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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Best Hip-Hop of 2013

Published: December 6, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

The hip-hop world has seen a lot this year. Many great independent artists cemented themselves with sophomore releases, Earl Sweatshirt finally released an album and Kanye West, well, Kanye’d all over the place. I listened to most of it, and I liked most of what I heard.

10. Pusha T – “My Name Is My Name”
Pusha T has been one of my favorite southern rappers ever since I first heard Clipse and their classic album “Hell Hath No Fury.” On one hand, he’s tough and wants you to know it, but on the other hand, he’s very religious and introspective. Both of these elements come together in his first official solo album, “My Name Is My Name,” which shows off his amazing lyricism and proves he’s not just another rapper on Kanye’s label.
Best Song: “Nosetalgia (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”

9. Logic – “Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever”
Logic, a massively talented MC, from Maine of all places, has released some of the most fascinating and personal mixtapes in recent memory with his “Young Sinatra” series. “Welcome to Forever,” the third installment, chronicles Logic’s reaction to his newfound success, including meeting his heroes and staying true to himself. And since each Logic tape is better than the last, I’d say that he earned it.
Best Song: “The Come Up”

8. Flatbush Zombies – “BetterOffDead”
I was hooked on Flatbush Zombies as soon as I heard their bizarre, brilliant 2012 debut “D.R.U.G.S.,” and I couldn’t wait for their follow up, the long delayed “BetterOffDead.” Erick Arc Elliott’s production is on-point, balancing the weirdness with the classic New York sound perfectly. The Zombies’ chemistry as a three-piece comes into its own, and the combination of their personal styles makes one great mad-hatter of a rap album.
Best Song: “Amerikkkan Pie”

7. Action Bronson – “Blue Chips 2”
“Blue Chips 2” was released unannounced this year, so I didn’t have time to get ready for how great it was. Action Bronson’s rhymes are still as base and vulgar as ever, but the production by Party Supplies and guest appearances from Ab-Soul and others are so good that I didn’t focus too much on that. Bronson himself is in top form, delivering laughs and punchlines to remember for a while.
Best Song: “Through The Eyes of A G (feat. Ab-Soul)

6. Joey Bada$$ – “Summer Knights”
“Summer Knights” does not surpass Joey Bada$$’s debut tape “1999,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still great. “Summer Knights” is a mature, entertaining, almost cinematic experience that was the soundtrack for most of my summer and that I still visit often. With this release, Joey Bada$$ proved he isn’t just a figurehead of ’90s rap revival; he’s the real deal and will hopefully be around for a long time.
Best Song: “My Yout”

5. The Underachievers – “The Lords of Flatbush”
Now we come to my favorite members of the aforementioned Brooklyn ’90s rap revival. “The Lords of Flatbush” is the shortest entry on this list at eight songs, but when the songs are as strong as these, that doesn’t matter at all. The lyrics and flow are totally outstanding, as is the production, and The Underachievers once again prove that you don’t need to be prolific to be great.
Best Song: “Flexin”

4. Danny Brown – “OLD”
I have to admit that I kind of sabotaged myself with this one. I got so hyped for it for so long that at one point my high just kind of popped, and I cast my excitement into down. Was there any way Danny Brown could improve on “XXX”? I didn’t think so. I must have been wrong, since “OLD” turned out to be 20 songs of complete hip-hop genius.
Best Song: “The Return (feat. Freddie Gibbs)”

3. Run The Jewels – “Run The Jewels”
Run the Jewels is a fantasy come to life for me. A collaboration between Brooklyn’s El-P and Atlanta’s Killer Mike, who released my favorite rap albums of 2012, was just too good to be true. And it was true, and it was not at all disappointing. The duo’s free album (supported by a huge tour) marks a return to agitator-rap that’s been missing for far too long, with lyrics addressing everything from politics to Hulk Hogan to just plain attitude.
Best Song: “36-Inch Chain”

2. Chance the Rapper – “Acid Rap”
Even though “Acid Rap” is Chance the Rapper’s second mixtape, for many people, it was the first time hearing his brand of wacky-voiced Chicago flow. Bringing creative adlibs, great beats and some awesome guest features by artists like Childish Gambino and Action Bronson, “Acid Rap” is a massive creative achievement. And unlike other rappers who have big personas, Chance’s never takes him over. Your move, Rick Ross.
Best Song: “Cocoa Butter Kisses”

1. Kanye West – “Yeezus”
I know Kanye is overrated, and perhaps he’s an arrogant, hypocritical jerk and yes, I know that he had a baby with Kim Kardashian and named it North West. But for all his faults, Kanye is being himself, uncensored, and he can certainly make a fun song. “Yeezus” is the album I’ve listened to more than any other this year. Plus, he got Chief Keef to enunciate, which has to count for something.
Best Song: “Black Skinhead”