2013 was a great year for hip-hop albums and with strong releases like YG's 'My Krazy Life,' and Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's 'Piñata,' 2014 is looking good too. Still we await a game-changing release on the level of Kendrick Lamar's 2012 album 'good kid, m.A.A.d city.' While K. Dot's 2013 guest verse on Big Sean's 'Control' ruffled rappers' feathers, and inspired (way too many) response records, it's the critically-acclaimed 'good kid ...' that cemented his place among rap's upper echelon.
And now Lamar has to follow what some consider a classic with an album that's just as good or better (no pressure). He's announced that his eagerly anticipated sophomore album will drop in September and that got us thinking: Who else could drop a classic this year? Who are we forgetting while we're so caught up in the world of K. Dot? Sure, Kendrick's become the favorite for album of the year, but that honor isn't a foregone conclusion.
There are a few artists we believe could drop a classic LP and possibly outdo rap's current crown holder in the process. Here are 10 Rappers (Not Named Kendrick Lamar) Who Could Drop Classic Albums This Year.
'Black Lip Pastor'
Kendrick and Schoolboy Q may get most of the fanfare, but Ab-Soul has showed that he's capable of creating high quality (and "hiii power") music on the level of his TDE counterparts time and time again. Need proof? Just check out any of his countless guest verses in the last two years and his most recent LP, 'Control System.' With his penchant for unapologetic honesty (see: 'Book of Soul') and conceptual brilliance ('Pineal Gland'), we wouldn't be surprised if Ab delivers a debut that could rival Kendrick's modern-day classic.
Twenty years after releasing the debut of all rap debuts, Nas is still among the finest at his craft. While others have lost steam going into their 40s, rap's Langston Hughes has seen a surge in inspiration. If 2013's 'Life Is Good' is arguably his best project since 2001's 'Stillmatic,' he's as hungry as he was in his early days but with the refined approach of a seasoned vet. And while he plans on releasing a new album this year, fans know not to hold our collective breath for another 'Illmatic.' However, we predict that he will continue to raise the bar for wordsmiths whenever said upcoming offering is released.
To say that Kanye West isn't one of the top artists of the last decade would be asinine. But for some "real hip-hop heads" suggesting that he may have missed the mark with 'Yeezus' would be keeping it real. The album provided a few highlights, but was underwhelming in the eyes of many Ye fans who preferred soul samples to the electronic music influence of Daft Punk.
Mixed reviews aside, by now the world knows you should never doubt Mr. West. We expect nothing less but an inspired return to form for the man who is arguably the most progressive force in hip-hop.
'Act II: Patents of Nobility '
At the beginning of 2014, if we had told you Jay Electronica could finally drop his unicorn of a project in 'Act II: Patents of Nobility' this year and usurp Kendrick, you may have scoffed at that notion. But then Jay Elect popped up at SXSW 2014 and subsequently got the Internet abuzz with the release of what amounted to a snippet of a track. And according to our unnamed sources, word is that the mysterious lyricist's LP could actually see the light of day in 2014. If that rumor holds true, it would instantly make the Rothschild benefactor's album the most anticipated of the year.
'The Last Zulu'
The former ATCQ frontman has been one of the leaders in shaping hip-hop over the last 25 years. A bulletproof catalog under his belt, Q-Tip continues to participate in the culture not for relevancy, but for the joy of creating. A few years removed from signing with the house that Yeezy built, the godfather of bohemian rap has been busy tinkering with his G.O.O.D. debut, 'The Last Zulu.' Known for his plush array of sounds and genre-merging experimentation, judging from the Abstract's track record, we expect to be taken on one of most eclectic, musical rides we've witnessed since Tip's last effort, 2008's superb 'The Renaissance.'
The rhyming version of B.B. King, Big K.R.I.T. has been blessing the underground with his soul-stirring rap tunes dating back to his 'K.R.I.T. Wuz Here' tape. So when word got out that he inked a deal with Def Jam, we were ecstatic about the possibilities to say the least. But his debut, 'Live From the Underground,' failed to gain traction in the marketplace and was pegged as a watered down version of the countrified K.R.I.T. we lauded on his previous projects. That said, we may be going out on a limb, but we believe the Mississippi-bred double threat is a rare talent and has all the tools to unexpectedly drop a modern day southern classic.
Kingpin rap saw signs of life last year with Pusha T's G.O.O.D. Music debut, 'My Name Is My Name.' Utilizing the production talents of Kanye, the Clipse star-in-waiting was expected to drop one of the more impressive outings of the year. The album didn't light the Billboard charts on fire, but served as one of the top releases as far as bars are concerned, with a laundry list of quotables and guest appearances from the industry's cream of the crop. With a reunion with longtime collaborators The Neptunes -- tapped as executive producers -- on deck for his sophomore solo, we could very well get the futuristic 2K14 answer to 'OB4CL' if we're lucky.
'Tetsuo & Youth'
Despite label beef and controversy, Lupe Fiasco remains in the conversation when discussing elite MCs. A polarizing figure quick to speak his mind on social and political topics, the Chi-Town rep has become a lightning rod of sorts within the hip-hop community. But maybe that's what the game needs more of: an artist not afraid to buck the system and shed light on the topics that are often overlooked or ignored by his peers.
With his last few commercial releases being deemed underwhelming and his rep as one of the elite lyricists in question, we expect Lupe to be motivated by the whispers and rise to the occasion like a handful of legends have (LL Cool J, Nas) before him. An album on the docket for release this year and a growing sense of competition spreading throughout the game, we predict 'Tetsuo & Youth' to be Fiasco's best offering since 'Food & Liquor.'
Killer Mike & El-P
'Run the Jewels 2'
The Killer Mike and El-P collaborative effort, 'Run the Jewels' was one of the the most acclaimed projects of 2013. Other releases were higher profile, but none rivaled the continuous hype the LP garnered, bringing no holds barred rap and meat-and-potatoes production to the forefront of hip-hop conversations. The two are back in the studio putting the finishing touches on the anticipated sequel after riding high off what should be considered a landmark moment in the odd couple's successful careers.
When you're able to maintain a viable rap career spanning four decades, it should be evident that you're far from a run-of-the-mill rapper. And that Scarface certainly is not. Arguably the greatest rapper to ever come out of the South, a renewed hunger and spiritual growth have rejuvenated the Houston rapper and has him more focused than ever. He recently announced his upcoming album, 'Deeply Rooted,' is slated for release this year -- his first since 2008's 'Emeritus.' Being one of the few artists in the game with multiple classics on their resume, it's not far-fetched to think that Face has enough left in the tank to add another to his catalog.