I started out the year very optimistically, believing that 2014 may somehow outdo 2013 in terms of quantity and quality. Now, as the year is coming to a close, I realize that there was a lot of music released this year and a majority of it was pretty awful.
As a person who listens to more rap than anything these days, there's never a shortage of new material to delve in to. Mixtapes, free EPs, and the internet's propensity to leak tons of new projects give listeners ample opportunity to find something different on any given day. This isn't to say that other genres don't allow for someone to experience the same thing, but the availability of fresh sounds isn't quite as plentiful across the industry.
But, as the year dragged on, I came to notice that there was a startling lack of truly standout albums, or even simply singles, that would be featured in my favorite musical outlets. Nothing throughout the course of 2014 made me immediately catalog and connect this year with a particular song, or major album, like Yeezus did last year, or Good Kid, mAAd City in 2012.
A lot of the lack of truly memorable music may have to do with the fact that this year lacked some semblance of star power. There was no major release from guys like Kendrick Lamar, or Kanye, but the establishment of some newcomers helped push the year along.
With that said, I still enjoyed quite a bit of what came out this year, and subsequently there is a list to reflect that. Without further ado, my Top 31 tracks of 2014 (one for every day of December):
31. Michael Christmas - Y'all Trippin'
This is the first track on Mikey's tape, Is This Art?, and it's a pretty great testament to the state of young hip-hop. Christmas shows off a few different flows and some clever references, including one of my favorite lines of the year: "Use the Gary Payton fore you get the Magic on your shit" (put on a love glove before you hit it).
30. Isaiah Rashad - Modest
29. Spoon - I Just Don't Understand
I know this is a cover of a song that's been done by quite a few different people, including live versions from The Beatles, but this is my favorite version by leaps and bounds. Spoon came back in a big way with their first album in four years, They Want My Soul.
28. The Roots - When The People Cheer
&ThenYouShootYourCousin was probably my biggest disappointment of the year, only because I love The Roots so much. The album was a bit too preachy and out there for a band that does so many things so well. This track was basically the only highlight.
27. RiFF RAFF feat. Mac Miller - Aquaberry Dolphin
I love Jody, but Mac steals the song with one line: "Rich as Vince McMahon, your bitch look like Triple H."
26. Rustie feat. Danny Brown - Attak
This is my "I Need A Song to Fuck Shit Up To" of the year. It's off Rustie's second full-length album, Green Language, which wasn't quite as good as his debut, but this track makes up for it tenfold.
25. Vince Staples feat. James Fauntleroy - Nate
Vince Staples is newest part of the future of West Coast rap. The amount of amazing storytelling and technical ability coming from the next generation of LBC's/Compton's emcees seems to be endless. Staples had a year chock full of solid projects, from Shyne Coldchain, Vol. 2 to Hell Can Wait.
24. Rick Ross feat. Kanye West and Big Sean - Sanctified
Strings, big ol' drums, enough Big Sean to not annoy me, and Kanye classic un-rhymes. Oh, and I guess Ricky's verse is okay. Mastermind was a steaming pile of hot garbage.
23. Mac Demarco - Chamber of Reflection
22. Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar - Never Catch Me
Don't worry, this will not be the only FlyLo entry on this list.
21. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib feat. Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis - Robes
I'll be perfectly honest when I say that I think Pinata was a tad bit overrated. I love Madlib's production on it, but it got a bit laborious at times. Like Freddie didn't have verses for an entire song, so Madlib just filled time with more samples. This track is pretty great because Earl's verse is super buttery and Freddie fires (figurative) shots at his old pal Jeezy.
20. Run The Jewels - Oh My Darling Don't Cry
19. Schoolboy Q - Gangsta
18. YG feat. Drake - Who Do You Love?
YG owed a lot of his success this year to DJ Mustard being the producer everyone had to have a piece of (even though all his tracks sounds the same). A lot of the success of this song can also be credited to the Drake Stimulus Package (see: Makkonen, I Love).
But, I will give YG credit for one thing: he's giving west coast gangster rap a really big push with the Compton sound that was made famous by guys back in the early 90s. My Krazy Life was easily one of the five best rap albums of the year because it was able to put today's flair on yesterday's sound.
