20 Best Rap Albums Of 2013

December 29th, 2013 9:00am EST

Marshall Mathers LP 2 2013 has been an exceptional year for rap album releases. Some were hot, while others were far from it – cold as Antarctica. Still overall, there were plenty of releases to be proud of, no questions asked. Below, you’ll find my ‘MIA’ (or called it in) list as well as my top 20 rap albums of 2013. This excludes mixtapes and previously released material FYI.

1) Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Eminem set out to prove he’s still the illest MC, epitomized by his vicious performance on the epic “Rap God”. Ultimately, Eminem accomplishes his task of affirming his ‘god status’, soundly following up his pivotal 2000 album. There is no “Stan” or “The Real Slim Shady” this go-round, but there are plenty of triumphant moments.

Recommended Spins:

“So Much Better”; “Survival”; “Berzerk”; “Rap God”; “The Monster”; “Love Game”; “Headlights”

2) Kanye West - Yeezus
Def Jam

Lately, Yeezus has made its way back into my playlist rotation, which I may have denied that happening back in June. While I was always on board with Yeezus, I also acknowledged its ‘issues’. Even so, there is a wealth of worthwhile listens, led by “Black Skinhead”, “Blood on the Leaves” and “Bound 2”. Is there an argument for the number one spot? Definitely!

Recommended Spins:

“Black Skinhead”; “I Am A God”; “New Slaves”; “Blood on the Leaves”; “Bound 2”

3) Pusha T - My Name Is My Name
Def Jam

Pusha T’s debut album was one the most underrated efforts commercially. Don’t let its commercial fortunes dissuade you though – this is a rock solid album. If you want frank, real talk, Pusha Tis your man and this is your ‘jam’. Like Eminem, he gets a worthwhile assist from Kendrick Lamar.

Recommended Spins:

“Numbers On The Boards”; “Sweet Serenade”; “Hold On”; “Who I Am”; “Nosetalgia”; “S.N.I.T.C.H.”

4) Drake - Nothing Was The Same

Three albums and EP in, ain’t nothing changed with Drake; he’s still one of the hottest, most creative MCs in the game. The quality of Nothing Was The Same remains consistent, even if it fails to supersede previous juggernauts Thank Me Later or Take Care.

Recommended Spins:

“Tuscan Leather”; “Started From The Bottom”; “Wu-Tang Forever”; “From Time”; “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; “305 To My City”

5) J. Cole - Born Sinner

Perhaps J. Cole should be higher than number five – it was a consistent, enjoyable album by all means. J. Cole played up the concept of being a ‘sinner’ and details his shortcomings throughout the effort. Furthermore, the material and the production is more than satisfying. Oh and yes, Kendrick Lamar also stops by on Born Sinner.

Recommended Spins:

“Land of the Snakes”; “Power Trip”; “Trouble”; “Rich Niggaz”; “Forbidden Fruit”; “Let Nas Down”; “New York Times”

6) Danny Brown - Old
Fool’s Gold

Eccentric yet brilliant, Danny Brown is one of a kind. Old highlights both Brown’s musical eclecticism and his brash delivery. Overt he may be, Brown can definitely spit.

Recommended Spins:

“The Return”; “Wonderbread”; “Dope Fiend Rental”; “Torture”; “Clean Up”; “Dip”; “Float On”

7) A$AP Ferg - Trap Lord

I know, I know – it was A$AP Rocky that broke through back in January, but Rocky’s album is killer. Ferg definitely has a cool style about his rhymes, and a unique voice to match. Maybe I’m overrating Trap Lord, but several of its ‘big guns’ remain on my iPod rotation.

Recommended Spins:

“Shabba”; “Lord”; “4:02”; “Work (Remix)”; “Murda Something”

8) Wale - The Gifted

Wale’s more intellectual approach is certainly refreshing, particularly on “Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)” where Wale wordplays between “piece” and “peace”. That said, ‘the gifted’ MC can also deliver an awesome club banger. Maybe he didn’t have Diplo in his corner this go-round (“Slight Work”), but his booty anthem certainly held up pretty capably (“Clappers”). The Gifted may lack the shock value of Eminem or Kanye, but Folarin still definitely had one of the best rap albums of 2013.

Recommended Spins:

“The Curse of the Gifted”; “Love Hate Thing”; “Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”; “Clappers”; “Bad”

9) Childish Gambino - Because The Internet

Childish Gambino made a late push for the best rap album of 2013 and did so convincingly. A conceptual album that also has a 75-page script to clarify the songs, Because the Internet is one of the most ambitious albums (regardless of genre) of the year.

Recommended Spins:

“Crawl”; “The Worst Guys”; “Sweatpants”; “3005”; “Zealots of Stockholm”; “Pink Toes”

10) A$AP Rocky - Long. Live. ASAP

Probably the biggest reason A$AP Rocky sits at number ten is because it was released back in January. That isn’t to say Long. Live. A$AP doesn’t have enduring value (it does), but some of the material was less memorable than some of the albums sitting ahead of it. Still, can’t deny the endurance of “F**kin’ Problems”, right?

