2012 was one of the most interesting years for music in a very long time. It saw the rise of perhaps the best lyricist in modern rap in Kendrick Lamar, Fun.'s rousing and inspirational anthems, a foreign invasion of the Billboard 100 by the likes of Gotye and One Direction, and the viral smash hits "Gagnam Style" and "Call Me Maybe". While 2012 may have been an interesting year, 2013 has been a truly incredible one. I personally can't recall a year in which so many quality albums and mixtapes released over a 12-month span. There was constantly something to listen to and always something to enjoy. So without further ado, the ranking of the top 40 albums, mixtapes, and EPs of 2013, according to this blogger.
40. YOUNG CHOP - PRECIOUS
Young Chop, the Chicago based producer who has worked with the likes of Chief Keef, Kanye West, Big Sean and Travis Scott, released his debut album this year. He, as you might expect, handled all the production, and the tape includes features from Johnny May Cash (one of Chop's own artists), Fat Trel and Juicy J. It has some of the best trap beats of the year, and should be given a listed based on the instrumentals alone.
39. TAMAR BRAXTON - LOVE AND WAR
The breakout star of WE's "Braxton Family Values" followed in her sister Toni's footsteps and started singing. What resulted is a lovely mix of old-fashioned R&B with new school flavor. Because of some of her music being poppy, the sheer quality of her voice is overlooked sometimes and that's a shame. She's a very good singer and it shows on this album, especially on some of the slower songs.
38. TRINIDAD JAMES - 10 PC MILD
Many wondered if Atlanta rapper Trinidad James would ever again live up to the success of his smash single "All Gold Everything" from 2012. While this mixtape doesn't have a hit like that, what it does have is a load of impressive features (Rich Homie Quan, Childish Gambino, Gucci Mane) and it shows growth as an artist. Plus, James' beat selection is nearly unrivaled.
37. RAPSODY - SHE GOT GAME
It took me a while to get into Rapsody, and this mixtape certified me as a fan of hers. She's undeniably one of the most gifted female lyricists in rap, but her songs never really stuck with me until this mixtape. The songs are heartfelt and the lyrics are clever. Plus it has a Jay Electronica feature, which is rarer than finding 2 four leaf clovers in the same day.
36. CHUUWEE - HEAR NO EQUAL
After 2012 s Wild Style, Sacramento rapper Chuuwee decided to release this compilation mixtape of songs spanning his entire career. All of the songs show his lyrical ability, which is surprisingly high for someone of such a young age, but you really get a feel for how he's grown over the last few years. The ones from the last two years are especially good, and are among the top played in my iTunes.
35. SUPASTITION - THE BLACKBOARD EP
This album made the list based on how smart it is. It's true, honest hip hop straight from a veteran rapper, something the game has lacked in the last few years. I randomly came across the tape a few months ago, and it's been in rotation ever since. It's short, only eight songs, but well worth a listen.
34. RICH HOMIE QUAN - STILL GOIN IN RELOADED
What Future was to 2012, Rich Homie Quan was to 2013. The endless similarities between the two even go as far as the both of them being from the same part of the same city. "Some Type of Way" is a certified smash, and it's on this mixtape. What's also on this mixtape are songs like Some Type of Way, and really, what else can you ask for?
33. JUICY J - STAY TRIPPY
Juicy J. Member of the infamous 3 6 Mafia, Oscar award winner and one of the consensus coolest people on the face of the Earth. His effort for 2o13 is Stay Trippy, a love letter to the trap genre. This album is some of the most fun I've ever had as a listener, ever. If you like anything with bass and no contribution to society whatsoever, this album is for you.
32. CALEZ - TOO BROKE TAPE
Chicago's rap scene is so expansive that it could be its own genre. It has as many crews and collectives as some entire coasts (Save Money, GBE, 2008ighties, etc.) One of those crews that unfortunately gets overlooked is the 2008ighties. They always release quality projects and this one is no different. Yes, it is a mixtape, but it's a concept mixtape (a concept you can probably deduce from the title), and Calez really takes you into his world with it.
