The 10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2013 [Zumic Staff Picks]

Greg Morris

by Greg Morris

Published December 12, 2013


Hip-hop had a very interesting year. With an array of artists that have different sounds and rhyme styles, the genre had albums that pushed the creative envelope to the highest degree. These are the ten best hip-hop albums that released for 2013:

10) The Gifted - Wale

In 2013, Wale treated people to a great album filled with conscious lyrics, as well as club anthems, with The Gifted. In "LoveHate Thing," the D.C. lyricist shed light on jealousy of success. He also spawned his highest charting single with the track "Bad." The tracks that weren't released as singles, though, are really the highlight of the record.

Songs such as "Vanity" and "Sunshine" reveal a more humble and thoughtful Wale. Subjects such as true happiness, materialism, and sexual desires are rapped about. In the current state of the twerking epidemic, Wale provides contrast to the plague. It wasn't all serious, though, as Wale offered "Clappers" for fans who still wanted to have a good time.

9) My Name Is My Name - Pusha T

Pusha T broke out as a solo artist this year, with his first album outisde of The Clipse, My Name Is My Name. The dark record features tracks that vividly touched on the ups and downs of the drug game, with production by Kanye West, Pharrell, and Swizz Beatz.

"Nosetalgia," one of the sickest tracks on the album, features Pusha and Kendrick Lamar trading bars over boom bap production. The two compare their dope ways, with lyrics that invite multiple listens. Pusha touches on his experience of selling drugs literally, while Kendrick's "dope" is rap. My Name Is My Name is a perfect example of street raps still being a vital part of the culture.

8) Nothing Was The Same - Drake

Drake proved in 2013 that he is more than just an emotional singing rapper. The Toronto star used Nothing Was The Same as a platform to lash back at critics and rival rappers. Whereas his previous album, Take Care, was a tearful roller coaster, his latest effort shined a light on the lyricist's cocky side. Degrading other rappers, feelings of being the best around, and statements of high record sales were all included in Drake's talk on Nothing Was The Same.

Tracks such as "Started From The Bottom" and "Worst Behavior" best display the new carefree Drake, celebrating his reign in hip-hop. Along with the singles, were hilarious videos to accompany them, creating funny memes on social media networks. Love or hate Drake, his ability to be in rap's elite doesn't seem to go away.

7) Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P, who make up the duo Run The Jewels, released their self-titled album this year. The dope record was a mix of Mike's Southern lyrical vibe and El-P's unorthodox production that caused a winning combination. The ten-track album, although short in length compared to most rap records, sounded better than a lot of what was released in 2013.

The album is fully produced by El-P, and from the opening track, the two rappers take listeners on a worthwhile trip. A standout track, "Banana Clipper," features Killer Mike and Big Boi reunited, spitting sick rhymes over excellent production. "I move with the elegance of an African elephant, I presented the evidence eloquent as a president, evident, it’s whatever since I deserve me a championship, but before I banana clip I’ma chill so my man can rip," Mike viciously spits. The non-stop lyrical craftsmanship on each track makes Run The Jewels one of the best albums this year to show how rap should be done.

6) Twelve Reasons to Die - Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge

The collaboration of Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge on Twelve Reasons to Die creates a great piece of vintage sounding hip-hop. The record is fully produced by Adrian Younge and narrated by RZA. Based off of a comic book, the album features Ghostface's signature rap style on beats that could have been in an Blaxploitation film. Younge, who composed the Black Dynamite soundtrack, gives the album the soulful vibe similar to the movie.

"Rise of the Black Suits," a dope track on the album, shows the Wu Tang rapper's ability to still deliver excellent rap lines in his own unique way. "I'm moving keys, them DeLucas couldn't touch my pianos, putting pressure on them Gambinis and Verrazanos," he cleverly spits. Being one of the more under-the-radar albums of the year, Twelve Reasons to Die did not have the mass hype as other records did. It simply delivered dope rhymes and beats, which is what a great hip-hop album should do.

5) Yeezus - Kanye West

Aside from the controversial news he caused this year, Kanye West managed to deliver a great album. Yeezus displayed Kanye in his rawest form of lyricism and production. Gone were the big name cameos and polished production found on his past records. This album features static sounds, chopped-up reggae samples, electronic, and rock stirred into one pot. This is the rap version of 808s & Heartbreak. What might be the best hip-hop single of the year, "New Slaves," touches on the troubles the rapper has faced in trying to create fashion products. The tune foreshadowed his recent radio rants, which have now coined popular catchphrases in social media.

