Welcome to the 2013 edition of HipHopDX’s Year End Awards. In keeping with tradition, this is the time of year when we collectively reflect on all that has transpired in Hip Hop during the last 12 months. To be sure, there have been high points and moments that have been downright ugly. And we aim to cover them all before the calendar flips on what we hope is another monumental year for the music and the culture.
From December 18 to December 24 HipHopDX’s editorial staff and stable of freelance contributors will update this page with our picks for the categories and winners that made 2013 memorable. We salute the winners and runners up who made 2013 the banner year that it was. And we hope our picks make you argue and reflect while being entertained during what we hope is a safe and holiday season.
This Year’s Schedule
Day 1 – Wednesday Dec 18
Emcee of the Year
Producer of the Year
Rising Star of the Year
Day 2 – Thursday Dec 19
Album of the Year
Mixtape of the Year
Non Hip Hop Album of the Year
Day 3 – Friday Dec 20
Verse of the Year
Video of the Year
Beat of the Year
Day 4 – Saturday Dec 21
Interview of the Year
Story of the Year
Trend We’d Like to See Die
Trend We’d Like to See Continue
Day 5 – Sunday Dec 22
Slept On Album of the Year
Slept On Artist of the Year
Comeback of the Year
Day 6 – Monday Dec 23
Disappointing Album of the Year
Freestyle of the Year
Collaboration of the Year
Day 7 – Tuesday Dec 24
Readers’ Choice Album of the Year
Instagram of the Year
Tweet of the Year
Emcee Of The Year
How do you win emcee of the year without dropping an actual album? If you’re Kendrick Lamar, you deliver what was easily the most explosive verse of the year with his bars from Big Sean’s “Control (HOF).” Follow that up by calling Drake a “sensitive rapper” and tucking him back in his pajama clothes during the BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher, and the foundation is laid. So no, K.Dot didn’t drop an album, but he upped the ante on competitive emceeing and made a few scene-stealing cameos on projects from the likes of Eminem, Tech N9ne, Quadron and J. Cole. That’s enough to earn his second consecutive nod for this award.
After relapsing in 2009 and recovering in 2010, Marshall Mathers returned to “Slim Shady” form with an assist from Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin on Marshall Mathers LP 2. Despite a mixed critical reception, the self-proclaimed “Rap God” nearly went platinum in a week with a mix of stadium Rap and complex, multi-syllable bars.
Chance The Rapper
Yes, Chicago’s Chance The Rapper was that good. He’s as introspective as they come, visceral as the the track requires and gifted with the most versatile voice we’ve heard since Wyclef Jean was rapping and singing about Haitian Sicilians.
Producer Of The Year
Mike WiLL Made-It
His name is difficult to properly spell, but his production credits are embarrassingly easy to locate. In 2013, Mike WiLL Made-It achieved the kind of cross-genre output Timbaland, Teddy Riley and The Neptunes did before becoming household names. And since the Atlanta native is equally adept at crafting backdrops for Project Pat or Miley Cyrus, there’s every indication that his Interscope-backed Ear Drummas imprint will allow him the same type of career trajectory Timbo, Skateboard P and Teddy enjoyed. If you heard a chart-topping beat this year, it was most likely that Mike WiLL Made-It.
Alan the Chemist picked up where he left off in 2012. Durag Dynasty’s 360 Waves, Boldy James’ My 1st Chemistry Set and an Albert Einstein project with Prodigy filled the void of a signature, solo set. All of the above were quality over quantity. And when you add in co-scoring the Grand Theft Auto V video game, Al made his mark again in 2013.
For years, the West Coast resorted to appropriating the Southern bounce as a means to establish a presence in clubs and on the charts. A stint in his friend Ty Dolla $ign’s crib changed that, as 2012 saw DJ Mustard usher in the era of ratchet-ness with hits like “Rack City” and “Toot It And Boot It.” In 2013, He added to his lengthy list of production credits by supplying beats for Kid Ink, B.o.B., R. Kelly and RiFF RaFF.
Rising Star Of The Year
Chance The Rapper
Chancelor Bennett, better known by his rap pseudonym Chance The Rapper and best known as the Rising Star Of The Year, has had much to boast about in 2013. His rapid rise began in April with the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap. Little did he know, that by July, his free mixtape would make it’s way on to Billboard magazine’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart after bootleg copies circulated on iTunes and Amazon. Fast-forward to December and you’ve got the Chi-town emcee releasing a track with fellow musician and mega-power pop prince Justin Bieber in “Confident.” Mixtape success, Billboard debut and a crossover collaboration all in eight months? Check. A star in the making knows no boundaries.
