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What happened to this place

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My struggling attempt at a “Best of 2013”

Is it me, or has this year been the most disappointing year we’ve had in rap since at least 2008? I can’t say it’s been the least exciting, because let’s face it - 2013 was the year of the Big Rap Event. Everyone who holds even a modicum of relevancy released an album this year, which in turn led to more Complex articles than anyone should ever have to bear on their timeline, dashboard, or feed. The problem isn’t so much that these Rap Events outweighed the good albums they produced, as that was bound to happen. It’s just how badly these releases let myself - and most of the rap community at bay - down in terms of sheer disappointment.

I struggled with this list. I don’t even love a lot of these songs on here, but they’re on here. In order to give a more focused and concise effort, I cut the standard 50 to 40. I originally had 50, but at least ten of those songs I’ve probably listened to a grand total of 3 times, at best. I could’ve made a list of 50 if I had allowed myself to repeat artists, but that would’ve looked like a playlist consisting of Yeezus, NWTS, and YRN. 

I feel like it’s fitting that the majority of these songs are sonically dark, drudging, and full of a paranoia and nihilism not seen over the last few years, as this year in rap was an especially dreadful one. I also find it fitting that there’s two songs on my list called “RIP”

Enough with all that; here’s my top 40 for anyone who cares. 

1. Kanye West - New Slaves
2. Rocko feat. Future & Rick Ross - UOENO
3. Drake - Started From The Bottom
4. Migos - RIP
5. Young Scooter feat. Gucci Mane - Work
6. Young Thug - Two Cups Stuffed
7. Future feat. Casino - Karate Chop
8. ScHoolboy Q - Man Of The Year
9. Gucci Mane - Point In My Life
10. Fredo Santana feat. Kendrick Lamar - Jealous
11. A$AP Ferg feat A$AP Rocky - Shabba
12. King Louie - Michael Jordan
13. Tyler, The Creator - Bimmer
14. Mac Miller - The Star Room
15. Zmoney - Regular
16. Pusha T - King Push
17. Chief Keef - Baby What’s Wrong Wit You
18. Zebra Katz - Pulla Stunt
19. Atmosphere - Bob Seger
20. Earl Sweatshirt feat. Vince Staples & Casey Veggies - Hive
21. Juicy J feat. Justin Timberlake - The Woods
22. A$AP Rocky - Long Live A$AP
23. Casino feat. Mexico Rann - Diamonds Drippin’ Wet
24. Fat Trel - Make It Clap
25. Childish Gambino - Crawl
26. Chance The Rapper - Paranoia
27. Lil Reese feat. Fredo Santana & Lil Durk - Wassup
28. James Blake feat. RZA - Take A Fall For Me
29. OJ Da Juiceman - No Hook
30. Rich Gang - Tap Out
31. Lil Bibby - Whole Crew
32. Waka Flocka Flame feat. Gucci Mane & Young Thug - Fell
33. 50 Cent feat. Kendrick Lamar - We Up
34. Young Jeezy feat. 2 Chainz - RIP
35. Danny Brown feat. Charli xcx - Float On
36. Riff Raff - Dolce & Gabana
37. Kevin Gates - Arms Of A Stranger
38. Trinidad James feat. Fabo, Danny Brown & Playa Fly - Quez
39. Ace Hood feat. Future & Rick Ross - Bugatti
40. Gorgeous Children - Liberace Gems

As for albums/mixtapes, there’s only a handful of these I still listen to all the way through to this day - but here’s a top ten. 

1. Kanye West - Yeezus
2. Drake - Nothing Was The Same
3. Migos - YRN
4. Young Scooter - Street Lottery
5. Young Thug - 1017 Thug
6. Childish Gambino - Because The Internet
7. Chief Keef - Almighty So
8. A$AP Ferg - Trap Lord
9. Pusha T - My Name Is My Name
10. Mac Miller - Watching Movies With The Sound Off

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Khalil Nova - 808s of Life (Mishka, 2013)
I try not to get sentimental on here, but I’m so proud of how far my brother Khalil has come. No words are needed, simply download the sequel to the tape that ushered in a new era.. 808s of Life. 

