No album gets slept-on in 2013.
With all of the ways and means in which we consume music, there’s always material available, ready and waiting to be heard. And somebody’s hearing since artists have direct means to interact with and reach their core fans, instead of having to wait on the label to okay or a media outlet to point it out.
The flipside to the equation is that there is so much music readily available that we, as listeners, don’t always get a chance to give each project a fair shot and that’s if we even know it exists.
And that’s why we’re here.
We handpicked 13 albums – again, using the term loosely to encompass the different types of projects – whose title may have buzz across the radar but ended up being overlooked in the daily deluge of sounds, releases and updates. These clearly aren’t the only great joints we heard and we know everybody reading this article has their own inclusions they want to share, too (feel free to do so in the comments). This is just a dozen plus one that we’d suggest avid listeners spin while 2013’s still in.
Kaby – H.E.R.E.
Considering none of our incredible audience members dropped a comment on H.E.R.E. when the project premiered over the summer, take this time to educate yourself. We hadn’t heard much of anything from Kaby before the mixtape, so to inspire such intrigue on quality alone is an incredible accomplishment. Elegantly Southern – from the bayou-flavored “Eatin’ Good” to the urgent, soul-sampling “10 Yellow Bottles” – Kaby’s mixtape will throw those of us who like to keep a pulse on everything hip-hop through a loop. Don’t kick yourself for being this late to the party; just be grateful that you ever got an invite. — AJ
Cam’ron – Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1
In 2013, Cam remained arguably Hip-Hop’s funniest and most down-to-Earth personality. Yet, Killa found himself in dangerous territory musically. Several leaks (lukewarm at very best) over the years had Cam teetering on irrelevancy. That was until Ghetto Heaven crash landed this fall showcasing a rejuvenated King Jaffe Joe blending a beautiful mixture of wittiness and humor – ironically, two qualities we’ve come to associate and love about Cam for well over a decade. — Justin Tinsley
Curren$y – New Jet City
This free tape with an album feel was one of the musical home runs of the year, but it still didn’t get the plays it should have. Sounding far and away superior to the work on other recent Curren$y tapes Verde Terrace and Priest Andretti, New Jet City had not only one of the best singles of the year––the impossible-to-get-sick-of “Choosin,” featuring Rawse & Wiz––but also showcased the best performance from fellow New Orleanian Juvenile in quite awhile (“neck game be moonwalkin / wrist game be bus stoppin”). Juicy J and French Montana make solid appearances as well. Eeeaawwwwwww. Skrrrrrrrt. — Holly H.
Nacho Picasso & Avatar Darko – Vampsterdam
Nacho Picasso and Avatar Darko united for the greater good of mankind to take us to their twisted underworld of Vampsterdam. Their ear for exotic and extravagant beats goes nicely with their scummy flair, and they feed off each other’s energy for the entire project. Each song is so different from the others that they can all stand on their own, though “Vampire,” “Mad Max,” and “Kill Bill” are favorites. The best part, though, is that you can sense their camaraderie and the fun they had while making it. — Julie J.
Stalley – Honest Cowboy
Surrounded by outsized personalities and proven hitmakers, Stalley has been the black sheep of MMG since he joined the crew back in 2011. Seeking to establish his identity and reach the hearts and minds of new listeners, Stalley dropped his latest mixtape Honest Cowboy. The lead single, “Swangin’” featuring Scarface and the subwoofer soul of the Block Beattaz on production (they were behind the boards for the majority of the tape), is his best ever. Combining lush production, and an increased sense of urgency in his normally subdued delivery, Honest Cowboy was a criminally underrated project, and the most well-rounded from the blue collar Ohio emcee since Intelligent Trunk Music. — Greg Whitt
Joey Fatts – Chipper Jones Vol. 2
Remember little Anthony from Menace II Society? Imagine if he grew up to be a rapper who created a musical sequel to the movie. An artist able to paint vivid, accurate pictures of what Long Beach looked like in the here and now, at its best and worst. If any MC would be cast for Anthony’s role, rapper/producer Joey Fatts would be that guy and Chipper Jones Vol. 2 would be the work that put him on the map. — Gotty™
Prodigy & The Alchemist – Albert Einstein
The Albert Einstein album is the best Prodigy has sounded post prison stint & it’s no coincidence it’s with his longtime collaborator The Alchemist manning the boards. The proper follow up to 2007’s Return Of The Mac, AE finds Pee delivering an unrelenting barrage of violent visions abnd threats while Al paints the perfect synth heavy, darkened back drop for his co- host to get all medieval on.
