Timoteo’s 2013 Year in Review
As I give my creaking knuckles calisthenics, I’m reminded of how great 2013 was for music. There were a lot of great releases, and I think that a few of my selections might shock a few people this year, but it’s necessary to give credit where it’s due. Leave your comments in the C-Section below, and let me know how you feel.
Top 15 Albums of the Year (Listed 15-1)
Nametag & Nameless – For Namesake: Prior to hearing this album, I had really only heard of Nametag. Tag has been on a few tracks with other Detroit artists that I love, and for that fact alone I checked out this album. Not knowing who Nameless was, I found myself pleasantly surprised by his board work; it looks like Michigan has yet another top-notch producer to add to its roster. Like the lead single “Hookless” shows, Nametag & Nameless have an undeniable chemistry as a duo, and throughout the entirety of For Namesake that becomes crystal clear.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City: Judging by how much I love Hip-Hop, most people wouldn’t know that I fucking love Vampire Weekend. I was a huge fan of their first album, and I liked the Contra, but it just didn’t feel the same. I was hesitant to give Modern Vampires of the City a true listen, but I’m really glad that I did. On Modern Vampires of the City, it seems like Ezra Koenig and his band mates returned to the same formula that made them great on their self-titled debut.
Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown – Twelve Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape: To be honest, I wasn’t really a huge fan of the first Twelve Reasons to Die album produced by Adrien Younge; I mean it was good, but it wasn’t great. Then I started to hear about a version of the album that was produced by Apollo Brown called The Brown Tape, and I knew I had to get my hands on it. I’ve been following Apollo Brown for a minute now, and hearing Ghostface spit over his beats is nothing short of an experience. As soon as this album was available on CD, I picked it up right away.
Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt: Pearl Jam is a group that has had a long and lustrous career, but since their album Vitalogy in 1994, there really hasn’t been a highly cohesive album in their catalog; sure, there have been quite a few albums with great songs, but nothing worthy of front-to-back play like their first three albums. I had the opportunity to see Pearl Jam this year at Wrigley Field, and they played their usual set of fan favorites, but they also debuted new material off of Lightning Bolt; after hearing “Mind Your Manners”, “Lightning Bolt” and “Let the Records Play”, I was assured that Pearl Jam is stronger than ever.
Ka – The Night’s Gambit: There’s not enough good things to say about Ka. He’s got incredible rhymes that seem so effortless he might as well be breathing them, and as a producer he knows what sounds will accent his rhymes the best. The Night’s Gambit is a great follow-up to Ka’s 2012 release Grief Pedigree, and it acts as another statement in proving that he’s right next to Roc Marciano as one of the best emcees in New York. On gritty tracks like “Jungle” you can close your eyes and envision the picture Ka is painting over his canvas.
Ugly Heroes – Ugly Heroes: Usually I’m pretty privy to the material that Apollo Brown releases, but this one flew under my radar for a little bit. Ugly Heroes is comprised of Apollo Brown, Verbal Kent and Red Pill; these dudes are incredible as a group. For the first time in a while, I feel like I can actually relate to the lyrics on an album because these guys know what it’s like to work a 9-5 job every day. This album is real blue-collar rap, and unlike the industry’s obsession with material possessions and decadence, Ugly Heroes is an album full of rap that people can relate to.
Shad – Flying Colours: Shad is the type of artist that literally doesn’t know how to drop a bad record – period. I’ve been a huge fan of everything he’s dropped prior to Flying Colours, and I can say the same thing for this album. In my opinion, he’s been one of the most slept-on emcees in the game since he dropped The Old Prince back in 2007; furthermore, I consider him to be one of the best lyricists in the game. After giving Flying Colours a few short listens, I knew that it was one of the best albums of the year. If you’ve been a fan of Shad K’s material in the past, then you will love Flying Colours.
Rjd2 – More is Than isn’t: I’ve been a huge fan of Rjd2 since Deadringer hit back in 2003, but over the last few years some of his material just wasn’t sticking with me. The Third Hand wasn’t really up my alley, and The Colossus was good, but it still left something to be desired. I’m glad that RJ returned to his Hip-Hop roots with More is Than isn’t because the album is beautiful. The album is broken up into three different suites, and RJ’s boom-bap beats give fans like me the gratification that we’ve been waiting for since he released Since We Last Spoke.
