Hip Hop MVPs of 2013
10. Pusha T
One of the few veterans left in the game still spitting that raw really did put numbers on the board this year. Moving a healthy 75,000 units of his debut in the first week, King Push had his biggest year since 2010. The Virginia Beach native dropped the coke-fueled mixtape Wrath of Caine at year’s beginning, featured on a plethora of hot joints, hung out with his fans on Rap Genius, and released his long awaited post-Clipse solo debut My Name Is My Name. The uncertainty regarding his project’s release increased as a series of push backs ensued, however the critically acclaimed album featured some of the years most talked about records: ”King Push”, “Numbers On The Boards”, and “Nosetalgia”.
2014 is looking just as prosperous for the reformed kingpin, word on the street is he’s hitting the studio with Pharrell - we all know what they’re capable of, so keep your ears glued to the ground!
This past year marked yet another high point for Shawn Corey Carter. His deal with Samsung to pre-sell a million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail to their customers made headlines and landed him on CNN seemingly every six minutes. His #NewRules even forced the RIAA to change the way it counts album sales! Young H-O made the industry re-think what it means to release an album, and stars from Kanye West to the LOX to his wife followed suit, leading to one of the most exciting times in memory for the music industry
Oh, and this rapping stuff. While MCHG got mixed reviews, all it took was a powerhouse turn on a Rick Ross joint or a movie soundtrack to remind us who the God MC really is
Tech's been having his best year ever. His thirteenth studio album Something Else garnered solid critical acclaim, is the most commercially successful album of his long career, and proved to be a mainstream breakthrough over twenty years in the making. In addition, like west coast artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, this was done completely independent of a major music label. Even though this is his best selling album, he’s made a significant amount of money over the years managing other artists (including Rittz, Jay Rock, and Krizz Kaliko), and touring his ass off
If 36 year old Kanye West is looking for inspiration from those younger than him, he is staring Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt (aka EarlWolf) dead in the eye. These guys are the face of the Wolf Gang confederate and are genuinely having the time of their lives -- all on their own terms
After touring in Europe with Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, they put on the 2nd Annual OF Carnival, “Camp Flog Gnaw”, which showcased some of their friends as well as a surprise performance from Yeezus himself, where Rick Rubin was watching stageside in admiration. Even though they collaborate often as a team, this year has been a breakout year for their individual accomplishments. Tyler released his 3rd studio album, Wolf, where he continued to express himself without fear of judgement. The result was a more complete artistic expression that extended from personal lyrical content, layered production, and outstanding visuals. To accompany the experience of his album, Tyler has redefined the merch game -- even high-end fashion-obsessed Ye is taking pointers
Earl released his debut album titled Doris, and headlined his own tour proving that he can pull crowds (and money) without the help of his big brother Tyler. A tall order in light of his highly-publicized hiatus in recent years. People were waiting for Earl, and he delivered, solidifying himself as one of the most talented lyricists reminiscent of Andre’s dizzying flow. Regardless of age, their personas relate to a diverse audience, and a rare glimpse at artists that aren’t selling out to their fans just because they made a quarter million off some socks
Drake didn’t sell more records than Eminem or make more news than Kanye West in 2013, yet Kanye himself declared the rap game as “Drake season”, called him a “rap god”, and cited him as the influence for Watch the Throne
When Drake dropped “Started From the Bottom” in March it was suddenly everywhere. "Started --" became a thing. Since then, Drake seemed unstoppable -- releasing a consistent stream of undeniable hits. And in a summer with massive pop tracks dominating the airwaves, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” became a fever. Drake finished the year as the artist with the most top 10 songs in the Billboard Hot 100
His star-studded “Would You Like A Tour” was two hours of hit songs, reminding you how relevant Drake’s been for awhile. Even his responses to Kendrick's boasts, when it seemed like no response could stand a chance, stood out because, well, he's kind of right. Though Drake seems to be in it for the long haul, this year especially Drake really hit a peak. We just have to see what he does next
5. Childish Gambino
In a year when everyone was dropping music, it could be difficult to stand out, but Childish Gambino did so without a name drop or any flashy sponsorship deal. In fact, he crafted one of the most interesting and meaningful releases this year, if not this decade. Since sometime last summer, Gambino's mysterious moves have kept us intrigued and asking questions, a rarity in this transparent Internet world. There was the cryptic short film Clapping For The Wrong Reasons, “Yaphet Kotto” had him floating dead underwater, impromptu public listening sessions for people instead of industry types, his outfit hasn't changed but twice, he posted the innermost confines of his thoughts to Instagram, threw mansion party concerts in character with no cell phones allowed, and wrote a clever screenplay that tied most of the above into a brilliantly woven narrative
