think. In fact, R.A. wants you to talk shit. Legends Never Die runs circles around your favorite mixtape. Largely ignored by critics, but alive in the subways and barber shops, R.A. proved that he might be contained now again, but he can’t be stopped.
Western Tink and Beautiful Lou- Mobbin’ No Sobbin’: This duo’s mantra became one of my favorite records of the year. Tink raps like a Texas legend over high-end spaced out production from Lou, epitomizing the blue collar ethos that hip-hop has embodied the last few years. It’s dark and moody, but still a celebration of being young and cool as fuck.
A$AP Rocky- Long. Live. A$AP: He raps like he’s from Houston. He looks like he’s from the pages of a high fashion magazine. He balances soft core and thug with a delicate flair that’s somehow believably masculine. It shouldn’t work…but it does. This album’s misses are more impressive than some of the years “bangers”. Long live ASAP.
Deniro Farrar- The Patriarch II: The self-proclaimed leader of cult rap changed the way I heard hip-hop in 2013. Deniro is rapping out of sheer necessity, which makes you step back and take stock. He’s angry enough to shout it out, but calculated enough to pick his spots for maximum effect. There’s a few mixtapes that moved me this year, The Patriarch II’s a stunner.
ShowYouSuck- Dude Bro: It’s hard not to root for Chicago’s ShowYouSuck. His releases chronicle the knowledge gained in the business of rap, and each is more impressive than the last. Dude Bro is a delirious romp around the town through the eyes of a guy who’s having more fun doing the dishes than you and I have at Space Mountain. PMA might be contagious…bro.
Mac Miller- Watching Movies With The Sound Off: Mac Miller’s rise has been met with plenty of naysayers praying for his downfall. Impressively, he’s succeeding on the strength of him and his team. This one is jittery and uneasy like the man himself. Far from a masterpiece, but miles away from a blue slide in a Pittsburgh park.
Czarface- S/T: 7L, Esoteric and Inspectah Deck put their heads together and cooked up one of the gnarliest records of the year. Dead serious boom bap, bottom line. If you still wear Timbs, don’t agree with singing in your raps, and haven’t heard this…you’re fucking up.
Pusha T- My Name Is My Name: I rap like it’s my job when “Nosetalgia” cues up. Pusha balances drug rap with slick Kanye flavored nonsense from beginning to end, blurring the lines between genres. The delays were worth the wait.
Retch- Polo Sporting Goods: Jersey newcomer Retch sounds like the third member of Mobb Deep. Reminds me of The Alchemist on the boards. Roc Marciano meets Prodigy meets dice outside the chicken spot. Toss in a few features for good measure and you’ve got one of the most slept on tapes of 2013.
Vic Mensa- INNANETAPE: While the world got crazy on Chance, his pal Vic Mensa dropped a stellar project full of wild word play and dizzying beats. What strikes me is his ability to craft songs not verses. Vic raps like he’s looking for a championship belt, and if he keeps it moving like this…he’s next in line for a title shot.
Ugly Heroes- S/T: Ugly Heroes makes music for people who work, and fight, and love, and struggle. It’s not perfect, but then again neither is the world we live in. Their straight forward style will have you dusting off your G. Rap records. Old heads rejoice.
Auggie The 9th- GAWS: Chicago does it again. Auggie spared no cost turning GAWS into something you can feel. There’s no filler here, even the interludes make you smile. He’s come a long way from a feature on ShowYouSuck’s “Hunter Hearst Helmsley”, but it’s still all about homies helping homies.
Roc Marciano- Marci Beaucoup: Samples bring Roc Marciano’s instrumentals to life. He’s emerging as an MC that can also handle the duties on the boards. Marci Beaucoup is a dialed back affair that pulses like the traffic lights of the streets you roam.
Joint Chiefs: Sortahuman x K.E.V.O.R.K.I.A.N- My Cousin Vinny 2: Alabama met The Bay when Sortahuman and K.E.V. collided for My Cousin Vinny 2. The raps are stoney and clever, while the sounds span coast to coast. It’s an ambitious project fueled by the flexibility of social media.——-
Thanks for reading and supporting Shiny Glass Houses. Follow on twitter @shinyglasshouse and leave a comment to share your thoughts. Stay tuned for more music, ranting and raving, and other assorted nonsense in 2014.