It seems like it was just a few months ago that Tennessee native Isaiah Rashad broke into the scene and already had Rap fans hungry for new material. Wait, it was just in September when Top Dawg Entertainment officially announced him as their artist. Rashad may have few quality tracks under his belt, but a co-sign from one of the hottest West Coast labels helps too.
Dizzy Wright was inducted into the XXL “Freshman Class” of 2013 at the top of the year, pretty much predetermining musical success. Wright’s The Golden Age mixtape did so well, in fact, it hit number 39 on Billboard magazine’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. His label Funk Volume must have been thrilled. #StillMovin…
Album Of The Year
Run The Jewels by Killer Mike & El-P as Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P struck gold in 2012 with R.A.P. Music. We thought it was brash, simultaneously innovative, reverential and referential and an impossible act to follow. Then El-P stepped from behind the boards and joined “Mike Bigga” over his own postmodern, synth-powered b-boy backdrops, and the results were equally amazing. As its title suggests, Run The Jewels wasn’t for shook ones. Mike kills elderly women’s dogs, El-Producto brags about keeping his church socks on during sexual escapades and special guest Prince Paul (as Chest Rockwell) just wants to slip some Molly in his date’s drink. And then have anal sex. It all adds up to another win for Killer Mike and El-P.
Yeezus by Kanye West
Whether you thought the project was awesome or awful, one fact remains, Yeezus did not go quietly into the night. It’s is the opposite of unmemorable, opposite of conventional, opposite of mediocre. Kanye’s latest is audacious, ornery and courageous—pushing the boundaries of what’s traditionally accepted in Rap to the brink of breech while flipping frustration into sonic progression. In 2013, for better and worse, Yeezus stands on a moving mountain alone.
Watching Movies With The Sound Off by Mac Miller
Blue Slide Park may have introduced most of the general public to Mac Miller, but the man formerly known as “Easy Mac” reintroduced himself to Hip Hop with Watching Movies With The Sound Off. Mac moved geographically and spiritually, and he also moved units. He wasted no time entrenching himself in the Left Coast music scene—primarily through his work with Odd Future members Earl Sweatshirt and The Internet. He got high, went high concept and delved into the depths that come with losing loved ones while questioning the worth of celebrity culture. It was a huge step up for the kid who created “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza.”
Mixtape Of The Year
Acid Rap by Chance The Rapper
There’s a million reasons to love Acid Rap—the shifting soundscapes and dripping honesty, the perfectly placed guest appearances and social awareness, the quirky references to cigarettes (of all things). Along with Chance’s uncanny ability to organically embody the best of Golden Era icons Andre 3000, Eminem, Wyclef Jean, for example, Acid Rap triumphs because the artist who crafted it taps into all aspects of his human experience. Chance tackles complex real world issues like gun violence in Chicago with the same ease as his approach to marijuana smoke. To paraphrase his half-bar on “Acid Rain,” Chance is the truth, whether or not he chooses to rhyme.
King Remembered In Time by Big K.R.I.T.
K.R.I.T.’s penchant for giving away album-quality projects for free continued in 2012. On King Remembered In Time, the Meridian, Mississippi emcee turned up with Future and Trinidad Jame$, meditated and questioned his fate, then re-asserted his dominance all on the same project. The crown remains intact.
She Got Game by Rapsody
Rapsody’s She Got Game set a new standard for mixtapes. Considering how much effort was put into this project, it was arguably an album of sorts for Rap. Sure, that’s been the new business model for Hip Hop, but let’s face it—most Hip Hop mixtapes are slapped together, handed out and then hit retail for the late bloomers. Rapsody dropped off this well thought out project with solid features and reinforced her position as one of Hip Hop’s burgeoning artists. If you’ve never heard, She Got Game, grab the deluxe version. You won’t be sorry.
Non-Hip Hop Album Of The Year
The 20/20 Experience (1 of 2) by Justin Timberlake
In January, Justin Timberlake tweeted, “I think I’M READY.” A few days later, we heard “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay Z. We didn’t know what else to expect. How could he top FutureSex/LoveSounds? With Timbaland on board, we knew we could expect quality sounds on The 20/20 Experience (1 of 2). After sitting with the album since March, it’s hard to deny the hits and dapper sounds streaming from the speakers. It was a long seven years since JT’s released an album. The people were ready too, at least the two million (and counting) who own a copy.
Sail Out by Jhene Aiko
Producer No I.D. had a sharp eye for talent when he signed Jhene Aiko to Def Jam under his imprint, Atrium Records. Even though her debut EP Sail Out held features from Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, Vince Staples and most notably, Kendrick Lamar, Jhene shined and showed she was ready for a much deserved spotlight.