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels: I’m gonna catch an infinite amount of denunciation, but when Run the Jewels came out, I didn’t even listen to it for the first couple months. I am a massive El-P fan, and I know that Killer Mike is a Southern Hip-Hop legend, but I really didn’t feel R.A.P. Music as much as everyone else, and I couldn’t tell you why. I recently saw El-P & Killer Mike kill a set at Prof Outdoors in Minneapolis as Run the Jewels, and the experience was unbelievable; I felt like a complete moron because I was sleeping heavily on one of the best projects of the year. There is so much raw energy and chemistry displayed on Run the Jewels that it would be foolish to not consider it one of the year’s best.
Deltron 3030 – Event II: I still remember the first time that I heard the original Deltron 3030 album, and I had no idea how to feel about what I was listening to; Deltron 3030 was a brilliant concept album done the right way. Dan the Automator‘s futuristic and gritty production was the perfect match for Del the Funkee Homosapien’s unabashed and unorthodox rhymes. I knew I was going to give this album a listen, but all I could think to myself was, “How do you follow up a classic like Deltron 3030?” In the case of Dan, Del & Kid Koala, you take thirteen years off and follow it up with an album equally as good – if not better. Yes, I said it, maybe even better. From front to back, Event II contains everything that made Deltron 3030 a classic.
Classified – Classified: There’s really not much I can say here that I haven’t already said about Classified. He’s arguably one of my favorite artists overall, and he is one of the hardest working cats in the Hip-Hop game. Like Shad, Classified is from Canada, and as we all know, the only hardcore hyped Canadian emcee is the Kitten Whisperer – Also known as Drake. Classified produces and writes all if his own music, and dude has a major talent for making beats. Classified is the follow-up to 2011’s Handshakes and Middle Fingers, and it is nothing short of a stellar record. Filled with incredible cuts like “What I Do”, “Anything Goes”, “I Only Say it Cause it’s True” and “Familiar”, Classified is one of the best front-to-back albums of the year – not a single miss.
Pusha T – My Name is My Name: This was arguably my most hyped album of the year – and for good reasons. I’ve been a Pusha T fan since Lord Willin’ came out back in 2002; I’m a diehard Clipse fan – even after the mediocrity that was Til’ the Casket Drops. I knew that being on G.O.O.D. Music, Pusha was going to have the avenue and backing that he needed to drop an incredible solo album, and he did just that. Pusha T doesn’t get too flashy with the rhymes on My Name is My Name, but he does stick to the one thing that he knows the best – the coke and street narrative. By the name itself, I would put My Name is My Name in the best albums of the year (For those that don’t know, My Name is My Name is a reference to the phrase uttered by Marlo Stanfield in the 5th season of The Wire), but Pusha T definitely met expectations and delivered a great album.
Black Milk – No Poison, No Paradise: Black Milk is no stranger to making a great record; all four of his previous albums have been nothing short of spectacular, and No Poison, No Paradise continues Black Milk’s tried and true track record of excellence. Throughout the years, Black Milk has experimented with a variety of different sounds, and he brings them all together on No Poison, No Paradise. No matter what era of Black Milk production is your favorite, No Poison, No Paradise has them all. Black Milk is an artist that continually hones his craft – on the boards and the microphone; No Poison, No Paradise shows just how far he’s come.
Oddisee – Tangible Dream: This is a “grey area” project, because it was technically billed as a mixtape; furthermore, it was a “name your price” album, so people could have copped it for free. Anyway that I look at it, it’s still one of the best projects released this year. Anyone who’s followed Oddisee since the early beginnings of Diamond District knows that he has a vast amount of talent. His 2012 release People See What They Hear was my personal favorite of 2012, and Tangible Dream is equally as good of an effort. Oddisee is an emcee that is inspired by the world around him; he rides the train and observes people in their natural surroundings. That’s the real inspiration for his music. If there’s one word that I could use to summate my feelings about Tangible Dream, it would be genuine. Oddisee is a genuine artist that puts out genuine music.
