Top 8 Hip Hop Albums of 2014

With 2014 coming to a close, it’s only fair that I give my top 8 hip hop albums of the year. As a music junkie, I thoroughly enjoyed music from every genre…but the hip hop impressed me. The hip hop lives! For me, this year has proven that the hip hop genre exist in various sub categories. There is no way one can look at the music and dissect it, vibe to it, and criticize it all under the same microscope. With that in mind, I paid attention to the production, the cohesiveness of each project, the story told by each artist, lyrical content and delivery. Each of the projects selected broke barriers in one way or another and ignited the left half of my brain. These are my personal picks and my most listened to hip hop albums of this year. I’m DropaJewel, and I’m running for mayor.

  1. Greenspan- Stairway To Heaven

You should’ve seen this coming. Greenspan dropped Stairway to Heaven in January and didn’t hesitate to make a big impact as usual. The album has a classy, mellow, laid back feel. Features include Kissi B, Dunson, Kane Mayfield, Lee Scholar and Al Great to name a few.

GreenSpan- Stairway to Heaven

Key Tracks: Heaven, Soul Right, Do Your Thing

  1. Common- Nobody’s Smiling

This album dropped in July of this year, and it was perfect timing for the state of the African American community all over. The album was a bit heavy but overall a good listen. No ID never disappoints, damnit.

Common-Nobodys Smiling

Key Tracks: Kingdom, Speak My Piece, Hustle Harder

  1. Logic- Under Pressure

It does my heart good to have so many Maryland artists in this top 8 lineup. Logic shocked some of America when he ripped the BET cipher and then followed up with this solid album. I admit, he has some Kendrick-esque tendencies in reference to flow, but he’s still spitting nevertheless. The album is super laid back, but you barely skip a track.

Logic-Under Pressure

Key Tracks: Buried Alive, Under Pressure, Metropolis

  1. Aj Suede- Gold and Fire

Without so many dope albums out this year, Gold and Fire could’ve EASILY been in my top 3. Aj Suede is an up and coming artist with a solid ear for music. He produced a lot of the music on this project and I was super impressed. The album dropped with a proper release in September, but his visuals leading up to it kept you hungry. I LOVE the fact that he sampled Tame Impala and spits what he feels, even if the opinion is not popular. Salute that brother!

AJ Suede-Gold and Fire

Key Tracks: Slit Your Wrist Vertically, Don’t Over think, After Earth

  1. Royce Da 5’9” & Dj Premiere- Phryme

Ok so, here’s where it gets sticky! Dope album from Royce and da gawd Premiere! In my humble opinion, you have a solid hip hop album when two things are present: dope beats, dope lyrics. Done! Right? No! The album has a tendency of being overly rappy at times so that made Phryme slide a little higher on my list. Don’t hate me, still a dope album.


Key Tracks: Dat Sound Good, To Me to You, Underground Kings

  1. Al Great & Street Scott- GreatScott

I anticipated this album’s release like Morganites awaiting college graduation. It does not disappoint. They NEVER disappoint. This is hands down thee best release out of the city of Baltimore in 2014. Street’s beats are reminiscent of Pharrell-ish melodies and his vocals like Ryan Leslie…then he punches you in face with some drums! Bow! Al Great has the gift of gab, and an approachable flow…a relatable flow. It’s the story rap doesn’t often tell, the honest hard working brother just trying to make it in America. I’m rambling…Good effing album.


Key Tracks: Cars Ride By, Slip Away, Black Denali

  1. J-Live- Around the Sun

Around the Sun is by far the most slept on album of this year. J Live dropped this one back in April, and I didn’t catch wind of its greatness until damn near September. The album has a good traditional New York hip hop sound, in my humble opinion. Producers include himself, Oddisee and Korede to name a few. You can always feel the light and life through his lyrics, a necessity in this hip hop game! I will definitely cop this on vinyl, and I suggest you do the same.

