Standing in front of the same man who proclaimed that “Hip Hop is dead” in 2006, last night the James Cabaret in Wellington, New Zealand was taken back to 1994 — a time when it was very much alive and still growing into the revolutionary genre and street news broadcaster it serves as today. Some people say that it was Illmatic that sparked such a development for the hip hop culture because it changed the way rap music was made at the time; it is recognized as the first album to feature more than one producer on it and valued as “the album that ushered in the era of superproducers”. As Busta Rhymes said in the 2014, Tribeca Film documentary, Time Is Illmatic: “What he was able to do lyrically, completely shift the climate of how the emcee was supposed to rhyme.”
Nas told the sold out venue, “I was writing, thinking what I was going to say to you before I came”, what he did say stuck with me:
“It’s up to the hip hop generation.” He said reflecting on the diversity of the people in the room and the reach his beloved genre and culture had extended to after going for 40 years strong. “I don’t know what they’re doing in politics, don’t know what the Police are doing in America..It’s up to us,” he shared.
1. J Cole — Forest Hills Drive
Okay a lot of things happened this year in the realm of rap and hip hop music. For one, America are facing race riots, in 2014. The entire world watched this year as the [white] man took their culture back to the days of slavery and reminded EVERYONE their leash still has a tension on it. The way in which this album dropped, at the time that it did meant that it’ s simply number one on my list. Check out No Role Modelz and G.O.M.D.
2. Ludacris — Burning Bridges EP
Ludacris is on my list of top five rappers of all time (don’t ask me where, but he’s there). The appreciation is based on his dexterity alone. So yeah, he is older now, and I saw one internet troll comment ‘rich people problems’ underneath Burning Bridges on YouTube, but even so, Ludacris maintains the gift of eloquence in his verses.
3. SZA — Z
SZA is such a gentle, yet beautifully-bold first lady for Top Dawg Entertainment. Her music is honest, rare, spiritual. She’s a real lady that has managed to turn the bars she raps on into a canvas, when she records her music, her words become paint, and the palette is simply spectacular.
4. Isaiah Rashad—Cilvia Demo
I’d been anticipating this album for a bit, so when it dropped, it took a minute to warm up to it. But after I got a sense of who Isaiah Rashad is, as a human (I’d say WAVY), tracks like Banana, Cilvia Demo actually the whole album from start to end sucked me in and was on repeat for weeks; it was the anthem to my summer.
5. August Alsina —Testify
Testify carried over some favourites from Downtown: Life Under The Gun but featured If I Don’t Make It Home Tonight with Young Jeezy, as well as Grind & Pray/Get Your Money feat Fabolous. So it had the spirit of Downtown, which to me is definitely in the spirit of music and hip hop and just good soul in general. The sound on Testify was unfortunately bigger, and more mainstream with feature artists including Rick Ross. Still, the magic that is August featured on all my playlists this year.
6. Ab Soul—These Days
It was expected that 2014 would be TDE’s year, and that’s pretty much what happened for them; competing in an era of rap and hip hop where the internet is the kingdom to rule, TDE’s flag flew as high as Jay Z and Beyonce’s in 2014.
Datpiff had this in November 2013. But it’s recorded in iTunes for March 2014, so, yeah I’m counting it. I was listening to this mixtape while beginning my new job in March. ‘Walk Thru’ was mean to discover while walking through the James Cook Hotel lobby for the first time, every working day at 6pm, whether it’s summer or winter, an old man plays a piano for everyone walking through the lobby, it’s lovely. Put that experience to the verses of I Promise I will Never Stop Going In and I am in a southern music lull, conducted by DJ Drama. From start to finish, the mixtape is a fine example of a new generation that raps “with melody and heart, like singers on the verge of a breakdown”, wrote the New York Times.
8. Fabolous—The Young OG Project
Fabulous is the man. That’s all there is to say. Like he said on Young OG II feat Abir Haronni: “Broke n****s talking, cause there’s free wi-fi”.
9. Schoolboy Q — Oxymoron
I saw these guys live in June. Isaiah Rashad opened and to be honest after hearing Shot You Down on Soundcloud, I was at the Schoolboy concert to see Isaiah Rashad, who played heaps of Cilvia Demo. I fell in love with Schoolboy Q in Perth, driving around my friend’s Great Wall ute with the windows down and the stereo high, Hands On The Wheel became a sweet backing track whilst I discovered Perth city, which was beautiful really. So Oxymoron for me was an automatic love. Man Of The Year? He definitely was to me for the months after I saw his show in Wellington in 2014. I’ll never forget the way he thanked New Zealand for showing him love, and ultimately helping him pay for and raise his daughter, he said he was grateful for that. It was the realest I’d seen a rapper get with his audience. I felt like Schoolboy was good in the realms of straight music at that point, not just rap. ‘Shout outs to the two black guys in this room,’ I cracked up when he said that at his show, ‘maybe three if there are any up in the balcony’.
