I, like many, felt like 2014 was a very disappointing year. It got off to a slow start, and the summer was full of disappointing and underwhelming albums. A big fourth quarter sort of salvaged 2014, but it still feels like the weakest year in hip hop (and music in general, to be honest) since 2008 probably.

When comparing this year’s scores to last year scores, the scores for albums around the 10-15 range were very similar, but I noticed this year’s top albums would’ve been 5-7 last year. And I think that’s the biggest disappointment about this year – there were no block busters. No Kanye, no Nas, no Kendrick.

Oh well, there’s always next year. Here’s a little breakdown on my scoring technique:

Over the past five or so years, I’ve assembled a way to calculate albums on a 1-100 scale. There are 10 categories, which I consider important aspects that a great album will have, and they are worth up to 10 points each. These categories include:

* Replay Value (How often I want to go back and listen to this album again?)
* Vocal Performance (I rate non-hip hop albums on this scale as well. This category essentially means how good is the rapping: rhyme scheme, flows, etc.)
* Production (Are the beats dope or nah?)
* Subject Matter (Is there a decent amount of topics or angles for songs on the album?)
* Songwriting (I don’t have a lyric category because good lyricism can mean many different things. For multis, punchlines and technical prowess, you get points in the Vocal Performance category. Songwriting includes structure, hooks, etc.)
* Cohesion (Do the songs flow well in order? Is there a common theme?)
* Originality (Does this album bring something different to the table?)
* Popular Influence (How did this album affect popular culture? Yes this category gives an advantage to mainstream artists, but if an album can do everything else effectively, but on a bigger scale, I believe it deserves more points than an artist who isn’t reaching many people.)
* Personal Influence (How did this album reflect my personal life in 2014?)
* Gut Reaction (How did I feel about this album the first few times I heard it?)

When you see the scores, try to refrain from the school-style of grading (ie: 90-100 = A, etc.) because it is very difficult for an album to get a perfect 10 in a category (for reference, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city received a 95 two year, which is the highest an album has ever gotten since making this system). To give you a point of reference, an album that I would give an 8.5 on the RapReviews scale would probably get around an 80 on mine. For tie breakers, I chose the album with higher Personal Influence, then Replay Value, then Popular Influence, then Gut Reaction.

Just Missed the Cut: Ugly Heroes – EP (72), Alex Wiley – Village Party (70.5), Tree – Scion AV Presents Tree EP (70), Lil Herb – Welcome to Fazoland (68.5), Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron (68.5), Your Old Droog – Your Old Droog EP (68), Rick Ross – Mastermind (68), J-Live – Around the Sun (68), Black Milk – Glitches in the Break (68), James Gardin – Moleskins and Pocket Squares (68), Stalley – OHIO (67.5)

Top 20 Rap Albums:

20. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo (72.5)
19. Diamond District – March On Washington (74)
18. Jeezy – Seen It All (74)
17. PRhyme (Royce Da 5’9″ & DJ Premier) – PRhyme (74)
16. Big Sean – Untitled EP (74.5)
15. Childish Gambino – Kaui (74.5)
14. The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (76.5)
13. Asher Roth – RetroHash (77)
12. CunninLynguists – Strange Journey Vol. 3 (76.5)
11. Black Milk – If There’s a Hell Below (78)
10. Common – Nobody’s Smiling (78)
09. Raury – Indigo Child (78.5)
08. Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait (78.5)
07. Mick Jenkins – The Water(s) (79.5)
06. Pharaohe Monch – PTSD (81.5)
05. Saba – ComfortZone (82)
04. Sage Francis – Copper Gone (82.5)
03. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata (82.5)
02. Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillacitca (83.5)
01. Run the Jewels – RTJ2 (84)

Most Disappointing Albums of the Year:

5. Grieves – Winter and the Wolves
4. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
3. Ab-Soul – These Days…
2. Wu-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow
1. Atmosphere – Southsiders

Biggest Surprise:

3. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Pinata
2. Common – Nobody’s Smiling
1. Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica

Most Slept On:

5. J-Live – Around the Sun
4. Diamond District – March on Washington
3. Asher Roth – RetroHash
2. Pharaohe Monch – PTSD
1. Sage Francis – Copper Gone

Top Rappers:

10. Vince Staples
9. Black Thought
8. Common
7. Saba
6. El-P
5. Big KRIT
4. Freddie Gibbs
3. Pharaohe Monch
2. Sage Francis
1. Killer Mike

Top Up and Comers:

10. Greenlee
9. The Green Seed
8. James Gardin
7. Your Old Droog
6. Tree
5. Isaiah Rashad
4. Mick Jenkins
3. Raury
2. Vince Staples
1. Saba

Top Producers:

10. No ID
9. Mike Will Made It
8. Oddisee
7. DJ Mustard
6. Blended Babies
5. Apollo Brown
4. Madlib
3. Big KRIT
2. El-P
1. Black Milk