Avalanche by Quadron
Quadron may not have put numbers on the boards like many of the others in this category but Avalanche didn’t sonically disappoint. With only one feature from HipHopDX’s Emcee Of The Year, Kendrick Lamar, the Danish duo continued to push the boundaries on the music they were known for. And we thank them.
Verse Of The Year
“Control (HOF)” by Kendrick Lamar
During our HipHopDX Turkey Awards, we joked that Kendrick Lamar had no friends left to sit with at lunch because he shot them all down in his verse on Big Sean’s “Control (HOF).” Sure, that sentiment was tongue-in-cheek, but let’s face it: When K.Dot rattled off that list of artists he’s trying to replace, not a single fuck was given during that process. The result was a verse that changed Hip Hop in 2013 and beyond. Veteran rappers resurrected to comment, while Kendrick’s competition remained partially mum. That’s what happens when the old school and the new school collide and the results are beautiful.
“Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt
Earl set up his solo debut, Doris perfectly with a somber track that found him emoting over croaking frogs, piano keys and a congested bassline. While Odd Future has been known to venture into emo territory, this was just more like a cathartic, no frills exercise in how far Earl could push his seemingly limitless arsenal of internal rhyme patterns. He touched on his troubled childhood, his bond with Tyler The Creator and sent some shots at Complex for an in-depth piece about his sabbatical in Samoa. Earl Sweatshirt’s never been an upbeat rapper, but his raw emotion over a subdued track proved he had a lot more to offer than sophomoric antics on the mic.
“Rap God” by Eminem
By just about any lyrical measure, “Rap God” lives up to its title. Not only are Eminem’s frantic pace and shifting cadences impressive, but the subtleties are what make this song dope at a deeper depth. In six furious minutes, Slim Shady slyly pays homage to Nas, Big Pun, Pharoahe Monch, Lakim Shabazz, Rakim, Heavy D & The Boyz, among others. There are dozens of intriguing allusions littered throughout. Our favorite: “Dale Earnhart of the trailer park / The White Trash God / Kneel before General Zod / This planet’s Krypton…” which is a shout to actor Michael Shannon who plays both B-Rabbit’s mom’s trailer park boyfriend in 8 Mile and Superman’s nemesis in this year’s Man Of Steel. Honestly, any of the three verses could be a Verse Of The Year contender. Rap god, indeed.
Video Of The Year
“Started From The Bottom” by Drake
Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” offers the hope of a triumphant video from the opening shot—where a group of children experience the thrill of victory in a soccer game. Things only escalate from there, as Drizzy flosses his Bentley in the snow, sips some champagne in the private jet and enjoys quality time in his palatial, California home as well as the Dominican Republic. But the message is clear: none of the above would’ve been possible without some less glamorous beginnings—be it night manager at Duane Reade or hosting open mics. Director X told Complex Drake dipped into the six-figure range for the budget of his third album’s lead visual. And since the clip made you laugh, introduced guys to Maria Angelica Charuppi and kept Drake in rotation from Super Bowl Sunday through September 2013, it was money well spent.
“Crooked Smile” by J. Cole featuring TLC
The song “Crooked Smile” isn’t about slain 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones, but that didn’t stop J. Cole and director Sheldon Candis from presenting some social commentary when it was time to release the music video. Cole and his Roc Nation reps reached out to Candis, and Mr. “Cole World” himself specifically asked to play the role of Stanley’s older brother. Earlier this year, J. Cole took it upon himself to raise the stakes and the level of discourse within Hip Hop. And by breaking form with the visual to this TLC collaboration, we’d say he succeeded on all fronts.
“IFHY” by Tyler The Creator featuring Pharrell Williams
Tyler The Creator has had designs on being an auteur since he swallowed that roach back in 2011. He caught hell for his twisted vision of a Mountain Dew commercial, but you pay Odd Future’s de facto frontman to push boundaries. And with the two-piece of “IFHY” and “Tamale,” Tyler lived up to his nickname. Not only was the portrayal of Tyler and his jilted lover as dolls a concept you couldn’t turn away from, Wolf Haley did a pretty good job pulling double duty as the video’s male lead and director.
