#5: Yeezus – Kanye West
Before Kanye West was shouting at Sway, he was shouting at the world. Yeezus is a Yelp review of one man’s life, written by the man himself and stretched into a 40 minute sonic diatribe. It’s not pleasant, it’s grating and it’s purely obnoxious, yet it’s felt. Kanye’s abuses everything on this album, from substances, to women, to history, yet it’s an abuse that you’re irresistibly sucked into, as a voyeur, victim and active participant. It’s unsettling, but it’s execution is damn near flawless. Kanye truly made something unique, so unique that even when it pierces the ear like a bullhorn, somehow the ear wants more. Read our full review here.
#4: My Name is My Name – Pusha-T
Without making much of a fuss over it, Pusha T became the top gangsta-rap penman of the moment. When it comes to putting together a phrase, Push is an all-time great, and he makes sure to deliver on his career’s promises here. “My money longer than train smoke.” “Arm and hammer and a mason jar, that’s my dinner date.” “Young niggas cliquin’ up with my rivals, like the bible don’t burn like these bullets don’t spiral.” “Old habits die hard, that rainy day bag buried in the back yard.” Pusha‘s
habit addiction to the coke game obviously shows up everywhere here, but, as we’ve said before, it’s always a background for something greater, be it philosophy or just a beautiful image. On My Name Is My Name, Push doesn’t just assert and exert his dominance of his lane, he masters a new craft: acting as team leader. While ‘Ye‘s fingerprints are all over the production, making it shinier (“Hold On”), and more lethal (“Numbers On The Board”), it was up to Push to make the album feel like his–to somehow have a feature-per-song disc wherein he still comes out as the clear centerpiece. In perhaps the year’s best full-length show of rapping, Push makes himself sound at home and at helm in situations as varied as seducing and stiff-arming hoards of women in the unbeatably-smooth “Let Me Love You,” to dangling the world itself by its collar on the concrete-splitting (and highly underrated) “Who I Am.” Push stays steady in all settings and executes like an assassin, not wasting a single damn word in the process. MNIMN is minimalism like you’ve never heard it.
#3: Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
It’s been said that Chance has borrowed some of Outkast‘s pension for over-the-margin rhyming and slick hooks. It’s been said that Chance‘s progressive mind and lush, soulful backdrops have him in place as the next Kanye. It’s even been argued that his nasally, rapid fire darts recall a young Eminem. What hasn’t been properly noted is that nobody in rap really sounds, or has ever sounded, like Chancellor Bennett, and he sounds nothing like them. The Chicago pinball bends rap into a shape entirely different from what we’ve heard and imagined before. No one in 2013 (except arguably Vic Mensa, but that’s another story), is even capable of sounding like Chance, of swinging with his brand of drunken grace between rapping and singing, of melting words and their inherent melodies into this warbling, sometimes-double-timing putty that sounds like so many different things. Among them: the future of music. Acid Rap is the manifesto of a man who sees his craft in a vastly different way from his peers. It’s dripping with ideas, excitement, earnest emotion, and it acts on the listener in every way one could hope a work of art could. Chance and his first little masterpiece are at once epic and intimate, dense and accessible, classic and futuristic.
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