The crybaby image that some have associated Kanye with may have some truth to it, but the man's creativity in his art can not be denied. Yeezus is the anti-industry album for rebels to rejoice with.

4) Acid Rap - Chance The Rapper

The rookie of the year in hip-hop is undeniably Chance The Rapper. The young Chicago lyricist broke out this year with his critically acclaimed Acid Rap mix tape. Even though it is labeled as a mix tape, it should be considered an album since the tracks are all original material. The eclectic rapper takes listeners on a journey through his crazy life of acid use, paranoia, and coping with his city's high murder rate.

It is Chance's incredible flow and witty wordplay that are the highlights of the record. His rhyme pattern is sporadic throughout tracks, and you never know what's next, which is why Acid Rap works so well. The track "Paranoia" showcases Chance's talent at its best, as he gives his deepest thoughts about fear. Nothing is held back by the rapper, and that's what makes him one of the best up-and-coming artists in the game. Who else do you know with a Complex magazine front cover, just off from a mix tape release?

3) Wolf - Tyler, The Creator

Wolf has all the ingredients to make for a dope hip hop album. Sick lyrics, and cohesiveness themes make the record an incredible body of work. Tyler, who has been known for outlandish antics, shows growth as a rapper on the album. Serious subjects are touched on and his nonsensical lyrics have matured into more realistic raps.

Pharrell, Frank Ocean, and Erykah Badu make appearances on the album, giving it that special touch. It is also amazing that, with exception for the final track, the whole album is produced by Tyler himself. The highlight of the record is three songs complied together as one track on "PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer." The song gets better as each tune progresses into the next. Tyler proves that by focusing on more mature subjects, greater art is achieved.

2) LONG.LIVE.A$AP - A$AP Rocky

Pretty Flacko, a.k.a A$AP Rocky, brought Harlem hip-hop back to the scene with his album, LONG.LIVE.A$AP. Before Rocky, the last Harlem lyricists to make noise in the industry were The Diplomats. Many acts from the area have tried to duplicate the Dipset sound, but Rocky took an original approach in bringing the neighborhood back. Mixing screwed-up music with East Coast lyricism creates a winning formula that can not be denied.

Describing Rocky's style of music would be a day long discussion, as evident by the tracks on the album. From rapping to production by Skrillex on "Wild for the Night," to having the old-school posse cut on "1Train," the diversity of the record is amazing. New York hip-hop has always been classified as having a boom bap sound, but Rocky thought outside the box and created his own successful lane of New York hip-hop.

1) Old - Danny Brown

No man in hip-hop at the moment is as eccentric as Danny Brown. In Old, listeners are treated to versatile production sounds, with the lyricism to match. His ability to switch his vocal styles from a squawk to a growl is incredibly displayed on the record. Two sides are represented on the album, one for his rough Detroit upbringing, the other for his current drug-heavy lifestyle. This combination makes for the perfect blend of hipster-meets-the hood hip-hop.

Many have tried to mix both styles , but no one has done it as authentically as Danny Brown. "Dip" is the perfect example of his sick ability to ride a beat that most wouldn't consider hip-hop. It sounds like one big pill-popping rave, but Danny's clever wordplay makes you forget the beat is even electronic. The album's overarching theme is a story of him being jumped by thugs while going to get bread for his mother, which builds within each track. Most rap records this year seemed like songs compiled without motive, whereas Danny took it back to the story telling era of hip-hop. Who else could make lyrics about Molly, orgies, and drug fiends sound as beautiful as he did?

Honorable mention:

Born Sinner - J. Cole
BetterOffDEAD - Flatbush Zombies
No Poison No Paradise - Black Milk
Doris - Earl Sweatshirt
Blue Chips 2 and Saaab Stories - Action Bronson
Matangi - M.I.A.
Because The Internet - Childish Gambino
Stay Trippy - Juicy J
City Rising From The Ashes - Deltron 3030
Watching Movies With The Sound Off - Mac Miller
Prisoner of Conscious - Talib Kweli
Trap Lord - A$AP Ferg


A$AP Rocky Chance The Rapper Danny Brown Drake El-P Ghostface Killah Kanye West Killer Mike Pusha T Run The Jewels Tyler, The Creator Wale
Hip Hop
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