Recommended Spins:

“Long Live A$AP”; “Goldie”; “F**kin’ Problems”; “Wild For the Night”; “Suddenly”; “I Come Apart”

11) Mac Miller - Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Easy Mac matured on Watching Movies With The Sound Off. Sure, he’s completely naked on the album cover (questionable) and he still has plenty for women advocacy groups to complain album (aka misogyny), but the young MC definitely shows greater ‘range’ so to speak.

Recommended Spins:

“The Star Room”; “S.D.S.”; “Objects in the Mirror”;“Gees”; “Watching Movies”; “REMember”; “Goosebumpz”

12) Ace Hood - Trials & Tribulations

Ace Hood released a very fine album in Trials & Tribulations, though it was quite underrated. Even an hella catchy gem like “Bugatti” couldn’t amplify the sales. Regardless, its quite interesting how the religious and the secular work thematically here.

Recommended Spins:

“Trials & Tribulations”; “Another Statistic”; “Before The Rollie”; “We Them N***as”; “Pray For Me”; “Bugatti”

13) Tyler, The Creator - Wolf
Odd Future

Tyler, The Creator is still very much himself on Wolf – if you heard Bastard or Goblin, you’ll catch my drift. Even so, Wolf seems to have a bit more polish and finesse about it, even if the offensive, explicit rhymes remain intact.

Recommended Spins:

“Cowboy”; “Answer”; “Domo23”; “IFHY”; “Trashwang”

14) Juicy J - Stay Trippy

Personally, as I prejudged Stay Trippy, I thought it was going to be a big, dumb joke. It does have its dumber moments, but ultimately, Stay Trippy is a very good album, surprisingly.

Recommended Spins:

“Smokin’ Rollin’”; “Bounce”; “Wax”; “Gun Plus A Mask”; “The Woods”; “Bandz A Make Her Dance”

15) Big Sean - Hall of Fame

Big Sean had a bad year as Hall of Fame tanked. Even so, I actually dug the album – or most of it. Big Sean’s certainly not a preeminent MC per se, but he definitely has his moments and the voice is perfect. I mean, yeah “Mona Lisa” and “MILF” are incredibly shallow, but they’re at least irresistibly so!

Recommended Spins:

“Nothing Is Stopping You”; “Fire”; “First Chain”; “Mona Lisa”; “MILF”; “Ashley”

16) Earl Sweatshirt - Doris
Odd Future

Tyler, The Creator’s buddy sho’ can rap. Doris proves to be an exceptional underground rap debut for the 19-year old MC. Definitely better than Chief Keef’s debut… cheap shot, I know.

Recommended Spins:

“Burgundy”; “Hive”; “Chum”; “Centurion”; “Whoa”

17) Tech N9ne - Something Else
Strange Music

Who says older MCs lose their swag? Tech N9ne is 42 and still going strong. Something Else was definitely underrated and probably resides too low on this ranking.

Recommended Spins:

“Straight Out The Gate”; “B.*.*.C.H.”; “I’m Not A Saint”; “Fragile; “Meant To Happen”; “Believe”

18) Bun B - Trill O.G. “The Epilogue”

Bun B closes out a quartet of albums capably with Trill O.G. “The Epilogue”. RIP Pimp C!

Recommended Spins:

“The Best is Back”; “Cake”; “Fire”; “Gladiator”; “Dippin’ & Swervin’”

19) 2 Chainz - B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME

2 Chainz goes pretty dumb, but sometimes, we all need some utter stupidity in our lives.

Recommended Spins:

“36”; “Feds Watching”; “I Do It”; “Netflix”; “Beautiful Pain”

20) Kid CuDi - Indicud

When I first reviewed this album, I was probably guilty of overrating it. Still good, Indicud doesn’t quite match-up with most of the albums ahead of it. Kendrick Lamar does stop by though.

Recommended Spins:

“Unf**kwittable”; “Just What I Am”; “Solo Dolo Part II”; “Mad Solar”; “Beez”

Missing in Action:Jay-Z - Magna Carta…Holy Grail
Roc Nation

Had its moments, but didn’t feel nor sound like elite Jay-Z.

Lil Wayne - I Am Not A Human Being II

Tunechi wasn’t at his best.

Tyga - Hotel California

Felt completely uninspired compared to 2012 effort Carless World: Rise of the Last King

French Montana - Excuse My French

Lacked a strong musical personality; didn’t feel elite…

Rich Gang - Rich Gang

Sounds like all they think about is money and not quality.

Maybach Music Group - Self Made 3

A notch less satisfying than Self Made 2 was…

DJ Khaled - Suffering from Success

Plays like any number of DJ Khaled albums – that’s both a blessing and a curse…

Related: A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Eminem, J. Cole, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Wale, Music, Evergreen

Photo Credits: Aftermath

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