Khalil Nova - 808s of Life (Mishka, 2013)

I try not to get sentimental on here, but I’m so proud of how far my brother Khalil has come. No words are needed, simply download the sequel to the tape that ushered in a new era.. 808s of Life. 

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Chance The Rapper & Nosaj Thing - Paranoia (Songs From Scratch, 2013)

The hype machine behind Chance The Rapper is pretty incredible. A lot of people have credited it as an organic rise from the bottom, and I certainly don’t doubt this. But can I ask exactly where it was that everyone hopped aboard the Chance bandwagon? A year ago, his blog presence was minimal at best thanks to “Juke Juke,” a great song which actually utilized one of the most cliche samples in hip-hop to great effect. “Juice” was a pretty incredible single and benefitted greatly from the Keef and Trel name-drops, which let a more street-oriented fanbase know Chance was with the shits. Acid Rap was eagerly anticipated by those who were touched by the single, but the sheer amount of press that this tape has gotten greatly exceeds any of the subsequent leaks that mostly flew under the radar with the exception of some hardcore fans.

I ask these questions, but I really do like Acid Rap. I’m not in love with it, but it certainly is the beginning of a very prosperous career. The production is very lush, and the somewhat muted music contrasts well with Chance’s over-animated flow. But of all the songs present on Acid Rap, “Paranoia” - a hidden song that follows “Pusha Man” which would be released as a single for Songs from Scratch a mere couple days later - is the crown jewel of this mixtape. 

Over a very minimalist beat provided courtesy of Nosaj Thing, Chance encapsulates Kendrick Lamar’s entire good kid, m.a.a.d city into one song. Chance is clearly caught between worlds, a survivalist instinct implanted in a kid who just wants to see the sun, but can’t because of the harsh reality he’s faced with. Dead children are mourned over, but also accepted as just another casualty in a city with no soul. Chance mentions some residents who had just moved there, and claims they won’t be there for long. Is he condemning them for this? Or does he envy them? Everyone dies in the summer, so Chance prays to God for a little more spring. But he realizes the summer is inevitable.

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Mac Miller - Watching Movies (Rostrum, 2013)

When I was in the VICE office last week - a story for another day entirely - we spoke about interviews, and how enthusiasts are the only readers likely to read an interview of an artist they enjoy. I agreed with the sentiment, as I’ve never gone out of my way to read an interview with a musician I didn’t particularly care about, but they brought up their recent Noisey interview with Mac Miller as an example of this. 

Anyone who has followed my opinion on rap over the past four years knows I really don’t care for Mac Miller, and this led to me cringing at the screen, trying to hide my disgust as I gave a quick glance over the interview. I came across a question Drew Millard asked, that of “are there any writers you actively dislike?”, and I expected to see some mention of me. Not because I’m important, but because of how explicitly I attacked his character without a firm grip of who he was. The fact that opinion pieces like mine and others, coupled with things like that Pitchfork review of Blue Slide Park, drove him to drug addiction honestly make me feel a bit guilty. Not much, granted, but enough. Enough to make me read through that entire interview when I got home, and to give his recent material a solid chance.

Mac has changed a lot of people’s minds about his music through some smart associations. Everyone from A$AP Mob, TDE, and Odd Future have recorded songs with him, and the first single from his upcoming album is produced by indie darling Flying Lotus, of all people. It’s not very good. His mixtape, Macadelic, was certainly a step in the right direction, but I still wasn’t convinced Mac is capable of becoming anything more than a barely passable weed rapper. 

"Watching Movies" definitely benefits from a great beat, provided by Sap, who also produced the serene "Thoughts From a Balcony" on Macadelic. Mac addresses his desire to make better music in the lyrics themselves, which is admirable, but wouldn’t account for anything if the effort wasn’t visible on a surface level. It is. Mac has tightened his flow, combining the free association rapping he’s adapted lately with a much more defined sound. It seems like he has almost found himself as a rapper, and more songs like this, less like "S.D.S", and Mac actually might be onto something.

