Friday, January 3, 2014

The 2013 HipHopDX Year End Awards

The 2013 HipHopDX Year End Awards
The 2013 HipHopDX Year End Awards
The 2013 HipHopDX Year End Awards 
by DX Staff

The 2013 HipHopDX Year End Awards honors Interview of the Year, Story of the Year, Trend We'd Like to See Die, and Trend We'd Like to See Continue.

Welcome to the 2013 edition of HipHopDX’s Year End Awards. In keeping with tradition, this is the time of year when we collectively reflect on all that has transpired in Hip Hop during the last 12 months. To be sure, there have been high points and moments that have been downright ugly. And we aim to cover them all before the calendar flips on what we hope is another monumental year for the music and the culture.

From December 18 to December 24 HipHopDX’s editorial staff and stable of freelance contributors will update this page with our picks for the categories and winners that made 2013 memorable. We salute the winners and runners up who made 2013 the banner year that it was. And we hope our picks make you argue and reflect while being entertained during what we hope is a safe and holiday season.

Emcee Of The Year

Kendrick Lamar

How do you win emcee of the year without dropping an actual album? If you’re Kendrick Lamar, you deliver what was easily the most explosive verse of the year with his bars from Big Sean’s “Control (HOF).” Follow that up by calling Drake a “sensitive rapper” and tucking him back in his pajama clothes during the BET Hip Hop Awards Cypher, and the foundation is laid. So no, K.Dot didn’t drop an album, but he upped the ante on competitive emceeing and made a few scene-stealing cameos on projects from the likes of Eminem, Tech N9ne, Quadron and J. Cole. That’s enough to earn his second consecutive nod for this award.

Runners Up
After relapsing in 2009 and recovering in 2010, Marshall Mathers returned to “Slim Shady” form with an assist from Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin on Marshall Mathers LP 2. Despite a mixed critical reception, the self-proclaimed “Rap God” nearly went platinum in a week with a mix of stadium Rap and complex, multi-syllable bars.

Chance The Rapper
Yes, Chicago’s Chance The Rapper was that good. He’s as introspective as they come, visceral as the the track requires and gifted with the most versatile voice we’ve heard since Wyclef Jean was rapping and singing about Haitian Sicilians.

Producer Of The Year

Mike WiLL Made-It

His name is difficult to properly spell, but his production credits are embarrassingly easy to locate. In 2013, Mike WiLL Made-It achieved the kind of cross-genre output Timbaland, Teddy Riley and The Neptunes did before becoming household names. And since the Atlanta native is equally adept at crafting backdrops for Project Pat or Miley Cyrus, there’s every indication that his Interscope-backed Ear Drummas imprint will allow him the same type of career trajectory Timbo, Skateboard P and Teddy enjoyed. If you heard a chart-topping beat this year, it was most likely that Mike WiLL Made-It.

Runners Up
Alan the Chemist picked up where he left off in 2012. Durag Dynasty’s 360 Waves, Boldy James’ My 1st Chemistry Set and an Albert Einstein project with Prodigy filled the void of a signature, solo set. All of the above were quality over quantity. And when you add in co-scoring the Grand Theft Auto V video game, Al made his mark again in 2013.

DJ Mustard
For years, the West Coast resorted to appropriating the Southern bounce as a means to establish a presence in clubs and on the charts. A stint in his friend Ty Dolla $ign’s crib changed that, as 2012 saw DJ Mustard usher in the era of ratchet-ness with hits like “Rack City” and “Toot It And Boot It.” In 2013, He added to his lengthy list of production credits by supplying beats for Kid Ink, B.o.B., R. Kelly and RiFF RaFF.

Rising Star Of The Year

Chance The Rapper

Chancelor Bennett, better known by his rap pseudonym Chance The Rapper and best known as the Rising Star Of The Year, has had much to boast about in 2013. His rapid rise began in April with the release of his second mixtape, Acid Rap. Little did he know, that by July, his free mixtape would make it’s way on to Billboard magazine’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart after bootleg copies circulated on iTunes and Amazon. Fast-forward to December and you’ve got the Chi-town emcee releasing a track with fellow musician and mega-power pop prince Justin Bieber in “Confident.” Mixtape success, Billboard debut and a crossover collaboration all in eight months? Check. A star in the making knows no boundaries.

