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Top 10 Albums of 2014

Nothing has bothered me more than hearing people say that 2014 was not a good year for Hip Hop. There were so many great albums released during this year that you must not have been paying attention to feel that way. 2014 produced notable comebacks from legendary groups like the Wu-Tang Clan and Dilated Peoples while also delivering much anticipated albums from the Step Brothers and Black Milk. Mississippi left a lasting mark in 2014 as 7evenThirty impressed on the independent scene with his album The Problem while Big K.R.I.T. made the album we all knew he could, Cadillactica, on the major label side of things. And speaking of the south, Nashville emcee Starlito proved once again why he’s one of the most underrated artists in the game on Black Sheep Don’t Grin. Atmosphere endeared themselves to listeners on the well crafted Southsiders, a particularly rewarding listen for longtime fans of Slug and Ant. The frontrunner for album of the year was Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Piñata, which somehow managed to live up to all the lofty expectations fans had for this emcee/producer collaboration. And while Piñata had the inside track on that top spot for most of the year, Run The Jewels shook up everything in late October. Killer Mike and El-P have been a tour de force ever since they decided to team up. These two artists, respected heavily for their work individually, have carved out a new legacy together as Run The Jewels. Their second album, Run The Jewels 2, ... Read More »

Top 10 Mixtapes/Free Albums of 2014

After years of trying to keep the mixtape and free albums categories separate, KN finally caves in and combines them. The ambiguous nature of what defines a mixtape or album in today’s Hip Hop scene makes it a losing battle trying to classify these two in different ways. So this time around, all free releases are thrown together. That means narrowing these choices became harder, but I think it also means the quality of each pick is that much better. This top 10 is heavily dominated by the south and the city of Chicago as Vince Staples is the only selection not from those areas. The number one spot was certainly a tough call with three very deserving contenders. Lil’ Boosie’s comeback endeavor Life After Deathrow easily could’ve been the top pick as it is some of the Baton Rouge native’s best work to date. Lil’ Herb emerged from the shadows of his cohort Lil’ Bibby to release Welcome To Fazoland and show the world he’s a force to be reckoned with for years to come. And while those aforementioned projects were incredible, Mick Jenkins’ The Water[s] was a true gem of 2014. The Chicago emcee has released some quality projects in the past, yet The Water[s] is a clear breakthrough for him. Jenkins really finds his voice on this record via his poignant observations on the world around him along with some excellent beat selection. It appears that big things are on the horizon for Mick Jenkins, but fans ... Read More »

Top 10 Slept-On Albums of 2014

The top slept-on albums of the year category has always been near and dear to KN. We’ve always prided ourselves in spotlighting talented artists who don’t get the constant coverage from major outlets and sharing their work with our readers. Slept-on albums epitomize that attitude as the artists and projects featured here may have flown under the radar, but truly warrant your time. The 2014 edition features a lot of KN favorites that we’ve shown love to over the past few years. Names like K-Rino, Marcel P. Black, CYNE MarQ Spekt, Willie The Kid and G-Side should be no strangers to our loyal readers. Also making the cut are some newer artists such as New York group RATKING andAtlanta-based Wara From The NHBD. Securing the top spot this year is Locksmith with his album A Thousand Cuts. The Bay Area emcee has always impressed with his rhyming capabilities, but this album was his most personal work to date. Locksmith opened up on this album while still maintaining his lyrical prowess to great results. Lock’s decision to be so candid, particularly on the brutally honest “Hardest Song Ever,” produced a connection to his fans that goes beyond his incredible wordplay. A Thousand Cuts deserves your ear, as do all of these albums, so don’t sleep on them! Locksmith – A Thousand Cuts K-Rino – Deprogrammed Marcel P. Black – Black Collar RATKING – So It Goes CYNE – All My Angles Are Right MarQ Spekt & Blockhead – JustPlayWitIt G-Side – Gz II Godz Willie ... Read More »

Top 10 EPs of 2014

The EP is such a powerful tool in today’s music landscape because so many artists are fighting for our limited attention. Being able to deliver a short, but potent record to listeners in the digital age is the perfect way to gain new fans as well as satisfy the needs of ardent supporters. 2014 produced so many quality EPs that it was tough to narrow this list down to just 10 selections. As you’ll see, that’s why so many honorable mentions are featured here. I think what’s most notable about this list is the wide arrange of stages these artists are at in their respective careers. The top 10 EPs of 2014 features veterans like Supastition & CunninLynguists, brand new talent such as Brown & OG Maco, and emerging stars in Vince Staples & Deniro Farrar. The top selection, though, goes to Los Angeles emcee Thurz and his Designer EP. After splitting from U-N-I a few years ago, Thurz made a statement with the socio-politically driven album L.A. Riots. Instead of following this breakthrough project with a similar theme, Thurz flips perceptions completely on the Designer EP. The EP is throwback to the g-funk vibes of classic West Coast rap and a lighthearted endeavor meant to put you in a good mood. Thurz accomplishes so much with just 7 tracks as his diversity and range as an artist is on full display. This must-listen record was an easy choice for the best EP of 2014. Check out the rest of picks below. Thurz – Designer Supastition ... Read More »

