Ryan Buell | This Week in Hip-Hop
A Year in Review
Published: Monday, December 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, December 9, 2013 09:12
To put an incredible year of hip-hop in perspective, here are the best and worst productions of 2013:
The Ed Reed Award: Jay-Z
Sometimes athletes will continue playing even after their bodies begin to betray them. Sure, there may be flashes of former dominance, but it’s evident to just about everyone that they just don’t have it anymore (a la Ed Reed of the New York Jets). A similar decline can happen to rappers. This year, Jay-Z proved to still have plenty of mainstream appeal based on his name alone, but “Magna Carta Holy Grail” made clear that his passion, wordplay and swagger are simply not what they once were. Honorable Mention: Lil Wayne.
Worst Song of the Year: “I Feel like Pac, I Feel like Biggie”
This DJ Khaled track, featuring Rick Ross, Meek Mill, T.I., Swizz Beatz and Diddy, was an utter monstrosity — the worst combination of mainstream success and musical travesty. The lackluster verses and atrocious hook are a disgrace to the legends it was named after. Honorable Mention: “Molly,” by Tyga.
The Mattress Album: “Run the Jewels”
By far the best sleeper project of the year was the 10-song EP from underground vets Killer Mike and El-P. The banger “Run the Jewels” is a nonstop onslaught of hard-hitting rhymes and shaking sub-beats. A huge hit in hip-hop circles, it inexplicably failed to gain much notoriety in more mainstream arenas. Honorable Mention: “12 Reasons to Die,” by Ghostface Killah.
Manny Being Manny Award: Kanye West
No one marches to his own beat quite like Kanye (at least, not since Manny Ramirez was relevant). What a year for ’Ye. He released one of the most controversial albums in recent memory, gave an unforgettable series of ranting interviews and had a child with Kim Kardashian of sex-tape fame. No honorable mention for this one, because only Kanye could pull off a year quite like this.
Comeback of the Year: J. Cole
Cole’s 2013 was a strong reassertion of his talent after he was widely criticized for selling out on his 2011 album “Cole World.” “Born Sinner” was an impeccable sophomore album that saw Cole explore the full range of his flow and production. He was able to meld mainstream appeal with his trademark lyricism on “Born Sinner,” giving Cole his second gold album. Honorable mention: Eminem.
Line of the Year: “I don’t smoke crack motherf***er I sell it!”
When Kendrick’s verse on Big Sean’s “Control” was first released, it almost broke the Internet. In calling out some of the biggest names in hip-hop, K-Dot dropped one of the year’s hottest verses and laid his claim to rap royalty. This line was instantaneously memorable and one of the most poignant in a genre shaking verse. Honorable Mention: “Lean all on a square, that’s a f***ing rhombus” from “Smoke Again,”by Chance the Rapper.
Song of the Year: “Started from the Bottom”
I’m not sure there is a single person under 30 who can’t sing along to the hook on Drake’s lead single to his highly anticipated album “Nothing was the Same.” This song was everywhere. It kicked off the massive hype for Drake’s sophomore album a full seven months before its release. What’s more, the track wasn’t just a radio success — it also featured some of Drake’s best rhymes. Honorable Mention: Chance the Rapper’s “Pusha Man.”
Album of the Year: “Acid Rap”
As I discussed last week, Chance’s ascendance this year has been unprecedented, and it all began with his highly acclaimed album “Acid Rap.” Chance became a force to be reckoned with this year, as he found his way into the headphones of thousands and asserted himself as rap’s hottest up-and-comer. Honorable Mention: Kanye’s “Yeezus.”
Ryan Buell is a sophomore who has not yet declared a major. He can be reached at Ryan.Buell@tufts.edu.