Beat Of The Year
“Numbers On The Boards” by Don Cannon & Kanye West
Yeah, yeah…we know. The DX readers and the editorial staff didn’t see eye to eye on Pusha T’s solo debut album, My Name Is My Name. But one thing we can all agree on is the triumphant single that confirmed King Push was finally coming to shelves after a year of delays. Kanye West’s and Don Cannon’s “Numbers On The Boards” was the big, anthemic offering Pusha wanted to realize his crossover potential. But it also had the signature elements that look back to when Rap songs were primarily played out of Jeeps and boomboxes—a throbbing bassline, some sparse percussion and vocal chops that run the gamut from ‘60s funk to Jay Z’s “A Million And One Questions/Rhyme No More.”
“U.O.E.N.O.” by Childish Major
At the outset of “U.O.E.N.O.,” Future croaks, “This shit sound crazy!” and he captures how most of us felt upon initially hearing the track. Conventional 808 hi-hats are swapped out for less dense ones that presumably emulate live drums, and there’s no traditional bassline. Childish Major originally pitched this instrumental to A$AP Rocky, who politely declined. Pretty Flacko’s loss was our gain, as the stacked, twangy synths lent themselves to flows and cadences of all types—Usher sang double-time over it with his own ad-libs, and Jay Rock clotheslined the beat (John Cena). But the best part of flipping “U.O.E.N.O.” was adding your own ad-libs punctuated by “You don’t even know it”—whether you were an established rapper, an aspiring one or just having a drunken freestyle over the instrumental.
“Bugatti” by Mike WiLL Made-It
Chances are, whoever reading this either can’t afford or doesn’t have a Bugatti (no shots, we’re in this together). However, when Mike WiLL dropped those thunderous basslines for Ace Hood to ride over, we all automatically hopped in our Hondas and acted like we just got a new Bugatti. That’s what music is supposed to do—transform your life in three minutes and 30 seconds. That’s what Mike WiLL’s beat did for everyone. Then the song ends and you see your check engine light on and it’s back to reality. Oh well.
Interview Of The Year
Zane Lowe & Kanye West on BBC Radio1
Before “IT AIN’T RALPH, THOUGH” and “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!!!,” before the Jimmy Kimmel Twitter “beef” and the nightly “Yeezus” Tour rants, this is the one that set it all off. Kanye West sat down with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe and unleashed 62 minutes and 29 seconds of polarizing quotables. For the first time Yeezy provided answers to the questions many had after first hearing Yeezus. He explained that the album’s direction was birthed out of his frustrations with fashion while exclaiming that he’s the planet’s biggest rockstar. To compare his 2013 video interviews to his albums, if the Sway In The Morning appearance is the Yeezus of rhapsodic Kanye conversations, then the Zane Lowe examination is The College Dropout.
Ebro Darden & Mr. Cee on Hot 97
Hip Hop culture as a whole is slowly stepping into the 21st Century by being more accepting of members of homosexual, lesbian and transgender communities. But a very uncomfortable Q&A between Mr. Cee and Hot 97 Program Director Ebro Darden served as a reminder of how much room is still left for improvement. Cee repeatedly broke down during an exchange that was both heartfelt and contradictory at times. Ultimately, Cee is still spinning. And while many of his answers and the reasoning behind his choices were unclear, they served as a reminder that love, sex and one’s lifestyle choices are sometimes personal and impossible to define.
Kanye West on Sway In The Morning
In the last few weeks, you have probably caught yourself saying “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!!!” at least 20 times. You’ve bumped those “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!!!” tracks at least once (okay twice), and you secretly wanted Sway’s “I’ve got the answers” T-shirt. None of this would’ve happened without that infamous interview. Kanye got on the show, acted cool, flipped OUT, acted cool again. The best part? It was all on video. Sway’s ability to remain calm was so admirable, considering someone could’ve caught the fade during that now infamous interview. However, everyone was unharmed, except Kanye’s ego. That was bruised a little. In the midst of his psychosis though, he did drop some considerable knowledge.
Story Of The Year
Kendrick Lamar Restores Friendly Competition With Control
Kendrick Lamar made sure the Rap world understood. “What is competition?” Lamar rhymed, “I’m trying to raise the bar high.” Kendrick’s claim to Rap’s throne also acted as a call to action for emcees, a reminder of what KRS-One, Rakim, Nas, Jay Z and many others have exemplified. The message came through loud and clear, lighting a fire in Hip Hop that continues to blaze.
All Kanye Everything
Kanye West created a year for his fans to remember. The Year of the Yeezus included a polarizing album, a change in style (in music and fashion) and a series of meme-worthy, Twitter-trending interviews. But, more importantly, he also had much to celebrate given the birth of his daughter North West and his proposal to his baby’s mother, Kim Kardashian. As much as The Year of the Yeezus was about music, it’s clear that Kanye West’s 2013 was about much more.
