Hip-Hop Hangover: Five great albums you might have missed

2018 boasted some of hip-hop’s best albums in recent memory, but how does 2019 measure up?

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Hip-Hop Hangover: Five great albums you might have missed

(Steven Pisano/Wikimedia Commons)

(Steven Pisano/Wikimedia Commons)

Steven Pisano

(Steven Pisano/Wikimedia Commons)

Steven Pisano

Steven Pisano

(Steven Pisano/Wikimedia Commons)

Trevor Wilson, Entertainment Editor

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As one of hip-hop’s most album-dense years in the past decade, 2018 had a little something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you bumped any one of Kanye West and GOOD Music’s five albums or Travis Scott’s addictive “Astroworld,” 2018’s reputation as one of hip hop’s best years is no empty claim. Now, after consuming so much great music, it seems as if we’ve hit a bit of a hangover.

Of course, a few prominent artists still dropped some incredible projects this year. Tyler, The Creator released his synth-pop, heartbreak masterpiece “IGOR” back in May, earning him his first number one album over DJ Khaled’s “Father of Asahd.” Up-and-coming star YBN Cordae also made his name known with “The Lost Boy.” Cordae’s lyrical deftness was on full display, on the young MC proved himself as one of hip hop’s next big talents. Later this year, the slime god himself, Young Thug, released his infectiously vibrant “So Much Fun.” Loaded with uptempo bangers and classic crooning from Thugger, “So Much Fun” awarded Young Thug his very first number one album.

While there is certainly no shortage of music in 2019, it seems as if the quality of some of our favorite artists fell off or have simply taken a hiatus. Chance the Rapper’s highly-anticipated “debut” album, “The Big Day,” was met with much criticism by fans, albeit over the top. In addition to that, fans of Lil Uzi Vert were met with disappointment as news emerged his next album, “Eternal Atake,” has no official release date.

However, 2019 puts forth a great opportunity to expand your hip-hop horizon. With many other great but lesser-known albums in the mix, here is our list of five great hip hop albums you may have missed this summer.

Denzel Curry – “Zuu”

Kicking off our list is Florida-native Denzel Curry. After releasing his impressive debut “TA1300,” Curry continues to extend his run of good form with “ZUU.” Released on May 31, Denzel Curry delivers with unbridled energy over high-octane bangers in an ode to his hometown of Carol City, FL. “ZUU” boasts an impressive array of tracks, leaving fans old and new with something to love. Whether he reflects on his Florida roots on “WISH” with Kiddo Marv or snaps on a club anthem like “SHAKE 88,” Curry leaves fans with plenty of variety on “ZUU.”

What makes “ZUU” so great is Curry’s deliberate effort to set Florida as the backdrop for the entire project. Dynamic, hard and engaging, the influence of Curry’s hometown and state shine through crooked, dark melodies layered over rugged 808s. He creates an album that is uniquely Florida and takes special care to reflect on his own life as well. On “BIRDZ” with Rick Ross, Curry opens with “Let’s start it over / Eye of Jehovah / Come take a look at my city and its culture / City full of vultures, city full of Zoes.”

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Bandana”

On what is perhaps my favorite album on the list, Indiana-born rapper Freddie Gibbs and legendary producer Madlib team up for another project on “Bandana.” After their critically-acclaimed 2014 collaboration “Piñata,” the duo returns with another project that sucks them both deeper into each other’s worlds. On the first listen, Madlib’s style of production does not seem to match the tone, and energy of Gibbs’ rugged, aged voice. Yet, the two find a perfect balance on “Bandana,” with dope-laced lyrics from Gibbs woven into Madlib’s chopped-up and soulful instrumentals.

Gibbs sticks to his usual formula for rapping on “Bandana.” Endless lines about gang life, selling dope and basketball references never seem to get old as Gibbs keeps his clever lyricism refreshing. On tracks like “Crime Pays,” “Palmolive” with Pusha T and Killer Mike, “Situations” and “Flat Tummy Tea,” Gibbs exhibits much variety in his typically coke-ridden verses. It goes without saying that Madlib’s production on these tracks is masterful.

The Gary, IN native bounces around from boasting about his wealth, to reflecting on drug dealing to discussing social issues all throughout “Bandana.” Meanwhile, Madlib’s masterclass production shines as the two complement each other better than ever. 

Maxo Kream – “Brandon Banks”

Third on our list is Houston-bred MC Maxo Kream’s “Brandon Banks.” After dropping on July 19, I was a bit hesitant to give this album a listen. I had Kream’s previous hit “Mars” with Lil Uzi Vert, but the rapper did not have the same draw as other artists had for me. Once I put my predispositions to the side, I soon realized that Maxo Kream has something truly special with “Brandon Banks.”

Maxo Kream puts his experience at the forefront, and immediately begs you to listen with the thought-provoking intro track “Meet Again.” In what is one of my personal favorite tracks of the year, Maxo Kream spits about the hardships of gang life, family struggles and clashes with the police. On the hook he spits, “I got homies in the grave, I got brothers in the pen / I got some that’s comin’ home, I got some that’s goin’ in / Tried to go in for visitation, but they wouldn’t let me in / So our only conversation writin’ letters with a pen.”

While the project itself does not stand out sonically, it almost serves as a complement to Maxo Kream’s brilliant lyricism throughout the project. He bounces to reflecting on his days as a trapper on “The Relays” to conveying the complications of street life on “Brenda” to create a memorable, meaningful album.

Goldlink – “Diaspora”

Goldlink has always been hit or miss for me. Every now and then, the Washington D.C. native delivers with hits like “Late Night” or, more recently, “Crew” with Brent Faiyaz and Shy Glizzy. But, for the first time in my life, I can honestly say Goldlink greatly impressed me with a project. 

On “Diaspora,” Goldlink breaks out of his mold and extends the scope of his music beyond his native sound. We still get flashes of classic Goldlink on tracks like “Maniac,” The D.C. rapper makes a conscious effort to expand his horizons on tracks like “Yard,” “Zulu Screams” and “Joke Ting.”

On these tracks, Goldlink delivers confluence of African music and hip-hop, tracing hip-hop’s evolution through a series of instrumentals inspired by the sounds of Africa. The tracks are undeniably fun, uptempo and bright and Goldink curates a wonderfully dynamic project.

Rapsody – “Eve”

Wrapping up our summer recap is North Carolina-born MC Rapsody. As one of the best rappers (male or female) in the commercial scene, Rapsody has a reputation of being a talented lyricist and storyteller. On her August-released project “Eve,” she unlocks her creativity and produces a project full of thought and celebration.

The first thing to love about “Eve” is its overarching theme. Over the course of 16 tracks, all titled after influential black women, Rapsody delivers an astonishing ode to her heroes. She celebrates their influence and power throughout the project as she spits lyrics pertaining to her personal experiences as well.

She is proud, liberated and boastful and she knows it. On the track “Cleo,” Rapsody undeniably snaps and spits “Y’all banked on the wrong ones, wasted your energy / Lost more interest, got me laughin’ at my enemies / Every door you close, every back you turn / Can’t keep me away from the life I earned.” This lyric alone sounds like a home-run trot for Rapsody as she celebrates the life and success she’s accumulated all while celebrating her idols.

Email Trevor at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TrevorWilsonOG.

 

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