Runners Up
Isaiah Rashad
It seems like it was just a few months ago that Tennessee native Isaiah Rashad broke into the scene and already had Rap fans hungry for new material. Wait, it was just in September when Top Dawg Entertainment officially announced him as their artist. Rashad may have few quality tracks under his belt, but a co-sign from one of the hottest West Coast labels helps too.

Dizzy Wright
Dizzy Wright was inducted into the XXL “Freshman Class” of 2013 at the top of the year, pretty much predetermining musical success. Wright’s The Golden Age mixtape did so well, in fact, it hit number 39 on Billboard magazine’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. His label Funk Volume must have been thrilled. #StillMovin...

Album Of The Year

Run The Jewels by Killer Mike & El-P as Run The Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P struck gold in 2012 with R.A.P. Music. We thought it was brash, simultaneously innovative, reverential and referential and an impossible act to follow. Then El-P stepped from behind the boards and joined “Mike Bigga” over his own postmodern, synth-powered b-boy backdrops, and the results were equally amazing. As its title suggests, Run The Jewels wasn’t for shook ones. Mike kills elderly women’s dogs, El-Producto brags about keeping his church socks on during sexual escapades and special guest Prince Paul (as Chest Rockwell) just wants to slip some Molly in his date’s drink. And then have anal sex. It all adds up to another win for Killer Mike and El-P.

Runners Up
Yeezus by Kanye West
Whether you thought the project was awesome or awful, one fact remains, Yeezus did not go quietly into the night. It’s is the opposite of unmemorable, opposite of conventional, opposite of mediocre. Kanye’s latest is audacious, ornery and courageous—pushing the boundaries of what’s traditionally accepted in Rap to the brink of breech while flipping frustration into sonic progression. In 2013, for better and worse, Yeezus stands on a moving mountain alone.

Watching Movies With The Sound Off by Mac Miller
Blue Slide Park may have introduced most of the general public to Mac Miller, but the man formerly known as “Easy Mac” reintroduced himself to Hip Hop with Watching Movies With The Sound Off. Mac moved geographically and spiritually, and he also moved units. He wasted no time entrenching himself in the Left Coast music scene—primarily through his work with Odd Future members Earl Sweatshirt and The Internet. He got high, went high concept and delved into the depths that come with losing loved ones while questioning the worth of celebrity culture. It was a huge step up for the kid who created “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza.”

Mixtape Of The Year

Acid Rap by Chance The Rapper

There’s a million reasons to love Acid Rap—the shifting soundscapes and dripping honesty, the perfectly placed guest appearances and social awareness, the quirky references to cigarettes (of all things). Along with Chance’s uncanny ability to organically embody the best of Golden Era icons Andre 3000, Eminem, Wyclef Jean, for example, Acid Rap triumphs because the artist who crafted it taps into all aspects of his human experience. Chance tackles complex real world issues like gun violence in Chicago with the same ease as his approach to marijuana smoke. To paraphrase his half-bar on “Acid Rain,” Chance is the truth, whether or not he chooses to rhyme.

Runners Up
King Remembered In Time by Big K.R.I.T.
K.R.I.T.’s penchant for giving away album-quality projects for free continued in 2012. On King Remembered In Time, the Meridian, Mississippi emcee turned up with Future and Trinidad Jame$, meditated and questioned his fate, then re-asserted his dominance all on the same project. The crown remains intact.

She Got Game by Rapsody
Rapsody’s She Got Game set a new standard for mixtapes. Considering how much effort was put into this project, it was arguably an album of sorts for Rap. Sure, that’s been the new business model for Hip Hop, but let’s face it—most Hip Hop mixtapes are slapped together, handed out and then hit retail for the late bloomers. Rapsody dropped off this well thought out project with solid features and reinforced her position as one of Hip Hop’s burgeoning artists. If you’ve never heard, She Got Game, grab the deluxe version. You won’t be sorry.

Non-Hip Hop Album Of The Year

The 20/20 Experience (1 of 2) by Justin Timberlake

In January, Justin Timberlake tweeted, “I think I’M READY.” A few days later, we heard “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay Z. We didn’t know what else to expect. How could he top FutureSex/LoveSounds? With Timbaland on board, we knew we could expect quality sounds on The 20/20 Experience (1 of 2). After sitting with the album since March, it’s hard to deny the hits and dapper sounds streaming from the speakers. It was a long seven years since JT’s released an album. The people were ready too, at least the two million (and counting) who own a copy.

