'Rapping' Up 2013

‘Rapping’ Up 2013
Jack Ellis
A&E Senior Writer

Since hip-hop has splintered into so many subgenres and regional offshoots, it would be impossible to tie it up with one neat, concise narrative for 2013. For a more inclusive alternative, here are 10 compelling albums and 10 great singles that came out this year.

1. Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap”
A kaleidoscope of bright colors and bleak corners viewed through eyes as wide as they are bloodshot. On his wonderful second mixtape, Chance The Rapper demonstrates how drugs can cloud the disillusionment of growing up too fast, but only compassion can conquer it.

2. Kanye West’s “Yeezus”
This barrage of unchecked id and ugly truths finds Kanye West at his most inflexible and undeniable. It’s easy to conclude the man has lost his mind, but only because sanity has become a shorthand for obedience in a world of manufactured, micromanaged emotions.

3. Migos’ “YRN”
A dementedly fun episode of Rugrats starring miniature versions of Gucci Mane, Future and Soulja Boy. Atlanta trio Migos and producer Zaytoven invert Atlanta’s punishing trap music until it’s downright giddy, seeing dollar signs where most see despair, delighting in their discovery.

4. Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same”
Aubrey Graham has long been tortured by fame, but he’s never sounded more callous than he does here, as he finally tries to exult. Noah Shebib hollows out the instrumentals as Drake attempts to reconcile his riches with the damage done, wondering if he’s not hollow himself.

5. Action Bronson & Party Supplies’ “Blue Chips 2”
On their piquant second mixtape, Action Bronson and Party Supplies offer up comfort food for a different kind of New York nostalgic: the one who longs not for Wu-Tang and Biggie, but for Five Family mob movies and NBA short-shorts. The humor is sometimes tasteless and far from obtuse, but it breezes by like an hour of reminiscing with the quick-witted, sensitive prankster from high school who never stopped laughing at his own jokes.

6. Ty Dolla $ign’s “Beach House 2”
The Weeknd without self-pity, Ty Dolla $ign offers up deliciously sleazy R&B over instrumentals as fluid, bleary and beautiful as the hours when night bleeds into morning. “Beach House 2” captures the allure of misbehavior, extricating hedonism from its consequences with a smirk and a shrug.

7. DJ Mustard’s “Ketchup”
For all Kanye’s touting of minimalism this year, it was DJ Mustard who effectively proved that less is more. On his first compilation tape, the LA producer rewrites the manual on strip-club anthems with nothing but hand claps, plinking pianos, sinewy synth lines and simple, infectious verses from California’s leading ratcheteers.

8. Killer Mike & El-P’s “Run The Jewels”
Bruising OutKast affiliate Killer Mike and New York underground favorite El-P abandon the high-concept underpinnings of their solo albums and cough up thirty minutes of eloquent, politically charged tough-talk. El-P cuts his typically abrasive production into something leaner and brings his fair share of Brooklyn beat-downs on the mic, but Killer Mike, who renders his incisive social commentary and threats of bodily harm in vivid but colloquial language, steals the show.

9. Earl Sweatshirt’s “Doris”
Even as he grapples with his reluctance, Earl Sweatshirt remains rap’s most prodigious writer. “Doris” is a gloomy, dense album that finds Earl tossing off wordy abstractions in polysyllabic thickets and, more potently, dropping his guise of apathy for frank talk about love lost to inscrutable angst.

10. Mac Miller’s “Watching Movies With The Sound Off”
Rap’s annoying little brother grows into good taste and self awareness. Trapped in a funhouse of luscious, doleful beats, Mac Miller stares stoned at the murals on the walls with awe and uncertainty, determined to make sense of it all.

Top 10 Songs of 2013 (Not Including Anything On The Top 10 Albums)
1. Meek Mill: “Lil N*gga Snupe”
2. Isaiah Rashad featuring Jay Rock & ScHoolboy Q: “Shot U Down (Remix)”
3. Kevin Gates featuring Starlito: “MYB”
4. Gunplay: “Drop Da Tint”
5. Future: “Substitute Everything”
6. Rich Homie Quan: “Type Of Way”
7. Lil B: “I Love You”
8. Freddie Gibbs: “I Seen A Man Die”
9. A$AP Ferg featuring French Montana, Trinidad James, ScHoolboy Q, and A$AP Rocky: “Work (Remix)”
10. Eminem featuring Nate Ruess: “Headlights”

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