There’s been an unfortunate lull in quality rap releases as of late: two of the stronger albums of the year – Common’s Nobody’s Smiling and Cormega’s Mega Philosophy – were both dropped back on July 22. Since then, we’ve really only seen the welcome comeback of Dilated People, the return of the gangsta (with albums from Jeezy and Gucci Mane) and a steady influx of shitty white rappers.
October changed that. Hell, it might’ve been the strongest month for hip-hop in 2014, save for March’s incredible combo of YG’s My Krazy Life and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s stunning collaboration on Piñata. Oct. 7, in particular, was an early Christmas. But before getting there, a nod must be given to Cozz, a phenomenally driven 20-year-old, South Central L.A. rapper.
Cozz N Effect, his debut outing, kicks off with the grimy single “Dreams,” which combines a minimalist, Mobb Deep-inspired beat with a frantic, Chance the Rapper-like delivery. The album proceeds to take the best of the recent rise in less-as-more creations (think Ka or Vince Staples) and rephrases it in fantastic form. The finale, a remix featuring J. Cole, caps it off perfectly.
Speaking of young Californian emcees: Vince Staples has been upping the standard of gritty rap for a while, marked most notably by his flawless half-hour mixtape Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2. On Oct. 7, he dropped the Hell Can Wait EP, his first official record; while it didn’t offer anything new to his vibe, it displayed Staples at close to his best. Can’t complain about that.
The day only got better with the dropping of Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead!. The genius producer has been driving up the nuance of his work with every release, defying complaints that hip-hop is tonally predictable (just think of FlyLo’s beatmaking for Mac Miller’s unexpected “S.D.S.” from last year). You’re Dead! is jazzy as fuck and features Compton’s king, Kendrick Lamar, on a track.
Oct. 7 was capped with a pair of solid efforts from North Carolina’s Rapsody (Beauty and the Beast) and the hyped duo of Bishop Nehru and MF Doom NehruvianDOOM. In the end, Rapsody’s work outshone the Nehru and Doom collaboration, featuring smarter writing and far more passion. But hey, Doom releases are rare, so we’ll take it.
Nothing much dropped for the following two weeks, which gave just enough time to catch a collective breath. But then the sophomore (and free) effort from Run the Jewels – the absurdly talented duo combining Atlanta’s Killer Mike and Brooklyn’s El-P – dropped a few days earlier than expected and blew up the entire rap world.
Their debut (and also free) album from last year was a monstrous entity, featuring bizarro beats and lyrical fire aplenty. Run the Jewels 2 only continues the trend. The beats are even tighter, the rhymes even more considered and the guest features – including Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha and Blink 182’s Travis Barker – fit in wondrously. A clear contender for album of the year.
Download Run the Jewels 2 for free at runthejewels.net.