With albums like Kanye’s Yeezus, the now unhyphenated Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, and J. Cole’s Born Sinner, a whirlwind of hype surrounded the rap game this past summer. Throw in Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s track Control (which didn’t make the cut for his own summer release, Hall of Fame) and most people would consider Summer 2013 a successful season for hip-hop music.
Apart from the aforementioned releases, a slew of solid, under-the-radar rap albums dropped between May and September. Here’s four you may not have heard, but should definitely lend an ear to:
1. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Technically, Acid Rap is a mixtape, but this dude has the chance (pun intended) to be Kendrick Lamar’s predecessor as the most exciting new rapper. His drug-induced style draws comparisons to Kid Cudi, but where Cudi was dark and depressing, Chance The Rapper is his upbeat, fun counterpart. With a fresh, quick flow reminiscent of a young Andre 3000, we can only hope his future is as promising as Acid Rap suggests. Listen to: Juice and Favorite Song (ft. Childish Gambino).
2. El-P & Killer Mike – Run the Jewels
Probably the most refined musical package on this list, Run the Jewels is exactly what you’d expect from a pair of seasoned rap mainstays. El-P, a well-known rapper/producer in the underground scene, produced the entire album; his maturity as a producer is evident throughout. Killer Mike, who came up in the early 2000’s with the help of fellow Atlanta rappers OutKast, provides lyrically raw verses while staying true to his southern style. Not to take away from the duo’s collective rapping abilities, but Run the Jewels could have been released as an instrumental album. Check it out – you’ll see what I mean. Listen to: Ddfh and No Come Down.
3. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
If you know anything about Tyler, The Creator and his hip-hop collective Odd Future (aka Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All aka OFWGKTA aka Golf Wang aka 30 other names…), then you’ve probably heard of Earl Sweatshirt. His first album, EARL, ignited his fame (largely of the internet variety), which was then abruptly put on hold after being sent to a boarding school in Somoa. After finishing school, Earl returned to the States and immediately began recording his sophomore release, Doris. Earl’s a smart guy, and it’s evident throughout the whole album. With intelligent, dark songs, and clever analogies and punchlines, you’re guaranteed to laugh, all the while feeling strangely rebellious. Earl Sweatshirt is an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop world, and Doris won’t disappoint. Listen to: Hive (ft. Vince Staples and Casey Veggies) and Sunday (ft. Frank Ocean).
4. Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights
This one’s another mixtape, but worth mentioning for sure. Once you look past his middle-school-AIM-screen-name for a stage name, you’ll discover Joey Bada$$ is, in fact, a badass rapper. Summer Knights picks up where his mixtape 1999 left off, furthering Joey’s lyrical talent and rebellious-yet-hopeful vibe. The simplified, old-school production style (which seems like a hybrid mixture of early Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and Dr. Dre) complements Mr. Bada$$’ voice well. Listen to: Death of YOLO (ft. Smoke Dza) and Word is Bond.
Have you come across any other great, lesser-known summer rap albums? Let us know below.