Rap review

From Kanye West’s shockingly avant-garde Yeezus to Killer Mike and El-P’s universally acclaimed album Run the Jewels to Kendrick Lamar’s controversial verse on “Control”, 2013 has been quite a year for rap music. This wave of groundbreaking material hasn’t stopped, and it’s only continuing into fall with a vengeance. Here are some of the most noteworthy rap albums of the season:

Pusha T - My Name Is My Name

In My Name Is My Name, Pusha T delivers menacing lyrics exuding egocentric bravado and reminds the world why they originally fell under his spell as half of American hip hop rap duo, Clipse, in the 90s. The album is rich with features from The Dream to Kelly Rowland to Big Sean, however, Pusha’s intensity eclipses many of their vocal performances. A lineup of legendary producers, including Hudson Mohawke and Kanye West, also compliment the roster. A sample from Yeezus’s New Slaves, in particular, sets the scene with haunting snare rolls in album opener and standout, King Push. Pharrell’s presence on S.N.I.T.C.H. conjures nostalgic flashbacks of collaborations between The Neptunes and Clipse. This 90s influence can also be seen on oddball track “Let Me Love You”, Pusha’s awkward attempt at pop-influenced R&B, where he sounds eerily reminiscent of Ma$e.

The highlight of the album is unarguably the first single, "Nosetalgia", featuring rap’s golden child of the moment, Kendrick Lamar. Pusha’s lyrics about his past life selling cocaine contrast with Lamar’s experience growing up with a father who abused the drug- the two artists interact perfectly, making for brilliant social commentary. Tracks like "Nosetalgia" set this album apart from the visionary, artistic trend hip hop kingpins have been capitalizing on recently. Although not quite “album of the year”, as Pusha unapologetically proclaimed it would be, the gangster street style that the rapper is famous for is what sets My Name Is My Name apart from this year’s contending rap albums.

Pusha T – Nosetalgia

Pusha T – King Push

Drake – Nothing Was The Same

Nothing Was The Same is an honest and vulnerable manifestation of emotion, narrating Drake’s signature themes of success, money, love and heartbreak. Drake’s ability to seamlessly switch between rapping and singing, as well as exceptional production by Noah “40” Shebib, are noteworthy aspects of the album. However, it’s the subject matter that is the real selling point: the heartbreak and loneliness experienced by someone who’s self-proclaimed as “25 sitting on 25 mil” continues to intrigue the public. The genius arising from the collaboration between 40 and Drake is most evident on opening track Tuscan Leather, a six minute intro featuring a hyper-paced Whitney Houston sample. “From Time” acts as a great successor to last year’s single “Take Care” with a soft hook from Jhene Aiko and a captivating piano harmony.

Drake is most himself on his bonus track, “The Motion”, on which he raps about romantic woes, complimented by the wispy vocals of SBTRKT’s Sampha over an infectious beat. Although clever with wordplay, he often falls into the trap of elementary rhymes that aren’t competitive in today’s rap industry. Hold On We’re Going Home is one of Drake’s most popular songs to date, but its sunny disco beat is too pop and out of place in the otherwise continuous melancholic mood of the album. Despite these minor holdbacks, is still a high-quality album, an innovative and emotionally honest product that longtime fans and new listeners alike can enjoy.

Drake – The Motion

Drake – Furthest Thing

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

Earl Sweatshirt proves he is the music industry’s young rapper to watch in Doris, an album armed with rich vocabulary and unrivaled flow. Thankfully, the rapper has abandoned the controversial rape and serial killer fantasies that stirred controversy on 2010’s debut mixtape EARL, making for a less disturbing listen. Doris is filled with philosophical self-inquiry marked by a sense of uncertainty and honesty that could only be encaptured by an artist still in his teenage years. Slurred, murky synth beats and heavy bass set a dark soundscape, and Earl Sweatshirt continues to make a name for himself as a dexterous wordsmith capable of spitting out dense lyrics rich with metaphor. Chum tells the story of Earl Sweatshirt’s youth, abandoned by his father at a young age and finding guidance in hip hop collective leader of Odd Future, Tyler the Creator. It’s a raw, honest narrative enhanced by a heavy and inventive piano hook. On “Sunday”, a hazy trance song about a distant relationship, Earl Sweatshirt teams up with Frank Ocean, rivaling last year’s successful collaboration on “Super Rich Kids” from Ocean’s Channel Orange.

The old Earl Sweatshirt is resurrected on “Whoa”, featuring Tyler the Creator, where the rapper maintains that he hasn’t gone soft despite a hiatus from the industry, during which he was sent to a reform school for at-risk boys in Samoa. Doris is a lyrical puzzle, but its complexities make for a dynamic experience that grows with each listen.

Earl Sweatshirt – Sunday (feat. Frank Ocean)

Earl Sweatshirt – Chum

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