J Live-Around The Sun

Key Tracks: Eight Minutes, Not Listening, Money Matters


  1. Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 2

Coming in at number one, RTJ2! This joint is stupid hot and El-P and Killer Mike give you hell, literally. The beats are quite sinister, dark, heavy and busy. They will break your car speakers. In comparison to other hip hop albums of the year, I can say this is the most creative of all. RTJ2 is all spit, no filler. I think P and Mike filled this years gap in hip hop for all raw and southern swing. The icing on the cake for this album, for me, was that it broke the damn internet. Not only were ALL the credible hip hop blogs promoting and raving about it, but the project lived up to the hype. How do you chart billboard as a free download? Stellar work.


Key Tracks: All of them!

Some honorable mentions for this list included: Rickie Jacobs- Remember To Smile & Rapsody- Beauty and The Beast.

Follow my twitter (@DropaJewel) and share your favorite albums of this year. Keep it Strictly!

NOT TOP 5 OF 2014

Hey, look.  Everybody can’t win.  For all the good that came of the year 2014, there was definitely some NOT GOOD. This is all based on personal taste of course. Look out for my BEST of 2014 on New Year’s Eve.

Wu-Tang Clan “A Better Tomorrow

“What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this album? Not only does it not meet the expectations of most Wu fans, it’s just another sign that as a group…the Wu is dead. From an uneven and basically boring track listing to the phoned in beats, rhymes, and hooks. I tried to get into it but this album just isn’t  good. If another Wu album ever happens, someone  needs to executive produce with RZA. Never thought I’d say that but it’s real.  Tomorrow could of been better…”

The Roots “And then You Shoot Your Cousin

“I forgot this album came out.  That’s how forgettable it was for me.  Don’t get it twisted. It doesn’t sound as if the band slacked on the overall production of this project. The message was lost for me in a cloud of tracks that never engage you.  Lyrics and beats are just boring. That’s the thing about having a message in your music…you still have to “entertain” the listener from time to time. It’s not all bad, it’s just not on par with their last couple of stellar releases.”

The Game “Year of the Wolf

“Talk about forgettable albums.  Who knew this album came out?  After releasing what I see as his best overall album in The Red Album, this one is hot garbage. Way too many guest appearances. This album feels like a contractual obligation. From the album title to its cover, I couldn’t wait for this to be over.  He’s put out mixtapes better than this.”

Dilated Peoples “Directors of Photography

“To be fair, I was never a fan of Dilated Peoples. I found them wack as a group. Sorry. I’m just not a fan of a 90s sound released in 2014 that sounds like it came out in 93′. Nas’s Loco-motive is what 90s era sound should sound like in 2014 and beyond. Nostalgic but updated. If you are a fan of the group, this will be dope.  For me, it was hard to buy into the overall goal of this project.  The production was cool but the rhymes and concepts didn’t make an impression on me.”

Rick Ross “Hood Billionaire

“Rozay! It get’s worse with every album since Teflon Don. Every album since has been a failed effort to recapture the success of that one. I like Ross for what his music typically represents but, let’s be honest, he doesn’t have much of sh*t to say.  That is more noticeable this time around than any. It’s only but so long that we can listen to verses about food, cars, women, and food. I’m all for the fly sh*t but please stop trying. This one is forgettable.”

It’s all good. It comes down to personal preference. Check out my Best of the Year on New Year’s Eve!

{New Ish} Eze Jackson- L.I.V.E.N.O.W

New ish from Baltimore emcee, Eze Jackson! Live Now is an acronym for Love Is Victorious Everyday No Other Way. I love the positive vibe of this joint! I just so happened to see Eze rip a cypher last week and it was dopeness. Support Baltimore artist and show your twitter love @ezewriter. Go cop that Live Now on bandcamp, very solid project. #itsstrictly

{New Ish} Devine Carama- 10 Blog Commandments

10 Blogs 1

Yeeeahhhh!!! Need I break out the slow clap for this one?! Devine Carama spits his guide to the internet indie rap game on 10 Blog Commandments. We here at Strictly Hip Hop aren’t that hard on our web submissions though, you must remember…We’ve been rocking the airwaves of Morgan State University for almost 25 years! With that being said, we DO get a lot of unmixed music, garbage, or dirty music not suitable for airplay and xyz. The blog game is a whole nother chapter! I salute this brother as this track was inspired by the late great hip hop proprietor Patrick McNease aka Praverb The Wyse. He was always showing love and was willing to give up and coming artist valuable feedback and information. R.I.P. Praverb. In any event, I think Devine Carama is spot on with this track! 10 Blog Commandments is true and honest. Show your twitter love @DevineCarama and keep your eyes peeled for more great music from this cat in 2015.

