TheRootMusic’s Top 14 Hip Hop Projects of 2014 (Article)

2014 has been widely regarded as the worst year ever in terms of Hip Hop’s musical efforts. Whilst the first six months were undoubtedly a slow start, by October a new contender for Album Of The Year seemed to drop on a daily basis. Whilst many of the more favoured picks have eluded my personal list, those that have made it, seem to have slipped the radar of Hip Hop’s top blogs. With the majority of the entrants being either British or independent or both, TheRootMusic’s 14 Top Hip Hop Projects of 2014 is indicative of a change in the American mainstream dominance of the beloved genre. So without further ado…

14. YG – My Krazy Life
Though they have recently fell out publicly, over social media. For near ten months, YG and his beat-smith, DJ Mustard held the title of album of the year. There are only a handful of albums that managed to best it and even then, on another day, “My Krazy Life” might have been a better album. It is, in my opinion, the best West Coast album that lives within the scenes legendary sound since The Game’s “The Documentary.” If you’re looking for an album for the more upbeat moments of your life, then YG’s cult-classic is the seventeen song disc for you. 

13. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
I was heavily criticised last year for the lack of Killer Mike and El-P in my list of 2013’s best efforts, but their 2014 follow up to “Run The Jewels” was an exponential improvement from the hottest producer-rapper duo of the last decade. El’s production was without doubt the highlight of the album and delivered some of the most high octane, adrenaline pumping records of the year. Many have heralded this as the magnum opus of 2014, and whilst I personally think it falls slightly short of the mark, there is a legitimate argument there. The most perfect gym LP ever made. 

12. Grafter – Lifestyles Of The Young, Broke & Nameless
This is one of two entrants into this list, that will have been criminally overlooked and perhaps even unheard of by the other list makers that have scoured Hip Hop’s hottest mixtapes, EP’s and albums. Grafter is a rare example of a UK emcee with a grity, raw potential to articulate the way he lives, as opposed to make generic ‘road man’ raps that plague Grime recently. It’s not quite on the level of Dizzee Rascal’s groundbreaking debut, but in “Lifestyles Of The Young , Broke & Nameless”, Grafter lays the foundations for a start to a flourishing career, that barring disaster, could see him at the pinacle, in the not too distant future. 

11. Slaughterhouse – House Rules
Shady Records’ super group, Slaughterhouse have caught flack since they signed with Eminem for the lack of music coming out of the lyrical leviathans. With “Glass House” shelved for the foreseeable future, fans have been furious with Budden, Nickel, Crooked and Yaowa, seemingly forgetting the marvelous mixtape they dropped midway through 2014. In “House Rules”, the Slaughterhouse quartet brought a quality that have eluded them since their debut, eponymous project and showcased the skill level that sparked the phenomenon that we’ve come to wait endlessly for, to release a full length LP. “House Rules” showed they still had the talent, hopefully they’ll regain their hunger, tenacity and work thic as a collective come this time, next year. 

10. Marvell – Marvell FM5
Despite the best production of the year in “Heaven Can Wait Tonight” courtesy of Merlin, not making it to the final product of the album. The terrific trio of Vertex, Shocka and Double S delivered a collection of songs, in which each was worthy of the ‘stand out’ title. My personal favourites “Up, Up & Away” and “Legendary”, mixed with one of my top three songs of 2013 in “Angels” were matched by tracks that Twitter debated as their own personal favourites. A lack of marketing after the release, despite big name co-signs, is in my opinion the solitary reason why this is the second of the two, aforementioned projects that will have been criminally overlooked and what I’d call, the most underrated album of the year. 

9. Stormzy – Dreamer’s Disease
In what has rapidly become the biggest success story of recent memory. Stormzy quit his job, released this EP and has since achieved more than most will in their entire careers. With 2014 being such a massive year, off of the back of an EP that consists of three of the best songs the year has had to offer, with four extra’s that aren’t far off, from a similar level. “Intro” and “Dreamers Disease” are my go-to songs for motivation, whilst “Not That Deep” has sweeped the nation with it’s infectious instrumental and the MOBO awarded Grime Artist Of The Year’s, braggadocios bars brim with an unparalleled brilliance. The EP is the mark of a future legend, who will undoubtedly become a permanent fixture in these lists. 