What can I say? At 28 I am still not ready to let go of turn up, yolo, cbf on the weekend; I’m about to drop to ratchet states of existence and my neighbors are going to hate it. So who better to ride that wave out with than TI? Azealia Banks told Hot 97 he was a coon, and backed it up with a deep reason, she even cried during a conversation where they were discussing Iggy Azalea. It’s kinda ironic, right? Nevertheless, I have a new found respect for Azealia Banks.. But still enjoy TI.
11. PARTYNEXTDOOR — PARTYNEXTDOOR
NB: Replace TI with PARTYNEXTDOOR.
12. Team Dynamite — Shepherd’s Delight
I’ve been a fan of these guys since they released the Demo Tape. Steadily — but surely, in 2014, after releasing Shepherd’s Delight, they’ve achieved levels of success we were expecting them to reach in 2010. This year, they opened for Ladi6 on their NZ tour; subsequently more people came to appreciate their type of New Zealand hip hop — which strikes the perfect balance of feel good beats and good/real shit to say in-verses.
13. Dej Loaf — Sell Sole
Dej Loaf showed up on my newsfeed one day. I didn’t know about her before I heard the Just Do It mixtape, which was released in 2012. After that, this softly spoken, tiny but fiery on-bars lady from Detroit started showing up more and more in my newsfeeds. What’s fresh about her is her attitude. She’s real and so chill in her lyrics that it makes you feel chill when you listen to it. Even when she’s talking about heavier subjects, she keeps your attention throughout her bars.
14. Wiz Khalifa — Blacc Hollywood
The marketing to this album itself had me interested to listen. He tells DJDUBLTV in the UK: “Jimmi’s the man, I work with him all the time though”. What I liked about Blacc Hollywood is it’s Wiz being Wiz, a man who once spent $10,000 a month on weed now has his own strand called Khalifa Kush; he’s also sponsored by The Cookie Factory, so he no longer pays for his own weed. Although he’s never had a job, he’s every hustlers hero.
If I really look at the cover for Jahron Anthony Brathwaite aka PARTYNEXTDOOR’s Party Next Door II I wonder where the face for the initial image went. And what we’re expected to make of it.
Song # 2 is titled ‘SLS’ and is where PARTYNEXTDOOR goes from the status, ‘Oh that guy’s from the same place Drake’s from, right? To, ‘Who the fuck is this guy bringing G’d up R’n B, like R Kelly without the charges?’
Jahron Anthony Brathwaite is signed to Drake’s OVO Sound — a calibre of talent that is no longer playing music, these artists are playing Monopoly and Kanye’s the banker. Jigga’s the King. Drake is the Joker or maybe the Bishop. ..All I can ACTUALLY say though, is track number #3 is like… If you have someone to share your body with when this song peaks, I am happy for you. Baby making-type-fucking is good. #4 reminds me that it’s better to be a “dark skin girl with a light skin groove”. ..Because, as he’ll tell you in the next song is, “She gets her way”…”She can have her way…yayeyayeryayayerr…” #6, ‘Grown Woman’ makes me check myself, as a woman Jahron offers male insight (the same formula Drake uses to steal daughters) into how one looks from a certain perspective. I wonder if I like it. Do I agree with it? Am I letting other people decide my life for me. Or am I doing me — Dopely, which is the only thing in life that matters. #7, FWU, comes in with that New Orleans sound in the Monopoly; the auto tune vocals reach depths that go harder than other modern auto tune apparatus’. I suspect it’s Jahron’s original push of energy from his chest being (clearly) more special than others’ who dabble in modern day auto-tune. 8# Recognize features Drake. The line “All these bitches know that you’re my nigga” is all any woman wants to hear at the end of the day.
Recognize allows Drake a space to get even sweeter with his flow, it’s like quality saccharine which we all secretly indulge in. This song makes him a crystal kind of slick. “Name the other things the other men won’t do for ya, I’ll do for ya thats real.” Party Next Door 2 is gold love.
LISTEN to Recognize here:
(But definitely play yourself SLS)