Runners Up
Sail Out by Jhene Aiko
Producer No I.D. had a sharp eye for talent when he signed Jhene Aiko to Def Jam under his imprint, Atrium Records. Even though her debut EP Sail Out held features from Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, Vince Staples and most notably, Kendrick Lamar, Jhene shined and showed she was ready for a much deserved spotlight.

Avalanche by Quadron
Quadron may not have put numbers on the boards like many of the others in this category but Avalanche didn’t sonically disappoint. With only one feature from HipHopDX’s Emcee Of The Year, Kendrick Lamar, the Danish duo continued to push the boundaries on the music they were known for. And we thank them.

Verse Of The Year

“Control (HOF)” by Kendrick Lamar

During our HipHopDX Turkey Awards, we joked that Kendrick Lamar had no friends left to sit with at lunch because he shot them all down in his verse on Big Sean’s “Control (HOF).” Sure, that sentiment was tongue-in-cheek, but let’s face it: When K.Dot rattled off that list of artists he’s trying to replace, not a single fuck was given during that process. The result was a verse that changed Hip Hop in 2013 and beyond. Veteran rappers resurrected to comment, while Kendrick’s competition remained partially mum. That’s what happens when the old school and the new school collide and the results are beautiful.

Runners Up
“Chum” by Earl Sweatshirt
Earl set up his solo debut, Doris perfectly with a somber track that found him emoting over croaking frogs, piano keys and a congested bassline. While Odd Future has been known to venture into emo territory, this was just more like a cathartic, no frills exercise in how far Earl could push his seemingly limitless arsenal of internal rhyme patterns. He touched on his troubled childhood, his bond with Tyler The Creator and sent some shots at Complex for an in-depth piece about his sabbatical in Samoa. Earl Sweatshirt’s never been an upbeat rapper, but his raw emotion over a subdued track proved he had a lot more to offer than sophomoric antics on the mic.

“Rap God” by Eminem
By just about any lyrical measure, “Rap God” lives up to its title. Not only are Eminem’s frantic pace and shifting cadences impressive, but the subtleties are what make this song dope at a deeper depth. In six furious minutes, Slim Shady slyly pays homage to Nas, Big Pun, Pharoahe Monch, Lakim Shabazz, Rakim, Heavy D & The Boyz, among others. There are dozens of intriguing allusions littered throughout. Our favorite: “Dale Earnhart of the trailer park / The White Trash God / Kneel before General Zod / This planet’s Krypton…” which is a shout to actor Michael Shannon who plays both B-Rabbit’s mom’s trailer park boyfriend in 8 Mile and Superman’s nemesis in this year’s Man Of Steel. Honestly, any of the three verses could be a Verse Of The Year contender. Rap god, indeed.

Video Of The Year

“Started From The Bottom” by Drake

Drake’s “Started From The Bottom” offers the hope of a triumphant video from the opening shot—where a group of children experience the thrill of victory in a soccer game. Things only escalate from there, as Drizzy flosses his Bentley in the snow, sips some champagne in the private jet and enjoys quality time in his palatial, California home as well as the Dominican Republic. But the message is clear: none of the above would’ve been possible without some less glamorous beginnings—be it night manager at Duane Reade or hosting open mics. Director X told Complex Drake dipped into the six-figure range for the budget of his third album’s lead visual. And since the clip made you laugh, introduced guys to Maria Angelica Charuppi and kept Drake in rotation from Super Bowl Sunday through September 2013, it was money well spent.

Runners Up
“Crooked Smile” by J. Cole featuring TLC
The song “Crooked Smile” isn’t about slain 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones, but that didn’t stop J. Cole and director Sheldon Candis from presenting some social commentary when it was time to release the music video. Cole and his Roc Nation reps reached out to Candis, and Mr. “Cole World” himself specifically asked to play the role of Stanley’s older brother. Earlier this year, J. Cole took it upon himself to raise the stakes and the level of discourse within Hip Hop. And by breaking form with the visual to this TLC collaboration, we’d say he succeeded on all fronts.

“IFHY” by Tyler The Creator featuring Pharrell Williams
Tyler The Creator has had designs on being an auteur since he swallowed that roach back in 2011. He caught hell for his twisted vision of a Mountain Dew commercial, but you pay Odd Future’s de facto frontman to push boundaries. And with the two-piece of “IFHY” and “Tamale,” Tyler lived up to his nickname. Not only was the portrayal of Tyler and his jilted lover as dolls a concept you couldn’t turn away from, Wolf Haley did a pretty good job pulling double duty as the video’s male lead and director.