Jay Z & Samsung Team Up For Magna Carta Holy Grail
Say what you will about the actual music, but the presentation of Magna Carta Holy Grail was immaculate. Jigga bumrushed the airwaves during Game 6 of the NBA Finals to let us know he strong armed $30 million of Samsung’s reported $14 billion global marketing budget. Then the Recording Industry Association of America wrote some #NewRules to accommodate the digital deal when over a million subscribers downloaded MCHG to their devices to push Jay into double platinum territory. In an era of 360 deals and a lot of sour finger-pointing, Jay came with an innovative, new business model.
Trend We’d Like To See Die
Miley Cyrus Doing Anything In Hip Hop
Miley Cyrus became a strange fixture within Hip Hop this past year. Once she popped those gold bottom fronts in her mouth at the start of the “We Can’t Stop” video, we knew Disney lost her completely. We can blame Mike WiLL Made-It or just question the direction of the culture, but somehow Ms. Cyrus slid into the mix and has been showing little signs of leaving. Cool. But here’s the thing Miley: we don’t need you to rap, we don’t need you to twerk, we don’t need you to slap women’s asses. We’ve seen it all before. Everything you did has already been done, so how about you find another genre to harass in 2014?
Years back it used to be a matter of keyboard thugs hanging out on message boards with fake aliases harassing one another for some weird Internet street cred. As the Internet evolved, we got Twitter and rappers found their way to it. So instead of taking the time to creatively come up with diss tracks, they can simply attack each other in under 140 characters. It’s not cute and cuts right into the spirit of friendly competition and just becomes some catty pissing contest. Let’s keep the beef off Twitter and start making some good songs for us all to listen to.
Paying Rick Rubin To Lie On Your Couch
Rick Rubin is a legend. There is no denying that. But with Jay Z and Kanye West both paying him as a male model in the campaigns for their 2013 albums, it devalued the force that this legendary superproducer has brought to the game since he helped start Def Jam in an NYU dorm with Russell Simmons many moons ago. Rick Rubin may look intimidating, but it’s not enough to turn a project into a classic. If he gets up off that couch and heads behind the boards, that’s where the real magic can happen.
Trend We’d Like To See Continue
A True Culture of Competition
You can argue that one of the unintended consequences of the post-Biggie and Tupac era was rappers over-compensating and creating what amounted to a “bromance” among top-notch emcees. Drake was buying J. Cole’s album on YouTube, everyone was bringing their competition out for cameo appearances at shows and we got inundated with posse cuts. Kendrick ended all that by drawing a line in the sand, declaring himself king of both New York and his own coast while trying to lyrically “murder” his peers. More of this, please.
Indie Label Renaissance
Funk Volume, Strange Music, Odd Future, the list goes on and on of examples where Hip Hop artists’ careers have flourished without the heavy handed influence of majors. The business model in the music industry is constantly changing, and in 2013, the pendulum definitely swung in the direction of the indies. It’s refreshing to see independent minds pushing the culture forward. How long or how much this will continue remains to be seen in 2014.
There was a time when Hip Hop was defined by its parameters. That was three decades ago. As producers are becoming more hip to sounds like EDM, Indie Rock, and other new territories, the beats are changing for rappers. Collaborations are evolving (you can’t even count how many British female singer-songwriters have appeared on rappers’ projects in 2012 and 2013), so the Hip Hop has to evolve as well. Gone are the days of thinking an Aerosmith and Run DMC collaboration or Public Enemy and Anthrax is a “total shock.” Now it’s the norm to explore. So let’s keep doing more of that shall we?
Slept-On Album Of The Year
CZARFACE by 7L, Esoteric & Inspectah Deck as CZARFACE
Perhaps Inspectah Deck’s quote from his February interview with HipHopDX’s Paul Meara sums it up best. “I guess I underestimated the people’s need to hear something worth listening to,” Deck offered, when pressed to explain why CZARFACE was so well received. With two previous collaborations under their belt already, The Rebel I.N.S., 7L and Esoteric created an ideal for a character that didn’t exist and elbowed their way into a few album of the year conversations with layered flows and production that paid homage to Hip Hop’s bygone boom bap era.
Capture The Sun by Illogic & Blockhead
In a year often punctuated by theatrics and turning up, Illogic & Blockhead not only offered depth and substance on Capture The Sun. They did it while mostly avoiding any holier than thou, Conscious Rap posturing. Sometimes all it takes is a simple combination of technically precise rhymes, hand-in-glove production and deeply personal subject matter.
