Best Hip Hop of 2014

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.


Foo Fighters: Same Colour, Different Shape

Sonic Highways is an ambitious, gratuitous, cheeky chess move from Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters front man with sure fire ants in his pants.  It’s an audio/visual testament preserving the sights and sounds of American rock and roll roots, and on some levels it’s a monumental piece of art.

The record and accompanying television series, though virtually the same in finished product, end up drastically divided. The band takes you on a ride from Chicago to DC, LA to NY, and everywhere in between. Still heroic and massive, the Foo Fighters are one of those rare juggernauts that simply get better over time. But the album and the show seem only to work in unison.

The HBO show is a vibrant success from opening sequence to closing credits. The eight part series chronicles the cities inhabited by the band while writing and recording the final tracks, illustrating the stylized road map that Grohl had in mind. The episodes are mini-documentaries full of raw sentiment and expert editing; a heaping plate of nostalgia piled high for audiophiles to devour. It’s worth watching, more than once.

The record does little to stand on its own. The songs take shape while shifting between sections both punishing and painstakingly sequenced. Super producer Butch Vig reaches deep into his bag to deliver a clean, powerful eight tracks. But it’s hard not to compare the finished product to the super pop of Foo Fighters past. Watching the show will help you appreciate the reach of each and every lyric, but a first listen without the HBO companion may have you chuckling at Grohl’s gut wrenching sentiment.

Sonic Highways may be a first of its kind.  It’s a history lesson captured in one glimmering collection of sights, sounds, and confessions from some of musics most intricate minds courtesy of Dave Grohl, rock and roll’s sleaziest politician. We love him for it, and why wouldn’t we? We do it bigger and better in America, and the Foo Fighters figured that out decades ago. Our hero.

Tunji Ige- The Love Project

Tunji Ige is hip hop’s newest dual threat. He raps and sings. Produces and mixes. Writes and records. His talent is undeniable in a dangerously saturated scene that promises a new digital golden child on a daily basis.

Ige creates with a poise and maturity far beyond his 19 years. Upon first listen his music appears boundless, and that ambition is exactly why his debut, The Love Project, is both a gift and a curse. Even attempting to categorize this record is where most writers will falter. It’s all over the place; feeling entirely vulnerable yet staggeringly calculated. Musically, he’s at his best when the songs are given a chance to roam, and at his most contrived when harping on the ills of being young and caught up in the rat race.

Great art gives audiences the chills. The Love Project is packed with those tingling moments where age, innocence, and bravado simultaneously splatter the canvas making it impossible to predict how far his talents can take him.


J. Cole: 2014 Forest Hills Drive

J. Cole found his mode. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a snapshot of total exposure, regardless of the response it may garner from the casual fan. J. Cole isn’t turning up. He isn’t in the trap. He doesn’t care about what to do on a Tuesday. He’s steadied the flow, laced his confessionals with a healthy dose of piano keys, and dabbled in the realm of sing-songy hooks. None of this should wow you, and in that familiarity lies the beauty in Cole’s latest and greatest effort.

Contradictory bravado fuels “Fire Squad” and “G.O.M.D”, but when you dial in it’s far easier to hear an artist in tune with the realities of his world. He keeps a weary eye on social media, and clearly has a nonchalant bone to pick with his pale contemporaries who have crept in to capture those annual golden statues. Cole understands there’s a microscope aimed at his notepad, and he’s quick to dismiss his observations as jokes. Jokes aside, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is both an artistic milestone and a new creative bar set by today’s most captivating story teller.

AJ Suede Shines On ‘Gold And Fire”

It felt as though AJ Suede was dormant the past few years. Then a string of 6 new videos popped up late last spring, proving the Harlem by way of PA emcee was simply tucked away diligently working on the follow up to Gold and Water.  Patience and persistence pays, as Gold and Fire is one of the best independent releases of the year.

Suede produced the entire record allowing for the space needed to create his digital world. Gold and Fire is layered with trademark blasts of the FREEMINDS Collective, which leans on the heavily bridged gap between the audio and visual worlds. Gold and Fire is the 2nd record in a 4-part series, each inspired by a different style of production.  It’s crystal clear that this is a focused affair; no filler, no time wasted, no bullshit.  Straight fire.

Fat White Family’s Champagne Holocaust

London’s Fat White Family plays punk rock, but it’s not the frantic, pants shitting racket I spent years studying and loving to death. The Family brings a calculation and tongue-in-cheek snide to their craft that leaves you spinning their new record, Champagne Holocaust, over and over in a feeble attempt to figure it the fuck out. Good luck.

The record opens with the fuzzy “Auto Neuron” and nervously slides into “Is It Raining In Your Mouth?”, the classiest blowjob anthem I’ve ever heard.  And like all great punk front men, Lias Saoudi sounds like a hot mess. He’s pure chem trails and whiskey sweat. Champagne Holocaust feels like that first staggering morning after step; the terrifying search for your phone and wallet leading you to the realization that all lucid recognition gave way somewhere near midnight.

There’s more than meets the eye with Fat White Family.  This eleven song affair is only the first booze-soaked chapter of what will surely be a career full of wild naked stage parties and gorgeous missteps. I’m in. Grab Champagne Holocaust here, and enjoy your Saturday night.