2013 was an awesome year for rap, regardless of how you might feel about the musicians and albums that came to dominate it. Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore were breakout sensations, and we received albums from Eminem, Jay Z, Kanye West, Tyler the Creator, Childish Gambino, Mac Miller, Big Sean, Drake, Hopsin, and many others. 2013 will be a hard act to follow, but it seems like 2014 is up for the challenge. Which rappers can we expect to hear exactly? Well, there’s Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Wu Tang Clan, The Game, Mobb Deep’s sequel to The Infamous, Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Mob, and Meek Mill, just to name a few. But out of all of them, these are the artists I’m most excited to hear:
This one excites me more than anything. It’s been two years since Nas’ last album, Life is Good, was released to the masses. Well received by the hip-hop community, it stands as a testament to the MC’s enduring skills and proves that time has yet to hinder his flow and wordplay–unlike, say, former rival and peer Jay Z. Personally, I consider him to be the greatest rapper of all time, and most hip-hop fans place him in their top 5. His 2006 album claimed that hip hop is dead, and it certainly looked that way at the time. But fast forward to 2014, and the genre is still alive and kicking, resuscitated by a generation of wordsmiths who were raised on 90s rap—and Nas wants to be a part of the movement. This legend had a lot to say on his last album, and I can’t wait to hear what Nas has in store for us in 2014. And who knows? Maybe this next album will finally get him that long-awaited, overdue Grammy.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I don’t love Kendrick Lamar. I do, however, applaud his competitive spirit, his ability to alter his voice in any given song, and his poetic lyricism. His debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, was critically acclaimed and celebrated by the hip-hop community for its “real” nature and originality. Admittedly, it’s really growing on me after repeated listens. Fans call him the best thing to happen to rap in years and perceive him as a savior; a musician who will produce art instead of using dumbed-down lyrics and catchy beats to discuss overused subject matter: women and riches. He’s definitely a unique and talented artist, and the hype around him is palpable, especially after the Grammy’s. 2014 is the perfect time for Kendrick to capitalize on his growing popularity and keep that momentum going. It’ll be interesting to see how he follows up GMAC and what he does with this highly anticipated sophomore album.
Every time Kanye releases an album, it Bound 2 to make some noise—though it’s not always good. I despised Kanye’s newest album, Yeezus, with every fiber in my body. And yet, I’m still looking forward to his next work. College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are all great works, and I, along with many of his core fans, hope to see ‘Ye return to classic form. In other words, we don’t want to hear infantile rhymes over beats that belong on an EDM album. But will Kanye actually change things up? Or will he the follow direction of Yeezus and maintain that style? Personally, I think we can expect the former. College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation are all very comparable in terms of sound, theme, and production. However, let’s look at Kanye’s last three albums: 808 and Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Yeezus. Three different albums, three unique bodies of work. I’m not sure what we’ll get from Kanye exactly, but I expect that it’ll be different from anything we’ve heard from him thus far.
Mac Miller has come a long way since his high school mixtapes. His 2013 album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, unveiled a mature side of the MC, who used to rap about booze, girls, and frozen pizza. Pink Slime, his upcoming album, promises to evolve the MC even further, mainly because of Pharrell’s involvement—a very interesting collaboration indeed. Pharrell is a renowned artist both in- and outside of the genre and is only one of two names in hip-hop to win Producer of the Year at the Grammy’s (the other one being Dr. Dre.). What kind of direction will Pharrell take with Mac? What can we expect to hear from this unlikely duo? At this point, all we can do is wait and listen.
Like Kendrick, Chance Tha Rapper caught the attention of the rap community in 2013–and all it took was a bootleg copy of his mixtape, Acid Rap, to hit the Internet. After that, the Chi-town rapper was on the charts and radars of hip-hop heads everywhere. He was even invited to open for Eminem’s show in Austrailia. However, he rejected the offer, claiming that he wanted to work on his music and take a break from touring. It’s a questionable decision for sure. Still, as of right now, Chance has enough buzz to keep people talking and wanting more. He also stated in a recent interview that although Acid Rap was a cohesive project, he doesn’t consider it to be a “real” album. Well, if that’s the case, then I can’t wait to hear what a real album by this up-and-coming MC sounds like.
Known for his rapid-fire delivery, Busta Rhymes is seen today as a rap veteran who’s past his prime. His popularity has definitely waned, and his status isn’t significant like it once was. However, all of that might change with his 2014 album: Extinction Event Level 2, or just EEL2, the sequel to his multi-platinum LP from 1998. He’s already released two singles for it—Twerk It with Nicki Minaj and Thank You featuring Q Tip, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, even though Q Tip is the only one who actually has a verse (Q-Tip is also releasing an album this year, The Last Zulu, which is another thing you should look for in 2014). But it’s another track off Busta’s album that has fans hanging on the edge of their seats: Calm Down, a six minute magnum opus where Busta Rhymes and Eminem exchange 60 bars a piece. From what I’ve heard so far, the track is amazing, and I’m expecting it to generate some serious buzz for EEL2.
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