Beat Of The Year

“Numbers On The Boards” by Don Cannon & Kanye West

Yeah, yeah…we know. The DX readers and the editorial staff didn’t see eye to eye on Pusha T’s solo debut album, My Name Is My Name. But one thing we can all agree on is the triumphant single that confirmed King Push was finally coming to shelves after a year of delays. Kanye West’s and Don Cannon’s “Numbers On The Boards” was the big, anthemic offering Pusha wanted to realize his crossover potential. But it also had the signature elements that look back to when Rap songs were primarily played out of Jeeps and boomboxes—a throbbing bassline, some sparse percussion and vocal chops that run the gamut from ‘60s funk to Jay Z’s “A Million And One Questions/Rhyme No More.”

Runners Up
“U.O.E.N.O.” by Childish Major
At the outset of “U.O.E.N.O.,” Future croaks, “This shit sound crazy!” and he captures how most of us felt upon initially hearing the track. Conventional 808 hi-hats are swapped out for less dense ones that presumably emulate live drums, and there’s no traditional bassline. Childish Major originally pitched this instrumental to A$AP Rocky, who politely declined. Pretty Flacko’s loss was our gain, as the stacked, twangy synths lent themselves to flows and cadences of all types—Usher sang double-time over it with his own ad-libs, and Jay Rock clotheslined the beat (John Cena). But the best part of flipping “U.O.E.N.O.” was adding your own ad-libs punctuated by “You don’t even know it”—whether you were an established rapper, an aspiring one or just having a drunken freestyle over the instrumental.

“Bugatti” by Mike WiLL Made-It
Chances are, whoever reading this either can’t afford or doesn’t have a Bugatti (no shots, we’re in this together). However, when Mike WiLL dropped those thunderous basslines for Ace Hood to ride over, we all automatically hopped in our Hondas and acted like we just got a new Bugatti. That’s what music is supposed to do—transform your life in three minutes and 30 seconds. That’s what Mike WiLL’s beat did for everyone. Then the song ends and you see your check engine light on and it’s back to reality. Oh well.

Interview Of The Year

Zane Lowe & Kanye West on BBC Radio1

Before “IT AIN’T RALPH, THOUGH” and “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!!!,” before the Jimmy Kimmel Twitter “beef” and the nightly “Yeezus” Tour rants, this is the one that set it all off. Kanye West sat down with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe and unleashed 62 minutes and 29 seconds of polarizing quotables. For the first time Yeezy provided answers to the questions many had after first hearing Yeezus. He explained that the album’s direction was birthed out of his frustrations with fashion while exclaiming that he's the planet's biggest rockstar. To compare his 2013 video interviews to his albums, if the Sway In The Morning appearance is the Yeezus of rhapsodic Kanye conversations, then the Zane Lowe examination is The College Dropout.

Runners Up
Ebro Darden & Mr. Cee on Hot 97
Hip Hop culture as a whole is slowly stepping into the 21st Century by being more accepting of members of homosexual, lesbian and transgender communities. But a very uncomfortable Q&A between Mr. Cee and Hot 97 Program Director Ebro Darden served as a reminder of how much room is still left for improvement. Cee repeatedly broke down during an exchange that was both heartfelt and contradictory at times. Ultimately, Cee is still spinning. And while many of his answers and the reasoning behind his choices were unclear, they served as a reminder that love, sex and one’s lifestyle choices are sometimes personal and impossible to define.

Kanye West on Sway In The Morning
In the last few weeks, you have probably caught yourself saying “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!!!” at least 20 times. You’ve bumped those “YOU AIN’T GOT THE ANSWERS, SWAY!!!” tracks at least once (okay twice), and you secretly wanted Sway’s “I’ve got the answers” T-shirt. None of this would’ve happened without that infamous interview. Kanye got on the show, acted cool, flipped OUT, acted cool again. The best part? It was all on video. Sway’s ability to remain calm was so admirable, considering someone could’ve caught the fade during that now infamous interview. However, everyone was unharmed, except Kanye’s ego. That was bruised a little. In the midst of his psychosis though, he did drop some considerable knowledge.

