Top 20 Hip Hop Albums of 2013
It almost feels strange to list Yeezus as the "best hip-hop album of the year," as Kanye has become the rare artist that transcends both the genre and pop culture to which he belongs. Like no artist since Michael Jackson, he's a household name, a punch-line, and a musical visionary-and nearly every album he makes is now an instant classic. Yeezus is a curious album from an artist that has reached that status, though, as West strips back the creative excess that usually accompanies his ambitions and ends up with a minimalist setting that actually provides more space for his outsized ego. He might not be the greatest rapper ever, the greatest lyricist ever, or the greatest producer ever, but he keeps turning out album after album that reimagines and redefines what hip-hop can be, all the while establishing him as one his generation's most compellingly conflicted personalities. Still, it's a shame that no matter how great he is, he'll still fall short of how great he thinks he is.
The rest of the year belonged to eccentric upstarts, from Chance the Rapper's instant leftfield classic to Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt's genius-confirming turns as post-fame success stories. Storytellers (Kevin Gates, Le1f, Ka) had a good run in 2013, too, but even the year's most serious artistic statements (Run the Jewels, Migos) had a thick undercurrent of fun running through them. Overall, this is a top heavy list but a deep one, with five classic or near-classic albums and over a dozen more that suggest that hip-hop has rarely had so many distinctive personalities pulling in so many different directions at one time. By Matt Fink
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