5. Kanye West - Yeezus
Yeezus was highly controversial and unorthodox to say the least but Kanye did create a large amount of excitement behind his album. It wasn't as bad as you would think with "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" being pretty creative and a large push to expand the boundaries of hip-hop. This was a love it or hate it album
and while I can't say I loved it, I didn't exactly hate it either.
4. TI - Trouble Man
It seems like this album dropped so long ago it is forgotten. But TI came back pretty strong with "Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head" even if commercially it wasn't as widely seen as his previous albums. Lyrically and thematically, it was solid full of the normal TI anthems like the raucous "Trap Back Jumping" and more introspective cuts like "Can You Learn". "Sorry" with Andre was a good song and a good representation of the quality of the album. The biggest flaw was that the promotion fell off as the deal with Atlantic wrapped up for Tip and Grand Hustle.
3. Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail
I know the hardcore Jay fans are labeling this a classic but lets not be presumptuous. It was better than a lot of albums but only average for a Jay-z album. The title track fueled the album and he did have some stellar moments talking about his life but there are too many 'rich people' problems and a couple of tracks that Jay should and could have ripped that he kind of wasted. The Nas feature was totally wrong. He did strike for the clubs and culture with "Tom Ford" which everyone is claiming to wear now, and the phrase 'twerk Miley Miley' from "Somewhere in America". It proved that Jay can literally roll out of bed, create a unique marketing plan and still outrap most dudes in the game.
2. Wale - The Gifted
This was to be the summer of Wale but if it wasn't people criticizing his flow, a lack of promotion and singles, or the revelation through old tweets that a lot of his peers don't like him, Wale battled for everything this year. The Gifted was a trip back to his roots with a more indigenous sound utilizing live instrumentation, Wale seemed to finally stop fighting the critics and just embrace being who he is. He was focused on the music with deep nuggets like "Golden Salvation" and "88" being powerful. Never questioned for his lyrics, he had hits with "Bad" and "Clappers" but the album seems to have stalled though it probably shouldn't.
1. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid M.a.a.d. City
Yeah, for me, Kendrick's album counts for this year. What Kendrick managed to do was put together an album that was a movie or tapestry telling a story while being popular and making lyrics cool again. Though it didn't seem as though it would have commercial viability, it did end up going platinum and he did it the hard way. "Poetic Justice", "Swimming Pools", and "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" propelled the album and made Kendrick the most influential young new artist out and gave older dudes like me a reason to look forward to hip hop releases.