Story Of The Year

Kendrick Lamar Restores Friendly Competition With Control

Kendrick Lamar made sure the Rap world understood. “What is competition?” Lamar rhymed, “I’m trying to raise the bar high.” Kendrick’s claim to Rap’s throne also acted as a call to action for emcees, a reminder of what KRS-One, Rakim, Nas, Jay Z and many others have exemplified. The message came through loud and clear, lighting a fire in Hip Hop that continues to blaze.

Runners Up
All Kanye Everything
Kanye West created a year for his fans to remember. The Year of the Yeezus included a polarizing album, a change in style (in music and fashion) and a series of meme-worthy, Twitter-trending interviews. But, more importantly, he also had much to celebrate given the birth of his daughter North West and his proposal to his baby’s mother, Kim Kardashian. As much as The Year of the Yeezus was about music, it’s clear that Kanye West’s 2013 was about much more.
Jay Z & Samsung Team Up For Magna Carta Holy Grail
Say what you will about the actual music, but the presentation of Magna Carta Holy Grail was immaculate. Jigga bumrushed the airwaves during Game 6 of the NBA Finals to let us know he strong armed $30 million of Samsung’s reported $14 billion global marketing budget. Then the Recording Industry Association of America wrote some #NewRules to accommodate the digital deal when over a million subscribers downloaded MCHG to their devices to push Jay into double platinum territory. In an era of 360 deals and a lot of sour finger-pointing, Jay came with an innovative, new business model.

Trend We’d Like To See Die

Miley Cyrus Doing Anything In Hip Hop

Miley Cyrus became a strange fixture within Hip Hop this past year. Once she popped those gold bottom fronts in her mouth at the start of the “We Can’t Stop” video, we knew Disney lost her completely. We can blame Mike WiLL Made-It or just question the direction of the culture, but somehow Ms. Cyrus slid into the mix and has been showing little signs of leaving. Cool. But here’s the thing Miley: we don’t need you to rap, we don’t need you to twerk, we don’t need you to slap women’s asses. We’ve seen it all before. Everything you did has already been done, so how about you find another genre to harass in 2014?

Runners Up
Twitter Beef
Years back it used to be a matter of keyboard thugs hanging out on message boards with fake aliases harassing one another for some weird Internet street cred. As the Internet evolved, we got Twitter and rappers found their way to it. So instead of taking the time to creatively come up with diss tracks, they can simply attack each other in under 140 characters. It’s not cute and cuts right into the spirit of friendly competition and just becomes some catty pissing contest. Let’s keep the beef off Twitter and start making some good songs for us all to listen to.

Paying Rick Rubin To Lie On Your Couch
Rick Rubin is a legend. There is no denying that. But with Jay Z and Kanye West both paying him as a male model in the campaigns for their 2013 albums, it devalued the force that this legendary superproducer has brought to the game since he helped start Def Jam in an NYU dorm with Russell Simmons many moons ago. Rick Rubin may look intimidating, but it’s not enough to turn a project into a classic. If he gets up off that couch and heads behind the boards, that’s where the real magic can happen.

Trend We’d Like To See Continue

A True Culture of Competition

You can argue that one of the unintended consequences of the post-Biggie and Tupac era was rappers over-compensating and creating what amounted to a “bromance” among top-notch emcees. Drake was buying J. Cole’s album on YouTube, everyone was bringing their competition out for cameo appearances at shows and we got inundated with posse cuts. Kendrick ended all that by drawing a line in the sand, declaring himself king of both New York and his own coast while trying to lyrically “murder” his peers. More of this, please.

Runners Up
Indie Label Renaissance
Funk Volume, Strange Music, Odd Future, the list goes on and on of examples where Hip Hop artists’ careers have flourished without the heavy handed influence of majors. The business model in the music industry is constantly changing, and in 2013, the pendulum definitely swung in the direction of the indies. It’s refreshing to see independent minds pushing the culture forward. How long or how much this will continue remains to be seen in 2014.

Cross-Genre Collaborations
There was a time when Hip Hop was defined by its parameters. That was three decades ago. As producers are becoming more hip to sounds like EDM, Indie Rock, and other new territories, the beats are changing for rappers. Collaborations are evolving (you can’t even count how many British female singer-songwriters have appeared on rappers’ projects in 2012 and 2013), so the Hip Hop has to evolve as well. Gone are the days of thinking an Aerosmith and Run DMC collaboration or Public Enemy and Anthrax is a “total shock.” Now it’s the norm to explore. So let’s keep doing more of that shall we?

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