Tyler Keyes & M.i – Pushing Keyes: Here we are folks; the leader of the pack for 2013. In my opinion (some may call me crazy), I don’t think any album released this year came close to the quality of Pushing Keyes. M.i and Tyler Keyes have been making great music for a few years now (Prep Time, Coldplay Sessions), but this album soars above everything else. As I mentioned in the review for Pushing Keyes, Tyler took a big leap of faith and moved to Texas so that he could form a more contiguous working relationship with M.i; in my opinion, the outcome was incredible. On the production side, Keyes builds beautiful beats based around sly samples and organic studio instrumentation, and M.i laces his bars with vivid and veracious rhymes. There are only a few tracks with guest appearances on the album, but they are placed perfectly; hearing M.i spit alongside Chamillionaire and Blu is something to smile about. I’ve been listening to his music since The Jack Johnson Sessions, and his evolution as an artist has truly come to fruition. Pushing Keyes is filled with prodigious production and lively lyrics – everything I look for in a quality Hip-Hop album.
Top 5 EPs/Mixtapes (5-1)
The top part of my review took me so long to complete that I decided against a full-blown explanation of my top five free releases/mixtapes; however, I have decided to include a few words why I chose the selected projects.
Father Focus Confucius – The Adventures of Dominate Wilkins EP: To say I’ve been sleeping on Father Focus‘ music would be a drastic understatement. I had heard the song “Guard Your Grill” earlier this year, and I loved it; other than that though, I didn’t really actively seek out his music. Being an artist in my city, you’d think that I would make more of a conscious effort. After listening to The Adventures of Dominate Wilkins EP, I will definitely be putting my ear to the streets from now on to actively seek out his music. This EP is 6 tracks of straight heart and soul; Father Focus shows that he’s capable of killing beats just as hard as he murders the mic. Definitely check this one out.
Download: Father Focus Confucius – The Adventures of Dominate Wilkins EP
Koncept & DeeJay Element – Malt Disney EP: I’ve been messing with Koncept’s music for a minute now. His album Awaken was one of my favorite albums last year, and I’ve been a fan of the Brown Bag AllStars since I first heard their Brown Label EP. Malt Disney is a free six track EP, and it’s definitely worthy of a download in my opinion. Brown Bag always brings the first boom bap Hip-Hop; Malt Disney is no different.
Download: Koncept & DeeJay Element – Malt Disney EP
Pusha T – Wrath of Caine: Pusha T had one hell of a year; he released one of the best albums of the year, and Wrath of Caine was arguably one of the best mixtapes of the year. It seems like 2013 was the year that King Push solidified his position as one of the dopest emcees in the game.
Download: Pusha T – Wrath of Caine
Homeless & The Van Gobots – Twenty Dirt: I had the chance to meet Homeless at the Prof Outdoors show back in September, and let me tell you, he’s one cool ass dude that truly loves Hip-Hop music. He put out a track with Big Cats earlier this year, and I loved it, so when I heard that he had an EP out, I had to give it a listen. It kind of hit me in a different way; The Van Gobots are more of an indie rock band, so the project doesn’t have the usual soundscapes that I am used to, but Homeless owns the sound, and despite not being conventional Hip-Hop, Twenty Dirt is a fantastic project. I would definitely say that this is an album worthy project.
Download: Homeless & The Van Gobots – Twenty Dirt
Skyzoo & Antman Wonder – An Ode to Reasonable Doubt: To me, Skyzoo is already one of the greatest emcees of his generation; hell, he’s one of the best emcees I’ve ever heard. When I heard that he was going to be doing a re-interpretation of Reasonable Doubt, I immediately became ecstatic. Elzhi had already done Illmatic, and he did a remarkable job, so why not have Skyzoo give his best effort? This project is incredible, and it definitely merits being at the top spot of the EP and mixtape realm. The orchestral production throughout An Ode to Reasonable Doubt is nothing short of amazing (Antman Wonder is a composer), and Skyzoo spits the stunning lyrical frisbees that he’s known for. This is an album quality release – without a doubt.