31. VIC MENSA - INNANETAPE
Speaking of Chicago, this tape comes from another Chicago rapper in Vic Mensa. I didn't like this tape at first, but after a third listen I came around on it. It's a fun listen, most of the songs on it are whimsical in nature and humorous. Mensa has a knack for making the most mundane of subject matter enjoyable, and that's evident on this mixtape.
30. LORDE - PURE HEROINE
A 17 year old from New Zealand might not be expected to take over the Billboard Hot 100, but that's exactly what happened for Lorde in 2013. Her smash hit "Royals" was one of the biggest songs of the year, and it is on her debut album. Once you get past "Royals", there's a lot more to be enjoyed here, as her eclectic taken on the pop genre is sure to spark your interest.
29. DANNY BROWN - OLD
Danny Brown is best described as "eccentric", and this album is no exception. What seems on the surface to be EDM-fueled, party-influenced rap is much more when examined, and it quickly becomes clear that Danny has a lot to say on this project. Much like last year's XXX, this album gives a candid and introspective view into a troubled yet talented artist.
28. LOGIC - YOUNG SINATRA: WELCOME TO FOREVER
As a Maryland resident, I had always been a fan of Logic ever since hearing about his very first mixtape, Young, Broke, and Infamous, and waited for the day that he would see some recognition from the rest of the country. In 2013, Logic had what could be considered the biggest year of his career to date, as he signed with a major label and was named one of XXL's "Freshmen of the Year". This mixtape builds onto a solid catalog of impressive efforts, and is a can't miss for any fan of lyrical hip-hop.
27. FUTURE - FBG: THE MOVIE
Future continued to establish himself as one of the most sought after acts in rap in 2013, appearing on an almost impossible amount of features and guest spots on other rappers' songs, many of which were hits. But to know Future is to know that he is most at home, and at his best, on his own work. This mixtape shows that, and it also displays many of the other members of Freebandz (Future's kinda-record-label-but-not-really). It's always a fun listen, even to individual songs.
26. ASHER ROTH - THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT VOLUME 2
Asher Roth disappeared from the minds of most hip hop fans for a few years after attaining mainstream success with "I Love College". He fine-tuned his craft over those years and became a much more well rounded lyricist, and the result is this mixtape. It is a mixtape in the truest sense of the word, as most of the songs are freestyles over popular beats. With features from all around the world of music (Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, King Mez), Asher releases yet another impressive project.
25. ASAP FERG - TRAP LORD
The ASAP Mob was long criticized for being hangers-on to the popularity and talent of ASAP Rocky. That all changed in 2013. ASAP Ferg had two of the biggest hits in hip-hop this year: "Work" and "Shabba", both of which are on Trap Lord. Ferg has an original style that mixes humor with old-fashioned lyrical ability, and most of the songs on this album show it.
24. BIG KRIT - KING REMEMBERED IN TIME
I've been a long-time fan of Big KRIT's. He makes the type of music that reminds you of early, ATLiens-era Outkast, which in this day and age is refreshing. This mixtape is more of that, as lush southern beats and raps about cars rule the day. KRIT is notorious for his smooth and effortless delivery, making the tape perfect for everything from cruising on a Sunday afternoon to partying on Saturday nights.
23. THE INTERNET - FEEL GOOD
Odd Future is known for having many different members who make different kinds of music. Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt are lyrical rappers, Mike G and Domo Genesis specialize in more psychedelic affairs and Frank Ocean and The Internet make R&B. The latter released Feel Good in 2013, an album that shows sonic development over their debut, Purple Naked Ladies. If you're into intimately produced, smart R&B, this album is for you.
22. J. COLE - BORN SINNER
The review for J. Cole's Born Sinner can be found .
21. TRAVIS SCOTT - OWL PHARAOH
Travis Scott had been a rising star as a producer for a few years, with his beats (or influence in some cases) appearing on albums like Cruel Summer. He released his long-awaited debut mixtape this year, on which he produced every song. His lyricism leaves much to be desired on certain songs, but the production on this tape simply must be experienced. I found myself listening to this mixtape time and time again over the course of the year.