The 10 Most Disappointing Albums of 2014

This year, KN will be bringing you an abbreviated version of our annual “best of” lists. A major announcement coming later this week will better explain why this is happening, but I thought I would just give our readers a heads up that there will be just five categories for the 2014 lists. Also, this 2014 edition will be the editor’s picks. So whatever your thoughts on the 2014 selection are, your praise or disdain falls solely on my shoulders. Kicking things off is the most disappointing albums of the year. As I’ve stated in the past, it’s important to not look at this category as the worst albums of the year as it’s an inaccurate label for these LPs. These albums are deemed disappointing because I feel these artists are capable of better work and did not deliver a project that measures up to their respective capabilities. No album represents this sentiment more for me than The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. As a longtime fan of the group, it was a true letdown to see them sacrifice musicality for the concept. The Roots have shown they are quite capable of making a conceptual album that sounds good in the past, which is why it was so disappointing to see them not accomplish that on their latest effort. Worst of all, Black Thought felt like nothing more than a bit player on the album instead of the driving force that he should be. For these reasons, …And Then Your Shoot Your Cousin is the ... Read More »

Rapper Reviews: D-Risha’s 10 Must-See Horror Movies For Halloween

[Editor’s Note] Today, KN is proud to bring you a new feature called Rapper Reviews. Basically, we’re letting some of our favorite rhymers share their opinions on subjects outside of the realm of Hip Hop. And with it being Halloween on Friday, what better way to kick off this new feature than some great horror films to watch on All Hallows’ Eve. We had to go to D-Risha with this topic in mind as he’s a true connoisseur of the genre. While Houston emcee prepares for the release of his GIALLO EP with his 6 Demon Bag cohort That Purple Bastard, he took the time to break down 10 must-see horror movies for your Halloween viewing. Check out the debut of Rapper Reviews below and make sure you grab D-Risha & That Purple Bastard’s GIALLO EP, which drops on Halloween! Words by D-Risha 1. The Burning This film is what I would consider a top tier selection in the “slasher movie” sub-genre of horror. It came out after Halloween and the first Friday The 13th, but has a strong cult following long after its release. In the same way that Three 6 Mafia rarely gets credit for creating the crunk era of southern rap, The Burning contains a hulking serial killer long before Jason was ever introduced, make up effects from the great Tom Savini, and the first on screen appearance of Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander. A true American ’80s slasher diamond in the rough. 2. Suspiria If you don’t know who Dario Argento is and you claim to be a horror buff, I implore ... Read More »

Jordan Heads Brooklyn Owner Talks Upcoming Documentary & Sneaker Culture

“It’s not just the sneaker. It’s about the man behind the sneaker.” The Air Jordan line has become a staple within the “sneaker head” community. Serving as the signature model for Michael Jordan, his legacy as an elite athlete has trickled down to his sneakers. Translating his appreciation for the athlete and the sneaker through visuals, Calvan Fowler filmed & directed Jordan Heads, a documentary that gives us a peak into the lives of Jordan fanatics. While filming the documentary, shooting different interviews between 2004-2013, Fowler grew fascinated with other’s infatuation for the athlete and his sneakers. Located in the heart of Bedstuy, Brooklyn, the new Jordan Heads Brooklyn storefront sticks out like a sore thumb. Situated on Malcolm X Blvd, the store is accessible via B46 bus or the A/C train to Utica. About a 5 minute walk from the station, the store’s entrance invites you in (even if you’re just passing by). The walls are painted in a bold red and are covered with Jordan posters and various memorabilia. They are also lined with shelves filled with an array of Jordan sneakers, exclusive apparel and collector items (I caught myself eye-ing the Space Jam poster). Set up as a sneaker consignment boutique filled with Jordan apparel, Retros, Spizikes, Jordan 1 Mids & Lows, and more, Jordan Heads Brooklyn is truly a sneaker haven for the Jordan fanatic. Even more interesting than the products in the store, is the man behind the store, Calvan Fowler. I spoke to Fowler at the ... Read More »