Download: Skyzoo & Antman Wonder – An Ode to Reasonable Doubt
Top 20 Tracks (No Particular Order)
“Guard Your Grill” – Father Focus Confucius (Prod. By Macapella)
“Numbers on the Boards” – Pusha T (Prod. By Kanye West & Don Cannon)
“Run The Jewels” – Run The Jewels (Prod. By El-P)
“No Money” – M.i & Tyler Keyes (Prod. By Tyler Keyes)
“Sunday’s Best” – Black Milk (Prod. By Black Milk)
“Be There” – Oddisee (Prod. By Oddisee)
“Hookless” – Nameless & Nametag (Feat. Mahd) (Prod. By Nameless)
“Stardate” – Deltron 3030
Side Note* This is the only intro on my list, but I had to add it because it is one of the most brilliant introductions I’ve ever heard to an album.
“The Dangerous Three” – R.A. The Rugged Man (Feat. Masta Ace & Brother Ali) (Prod. By Mr. Green)
“Future Days” – Pearl Jam
“Long Drive Home” – Ugly Heroes (Prod. By Apollo Brown)
“Off the Record” – Ka (Prod. By Ka)
“Remember to Remember” – Shad (Feat. Lights) (Prod. By Mike Tompkins)
“Write it Down” – M.i & Tyler Keyes (Feat. On Cue) (Prod. By Tyler Keyes)
“That’s What I Do” – Classified (Prod. By Classified)
“Finger Back” – Vampire Weekend
“D.C. Sound Attack” – Clutch
“Tempermental” – Rjd2 (Feat. Phonte Coleman)
“The Food Chain” – Homeless & Big Cats (Prod. By Big Cats)
“An Unexpected Call” – Ghostface Killah (Prod. By Apollo Brown)
Emcee of the Year
There’s no doubt about it in my mind, Pusha T was the top emcee in 2013. He released two top tier projects, and he gave fans everywhere a reason to rejoice. I’ve been a huge fan of Pusha T since the early days of Clipse, and I was a little apprehensive to hear him without Malice by his side, but he proved that he’s just as strong as a solo artist. Usually I’m not one to give Kanye West credit these days, but he definitely made a wise move in taking stock in Pusha T.
Producer of the Year
I’ve never given Apollo Brown the producer of the year award, but to be 100% honest, he deserves it year-after-year. Last year he produced Dice Game with Guilty Simpson and Trophies with O.C.; this year he produced The Brown Tape for Ghostface Killah and the Ugly Heroes album. Every beat that Apollo Brown touches turns to gold. I haven’t heard a miss from this man yet, and my bet is that I won’t anywhere in the near future. In my opinion, Apollo Brown is the best producer in the game.
Biggest Disappointment of 2013
Pusha T – My Name is My Name
A lot of you are probably thinking: “Wait a minute… dude has Pusha as the best emcee of 2013, and he ranked his album among the best. Is this guy crazy?” The answer is no. I think that My Name is My Name could have been a great deal better. Kanye was executive producer of the album, and I feel like a lot of his choices for beats were complete trash. Pusha T could have worked with a lot of great producers on this album, but in the end, it was only limited to a handful of producers and a few great beats. Even though I liked this album a ton, I still think it could have been better.
Most Anticipated Releases of 2014
Step Brothers – Lord Steppington
For those of you that know me, I don’t really need to talk much about Step Brothers. I’ve been waiting on this album for the last 6 years, and I finally get to hear it in late January. Even though it releases early in the year, I can assure you this one will be in constant rotation throughout the entire year.
Whatever Lucas Dix Releases
For real though. I’ve been waiting on the new Jellyfish Brigade material for a minute. In addition to the new Jellyfish Brigade album, Lucas has also told me that he’s working on a new Hives Inquiry Squad project. This could be an interesting year for Mr. Dix.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 8:26 pm and is filed under Year in Review with tags Antman Wonder, Apollo Brown, Black Milk, Classified, Deejay Element, Deltron 3030, Father Focus Confucius, Ghostface Killah, Homeless, Ka, Koncept, Lucas Dix, M.i, Nameless, Nametag, Oddisee, Pearl Jam, Pusha T, R.A. The Rugged Man, Red Pill, Rjd2, Run the Jewels, Shad, Skyzoo, The Van Gobots, Tyler Keyes, Ugly Heroes, Vampire Weekend, Verbal Kent. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.