The 20 Best Hip-Hop Albums Of 2013

LACHLAN KANONIUK and JODY MACGREGOR take a look back at the best hip-hop albums (and mixtapes) 2013 had to offer.

It was a year of head-turning debuts, shoulder-shrugging disappointments and jaw-dropping bursts of glory for hip-hop fans in 2013. And, as usual, a few release date setbacks – Schoolboy Q has left us wanting, Azealia Banks has delayed her debut beyond the point of apathy, and Dre seems intent on leaking Detox one Beats commercial at a time. Among the madness, there were more than a few moments of glory, with names old and new pushing the genre into groundbreaking territory.

20. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name

The debut solo commercial release from Clipse veteran Pusha T was an all-star guest affair, with verses from K-Dot the ever-reliable 2 Chainz, as well as production from Yeezy, HudMo, No I.D. and more. It fell somewhat short of our lofty expectations, but still gave us some of the finer moments in hip-hop this year, particularly the incredibly tight ‘Numbers On The Board’. – Lachlan Kanoniuk

19. Kitty – D.A.I.S.Y rage

Emerging with sorta-childish, kinda-jokey raps in 2012, Kitty Pryde stepped up for the mixtape D.A.I.S.Y rage, dropping the Pryde part of her moniker in the process. At-times confronting, all-times enjoyable collection of tracks is worthwhile in itself, but more so acts as a promising sign of things to come. – Lachlan Kanoniuk

18. Bliss N Eso – Circus In The Sky

Australian hip-hop heavyweights went in on Circus In The Sky, going all out with an all-star roster of local and international guest talent, never feeling overblown or bloated, instead pulling off a feeling of blockbuster imbued with levity. Bluejuice-featuring YOLO-anthem ‘Act Your Age’ is primed to be a summer festival favourite for years to come. – Lachlan Kanoniuk

17. Deltron 3030 – Event 2

The original Deltron 3030 album came out in 2000, a date so futuristic it’s weird to think it was 13 years ago. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan The Automator, and Kid Koala came together Voltron-style on a concept album about a former mech soldier who ends an intergalactic war by triumphing in a rap battle. It was as amazing as that sounds. Event 2 isn’t as tightly plotted, but does have an important motif. Running through it are references to a version of the future that was lost, a lost time when jetpacks were powered by plutonium or “before the war with the tarantulas”. The P-Funk Afrofuturism of the first Deltron album has been replaced by retrofuturism, by sadness at how things actually turned out. There are references to bank collapses and economic despair in between the starship hijacking and alien invasions, because like the best science fiction it’s really about the present. Looking back, Del raps about the promise of the year 2000, “Not to get into nostalgia, but some of those things had value,” and Deltron 3030 was one of those things worth resurrecting. – Jody Macgregor

16. Lil B – P.Y.T. Pretty Young Thug

Master of the unfathomably prolific, The Basedgod had a relatively quiet latter half of 2013 as he teased the still-unreleased, possibly 80-plus track, 05 Fuck Em mixtape. Still, Basedworld wasn’t left starved for material this year, with the P.Y.T. Pretty Young Thug mixtape proving to be one of the most satisfying Lil B releases to date. There’s party jams (‘510 Ratchet’), dreamy production teamed with proficient flow (‘Complex Hate Crimes’), and the trademark repetitious celebrity-as-punchline fare (‘Keith Sweat’). You could lose your mind trying to define and rationalise the transfixing force that is Lil B, or you can simply enjoy the ride, stay positive, and stay #based. TYBG. – Lachlan Kanoniuk

15. Kid Cudi – Indicud

This is the album people who are less white or self-conscious should be declaring “slept-on”. It’s easy to see why it was ignored – nobody needs another album of Kid Cudi rapping about how troubled he is without seeming to have any actual problems. But at some point Cudi discovered #posivibes, because Indicud has none of that. Instead he raps about how great he is, but in a charmingly child-like vernacular, comparing himself to superheroes and declaring he’s ‘King Wizard’ in the excellent single of the same name. He’s also discovered how to make his own beats, producing almost the whole album himself and filling it with factory-clang beats and BladeRunner synths. Maybe focusing on the music is what inspired him to share the mic with such a killer line-up of vocalists – one of Kendrick Lamar’s thousand scene-stealing guest appearances, a surprising appearance by Haim, RZA at his surreal landscape-painting best. There’s no way to explain the Michael Bolton song, though. – Jody Macgregor

14. Juicy J – Stay Trippy

Academy Award winner (will never get tired of that descriptor) Juicy J didn’t quite reach the level of crossover success enjoyed by ‘Bandz A Make Her Dance’ producer Mike WiLL Made It, but still managed to stick to his guns for a decent full-length serving of overwhelmingly fun weed rap. – Lachlan Kanoniuk

13. Horrorshow – King Amongst Many

It would be a fallacy to call 2013 a great year for Australian hip-hop, implying that Australian hip-hop hasn’t been having great years for the good part of a decade. The long gestation process of King Amongst Many paid off on the week of release, with a number two placing on the ARIA charts. But that doesn’t really mean much in the grander scheme of things. The Sydney duo of Solo and Adit delivered a consistent package, showcasing their respective lyrical and production chops on each of the album’s 15 tracks. – Lachlan Kanoniuk

12. A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP

The latest generation of American rap brats have defied easy East/West/Dirty South labelling and A$AP Rocky is a perfect example, with a sound that’s hard to pin down. Sometimes he sounds like he’s in OutKast, sometimes he sounds like he’s in Odd Future – he loves pitching his voice down like Tyler, The Creator, but not to sound spooky, just to be all “aw, yeah” about how cool and fashionable his girl is. Of all the shapeshifting on Long.Live.A$AP the one I come back to most is surprisingly ‘Wild For The Night’. So many songs have tried to jam big-room dance music together with hip-hop in 2013 like they’re peanut butter and chocolate, but this is the one that works best and if Skrillex’s name is enough to make you hate this song you can go to hell. Fuck being polite. – Jody Macgregor

11. Jimblah – Phoenix

After building a reputation across Australia as a formidable underground MC, Adelaide-based rapper-producer Jimblah consolidated his rise with the world-class LP Phoenix. His commanding vocal delivery is in turn emotive, devastating and above all, uplifting. ‘March’ is well and truly goosebump-inducing, projecting a passion that resounds throughout the entirety of the record. – Lachlan Kanoniuk


Next page