20. ROBB BANKS - THA CITY
Robb Banks has perhaps the most interesting background story of any rapper out. He's actually reggae legend Shaggy's son, but his music is nothing like anything his father would have ever made. He blends a mix of 90s and early 2000s pop culture references (mostly to anime and manga, but they vary) and traditional trap, which makes for an interesting but satisfying listening experience. Plus, anyone who can reference Pokemon, Dragonball Z and UGK in the same song and make it work is a winner in my book.
19. ASAP ROCKY - LONG LIVE ASAP
This album leaked in late 2012, so a lot of people forgot about it over the course of last year. That's a shame because it's really one of the best rap albums to come out in quite some time. Rocky had a nice project in Live Love ASAP, but this album shows a tremendous amount of growth. He picks beats that fit his style, all of the features complement him (and in the case of "1 Train", one another), and everything sounds fresh and original.
18. ACTION BRONSON - BLUE CHIPS 2
I haven't listened to an Action Bronson mixtape or EP that I haven't enjoyed yet, and Blue Chips 2 is no different. His second collaborative effort with producer Party Supplies sees Bronson mix in his trademark humor and Ghostface-esque delivery. The production is some of the best I've ever heard in rap, as Party Supplies is able to make beats out of some of the most bizzare samples ever acquired. If you want good old fashioned braggadocios New York hip-hop, this tape is for you.
17. TYLER, THE CREATOR - WOLF
Tyler, The Creator didn't stir up as much controversy in 2013 as he has in the past, but he did release another great album. With many of the songs self-produced, it is interesting to see the obvious jazz influence that continues to permeate his music when you consider the things that he raps about. This is a much tamer album than Bastard or Goblin, but it is also a much more coherent and complete one. Tyler tells a story here, and he does it through a series of great, introspective songs.
16. PUSHA T - MY NAME IS MY NAME
While I've been a fan of Pusha T since his days with the Clipse, it took a while for this album to grow on me. At first listen, it sounded like a bunch of songs hastily put together to meet a label's deadline, but as I listened to it more and more I realized that it was a concerted effort to appeal to a varied group of listeners. This is something that Pusha's never done before, and I applaud him for taking that kind of risk with a major studio album. One of the best songs of 2013 is on this album, "Nosetalgia", which features Kendrick Lamar.
15. JHENE AIKO - SAIL OUT
2013 was without a doubt Jhene Aiko's breakout year. The west coast songstress had features on two of the best albums of the year ("From Time" on Drake's Nothing Was The Same and "Pink Toes" on Childish Gambino's Because the Internet), and began to draw more attention to what she had coming on her own. Then came the Sail Out EP, and her star skyrocketed. If you hadn't heard of her before, you did when this dropped, and for good reason. She is a talented and emotional singer, and her songs are some of the most genuine and heartfelt out.
14. LADY GAGA - ARTPOP
Lady Gaga's year is best described as tumultuous. A broken hip caused her to cancel her world tour in March (and left her unable to walk until June), she released Artpop which didn't sell as well as she had hoped initially, and then she ended the year on a PR tear, appearing on seemingly every talk show in North America, and performing with Christina Aguilera on The Voice. It's really a shame that this album didn't sell like Born This Way did, because in my opinion, it's just as good. Gaga's music will always be polarizing, but one thing is for sure, she'll try her hardest to be entertaining.
13. JANELLE MONAE - THE ELECTRIC LADY
I had always considered myself a fan of Janelle Monae's music, but this album made her one my favorite active singers . She manages to include songs that will make you get up and dance until you pass out, and songs that will make you cry until you don't have tears left to give. Plus, the features on this album read like a Neo-Soul hall of fame. Miguel, Erykah Badu, Solange Knowles, Esperanza Spalding, and even Prince. Yeah, Prince.
12. DAFT PUNK - RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES
"Funky" probably is one of the last words you'd ever think to use to describe a Daft Punk album. Yet it is the perfect adjective to place on Random Access Memories, the duo's brilliant 2013 effort. It is essentially a take on 70 s pop and funk, done in traditional DP style. It manages to maintain all of the expected elements of a Daft Punk album, yet sound like something new and fresh entirely. And I know you're probably all sick of hearing it, but it goes without saying that "Get Lucky" is one of the biggest songs of the year.
