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Okay okay. The Best & Worst lists are coming, slowly but surely. We’ll try to deliver one of these per weekday over the next few weeks. In between juggling my duties for Medium.Com/Cuepoint, regular HipHopSite.Com updates, and DJing, it’s been hard to find the time to do these. So let’s begin with 2014′s best major label album releases. Indie label releases up next…

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10. YG – My Krazy Life – Def Jam – Initially we didn’t love YG’s Interscope debut, but as time went on it slowly grew on us. Fully produced by DJ Mustard, the album captured and subsequently resurrected the sound of the west coast, harking back to early classics from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the Death Row era. We’ve heard the word “classic” thrown around when discussing this album, and while we have come around from our initial opinions on it, we still believe that it more borrows from the classics rather than lives as one. Still a solid out the gate debut from the young Blood.


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9. Common – Nobody’s Smiling – ARTrium / Def Jam – Truth be told, Com’s Chicago-centric Nobody’s Smiling LP was better in theory than in execution. Despite No I.D.’s sometimes too experimental production, in terms of poignancy, what he was saying about the city’s gang violence epidemic far outweighs the topics of pretty much anyone else on this list. For that alone, it deserves inclusion. Lyrically on point.


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8. Rick Ross – Mastermind – MMG / Def Jam – Due to his bloated, excessive persona, Rick Ross is the rapper we love to hate, however damn if he doesn’t pick good beats. At least he did on Mastermind, while Hood Billionaire was made up of more dumbed down, baller anthems. Mastermind found the then still heavy-set Ross channeling his inner Barry White with soulful samples and lush grooves, as he describes his over-the-top lavish lifestyle. We ain’t mad at it.


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7. DJ Mustard – 10 Summers – Google Play – We’re going to go out on a limb and put Google in the “major label” category, considering they probably have more money than Def Jam. Mustard’s 10 Summers was the hottest producer of the year’s answer to Dr. Dre’s 2001, even paying homage to it in the opening sketch. He accomplished what YG’s My Krazy Life couldn’t – variation – by simply extending the guest list. The all-star cast of all the biggest names in hood hits rounded out 10 Summers nicely, creating an album of anthems suited for radio and the club.


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6. Childish Gambino – STN MTN / Kauai – Glassnote / Universal – While Gambino’s Because The Internet topped a lot of the industry’s 2014 year end lists, it actually was included on our 2013 year end list. We had since moved on to his brilliantly crafted STN MTN / Kauai project, which is marketed as a mixtape and an EP, but really was an album in two parts. Gambino trolling in true fashion once again.


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5. Eminem – Shady XV – Shady Records / Interscope – Face it, Eminem’s scraps and leftovers are better than most people’s albums. Who knows how much of Shady XV was meant for The Marshall Mathers LP 2, but this indirect sequel featured even more mind-blowing rhymes from the original rap genius, while showing off the talents of his Shady 2.0 roster. Lyrical miracles are back, bitches.


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4. The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin – Def Jam …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is a highly pretentious concept album. However, it’s also good. And it is very digestible, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, marking The Roots shortest LP to date. So it doesn’t require large amounts of patience. Like any solid album, it gets better with each consecutive listen, and its theme becomes apparent the more times you hear it. Bravo.


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3. Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron – TDE/Interscope – Following Kendrick’s good kid, m.a.a.d. city, Oxymoron is largely an album that seems untampered with by pesky A&R’s. Amidst Q’s cinematic tales of gangbanging and drug problems, he also impresses with his delivery, lyrical styles, and dark, subterranian production. Oxymoron is a triumph of a rap album, because it signifies a return of “underground” rap to the major label scene.


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2. J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive – Dreamville / Columbia – The best-selling rap album of the year (650,000+) is from a semi-conscious rapper who rhymes over his own self-produced beats built around funk and soul samples and drum loops. Sorry Iggy, sorry Nicki. A change gon’ come.


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1. Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica - K.R.I.T.’s second LP for Def Jam may be one of the lowest selling albums on this list, but it’s also quite easily the strongest. It’s probably hard to market a Southern artist that raps about important topics, produces his own beats, and makes albums that sound like they belong in the Outkast catalog. Maybe that will change next year.

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23 Responses to "Belated Best & Worst 2014 List: The 10 Best Major Label Albums"
  • Battlehound says:

    The WU tang album has grown on me, not too bad at all, better than the ghost album I would now say

  • the man the myth says:

    Usually agree with you Battlehound, but that Wu album was really bad. The R&B bullshit was so out of place and half the beats were garbage and the Wu members sounded so uninspired. This album was the worst album of the year for me based off of my expectations for the Wu. I didn’t expect it to be that bad.

  • Dayz says:

    The only LPs on hear I listened to were The Roots, Common and the Shady Comp… All 3 were underground/indie cats and earned their chops as such. The rest I have no time for. But gotta say I didn’t like those 3 at all. I love The Roots, seen them in concert 30+ times and I tried to like it but it’s just not for me. Common? Dang Common has been irrelevant since Be, just not really a fan anymore. Eminem? MMLP2 was good but had no replay value for me and this comp was pretty lame except for the Dj Premier produced Slaughterhouse joint. Em is still technically proficent and a magician with the mic but his production is just for for me. I haven’t really liked anything from him past the first 3 LPs. Sorry but the major label Hip Pop/crap rap is just not for me. I don’t have a lot of free time to bump music so when I do it’s gotta be the best of the best. I find my fix still deep in the underground in the far reaches of the internet. Appreciate you @Pizzo for making this list though and the conversation it and the others started.

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