Cop his Believing In Forever (Album) –

{New Ish} Dj Cashis Kay Presents- The Book of Nasir Chapter 1

Book Of Nasir

NC’s own DJ Cashis Kay and NYC’s Streetwear Brand 2520 team up to bring you The Book Of Nasir Chapter 1.

The Book Of Nasir Chapter 1 brings you some of Nas’ classics, unreleased tracks and some hidden gems perfectly blended over some favorite industry beats. As always, show your twitter love @2520nyc and @djcashiskay. Check out the link below.
The Book Of Nasir (Mixtape) – Listen | Audiomack

{New Ish} Jared Xavier- Weather the Storm (prod. Luke White)

New visuals from your boy Jared Xavier with Luke White on the beat! Weather the Storm is a single off his sophomore mixtape Now or Never mixtape due today on datpiff and soundcloud. The video was directed by Omar Jones, and is surely a head banger. Show your twitter love @guyswank @jaredxavier @lukewhite9 and peep the site #itsstrictly

{Album Review: PRhyme} Courtesy of Kil

My man Kil is hands down a forerunner in the literary side of the hip hop game. Whether he’s producing, writing, making tapes or just kicking knowledge, it’s always a pleasure to get his insight on all things hip hop. I’ve been a fan of his site for quite sometime. This time he chops it up on Royce and DJ Premier’s co op project PRhyme. Check out the link below and show your twitter love @Kil889. #itsStrictly


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Nas Produced Hip Hop Documentary “Fresh Dressed” To Premiere At Sundance Film Festival

Originally posted on AllHipHop:

(AllHipHop News) The 2015 Sundance Film Festival will get a taste of Hip Hop thanks to the Nas-produced, Sacha Jenkins-directed documentary Fresh Dressed. The film covers the history of Hip Hop fashion and culture.

[ALSO READ: The Filmmakers Of Nas: Time is Illmatic Speak On New Documentary]

Fashion industry insiders like Kanye West, Andre Leon Tally, Riccardo Tischi, Dapper Dan, Karl Kani, Dame Dash, and Thurston Howell III make appearances in the movie. According to Jenkins, the doc presents a narrative that “begins with slavery and ends with what is being rocked today–and what the social implications attached to it all are.”

Fresh Dressed was produced by Mass Appeal in conjunction with CNN. The film will be released in 2015 and air on CNN.

Other featured documentaries scheduled to debut at Sundance include The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (Director: Stanley Nelson), In Football We Trust (Directors: Tony Vainuku &…

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{New Ish} Bonnie Hill ft. Elliterate- Cruise Control

Happy Hump day! New music fresh out of California with Bonnie Hill featuring Elliterate. The two sing/rhyme over an old Kendrick classic. I love this video! Black Budget is the crew they rep. It’s an artist collective consisting of various singers, songwriters, producers, engineers, and graphic artists based out of LA. For more of their music check out the site and #ItsStrictly #R.I.P. Aaliyah

{New Album Alert} Bink Baghdad- Shaghdad


Your boy Bink is back with his latest ep, Shaghdad. This young brother is always consistent, always making moves, and always putting on for the city of Baltimore. Go ahead and check out his latest visual Madison, and start your week off right, cop that Shaghdad here . Show your twitter love @BinkBaghdad

{New Album Alert} Rome Cee- Glimpse EP


Happy Sunday! New music from Baltimore’s own Rome Cee. Throughout my plight in the underground hip hop scene, I’ve come across a slew of dope emcees and Rome Cee is one of the best. I’ve seen this cat rock many cyphers and shows. His projects are always solid, and I think listeners will really enjoy his new EP Gimpse. Check it out for yourself here

Show your twitter love @Romecee and check out the site #itsstrictly