10. Royce da 5’9″
In addition to the lyrical onslaught that was Slaughterhouse’s House Rules project that released last year, Royce also was able to make music with the legendary DJ Premier on a project that landed on many year-end hip-hop lists. The boom-bap record gives light to old school hip-hop in the new age and shows what can happen when a seasoned beatsmith teams up with a lyricist as talented as Royce.
Every time Royce gets behind the mic, the track is left in pieces. 2014 was not left untouched by the Detroit rapper and any hints of new Slaughterhouse/solo work is sure to get a rise out of fans of the lyrical genius.
9. Black Thought
If you haven’t gotten the chance, take a look at the installment of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon with Jon Stewart as a guest. On the show, they mention that Jon Stewart was The Roots’ television debut – minutes later they flash a clip of Black Thought and the rest of The Roots laying it down on stage. It’s 1995, and Black Thought wobbles around stage with swagger. He sports an oversized camouflage jacket that couldn’t be more indicative of the time. No one, not even himself, could have predicted that his career would result in being the host band for the Tonight Show.
On the Tonight Show, Black Thought takes much more of a singing role. He frequently sings rock n’roll and R&B classics. But even with such a high profile gig, he managed to maintain his artistic relevance by releasing quality music throughout the year. His verses on …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin show increasing maturity of subject matter. In addition, his appearances on Pharoahe Monch’s record and others have been nothing short of interesting. At 43 years of age, he holds over two decades of hip-hop on his belt. If Black Thought can still maintain credibility and relevance at that age, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
8. Sage Francis
It was four long years between this year’s Copper Gone and Sage Francis’ last record, Li(f)e.
Copper Gone shows Sage Francis as a man approaching 40, enchanted with the solitude of his house and, of course, his cat.
Francis’ total disconnect from the outside world over the past few years makes his Li(f)e album tragic, but shows that a rapper can still be interesting and sharp as a 38 year-old.
There is another hip-hop artist who goes by Logic. I have to be honest though, because at first I wasn’t feeling Logic. I wasn’t impressed with his mixtapes. However, after hearing his latest project, I was impressed. Under Pressure is Logic’s debut album.
Lyrically, Logic is amazingly talented. As an artist, Logic is able to paint a vivid picture of his life. Overall, Logic is phenomenal – his witty flow combined with his subject matter is truly spectacular. After listening to this album, I firmly believe that Logic has a bright future in hip hop.
6. Mick Jenkins
Without a doubt, Mick Jenkins has an aggressive, no-nonsense approach to his lyrical cadence, however unconventional it may be. With a writing approach that is evidently steeped in the art of poetry, Jenkins is able to craft rhymes that carry the weight, urgency, and aggressiveness of a young man in Chicago whose society has issued false promises.
What makes Mick Jenkins one of the rappers of the year is not only the recognition and acclaim he has received as a result of his mixtape, The Water[s], but the fact that he is a true thinking person’s kind of rapper.
His lines can fall into ambiguity for those unwilling to unravel the puzzle, but he demands effort from the listener in order to be fully understood. As a result, he produces songs that can be heard over and over, something new coming to the surface each time. To pull that off requires a deep knowledge of the nuanced art of metaphors and similes, ones that hit hard when least expected. Sternly intense and lyrically profound, Mick Jenkins is a welcome addition to our list for Rapper of The Year.