Albert Einstein is return to form for Prodigy, who’s been searching to regain his lyrical footing since the last time he an ALC got together & for Al, who’s becoming increasingly prolific as of late, AE stands out as his most consistent project of 2013 and considering the quality of his output this year, that’s an accomplishment all in itself. The Dunn Lord is back. Pay homage or get beat lavender. — AmpGeez
Terrace Martin – 3ChordFold
Terrace has been dropping under-the-radar gems for years now, and 2013 was no different. 3ChordFold, in all its glory, proved to be a gorgeous melting pot of Hip-Hop, R&B and jazz, often times taking place on the same records.
The album is perfect for the drive home from work on Friday evening leaving the stresses of the work week exactly where they should, in the past. The intoxicating horns and vocals from every party involved with the project allow for replay value long after the new car smell has long since worn off. — Justin Tinsley
Casey Veggies – Life Changes
Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I expected to be here writing up a Casey Veggies project as one of the year’s better releases. Previously, he did show flourishes but hearing him put together a well-crafted whole wasn’t exactly probable. But, he did it with Life Changes, which ended up being one of my go-to listens from the time it released all the way through December. Benefiting from production by the likes of The Futuristiks, 1500 or Nothin, Cardiak and DJ Dahi, young Veggies settled into a comfortable flow and set of content that proved he’s made long strides since 2011’s Sleeping in Class. — Gotty™
World’s Fair – Bastards of the Party
Apparently it’s still cool to declare east coast rap as dead or irrelevant as if calenders can’t move past 2007. The region’s actually providing a breeding ground for exciting, new talent. World’s Fair may not be the loudest riding the scene’s wave but they’re definitely one of the best.
Bastards of the Party sees the kids from Queens proudly rep their borough. Their beat selection also sees them display some compelling flows over beats ranging from that gritty boom bap to catchy, off-kilter backdrops. The album, most importantly, sees them cultivate an unique sound among their area’s peers. — S. Cadet
Tanya Morgan – Rubber Souls
The fact Tanya Morgan’s Rubber Souls sounded familiar as family on the first spin almost certainly warranted multiple spins. Despite not dropping a proper album in years, the Brooklynatti duo came across cohesive as ever on their second LP, providing more of the everyman music their fans jam proudly. Whether taking in the uplifting “Day I” or revolt-inducing “More,” the LP carries itself more like a close confident than a hot new hip-hop album – an endearing quality that is rounded out perfectly by producer 6th Sense’s casually cool bounce from behind the boards. — BEWARE
Starlito & Don Trip – Step Brothers 2
‘Lito dropped so many projects this year keeping up tested the endurance of even his most diehard fans. Doing so was a fascinating and fulfilling experience though, but the standout proved to be his collaboration with Don Trip.
Rap’s Dale and Brennan put on a lyrical dissertation that would’ve earned them PhD’s at any doctoral program in the country from Stanford to Hampton University. — Justin Tinsley
Black Milk – No Poison, No Paradise
Black Milk’s latest recorded got caught in the deluge of October’s rap releases but can easily hang with any of those projects. Black’s in rare form with his raps throughout the record. The artist also notably pushes himself into new boundaries with his stripped back production.
The album’s fresher sounds, flows and focus at introspective content speak volumes to Black’s development as a solo artist. We would’ve been fine with another collection of bangers. Then again we’re better off for Black’s insistence to make music we can mature with. — S. Cadet