2013 has been chock-full of great hip-hop and the latter half looks just as bright, with albums from Jay-Z, Pusha T, ScHoolboy Q, Drake and Eminem slated. For now, the June 18th album explosion is getting most of the attention, but with there have been a ton of below-the-radar releases just as deserving of the spotlight. While these projects didn’t garner as much fanfare as the big name drops, they caught our ear. Now maybe they’ll catch yours.
Sadistik – Flowers for my Father (February 19, 2013)
One of the bright spots in Seattle’s gloomy skies, Sadistik has a knack for extremely intricate rhyme patterns that sometimes mask the dark introspection his lyrics contain. Flowers was crafted following the death of the rapper’s father and is essentially an update on the events in his life that his hero has missed thus far. Given the events that lead to making album, the music is heavy and unrelenting but it also stands out as one of the strongest efforts of the year.
Nacho Picasso & Avatar Darko – Vampsterdam (June 10, 2013)
Staying in Seattle for a moment, this EP finds two relatively new friends exploring the levels of degradation they can include in their music while still making the listening experience fun. Nacho and Avatar are backed with grandiose production from AraabMuzik, Blue Sky Black Death and Raised Byy Wolves. Vampsterdam was concocted through many early-morning drug-fueled studio sessions and the result is both offensive and enjoyable.
Sahtyre – LSD (Prelude) (April 3, 2013)
Sahtyre has been making his name known around the blogosphere for a while, and in April he caught the attention of many with his 11-track project, LSD (Prelude). The work is experimental, with ear-grabbing samples. At the end of LSD, the listener finds a man trying to balance an extremist personality that ranges from addiction to depression to narcissism.
M.i and Tyler Keyes showcased their rapper/producer chemistry on this release. While the album was bolstered by a few guest appearances from Chamillionaire, Blu, OnCue and a few others, the main attraction was M.i delivering a confident, well-polished performance.
MaG – freedom (January 15, 2013)
MaG took three years to craft his follow-up to I Ain’t Going Back to Retail! and it was well worth the wait. While the Bronx rhymer can certainly spit, it’s the clear passion and earnestness that makes freedom stand out. MaG is a poet who loves hip-hop and that translates in the songs. While some may find the album a little too dense for their listening pleasure, it certainly has its place in the headphones of a listener who enjoys taking a journey with a rapper.
Gabriel Stark – Cocaine Gold (April 2, 2013)
Cocaine Gold was a labor of love for Gabriel Stark and it’s an intricate as it is dope. The album plays out like a movie, with interludes and characters that play pivotal roles in the story being told. With production from Clams Casino, Austin Millz and others, the music is great to vibe to as well, but as with any movie, it’s better if you follow along.
GawdsSpeed was recorded entirely in Ibn Inglor’s bedroom and, judging by the sound of the music, that’s probably a scary place. The Illinois rapper created an extremely dark and paranoid project. While the music certainly sounds like it was pulled from the depths of hell, it is not a buzz-kill experience. The production is hard-hitting and allows Inglor to let his mind race while keeping up the listener’s energy.
Brotha Lynch Hung – Mannibalector (February 5, 2013)
Brotha Lynch is not for everybody. Listeners either find him to be an evil genius or a misogynistic horrorcore dweller and he certainly doesn’t do anything to change those opinions here. Mannibalector does not tiptoe on the dark side, it resides there with great pleasure. For those who enjoy their hip-hop soaked in blood and terror, this album meets all requirements while still putting an emphasis on the art of rap with appearances from Tech N9ne, Yelawolf, Hopsin and more.
Nino Bless has had an interesting career. He was that close to being in the Shady Records supergroup Slaughterhouse, but the other four members did not feel as though he had paid his dues at that point. After being featured on their initial record in 2008, Nino did several disappearing and re-emerging acts, but made a statement with his mixtape at the top of 2013. ROAM 2 details some of the rapper’s hardships that may have kept him away from music for a bit, including a dwindling bank account, a break-up and a miscarriage. However, the tape also features some clever wittiness that Nino can bring, including a track that does not feature 2 Chainz.
Nickelus F – Vices (Janaury 21, 2013)
Sweet Petey followed up his 2011 album Faces with an album that found him focused, having produced the entire album, save for the Jake One beat on his previously unreleased Drake-assisted record “Number 15.” For the most part, the album finds the rapper dealing with the vices of the world, while maintaining his sense of humor that is sprinkled in throughout the run.
ANTHM – Handful Of Dust (March 4, 2013)
Though ANTHM’s collaborator, GodleeBarnes a.k.a. Blu is of a higher profile, few have heard of the man who handles the rapping (and occasional singing) on this brief but beautiful LP. ANTHM pays tribute to the women in his life, tackles racial tension, and his journey through the music industry, all from fresh angles and with extraordinarily tight rhyme schemes. GodleeBarnes’ beats are soulful, energetic, and are always in perfect marriage to ANTHM‘s tone and subject. Also, the cover landed on our list of the best of the year.
Gee Watts – Watts Up (March 7, 2013)
Kansas’ Gee Watts put out one of the most lyrical, versatile mixtapes of the year. Watts raps about everything from God, to your ex girlfriend, to paranoia, to radio sellouts, and he does it all with a serious knack for punchlines and flow. He has a talent for beat and guest selection: his only high-profile guest? Kendrick Lamar, who Watts more than holds his own with on “Watts R.I.O.T.”
eGo‘s brief, dark mixtape brings plenty to explore. With a nasally, strangely on point flow reminiscent of homie Chance The Rapper‘s, eGo talks a lot of shit but also dives into personal, panicked subjects. The production is at times big and electrifying, and at others, smaller and more intimate. Stay on the lookout for the tape this is the prelude for Vicodin: The Overdose.
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