We’re three months into 2014, and there have been numerous rap releases you may or may not have gotten a chance to listen to. The point of this post is to highlight our favorite projects and singles that have been unveiled thus far in 2014. This feature includes albums, mixtapes, and singles released Jan 1 – March 31.
Isaiah Rashad: Cilvia
Released via Top Dawg Entertainment
The newest member of Top Dawg Entertainment has established himself in an elite place in today’s rap game with his debut mixtape, Cilvia. It’s a bit surprising that Cilvia is Isaiah Rashad‘s first mixtape, but it’s even more surprising that he was able to capture a tranquil vibe evident throughout all songs on the project as one tune transitions flawlessly to the next. This 22 year old Chattanooga, Tennessee native titled Cilvia after his first car, a 1995 Honda civic. Rashad’s southern roots are apparent stylistically in both flow and production choice as he pays homage to his southern roots on “West Savannah” with his lyrics, “Now can we fall in love while Southernplayalistic banging through the night.” Isaiah Rashad has an exemplary ability to both sing a duet alongside fellow Top Dawg member, SZA as well as spit a hard, classic no-hook rap as he does on “Soliloquy.” Rappers should be more respected when they have the ability to sing their own hooks, and this young MC is a master of the art.
YG: My Krazy Life
Released via Def Jam
Gangster rap is back, and DJ Mustard is one of the best producers right now. YG encompasses everything Compton rappers have made precedent in their music, and he doesn’t have a skippable track out of 17 on the album. Littered with over a stellar dozen features, My Krazy Life plays into the hyper-sexualism and gangster themes heavily prevalent in commercial hip hop. For example, the tune “Meet the Flockers” serves as a step by step instructional piece on how to go about pulling off a breaking & entry. Although YG doesn’t really change the game or doing anything new really, My Krazy Life brings a breath of fresh air to gangster rap with stellar production mostly by DJ Mustard. With Doggystyle in mind while crafting this album, YG has established himself as one of the crème de la crème of today’s west coast hip hop.
Freddie Gibbs/Madlib: Piñata
Released via Madlib Invazion
Remember the collaboration between M.F. Doom and Madlib that resulted in the classic album Madvilliany? Well Madlib is back at it, and with this time his luscious beats are accompanied by Freddie Gibbs on 17 tracks of smooth, gangsta rap. The diverse compatibility of Gibbs over Madlib beats is undeniable as the sample heavy, soul driven production allows Freddie Gibbs to expand his flow as inspired by the production. His “keeping it real” mentality is apparent as Gibbs tells things as they are for someone who’s been thuggin’ in Gary, Indiana. Although I don’t see this album breaking into the mainstream, Gibbs and Madlib have crafted a album that has the potential to become a timeless piece. “Thuggin'” was released in 2011, and still sounds as fresh as when it we first heard it.
Schoolboy Q: Oxymoron
Released via Top Dawg, Interscope
Schoolboy Q became a L.A. based Crip early on in his life, and battled addiction not too long afterwards. These themes are evident throughout Oxymoron, which gained it’s title from Schoolboy Q’s previous habits of doing all kinds of bad things all for the well being of his young daughter. Although several songs on this album (“Man of the Year”) will surely be some of the biggest hits this year, the album doesn’t seem to flow as well as his previous album, Habits & Contradictions. “Grooveline pt. 2” and “Fuck L.A.” are both quality tunes on the deluxe version with “Californication (ft. A$AP Rocky)” being one of the best songs of the bunch, but only available on the Target exclusive.
Rick Ross: Mastermind
Released via Maybach, Def-Jam
Rick Ross‘ sixth studio album is a mafia praising, rendition of life on the streets from eyes of this Miami based rapper. It makes sense that Rick Ross would remake Biggie’s “Nobody” due to the striking similarities between his and Notorious B.I.G.’s subject material. Although Mastermind has a handful of good songs,”Nobody,” “In Vein (ft. The Weeknd),” and “Sanctified (ft. Big Sean & Kanye West)” set themselves apart from the rest of the bunch as standout tracks.
Released via Fools Gold
100s is a Berkley, CA rapper who plays into a player/pimp persona while encompassing a classic west coast g-funk style of production. The first two tracks on Ivry are pretty good, but starting with “Fuckin Around” Ivry goes on a streak of funky, emotionless sex songs. With bay area roots, it makes sense 100s is stylistically similar to others in the area, and he seems to be most reminiscent of Too $hort and Mac Dre. 100s even sings a duet with funk R&B group, Cherub, on “Different Type of Love” that’s incredibly catchy.
Vince Staples: Shyne Goldchain Vol. 2
Vince Staples is a longtime friend of Odd Future with a handful of collaborations alongside the L.A. rap collective. The 20 year old Long Beach native seemed to solidify his presence in the rap game with his superb verse on Earl Sweatshirt‘s “Hive” last August. Vince’s interesting voice makes storytelling natural as the rapper dabbles in different production styles ranging from the dark and menacing production by Evidence & DJ Babu on “Progressive 3,” to the uplifting beat with chopped and looped vocal samples on the No I.D. produced “Turn.”
Spark Master Tape
Future featuring Pusha T & Pharrell Williams – “Move That Dope”
Que – “OG Bobby Johnson (ft. Snoop Dogg, Pusha T, & A$AP Ferg)”
Vic Mensa – “Feel That”