Welcome to 2015. You made it. I made it. Congratulations. Now, I know most of these year-end lists are done… before the end of the year, but sometimes albums might drop during that gap from say December 9th through December 31st. I remember “The Chronic” dropping sometime in December, along with some Spice 1 tunes and even one of the albums in my list. There were plenty of projects with buzz that came out last year. Some of them I heard, some of them I didn’t. So there’s no J. Cole on my list, no Nicki Minaj, no Future, no T.I. or any of that other stuff on my list. Even with the outstanding tracks from “Run The Jewels 2” that I’ve heard, I just haven’t spent enough time with it to list it here.
I did want to take the time to acknowledge and recognize a few honorable mentions before getting into the meat and potatoes of this thing.
Honorable Mentions: Signif – Friction
ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Freddie Gibbs – Pinata
Common – Nobody’s Smiling
DJ Quik – The Midnight Life
5. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
For me, the TDE artist who made the biggest impact with their album this year wasn’t SZA or ScHoolboy Q, it was Tennessee’s native son, Isaiah Rashad. Tracks like “Heavenly Father,” “RIP Kevin Miller” and the outstanding SZA-featuring “West Savannah” helped to give ‘Cilvia Demo’ enough of an edge to be one of the first standout projects of 2014. I’m confident that TDE will put the right people around this kid and allow him to continue to flourish.
4. Theophilus London – Vibes
For the past few years, Theophilus London has been bubbling underneath the surface of the mainstream and carving his own niche of hip-hop that pulls from all sorts of influences like pop, electro, dancehall and R&B. On his second album, London looked to Kanye West to helm the project as the executive producer. The result is a more emotional and at times ostentatious offering, but that’s the kind of shit that Kanye brings out of you. It’s welcomed. “Can’t Stop” and Neu Law” (a cover of Tom Maus’ “The Law”) are standout tracks here.
3. Jeezy – Seen It All
I’m not sure if that “weapons arrest” just before Jeezy’s ‘Seen It All’ was a publicity stunt or not but it certainly helped the album’s buzz. It wasn’t as if the Snowman’s seventh full length album needed the extra attention. Hits like the title track, “4 Zones,” “No Tears” and even “Beautiful” with formal rival Rick Ross all help to make the LP another successful session of thug motivation that every hustler needs to have in his or her collection.
2. Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons
This album hit stores on December 9th. I picked it up a week later… at a coffeeshop of all places. One could look at it as an unofficial sequel to ’12 Reasons to Die,’ but it tells a different story throughout the course of the album. After being away for nine years (36 seasons… get it?), Ghost is back but finds that his world is nothing like he left it. He tries to make things right but finds himself being shunned by his former lover, double crossed by his homeboy who has become a police officer and chemically attacked. Will GFK survive. Of course he does. He’s GFK, dummy. Coming along for the ride are Kool G. Rap, AZ, Shawn Wigs, Pharaohe Monch and a cast of others. Crazy replay value here. Pick it up.
1. Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
The pressure was on. Second time out. No excuses this go round. The sour taste that ‘Live From the Underground’ left in the mouth of some was long gone and Krizzle delivered a winner… at least in the eyes of critics such as myself. A few months ago, I wrote: “Cadillactica was more than just a sophomore album for Big K.R.I.T. — it was about redemption and proving to himself and critics that he could put together a complete and stellar album on his own terms. Many worry that the Cadillactica theme might go over the heads of some and alienate fans but rest assured, at the core of it all, there’s still the 808 bang, jazzy, soulful music and the same Big K.R.I.T. that so many have come to know, respect and love.” I still feel the same.