Jan 9, 2015

Editorial Review: #AOTY 2014 picks by @RamseySaidWHAT

Well, this has definitely without a doubt been the hardest year for me to write this review. Hip-Hop has been interesting to say the least this year. From January to December plenty of comercial music released and I didn't find myself listening to most of any of it (crazy coming from a hip-hop blogger huh?). The music I looked forward to got pushed back like Kendrick and Joey Bada$$. It's safe to say I spent this year listening to lots of music from 2013, and mixtapes. The only exceptions were the albums that made this list and a few that just missed getting on the list. 2014 was really a year for singles as well. Don't believe me? Do me a favor, turn on the radio and all you'll is Iggy or Chris Brown murdering the charts (from a jail cell for most of the summer, go figure). Back to the topic at hand, my peers made a lot of points in their reviews when they said the year was good not great. Niles respectively declined and said there were enough quality albums to compile a decent list. I also have to agree with him when he said rap's heavy hitters were absent this year, but when based on the criteria (lyrics, production, flow, popularity, sales, and uniqueness), only a few stood out in my eyes. Please remember this is an opinion piece and not just a list of favorites. Please don't murder me too bad. The good one is for tomorrow. Until then, My album of the year picks for 2014 is as follows.

Number Five: NehruvianDOOM - Bishop Nehru & MF DOOM

If you've ever read anything I've written, you know I love music that reminds me of childhood. The 80's and 90's. NehruvianDOOM is an album born during the wrong decade and I love it. The production was superb, well it's produced soley by DOOM himself. The only exception was a collaboration with his partner Madlib on Dangerous. Although being produced by a legend Bishop Nehru still shined and was far from upstaged by his elder-statesman.  It's nice to see such young talent emerging reminding us hip-hop is still a young man's game. Niles actually did a review on this one so for more click here. NehruvianDOOM gets a 3.89 of 5 on the Ramsey Rating Scale.

Number Four: Oxymoron - ScHoolboy Q

I have a lot of respect for this album. In what seemed like a very very off year for the genre ScHoolboy Q came with a bang. His album dropped in January. For him to be able to stand the test of 12 months and even make the list is very impressive. Until July, you couldn't tell me this wasn't the best album in 2014. On top of being the first in the genre to really drop a major LP he was the first in the TDE stable who promised albums from the entire clan. The first and the only one of them to make the list, sorry Soulo. I happened to be off work and was able to stream his album listener with Rosenberg the eve of the release date. That was the first time I heard the deluxe version including songs like Collard Greens with Kendrick Lamar, Studio featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, and Man of the Year. Break the Bank and Yay Yay spoke to the pusher man ScHoolboy Q really was for him and his family, more importantly his daughter Joy you can see on the album cover (much like The Game's). Oxymoron start to finish was remarkable and definitely deserved to make everyone's top 10 including my own. I rated this a 3.91 of 5 on the Ramsey Rating Scale.

Number Three: Nobody's Smiling - Common

This is where it got hard for me. 3 through one have been interchangeable until actually sitting down and writing this. Nobody's Smiling was the only thing in my ears through the summer as far as hip-hop goes (well Rae Sremmurd too cuz those kids turn up man). I was gonna cover this one but I let Niles bless us with this review as well which you can find here. Tracks that stood out to me were Kingdom, Real, and the self title. Kingdom features Vince Staples and a choral background on the beat. The duo trade verses about their respective cities of Chicago and Long Beach, CA. Real features Elijah Blake (who this time I actually did the review on) and is somewhat the climatic turning point of the album where it takes a brief turn. Blake lays down crooning but catchy vocals. I live by the beach. This was one of those "Roll down the window and feel the warm air on a July day while listening to this with your shawty riding shotgun" tracks.

Don't be confused, Nobody's Smiling was not a happy album. I found it very timely as it released a week before the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. The self title was an ode to Chicago but not in a Homecoming Kanye sense. Common spoke about the things not talked about. What I liked most about that track was the spoken word piece by Malik Yusef at the end of the track. Nobody's Smiling recieves 4.3 stars on the Ramsey Rating Scale.

Number Two: 2014 Forest Hills Drive - J. Cole

This is for you Jermaine. You did the same thing Childish Gambino did last year with this December release thing. That left Glover with only a honorable mention last year. It's only right that Cole stops here. Just like Common, Forest Hills Drive was timely. Common got the initial murder, Cole got the indictment verdict. 2014 Forest Hills Drive makes my list because it came with no promotion, no singles, and was still arguably the emcee's best project in his impressive discography. As all Cole albums I find myself able to relate to him. He speaks to me in different ways. The frustration and longing for freedom in me was heard in the Intro and January 28th. "Do you wanna be, happy?" Reminiscing to my first time was Wet Dreamz "Cuz I aint never did this before." Wet Dreamz was a nice storyteller track. Simple boom bap beat that doesn't overshadow what he's saying. A Tale of 2 Citez is by far the hardest track on the album. Gritty beat, gritty bars, instant repeat. G.O.M.D. is another one of those acronym tracks kinda like IDFWU. That's all I have to say about that (Forest Gump voice*). 2014 Forest Hills Drive was my favorite album this year. Perhaps if it were out longer and the initial buzz wore off I could rate it fairly with the rest. Because of that, I have to stop you there (again). Cole World huh? 2014 Forest Hills Drive gets 4.79 on the Ramsey Rating Scale.

Number One: Under Pressure - Logic

I can't believe all of the other contributors to the site missed this one. Under Pressure was dope through and through. Frankly, I'm tired of everyone sleeping on Young Sinatra. He's been around for awhile and just now made the XXL Freshman list this past year. On top of the Editor's (me) nod on the AOTY list, iTunes also voted him as the best hip-hop album in 2014 as well. And no it's not cuz his skin pale because he still won't sell like Eminem or Adele (get it?). To the point. Under Pressure was fuego, the one fire album no one listened to. The self title track was my favorite for three reasons. One, it was self produced and done with such flare. Two was the video. The visual was insane and shot like it was a first person shooter. Three, flow. He engaged you with all of the before mentioned things but when you listen to what he said and how it was delivered it was nuts. Other impressive tracks were Driving Miss Daisy featuring Childish Gambino and Buried Alive. Under Pressure was different and equally amazing considering it was a debut album. Not a ton of features so you really see what Logic can bring to the table. I gave Under Pressure 4.71 on the Ramsey Rating Scale. It scores less than Forest Hills Drive but I believe it was still the better album of the two, how's that for an Oxymoron and I'm not talking ScHoolboy (okay the puns are corny).

I said before I started writing this was difficult to judge this year. It was hard to leave out Nicki Minaj and Ab Soul off my AOTY list. I also struggled leaving Anomaly by Lacrae off as a crossover album. I generally hate Christian Rap. I love Gospel, I love hip-hop. I separate church and state (literally). Isaiah Rashaad also impressed with his Cilvia Demo towards the top of the year but couldn't hang with the rest. Those are my picks, hope you enjoyed reading. Keep listening mates.
Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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