The Hip-Hop Albums I Need to Hear in 2015

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We are beginning to reflect on the past 365 days, our minds are spinning in retrospect, and soon debates will be heard from China to Chi-Town as year-end lists grace the front pages of blogs and timelines. I should be retracing my steps through the memories of 2014, dissecting the best and the worst, but my mind is elsewhere, floating in the unknown, transfixed on what’s coming instead of what was. For every artist that dropped this year, it’s easy to forget who didn’t, the ones quietly making preparations to blow us away in 2015. I’m thinking about those hidden in the leaves, surrounded in a mist of secrecy, waiting to change the calendar and drop bombs on the unsuspecting public.  

Throughout the years, A$AP Rocky has grown on me. His strengths aren’t in lyricism but in presentation and swagger. His ego could eclipse the sun, his confidence could rival an entire season worth of America’s Next Top Model contestants, and he has the bravado of a gangster aristocrat. If rap doesn’t work out, he could play the Count of Monte Crisco in a modern reboot. For most of 2014, though, Rocky was relatively invisible. It wasn’t until the release of "Multiply" that I realized his silence. Despite only dropping one song, it reinvigorated my waning interest. If he has mastered the Houston influence with Harlem braggadocio, his next album has potential to replace the sour taste of Long.Live.A$AP.

“Now we just got one more to go, L - U - P – END.” When Lupe rapped this line, I wanted this final installment the way Detox was desired. We had Food & Liqour, we had the Cool, we just needed to end the trilogy with an unforgettable bang. This is when Lupe was the Harry Potter of hip-hop, acclaimed for his way with words and enchanting charm. The final album never came, the only “end” I discovered was the end of my enthusiasm for his music. He lost something during the making of Lasers, his spirit lacked that glowing spark, it lacked “Lupe Fiasco.” When I heard his first single, "Deliver," geniusly stitching together social consciousness, pizza, and Ty $, I was instantly sold. It came during a time that Lupe was on a spree of strong releases, "Halie Salassie" with Nikki Jean, "Lilies" with Sirah, and "Lost Generation" with K.R.I.T. All the years of separation are being filled with a voice I believed was lost, the spark is returning, the glow is getting brighter, and for the first time in almost three years I’m anticipating an album from Lupe Fiasco. Tetsuo and Youth coming January 20.

Is it possible to hate Action Bronson? He has azure blue eyes, Ghostface’s vocal chords, and if swan diving was an Olympic sport, he would win every medal. Being an incredible rapper is just one of many endearing qualities that have made him one of hip-hop’s most enthralling prospects. Bronson’s colorful humor bonded with beats by producers whose hands are considered lethal weapons created mixtapes that will outlive Jersey Shore spray tans. His method of releasing small projects were ate up like Apple Bee’s appetizers, and now he’s ready to liberate his major label debut, Mr. Wonderful. Bron Bron has a history of satisfying listeners; there isn’t any doubt that the forthcoming full course meal will be a feast to remember.

I was on Complex a few weeks ago, laughing at videos of Wale and Jerry Seinfeld, thinking about the days when the cliché favorite, More About Nothing, never left my earlobes. Wale went from being inspired by the classic series, to creating an album with the comedy mastermind himself. Their chemistry doesn’t seem forced, genuine friends collaborating on an album for fans that tongues are dangling just thinking about what is being conjured. It’s exciting, knowing that The Album About Nothing isn’t a unicorn, this is the album of Wale’s career. Will he be swallowed by the pressure? I’m excited.

What Kanye will be taking over 2015? Will we get the Graduation bear? The Heartbroken crooner? Twisted Dark Yeezus? Doesn’t really matter, we will spend the entire year anticipating. Kanye is dynamite; our magnetism toward him can only be explained by his willingness to reject the concept of ordinary. Kanye will bite his tongue off before boring us with something mundane.  Kanye will retire before being trite. There is no fear in Kanye’s art, his fearlessness and genius will create the next big bang. There’s no telling when the album will be released, some thought it would surface this year due to the many rumors. Even without a single, without a release date, Kanye can stir up excitement just by the idea that an album is in the works.

The acclaim that comes with dropping a “classic” album only puts immense pressure on the follow-up, the kind of pressure that could force an artist in a repetitive box, attempting to recreate the previous magic. Kendrick Lamar doesn’t seem to be struggling with the fear of failing fans or the curse of sophomore jinx; “I” is unlike anything he has done in the past. It grew on me gradually; the energy and passion showed in live performance, especially his SNL set, really put the song in a new perspective. There’s no predicting what Kendrick is producing with his next body of work, he’s shrouded in mystery, but his anonymity is only heightening the anxiousness. I’m still hung up on his "Never Catch Me" verse, I find myself returning to his "Holy Ghost (Remix)," and of course the "Kendrick Interlude" on Ab-Soul’s These Days is one of this year’s highlights. Kendrick is evolving, his voice is laced with emotion and determination, there’s no way Kendrick isn’t sitting upon a follow-up that will only add another layer of greatness to his growing legacy.

Chance The Rapper is special. There isn’t a day since its release that I haven’t played "Sunday Candy." It’s a Rubik cube of colors that just washes over your soul with positive, soulful vibes. He didn’t just dedicate a song to his grandmother, but created a feeling you can relate to on Sunday mornings, a day synonymous with all grandmothers. Chance is producing some incredible music with The Social Experiment, all year he has teased us with various releases that left fans a bit puzzled. Acid Rap is great, but Chance has left that sound in yesterday, he's in a new artistic mind state that can't be caged in rap, this sound is soaring beyond our expectations, leaving us wondering what will he do next? There’s a chance his forthcoming album, Surf, will be released in the next few weeks. I think he’ll wait, drop early 2015 and set the benchmark for the year.

There’s just too many artist I could mention. Meek Mill will be making a grand return, 10 Million Dollar Mac Miller could appear with a huge album from Warner, Earl Sweatshirt is in some dungeon creating his sophomore, Lil Boosie is preparing his post incarceration album, Yung Thug’s potential debut, T.I. and Jeezy’s mythical collaboration album, Tyler The Creator was planning a secret album so who knows what he is plotting, Rich Homie Quan’s major label debut, hopefully Vic Mensa is preparing something (Down On My Luck is one of my favorites cuts from 2014), and still waiting on Jay Rock to bless us with a full length offering. I could continue this list until Carpel tunnel symptoms arise, it goes without saying, my ears are trembling with excitement.

Bring on 2015, my body is ready. 

[By Yoh, aka Yohstradamus, aka @Yoh31]