17. Cam'ron feat. Juelz Santana and the Ghost of Dame Dash - Dipshits
16. Bobby Shmurda - Hot N*gga
This is New York's version of drill and it works because you can actually understand more than 40% of the words coming out of Bobby Shmurda's mouth.
While I don't support Vine's interpretations of the song's lyrics or the dance that can be attributed to this track, this was a very important song for hip-hop this year purely because it helped usher in a new sub-genre.
15. Vic Mensa - Down On My Luck
This song will be more popular a year from now than it is currently. I'm not sure how, but it will hopefully have to do with Vic Mensa finally breaking through.
14. Young Thug feat. Freddie Gibbs and A$AP Ferg - Old English
800 CAPSULES OF MOLLY. JUST BE VERY STILL, I AIN'T GUNNA HURT ANYBODY.
13. Action Bronson - Easy Rider
Video of the year right there.
12. BADBADNOTGOOD - CS60
If you don't already know, BBNG is a jazz trio from Toronto that makes some of the best hard-bop and instrumental hip-hop music in the history of the world. If I could have their entire third EP on this list, I would, but that would be selfish, so CS60 will have to do.
Go do yourselves a favor and listen to more of their stuff here:
And, if you like them, you have something to look forward to in a couple months. On February 17th, they're releasing a collaboration album with the one and only Ghostface Killah.
11. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment - Sunday Candy
After you listen to Sunday Candy, listen to their take on the theme song from Arthur. If you listen to it and didn't get goosebumps, or crack a smile, or at least tap your feet, you are dead inside.
10. Saint Motel - Just My Type
I blame FIFA 15 for making this the song that gets stuck in my head most days of the week.
9. ILoveMakkonen feat. Drake - Tuesday
Fuck this song. Fuck the Drake Stimulus Package. Fuck the hook. Fuck those Al Snow mannequin heads. Goddammit, it's so catchy.
8. Future feat. Pusha T, Pharrell and Casino - Move That Dope
Three things about this track:
- This very quickly became one of my favorite beats of all-time.
- I can't stand Pusha's verse.
- I still have no idea who Casino is.
7. Kendrick Lamar - i
I really wasn't too fond of this track when it first dropped, mainly because I didn't like K.Dot doing the whole thing in one of his many voices, but it grew on me over time. It's 2014's version of Happy.
6. Run The Jewels feat. Zack de la Rocha - Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)
Another song I wasn't high on when I first heard it, but the sample is gold and the title of the track is just undeniable.
5. Hudson Mohawke - Chimes
Technically this song has been floating around for almost five years, but the full version of it wasn't released until this past summer. Apple sold a bunch of computers with the help of this track. It's another one of my "Fuck Shit Up" songs because of those horn interpolations.
4. Lykke Li - No Rest For The Wicked
Man, if I had a dime for every time I've gotten drunk and blasted this song with the windows down this year, I'd have enough to buy a Milky Way, at least. Lykke Li is my musical spirit animal.
3. Drake - 0 to 100/The Catch Up
Go back and read #9. Oh lord.
2. Rich Gang - Lifestyle
Let me tell you why I love this song so much in the form of an anecdote: I went to Atlanta in September to see OutKast perform one of their three homecoming shows at Centennial Olympic Park. They had three openers the night I was there: Raury, Childish Gambino and Kid Cudi. Cudi was the last of the three to go on, and he mailed in his set because halfway through it, he realized everyone was getting antsy and just wanted Kast to go on. So, he did five songs, flipped the birds, and left.
After Cudi left the stage, the house DJ played an all-Atlanta mix during OutKast's setup. One of the tracks he played was Lifestyle. I have never seen a crowd get so hype for a song being played off of a computer (not by an EM producer) in my lifetime.
That is the exact moment I fell in love with the track.
1. Flying Lotus - Coronus, The Terminator
You're Dead! is probably my favorite thing FlyLo has ever done; album, track, guest production, whatever. There isn't one flaw on the album because it flows so well from start to finish. This track is the record's crown jewel, at least for me. Listen to the whole thing, if you haven't already, you'll be a better person for it.