Ghost At The Finish Line by Quelle Chris
Quelle Chris has been making great music in relative obscurity for what feels like ages. With Ghost At The Finish Line, he articulated all the emotions that come with such a journey, but it never felt like the “poor me” struggle Rap some of Hip Hop’s journeymen are making. This album was a validation of sorts, as fans finally saw what Quelle collaborators like Sean Price, Roc Marciano and Danny Brown apparently knew years ago.
Slept On Artist Of The Year
Every time Hip Hop heads shout, “There’s a lack of talented female lyricists,” they need to listen to Rapsody’s The Idea Of Beautiful and She Got Game (deluxe edition). With 9th Wonder’s soundbeds, Rapsody has single handedly changed the trajectory of the female rapper in the second decade of the 21st century. Still, where are the props of Lauryn Hill circa ‘98 proportions? Anyone with an ear who loves true school Rap will know that Rap’s got next, but as for the rest of the world, you’re way late. That’s ok, you’ll catch up.
After releasing a prolific amount of material during the mid-to-late aughts, Quelle Chris is finally getting his due. If you missed him rap about bustdowns over Anita Baker and BeBe Winans’ Gospel hit “Ain’t No Need To Worry” or didn’t catch when he freaked Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)” years before French Montana did “Pop That,” 2013 provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with Quelle’s Niggas Is Men mixtape and his retail offering, Ghost At The Finish Line.
Esoteric has been stomping out ridiculously aggressive verses for over a decade. It’s unfair to call it “everyman Rap” because everyone can’t do it. And when Inspectah Deck says you’re “up there with Eminem,” you’re clearly doing something right. Both CZARFACE and Machete Mode serve as proof of just how ill Esoteric is behind the mic. And that’s something that hardcore Rap nerds and casual listeners should equally recognize.
Comeback Of The Year
Technically, Mac Miller didn’t go anywhere to have to come back from. After 2012’s Blue Slide Park, you could definitely see and hear a transition happening in Mac’s music. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native relocated to Southern California, presumably did a bunch of drugs and invited all the local artists he liked over to his new pad to make music. The end result was a ton of pseudonyms (i.e. Larry Fisherman) and a ridiculous output of music that included Watching Movies With The Sound Off and the collaborative mixtape with Vince Staples, Stolen Youth. In a way, 2013 felt like a new beginning. Mac was truly dope.
Upon hearing the news that Eminem would revisit The Marshall Mathers LP, we had a few simple requests. We needed Shady to stop the scream rapping and slow down a bit with the super-complex internal rhyme patterns. For the most part, Em delivered, and he has the sales to show it. Eminem has reached a point where he could have rapped about anything and produced jaw-dropping results. He began MMLP2 in a trunk, took a detour to apologize to his mom and christen himself as a Hip Hop deity and ended with the #1 album in the country. And if some of the schtick from his official project isn’t to your liking, just Google, “Eminem Slaughterhouse Cypher” and enjoy the magic.
R.A. the Rugged Man
R.A. the Rugged Man is like that lecherous, old uncle that you sort of claim at the family reunion. Yeah, he (allegedly) ran up to his old record label with at least one firearm on his person. And there is documented proof of him being kicked off a commercial flight after donning an “Every Record Label Sucks Dick” shirt. But R.A. traded lines with Biggie, is a director, producer, boxing aficionado and movie critic. And he’s really good at this Rap thing. In 2013, he returned with Legends Never Die—complete with videos he directly helped craft. When a guy like that is contributing to the culture, you sit down, eat your slice of pizza and be quiet. If you’re lucky, he puts a jacket on over the shirt, keeps the heat at home and keeps putting out quality product.
Disappointing Album Of The Year
Marshall Mathers LP 2 by Eminem
How can Eminem vie for Verse of the Year, Emcee of the Year, Comeback of the Year and have the most disappointing album? Well, great emcees make bad (or at least polarizing) albums all the time. Eminem has sputtered on his quest to be as lyrically dominant as he was in the late ‘90s and early aughts. He’s battled personal demons and experimented with both a Swedish accent (Relapse) and Stadium Rock/Screamo (Recovery). He largely avoided both on MMLP2, but fans were mostly victims of our own falsely created high expectations by expecting a sequel to a classic album. Em’s “continuation” of the Marshall Mathers LP contained some of his best emceeing in nearly a decade with “Rap God.” But it also contained some unexcusable flotsam in the form of Zombie retreads and more rape and homophobic references than a guy in his 40s should be comfortable making.