All that might be discounted as some kind of publicity stunt had the album it all related to fallen short, but it didn’t. Gambino's music matured from that Boy at Camp who didn't want to get off the bus. Layered production, mostly handled by the dynamic duo of Ludwig Gorransson and CG, was ripe with everything from heavy guitar rifts to famous adlibs. Ethereal and gritty, it's a sonic journey unclear of where one songs ends and another begins. It's no wonder he proclaimed "I'm not a rapper"; with a voice that's akin to Marvin Gaye on a track like "Urn", because the internet showcases just how talented Gambino is
When it's all said and done, whether you can piece together the Boy's whole story, what's clear and most genius about Gambino this year is that in being so thoughtful about the art he created, he connected to real people. And despite passive Internet culture, he crafted a movement
4. Chance The Rapper
Chicago’s own Chancelor Bennett had a very busy 2013, dropping his second mixtape Acid Rap and touring the country on his Social Experiment Tour. He also snagged multiple magazine covers, SPIN’s rapper of the year, and multiple spots on top album of the year lists. Chancellor did all of this while remaining independent, even claiming he won’t sign to a record label because it’s a “dead industry.” Despite releasing all of his music for free – and planning on doing so his entire career – a bootlegged copy of his mixtape landed in Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. He also spared some time to feature in songs from his SaveMoney crew, Childish Gambino, Rapsody, and even Justin Bieber, showing his diversity and opening himself up to a world of fans. The 20 year-old has a very promising future, but don’t let that outshine an impressive 2013 campaign
Don’t call it a comeback! After “Berzerk” attempts to capitalize on 80’s/90’s nostalgia fell short, critics began to write The Marshall Mathers LP 2 off as a publicity stunt. But when the complete product dropped on November 5th, fans and critics alike were pleasantly surprised. Instead of resorting to shock tactics to recreate the hype of the first MMLP, Em showed signs of, dare I say it, maturity. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still more than enough misogyny, homophobia, and shit jokes to go around. But this time they’re sprinkled in amongst apologies to his mother, acknowledgements that the bully-hater has become a bully, and legitimate attempts to deal with his impact on the youth
The consensus from most critics is that this was Em’s best work since The Eminem Show dropped a decade ago. What elevates Em from a nice surprise to legitimate MVP candidate is the MMLP2’s ridiculous sales in a year when only 2 other rap albums went platinum. Taking this all into account, 2013 was a big year for the Rap God
2. Kendrick Lamar:
No album dropped for the young Kendrick Lamar during 2013, but with countless features he managed to still be one of the most important people in the hip hop game this year. Cuts with Pusha T, Eminem, J. Cole, Schoolboy Q, and many more propelled him into the spotlight, but it was his verse on "Control" with Big Sean and Jay Electronica that really caught attention. While delivering a solid verse, he managed to call out almost every rapper in the industry and reinvigorate the rap game. Not only that, he did all of this and still had his album pass the platinum mark and get on tour with one of the biggest rappers in the game: Kanye West
So far he's delivered countless interviews that help people understand the man that he is, as well as being nominated at the AMA's, BET's, MTV, and a whopping 7 nominations at the legendary Grammy Awards. To top it all off, he’s propelling his label, Top Dawg Entertainment, to new heights in the rap game making it a force to be reckoned with. Now rumors of a new album being worked on in 2014, (and a snippet of a new verse already out), it is set to be a potentially groundbreaking year for the young rap star. All we can do is sit back and watch as it unfolds, and Rap Genius will be breaking it down every step of the way!
Kanye is truly THE god of music, and has proven himself to be in the past decade. This year, he pushed hip-hop to a completely new level with his album, Yeezus. In addition to pushing his own album, he also put in work executive producing Pusha T’s album, My Name Is My Name. Along with his album, Ye went on his first solo tour in 5 years, the Yeezus Tour. Bringing along Kendrick Lamar, Kanye has been all across the United States, giving attendees the experience of a lifetime. The show is complete with bombastic music and intense visual elements that combine to create a one-of-a-kind experience only a god like Kanye could pull off
Even though he’s been very active in music this past year, Ye has also been actively participating in other forms of art, especially fashion. He recently signed with Adidas and has already designed complete womens and mens collections. He also collaborated with French brand A.P.C. for a collection that, regardless of its high quality, was heavily scrutinized by the public for being expensive
Kanye is a revolutionary figure in all artistic areas, and has truly become an inspiration for anybody who wants to make a big impact on the world. Through his Visionary Streams of Consciousness™, Ye has fluidly elaborated on his need to bring not only his art, but the art of the people around him, to a much higher level
Kanye’s active work ethic and drive is influential to many and is the reason that he is our MVP of the year! Look forward to Ye carrying his passion on into 2014 to continue to feed his hunger for success!
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