8. PRhyme – PRhyme
Early incarnations of end-of-year lists were roadblocked with Nickel and Premo at the top of them. the “PRhyme” album, features both living Hip Hop legends in their, no pun intended, primes. DJ Premier will be the name on everybody’s lips for producer of the year, whilst Royce Da 5’9’s slick spitting showcases why he’s continuously tipped as the most underrated rapper, ever. With a supporting cast of Mac Miller, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Electronica and of course the three other quarters of House Gang, this album could be given to newbie emcees as the handbook for how to create a Hip Hop LP that sticks to the culture as strictly as any album ever could. It’s missing one little kick to take it to the top, but this is where each of the following entrants are interchangeable.

7. Schama Noel – Eternal Feels
Schama Noel has proved himself as the master of marketing plans on Twitter, took his lyrical ability from the social network to the booth for “God’s Playlist” and for his debut EP, created a soundscape that eclipses the quality you could come to expect from a self professed Best Twitter Rapper Ever. “Eternals Feels” has been heralded as “Take Care” 2. “Suitcase” and “Type Of Party” are exemplary of the potential Schama possesses, as two of the better song of the 10’s so far. This very easily could have been top, and I’m almost certain there will be more than a couple of bloggers that rank “Eternal Feels” as the best Hip Hop projects of 2014 – and it’s very hard to argue against it. 

6. Trev Rich – Rain In The Summer
Following 2013’s Mixtape Of The Year, “Heights”, Trev Rich failed to top what was looking like his eternal magnum opus, a bitter sweet, early peak in his career. Each and every project between “Heights” and “Rain In The Summer” was consistently captivating, but the 2014 offering pushed the Squizzy Gang spitter to a new skill level. A well balance mix of club-hop and emotional resoance, the tape is testament to the versatile talents of Trev Rich, a man with the world at his feet – who could become the greatest ever, with the right push. And you lot still haven’t heard “Pissed.”…

5. Jister & The Lion Ranger – Absurdism
I’ve never been prouder to write up an entry for an end-of-year list tan I am for this. Being able to call an EP that was created by a North East, England emcee one of the top 5 projects of the year, and feel justified in doing so is an absolute pleasure. Middlebrough’s Jister, backed by the production of The Lion Ranger was able to take a concept straight from a philosophy book and make a genuinely captivating record from it, is no easy feat, but Jister nails it with “Absurdism.” Many may not have heard of either, the emcee or the EP itself, but out of those who have, I’m yet to hear a negative opinion. 

4. Lunar C – Not Good At Life
If like me, you’re late to the Lunar C bandwagon, don’t worry because in his latest effort, the Northerners hits a stride that he’ll be looking to take into his full length project slated for 2015. “Not Good At Life” may only be four songs, but what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. Lunar is unquestionably a marmite rapper, but despite his ambivalence – nobody can deny the skill he possesses to drop jaws with a solitary punchline. Regardless of whether he fits the typical mould for emcee’s, “Not Good At Life” has proved a self-contradicting statement of intent from one of the best British bar smiths on the come up, of which there are a plethora. 

3. Wiley – Snakes & Ladders
The godfather of Grime hadn’t been himself in recent years, becoming something of Britain’s answer to Azealia Banks on social media, with continous twitter rants about those doing better than him, from the newer generation. in 2014, he regained my respect with what is not only one of the best British albums for a minute, but one of the best from either side of the Atlantic this year. Instead of blocking the careers of those on the come up, Wiley takes the opposite approach and celebrates Grime emcees of new and old in an album that stand up against the finest in his extensive catologue of classics. The best bow out album since “The Black Album”, and I won’t be mad if it ends in a similar fashion, either. 

2. Joe Budden – Some Love Lost
Joe Budden promised a Mood Muzik-esque vibe for “Some Love Lost” and boy did he deliver. The Mood God returned from a year of continuous lows which seen him catch media attention for all the wrong reasons, and flipped it in a way only he knows how – creating one of the finest records of his career – imagine what the subsequent album could sounds like…

1. Jon Connor – Best in The World Kanye
Each and every song of this mixtape is worthy of being heralded as the best Hip Hop tracks of the year. Kanye’s beat choice, and Connor’s deft emcee-ing ability is a match made in heaven. For a more concise review, here’s a write-up I conducted nearer to it’s release: Click Here.

What’s your choice for best Hip Hop project of the year, let me know in the comments below!

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