I Am Not A Human Being II by Lil Wayne
A once dominant Lil Wayne looked incredibly mortal on his 2013 effort, I Am Not A Human Being II. Moments where he was once successful being weirdly experimental were replaced with cut and pasted couplets that sounded like they came straight from the walls of a junior high school bathroom stall. The best hope for Mr. Carter? He took his respective omissions from both the MTV VMAs and BET Awards in stride and promised to work harder.
Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay Z
It’s not that Magna Carta Holy Grail necessarily sounded bad. It’s that it sounded corporate. Non sequiturs like, “I don’t pop Molly / I rock Tom Ford” paired with the creepiness of a man 40-plus muttering “Twerk Miley… Twerk Miley…” feel as though they were inspired by a market share report indicating that 42% of all Twitter followers tweeted the hashtag #TwerkMiley and 64% of all Hip Hop albums were sold to those living below the Mason Dixon line. Since his “un-retirement” following The Black Album, Hov only shows up on wax when there’s something else to sell. Got a Budweiser deal, here comes Kingdom Come. Denzel’s in a gangster movie, how ‘bout American Gangster? Samsung’s buying a million, Magna Carta time! Someone go get Rick Rubin to lay on my couch. But we saw this coming. This is the same guy who once rapped “Back to Sean Carter the hustler / Jay Z is dead” on Vol. 3… The Life And Times Of S. Carter. At this point in Jigga’s storied career, remaining “cool” is way more important than being lyrically innovative. And what’s cooler than being a half-billionaire with Obama on the text?
Freestyle Of The Year
Kendrick Lamar – BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher
From the moment AllHipHop’s Instagram clip hit the Internet 12 days before the BET Awards even aired, we knew Kendrick Lamar had no issue embracing his newfound position at Rap’s forefront. “And nothing been the same since they dropped ‘Control’ and tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes,” K.Dot appropriately kicked over Mobb Deep’s seminal “Shook Ones,” lyrically darting Papoose and Drake simultaneously. Was it the most awkward high-five in Hip Hop history? Possibly. But anyone thinking Kendrick Lamar would distance himself from those statement making bars… well… Ha! Ha! Jokes on you.
Eminem & Slaughterhouse – BET Backroom Cypher
Big Tigger said, “The Backroom will never be what Tha Basement was,” and he was right. But when five of Shady Records’ finest unleashed nine-and-a-half minutes of raw emceeing—topped off by an acapella Eminem in all of his 1999, potty-mouthed glory—it was nice to get a reminder of the good old days. Tell Rihanna they ain’t finished yet.
A$AP Mob – Funkmaster Flex/Hot 97 Freestyle
The A$AP Mob comes under fire due to what some perceive as them lacking a New York-centric sound. But when Funkmaster Flex invited them to Hot 97 in late August, there were no chopped and screwed bars. “This ain’t no bitch-ass boom bap / It’s click-clack, move back,” Rocky snarled before taking aim at anyone who sent subliminal shots in regards to the state of New York Hip Hop. The fact that A$AP Ferg and A$AP Nast also delivered during the 10 minute barrage made it even better.
Collaboration Of The Year
“U.O.E.N.O. (Remix)” by Black Hippy
It’s unfortunate Rick Ross chose to casually shrug off making a reference to slipping some MDMA in his date’s champagne on Rocko’s original “U.O.E.N.O.,” because it basically tarnished a great track by Childish Major, one of Wiz Khalifa’s better 16s in recent memory and the most high-profile look Rocko’s had since he was dating Monica. Then Black Hippy came along and just destroyed this track. Of the many “U.O.E.N.O.” remixes and freestyles, this combination of Kendrick’s dominance, ScHoolboy’s ratchet lyrical set tripping, Ab-Soul’s abstract, technical precision and Jay Rock’s constantly improving violence on wax was the best.
“Birds Eye View” by Statik Selektah feat. Joey Bada$$, Black Thought, & Raekwon
Statik Selektah dropped a thorough beat, Black Thought, Joey Bada$$, and Raekwon all killed their verses, and the most unlikely posse cut was born. “Birds Eye View” is special in the sense that the vets and the young bucks came together and proved that great lyrics are timeless and when put all together, the result is a newly branded classic. We could use a few more of those in 2014, but it’s great that 2013 gave us this one.
“Control (HOF)” by Big Sean feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica
“Control” as a whole was a great track. It didn’t win as the top collaboration though, because Kendrick Lamar’s verse overshadowed everyone else, including Big Sean himself. That doesn’t take away from the fact that “Control” is damn good. It had everything it needed: bars, the beat, the proper roster. Even Jay Electronica showed up for the party. That’s when you know a song is special.
