It’s been a pretty good year for music. I would have to argue that last year was probably better in terms of releases, but 2014 started to get much stronger as the year went on, especially as it was coming to a close. There were some great albums (many that made it to the top of the list) that came out pretty late into the year. I should preface this by saying that my musical tastes lie in the hip-hop and pop realm. With that being said, there were some great albums that came out, but I just wasn’t in to them. Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran had a great year (thus their Grammy nominations).
Now, here are my top ten albums that came out this year…
10. While (1<2) – Deadmau5
Deadmau5 has always been an innovator when it comes to electronic music. All you have to do is follow him on social media to figure that out. While (1<2) is no different when it comes to innovation. There is a wide range of sounds on this one and I couldn’t stop myself from tapping to the beat on pretty much all of them. If you are an electronic music fan, you should definitely give one of the best electronic albums of the year a listen…but I probably didn’t have to tell you that.
9. Mastermind – Rick Ross
It’s been a busy year for Rick Ross, the only artist on this list to release to albums in one year. His second album, Hood Billionaire, was a little iffy and could have used a little more time, but I’m here to talk about his superior album of the two, Mastermind. The album contained hits like “War Ready” featuring Jeezy and “Vein” featuring The Weeknd. Not to mention Rick Ross teamed up with Jay Z with the song “The Devil Is A Lie”, which received a lot of critical praise. Rick Ross is a powerhouse, and Mastermind displayed this fact brilliantly.
8. Broke With Expensive Taste – Azealia Banks
This was an album that flew quietly under a lot of people’s radars. After a long wait, Azealia Banks released Broke With Expensive Taste to quite a lot of critical praise. Azealia Banks isn’t really a household name, but she deserves to be. The album contained a lot of different and unique sounds that made it different from the rest. With songs like “Chasing Time” and “Desperado”, I couldn’t get the album out of my head. This album was probably my surprise of the year. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it delivered.
7. My Everything – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande has had a big year, and part of it was because of her latest release My Everything. It’s hard to argue with the talent that the young singer has. Her vocal range is enormous and it’s possible that she could become the next Mariah Carey. The album contained hits like the summer sensation “Problem”, the energetic “Break Free” and the deep, yet sensual “Love Me Harder” featuring the talented The Weeknd. There is a tone of great songs on the album, making it one of my top pop albums of the year. (Sorry Taylor Swift)
6. The Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj is slowly turning into a feminine hip-hop powerhouse. She also had a fantastic year, topped by the release of The Pinkprint, which features the strongest Nicki Minaj yet. The album contains so many different genres, all in one complete package. There’s some rap that hearkens back to her earlier days, pop, and even some R&B. Some of my favorites included “Pills N Potions”, “The Crying Game”, “Only”, “Feeling Myself”, and “The Night Is Still Young.” Any Nicki Minaj fan should find something that they like on the album.
5. The Inevitable End – Royksopp
This is another album that people might not have heard about when it was released back in November. The Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp put out The Inevitable End with the plan to stop making music. They might be taking a break, or they might be done for good. Either way, I thought that the album was a fitting conclusion to their career. You could tell that there was a sad tone throughout the album, but it also had some warm feelings as well. They also collaborated with pop star Robyn for songs like “Do It Again” and “Monument”. The album also ended with the simply titled “Thank You”, which was a strong finish.
4. The New Classic – Iggy Azalea
Iggy Azalea took the hip-hop world by the horns. Her first album The New Classic, contained a plethora of hits that propelled her to the top of her game. “Work”, “Change Your Life”, “Fancy” and “Black Widow” were all songs that put her in the spotlight of the hip-hop industry. She has also faced equal amounts of backlash and attacks from fellow rappers, but I thought that she has handled herself pretty well despite the things she has gone through. The album was a strong first impression, and I can only imagine the type of hits she will come out with in the coming years.
3. Shady XV – Eminem & Shady Records
The king of controversy is back again with the aptly named Shady XV. Eminem has built his record label Shady Records into a formidalbe empire in the hip-hop industry. The album came in two parts, the first being some of the new stuff from the record label, including songs like Eminem’s “Guts Over Fear” and the Detroit fight songs “Detroit Vs Everybody”. The second part of the album went back in time, reviewing some of the classics that have come from the label. There was a ton of stuff featured in the package, and it was hard to be disapointed with the final product. Eminem continues to be one of the best rappers out there.
2. Blacc Hollywood – Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa has had a tough year due to his break-up with long time wife Amber Rose. However, when Wiz Khalifa goes and looks back on his year, Blacc Hollywood will probably make everything okay. Wiz’s fifth studio album was supported to the top of the hip-hop charts with songs like “We Dem Boyz”, “KK”, and the pleasant sounding “Staying Out All Night.” There was a lot more depth to the album than Wiz’s previous projects, making it just a joy to listen to. Some people didn’t like it as much, but I thought there was a ton to like about the album.
1. 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole
Finally, we have the recently released 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the third studio album by rapper J. Cole. In my review, I stated that the album was more than just an album, but instead, a story. J. Cole took us on a journey through his life, beginning in is childhood years and went till the current day J. Cole. He had some revelations throughout the album and decided to act upon those revelations by the end. It was amazing to see the progression of the rapper from being young, reckless, and famous to being the wise and talented artist that he is today. J. Cole isn’t the household rapper that he should be. If you are a fan of hip-hop at all, make sure to give his latest piece of work a listen, you wont regret it. It’s fitting that the album has “2014” in it’s name, because it was by far my favorite of the year.