11. DOM KENNEDY - GET HOME SAFELY
Dom Kennedy hasn't had a big radio single or performed on an award show yet, but he's managed to gain quite an impressive following and fanbase over the last few years. He isn't the most technical rapper, but what he does well is make feel-good music, music that you want to drive to, or listen to on the way to a party. It's pretty safe to say that he's the best in the game right now at doing that, and this album is concrete proof.Dom is funny, he picks incredible beats, and his confidence on the mic is unmatched. What more could you want?
10. MIGOS - YRN
If there was one word to describe rap in 2013, it would simply be "Versace". Who knew that a simple ode to an Italian clothing label would kickstart the career of perhaps the best trap rappers on the planet? The Migos had been gaining local traction in Atlanta and the South with YRN, but when Drake jumped on the remix to "Versace", the trio exploded into the headphones of nearly every rap fan in the country. Of course, there's much more than just "Versace" on this mixtape, and once you hear some of the other tracks on it, you might even forget about it all together. It's that good.
9. MAC MILLER - WATCHING MOVIES WITH THE SOUND OFF
The review for Mac Miller's Watching Movies with the Sound Off can be found .
8. PARTYNEXTDOOR - PARTYNEXTDOOR
Take the Weeknd. Now make him a better singer, give him a bit more variation in subject matter, and you have Partynextdoor. The young Canadian is signed with Drake's "OVO" label (much like The Weeknd until the two had a falling out early in 2013), and is in many ways the perfect complement to his boss' sound. As Drake begins to deviate more into a standard rap role, PND is the singer that can take his place. This 10 song mixtape literally does not have a bad song on it, and I had a hard time not listening to it start-to-finish every time I gave it a spin.
7. JAY-Z - MAGNA CARTA HOLY GRAIL
After a 2 week hype machine, Jay Z released his latest studio album on Independence Day 2013 exclusively on Samsung devices, sending social media into a frenzy. Having everyone listen to the album at the exact same time created one of the most memorable moments of 2013. Marketing aside, Jay came out with his best solo album since American Gangster. Here we see Jay at his happiest, a new father brimming with opulence and optimism. Fun Jay Z is usually the second best Jay Z (aside from hungry Jay Z who, let's be honest, are we ever going to get again?), and this album shows that.
6. DRAKE - NOTHING WAS THE SAME
I should probably start off by saying that this album is, in my opinion, not as good as Take Care. That's not a knock on Drake by any means, because if it was as good, it would probably be number one on this list. That said, NWTS is an excellent album. It doesn't take many risks, which is fine because the Drake formula is so solid. He's gonna rap, he's gonna sing, and he's gonna do both better at the same time than a lot of people do alone. You know what you're getting out of Drake at this point, and you know it's going to be quality.
5. CHILDISH GAMBINO - BECAUSE THE INTERNET
Because The Internet is more than an album. No, that's not from some overly pretentious press release, it's a fact. Donald Glover (Gambino's real name, and name he uses as an actor on things like Community) released an accompanying script to go alongside the music. You might say "that's cool and everything, but how's the music?", which is a valid question. The answer is that it's the best Childish Gambino has ever been, and considering his past projects, that's really saying something. The lyricism is on point, the production is on point, and it all seamlessly ties into the aforementioned story so well that you think you're listening to a film at certain points.
4. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE - THE 20/20 EXPERIENCE (PART 1 ONLY)
The review for Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience can be found .
3. BEYONCE - BEYONCE
Friday, December 13th, 2013 is a day that will live in infamy. At exactly the stroke of midnight, Beyonce released a 14 song album (with full videos for each and every single song, plus a couple extra) literally out of thin air. No rumors had been started beforehand, the album never leaked, no one had heard of it or about it prior to the same moment that literally everyone else had. After everyone had gotten over the shock of what had just happened, they took a moment to sit down and listen to (or watch) the album. And they realized that this was something special. Beyonce isn't just the best pop album of 2013, or the best R&B album of 2013, it is the best pop album of the last 5 years.
2. KANYE WEST - YEEZUS
The review of Kanye West's Yeezus can be found .
1. CHANCE THE RAPPER - ACID RAP
The review for Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap can be found .