EarthGang: #TheseDays Tour with Ab-Soul in NYC

New York City is truly a city of random occurrences. After running into EarthGang (http://earthgang.net/music), a young ATL Rap duo, in an elevator, they managed to get me backstage at their show in Irving Plaza. Turns out they are currently on Ab-Soul’s “These Days” Tour; barely halfway through the 40+ dates on the schedule. When I arrived backstage at Irving Plaza, accompanied by my friend, marketing manager of SABIT NYC’s skate brand, we were greeted with daps and alcohol. Definitely a warm welcome in the world of Hip Hop. Initially, in the elevator, I was already appreciative of their down-to-earth attitude. Prior to their set, I was able to delve a little deeper into who EarthGang is. Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot, the duo who make up EG, seem to just be a couple kids living out their Hip Hop dreams. “We’re just glad to be a part of this shit. Two weeks ago, my car broke down and my engine was shot. I ain’t know what to do with my life and now I’m here in New York. My whole world is changing,” says Doc. Their humble outlook could never be deciphered by how they carried themselves on stage. Performing their hearts out, as if every one in the room already knew all the lyrics to their songs, Johnny & Doc managed to keep an NYC crowd intrigued and entertained. And we all know how harsh an NYC crowd can be. For me, experiencing the duo’s music, not only ... Read More »

Recapping Statik Selektah’s Listening Session For What Goes Around

Last month, Statik Selektah announced on MTV’s Rapfix Live that he’d be releasing a new project titled What Goes Around as a follow-up to Extended Play. In partnership with Duck Down Records, the album will be available for purchase on August 19th. After releasing the first single, “Carry On,” which features Freddie Gibbs and Joey Bada$$, Statik recently held a private album listening session in NYC. There, he revealed that a video had already been shot for “Carry On” and would be premiering soon. Set in the offices of VeVo in Times Square, a room full of Duck Down employees and artists as well as members of the press, were present to get a first listen of What Goes Around. Statik got on the microphone and first shared a conversation he had with Kanye West about a beat he made for Nas. The basis of the story laid down the foundation for What Goes Around and the sound that Statik wanted for the project. “I remember playing a song for Kanye and his reaction was I like it Stat. This is typical Kanye, but jazz is dead,” he said. “His statement, alone, inspired me to make a jazz-infused, Hip Hop album. I had to do this album for Kanye.” Another underlying influence for the album stems from Statik’s appreciation for “classic New York Hip Hop.” Recruiting Talib Kweli and Styles P for “Thrill is Back,” he reveals his admiration for “kids like Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era” for bringing the ... Read More »

A Look Back At The Rock Steady Crew’s 37th Anniversary Celebration

1977 seems like ages ago. 37 years of relevancy in Hip Hop culture is definitely something to celebrate. This past Sunday, New York City’s Summer Stage presented Rock Steady Crew’s 37th Anniversary concert in Central Park. The Rock Steady Crew is a household name in Hip Hop. Culture connoisseurs of varying generations came together this past Sunday to pay homage and witness “Real Hip Hop.” While many debate what “real” Hip Hop is, every guest that hit the stage proudly boasted, “This is Real Hip Hop.” For the sake of the culture, let us not forget the four elements. The b-boy has been a staple since the culture came into fruition. B-boys, Crazy Leg and Lenny Len, were put onto Rock Steady through Jimmy D as a way to preserve the art form of breakdance. Their mission was to take it to the next level while keeping the culture alive. By the early 1980s, the Rock Steady Crew was making a lot of noise in the Manhattan scene. Battling their rivals, the Dynamic Rockers, was a crucial point in the history of breakdancing and Hip Hop. Today, Rock Steady Crew has expanded and become a fusion of the old and new school. On Sunday, July 27th, Rock Steady Crew added another chapter to its legacy. Read More »

Top 10 Albums of 2014
Top 10 Mixtapes/Free Albums of 2014
Top 10 Slept-On Albums of 2014
Top 10 EPs of 2014
Albums / Mixtapes Instrumentals New Singles Sponsored Releases
Ben Boogz (of 2 Hungry Bros): Soleil (feat. DJ M-Tri)
MarQ Spekt & Blockhead: Devil’s Island Storyteller (feat. Sadat X)
RIZSELFMADE: Dat Made Life
Hassaan Mackey & Kev Brown: That Grit [EP Review]
Big K.R.I.T: Cadillactica [Album Review]
Black Milk: If There’s A Hell Below [Album Review]
Stalley: Ohio [Album Review]
Ras Kass Talks Blasphemy LP, Working with Apollo Brown and Longevity in Rap
D.S. Interview At 90.5 FM [Video]
Artist Spotlight: RF3RD
Otis Brown III Talks The Thought of You, Jazz & Hip Hop’s Symbiosis and Donald Byrd
RIZSELFMADE: Dat Made Life
Lazarus: Open Heart Surgery (feat. Bizarre of D12)
Clay James: Kool Water Intro (Music Video)
Git x 1Mt: Lifestyle of an Artist
Microphone Check 1-2, 1-2
Donwill: Bad With Names Episode 8: 2014 Wrap Up (feat Von Pea)
Donwill: Bad With Names Episode 7: The Fun of Feminism (ft. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh)
Donwill: Bad With Names Episode 6: The Honor Roll (ft. Mike Baker & Tap 10)