Summer 2013’s “Best Of”: Hip Hop & R&B albums
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 22:08
This past summer wasn’t heavily music-oriented, but hosted some of the best hip hop and R&B album releases by both well-known and obscure artists. Here’s the list:
1.“Born Sinner” - J. Cole (June 2013)
Intertwined with fierce, church-choir vocals, wild, yet clean production and spiritual substance, North Carolina native Cole’s album was the absolute highlight of June’s hip hop scene. He raps about sin and the spirit; alternating between the conflicted figurative “dark” and “light” in his life, as well as the introspection and self-awareness required to maintain normality and stay grounded in the hip hop industry. The album was postponed, but all for good reason. Highlights of the album include the pre-released single “Power Trip,” opener “Villuminati,” “Crooked Smile (feat. TLC),” ”She Knows,” and the shame-filled “Let Nas Down,” which elicited an honored response from the legend himself. Much like Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City,” “Born Sinner” offers more than the standard cookie-cutter, Top 40 hip-hop that often lacks quality and consciousness.
2.“Talk a Good Game” - Kelly Rowland (June 2013)
No woman does heartbreak and bitterness like Kelly does. This summer-released, moody R&B album by the ex-Destiny Child reveals the less glamorous aspect of fame (as well as being outshone by a certain, fellow girl-group member) in “Dirty Laundry”, the hands-down hit of the EP. Kelly’s smooth and sexy voice earns her the credit she may not have quite gotten while in the musical threesome. “Down on Love” and “Kisses Down Low” are two other singles that comprise the overall sultry effect on this one.
3.“Magna Carta…Holy Grail” - Jay-Z (July 2013)
Jigga’s album received more complaints in a single day than Kanye West’s fiasco, otherwise known as “Yeezus,” did entirely – but wrongly so. Featuring R&B icons like Frank Ocean and Justin Timberlake, the album took a completely different turn than that of Jay-Z’s classics, like “The Black Album,” or “The Blueprint,” or even “Watch the Throne.” The production went for listenable and radio-worthy qualities rather than the more underground, traditionally simple beats praised by longtime fans of the rapper; however, this is precisely what showcases Jay’s ability to diversify and stay audibly modern. Personal favorites of the album include: “Holy Grail” with Justin Timberlake, “Tom Ford” and “Part 2: On The Run” featuring none other than the beautiful Beyonce.
4.“Watching Movies With The Sound Off” - Mac Miller (June 2013)
Mac Miller gets genuinely heartfelt on his summer album. The EP packs in many collabs, but features Mac on his own—philosophical and all—on tracks “Objects in the Mirror” and “Someone Like You”. This album is a complete surprise for fans who have become slightly bored with the 21-year-old’s duller material over the course of the last few years. There are definite hints of moving toward more substance-heavy, deeper and more conscious lyrics, as well as ear appeal, evident through some of the most melodious production of his career thus far (try “Watching Movies”). Mac combines the work of the some of the hottest hip hop producers (Diplo, Pharrell, Flying Lotus, etc.) with sharper imagery, smoother flow and a complete deliverance of quality. Definitely worth a listen.
5. “Ciara” - Ciara (July 2013)
R&B princess Ciara recently returned to the studio and has since gained new recognition; her fifth and most recent, self-titled album is smooth, slow and soft, illustrating a possible transformation of style and sound. “Body Party,” her hottest track off the album, has been stuck in the heads [and vocal chords] of many for months; the corresponding video features Future, C’s signature dance abilities and deliverance of a great slow jam. This fifth studio album reflects her R&B-ready voice, but sensual lyrics, tone and runs/riffs. Ciara invites several collaborators on her album, some including Nicki Minaj, B.o.B. and Future—all of which blend well. Prior to this release, Ciara seemed to be away from the spotlight in R&B, but is now gaining more attention and radio play than she has since “Two Step” in the late 2000s.