2013 was another crazy and exciting year for music. Daft Punk made a comeback with the release of Random Access Memories, taking their music in an entirely new direction while French Group Pheonix headlined Coachella and released “Bankrupt!”. Hip-hop heavyweights Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Kid Cudi and Jay-Z all released albums (“Yeezus,” “Long.Live.A$AP.” “Nothing Was the Same,” “Indicud,” “Magna Carta Holy Grail”). While many other artists such as Action Bronson, MacMiller, Danny Brown, and Joey Bada$$ all dropped albums/mixtapes making it a killer year in the hip-hop community. Lesser known artists, before 2013, like J. Cole, Pusha T, and Disclosure jumped into the spotlight with “Born Sinner,” “My Name is My Name,” and “Settle.” Odd Future made huge moves in popularity with Tyler the Creators “Wolf” and (more importantly) Earl Sweatshirt’s “Doris,” Lorde exploded into the mainstream and released “Pure Heroine,” and the Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend again satisfied fans with “AM” and “Modern Vampires of the City.” Toro y Moi released “Anything in Return” which immediately became favorites for lovers of cross genre indie and electronic. Arcade Fire made a comeback with their two piece album “Reflektor” and are among some of my hopefuls for Coachella 2014.
As 2013 has come to a close, it’s time to look back at the artists who started the year under the radar and ended the year just the opposite. My list has to begin in Chicago with Chance the Rapper, who amazed the world with his unique form, cadence, and deep social commentary with “Acid Rap.” The album itself has been considered for album of the year by many sources, and although it will likely never reach mainstream popularity, its probably a good thing. Along with “Acid Rap,” Chance had many great features this year with big name artists, including James Blake (Life Round Here) and Childish Gambino (The Worst Guys). If you don’t listen to Chance, the time has come. You can even download his mixtape for free (along with his first mixtape 10 Day) at this link:
Childish Gambino – Continuing in the field of hip-hop, Childish Gambino made a major impact in 2013, coming on strong late with his release of “because the internet.” The album is unique by itself, but the multi-talented Gambino went an entirely new and unprecedented way by releasing the album with a short film, script for a more major film (with links for the songs as a soundtrack), and movie poster corresponding with the script. He also tweeted recently that his album wasn’t done, leaving questions as to what 2014 will bring. See the review of his album here:
Flume – Moving into electronic music, Australian based artist Flume also had a huge year, releasing tons of music including a deluxe version of his self-titled album (already one of the greatest albums of 2012), multiple singles, and an EP collaborating with Chet Faker. Remixes of his music were highly prevalent in 2013, including works by Ta-Ku and Kaytranada. See his Soundcloud here:
Kendrick Lamar had another huge year without even releasing an album. While I would argue that “Good Kid Maad City” blossomed into widespread popularity early in this year despite its release in October 2012, it falls beside the point as his features on nearly every major album (Born Sinner, My Name is My Name, Long.Live.A$AP, Indicud, etc.) released as well as multiple singles including work with Jhene Aiko, and what is arguably the verse of the decade on Big Sean’s “Control.” Kendrick is set up to become the most famous rapper of all time.
Looking towards the future, I expect big things from a number of artists who have yet to find the popular eye. These are the artists to look for in 2014.
Vic Mensa – One of Chance’s best friends, he also calls Chicago home. He is a more straightforward rapper than Chance but in my opinion he could reach a broader audience because he is, well, less Chance-ey. His flow is smooth, cadence unique but well-done, and his words are often deep and carry great meaning. You’ve probably already heard him on “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and even on the recently released “Suitcase” if you follow Chance on Soundcloud. Look for him to be on the come-up big time this year.
Do I need to tell you to be on the lookout for J. Cole or Kendrick? Hopefully not, but if you haven’t heard, “Out the Sky,” an joint album by the two artists (and an early candidate for album of the year) (and the most exciting thing I have heard in a LONG time) will be released in early 2014. No official date yet, but J. Cole said the album is “basically all there” at a recent live show.
Also in early ’14 Schoolboy Q (a member of Kendricks ‘Black Hippy’ crew) will be releasing “Oxymoron.” He said “Kendrick left me no choice but to drop a classic” in reference to “good kid maad city,” and I expect big things from the album.
Other possible notable albums for 2014 include; Grimes debut album with Roc Nation, Sampha’s debut album after an outbreak year due largely in fact to his features with Drake and Disclosure. Pusha T’s long overdue first debut album “My name is My Name” was a huge commercial success, and lived up to the hype. The G.O.O.D Music rapper is apparently already working on his second studio album “King Push” and it will be sure to impress. (http://hypetrak.com/2014/01/pusha-t-and-the-neptunes-start-20-day-studio-sessions/)
After the recent split up of electronic duo TNGHT, I would not be surprised to see both Lunice and Hudson Mohawke to both release solo albums, as they have been recently been dropping their own singles.
A featured artist on this blog, James Vincent McMorrow will be releasing his second studio album “Post Tropical” in the coming weeks. I would love another Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) after their debut album released this past year was possibly one of my favorites in the hip hop genre. Before Christmas the duo released this video and is releasing a remix edition of their album in January
Kanye West has reported his next album will be a eight song project, but with no date for release confirmed, and after a huge success in 2013 one can only hope for this to come in the coming year.
There have also been several rumors regarding a possible Jamie xx album or mixtape to be released in 2014, which he has hinted in several interviews. Time will only tell.
Without a doubt 2014 looks like it will be a beyond great year for music. I guess we will all just wait and see.