Might. If Watching Movies With The Sound Off turns out to be one of the better studio rap albums this year, I’ll rightfully take the L, but right now he’s swinging at a 50% hit rate. 

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Waka Flocka Flame - Interlude (Mixtape, 2013)

Waka’s career has been in a strange place these last couple years. He tried crossing over with Triple F Life - a move that worked even if none of his own singles charted, as the "Scream & Shout" remix has cemented Flocka’s place amongst the pop world. He appeared on a song with Kaskade and The Cataracs, and now he claims he’s working on an electro album. He’s released a series of mixtapes that are almost indistinguishable from one another since Slim Dunkin passed, and I didn’t have any hopes for Flocka after his recent exodus from Gucci’s Brick Squad.

Yet, here on Flocka’s Duflocka Rant: Halftime Show, he releases arguably one of his most reflective projects, rapping over everything from jazz to The-Dream samples, fully realizing the potential that the Intro and Outro from Triple F Life hinted at. The tape has seemingly dropped with little fanfare - Gucci’s Chief Keef assisted single from Trap House 3 has gotten more attention, and it deserves all its gotten, but Halftime Show is the best thing Flocka’s done since, at least, Lebron Flocka James 3. It’s not a return to form, per se, as it’s more of a dramatic departure from Flocka’s traditional sound. Waka’s flow no longer consists of the primal screams of his last couple tapes - a sound that started off very interesting, but turned into a crutch lately. Instead, Waka reels it in to bring life to the real drama that’s surrounded him this past year and a half, a time which has arguably been the most important transitional period of his career whether it’s been creatively productive or not.

With Halftime Show, it seems that Flocka is finally starting to figure out what he wants to do with the second phase of his career - just in time, considering Flockaveli 2 is still scheduled for release sometime this year. Though some of his hardcore fanbase maybe upset with features from Avery Storm and the absence of the aggro style Flocka popularized, Duflocka Rant: Halftime Show still deserves to be celebrated for Flocka’s return from creative purgatory. 

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Riff Raff & Dollabillgates - Rolex (Mixtape, 2013)

ever wanted to hear Jody Highroller do a loose impersonation of Project Pat? That’s a rhetorical question.

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Hustle Gang - G.D.O.D. (Grand Hustle, 2013)

T.I. can’t warrant a post here in 2013 (actually, it tends to take something really interesting to grab my attention), but the return of Young Dro to relevancy amongst the Grand Hustle ranks is really intriguing. For the last, say, 7 years, Dro’s been on the back burner of Clifford’s label, and last year there was even some blog speculation that Dro had left increasingly Disney-friendly label. Yet, here he is, popping up on songs with French Montana and Meek Mill, songs produced by Young Chop and FKi, and having the most dominant presence on the tape aside from Tip and Bobby Ray. 

Does that result in good music? Not particularly, but the story still deserves to be reported. Has Young Dro finally found his way back in T.I.’s favor? Probably not, but he seems incapable of escaping his contract, so he might as well steal the show on songs like this instead of releasing solo mixtapes only enthusiasts care about. 

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Chill Will - O.V.A. (Mixtape, 2013)
Chill Will has returned! Not that anyone knew he left. Or who he is. Regardless, I’ve gushed enough over Will in the past, so all I can really do is further endorse the most underutilized, underpublicized Brick Squad affiliate. Also, if he’s still releasing mixtapes, someone other than me has to be listening, right?

Chill Will - O.V.A. (Mixtape, 2013)

Chill Will has returned! Not that anyone knew he left. Or who he is. Regardless, I’ve gushed enough over Will in the past, so all I can really do is further endorse the most underutilized, underpublicized Brick Squad affiliate. Also, if he’s still releasing mixtapes, someone other than me has to be listening, right?

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Gucci Mane (feat. Lil Wayne) - Runnin’ Circles (Mixtape, 2013)

Is this Gucci’s “My”? Gucci’s having a lot of fun on Trap God 2, which is revitalizing after the anger sprayed off in every direction on the first installment. He also utilizes Zay more on this tape than he has in years, no doubt as a result of his resurgence after his work on Street Lottery