Readers’ Choice Album Of The Year
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 by Eminem
The overwhelming statistical popularity of Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP2 manifested itself both in sales (1.4 million copies sold as of December 18) and in the hearts of readers. Revisiting 19946 Dresden Street yielded Eminem a 34% share of the HipHopDX readers’ vote, giving him a commanding lead for the Readers’ Choice Album of the Year. Slim Shady returned three years after his last effort with an album HipHopDX’s editorial staff rated as a 4 out of 5 but also nominated for Disappointing Album of the Year. That’s about on par for an album polarizing enough to be panned by the likes of the Chicago Tribune and Entertainment Weekly while still pushing past platinum. Not that Eminem has ever been particularly bothered by what a critic thinks. The people have spoken, and 2013’s “Rap God” will likely be laughing all the way to the bank while giving the one-finger salute to those mere mortals who doubted him.
Born Sinner by J. Cole
J. Cole wanted to up the ante and move the release date of his Born Sinner to coincide with Kanye West’s Yeezus. Guess what? It worked. Ultimately, Cole waited two weeks but surpassed Kanye for his second visit to the top of the Billboard 200 chart. And, judging from his 16% share of the vote, listeners showed their affinity for Cole.
Niggas Is Men by Quelle Chris
In a surprise showing, Quelle Chris secured 10% of the Readers’ Choice Album of the Year votes. Either loyal Crown Nation fans bumrushed the Facebook poll, or people are finally coming around to Quelle’s free mixtape-turned-retail-offering, Niggas Is Men. If not, there’s still roughly one week to acclimate yourself.
Instagram Of The Year
Jay Z & Dame Dash
There are certain friendships within Rap that we mourn the loss of simply by how much fun they looked like they were having in music videos. Sure, Jay and Dame had some weird situations that transpired between them, coupled with the “friends should never go into business together” mentality, but when that team split it was definitely sad. Seeing the Instagram flick of these two together this past year drummed up so many memories for rap fans. It’s not like Dame will replace Ty Ty and join the Roc Nation team, but that moment—that one singular moment captured in a photo—is something we can all reminisce upon.
Nicki Minaj’s Halloween Costume
Duct tape and a wig. Apparently that’s all that’s really needed to make a Halloween costume work, at least if you’re Nicki Minaj. When Nicki revealed her costume this year on Instagram, no one was paying attention to her outfit (more like lack there of). She had black duct tape criss-crossed on her nipples and some hot pants. The. End. So yeah, Instagram gold for your spank bank, and yet another reason for women to run to the gym and cut their carbs.
Snoop Dogg & Suge Knight
When Snoop and Suge showed up together in a pic on Instagram, two emotions were felt—horror and excitement. The horror part comes from memories of Suge Knight’s reign, and the historical events that happened within Hip Hop under the Death Row umbrella. The excitement though? That’s thinking for a split second that Snoop D-O-Double-G will someday return to his gangster chronicles under Suge’s direction. It’ll probably never happen, but thanks to Instagram we had a nice moment of false hope.
Tweet Of The Year
Kanye West Takes Issue With Jimmy Kimmel
Kanye West went all-caps with this one. When Jimmy Kimmel had children read the transcription of Kanye West’s interview with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe as part of a spoof, West channeled his rage via Twitter. West found no humor in the spoof and made sure to let Kimmel know. In the process, he said Kimmel was not as funny as Sarah Silverman and claimed Kimmel had sex with Ben Affleck. Of course, he made it clear: “ #NODISRESPECTTOBENAFFLECK #ALLDISRESPECTTOJIMMYKIMMEL!!!!” West and Kimmel later made up and shook hands, but not before the feud played out on timelines around the world.
Jay Z’s AMA Twitter Session (#FactsOnly)
Jay Z made it very clear he was anti-Instagram on “Somewhereinamerica.” So it stood to reason he was only using Twitter to occasionally shout out Loaded Lux or take shots at Billboard. But Hov broke form on July 8, and in a series of rapid fire tweets with fans and journalists, revealed that he liked Cap’n Crunch, Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and all kinds of other factoids. It drummed up even more buzz for Magna Carta Holy Grail when Jay Z started trending. He may not be a social media maven, but Jay clearly knows a good branding opportunity when he spots one. #factsonly.
Gucci Mane’s September Meltdown
All hell broke loose between September 7 and September 9, when Gucci Mane decided to sabotage his career 140 incoherent characters at a time. After threatening to disband his crew and sell Waka Flocka Flame’s contract, the spiral of events unraveled on all our respective timelines. Later, various parties said the Gucci fell victim to hackers and planned to roll out another project on Christmas Day, but here’s hoping he finds the help he needs in 2014 and beyond.