2014… Wait, didn’t 2013 just start? Well, now that 2013 is done, I can officially lay down my top 25 artists of the year. Why the wait? By November, others had their countdowns locked down but I held off because I suspected there might be some late entries to the party. Breaking up these artists which I will highlight each week in January, I picked each because it was more than just a song or album that kept me mesmerized- it was the whole package. So without further ado, in no particular order, here’s my first group of top artists:
1. Hiatus Kaiyote
When I saw this funny sounding band’s name on the Summer Spirit Festival’s roster in August, I was very intrigued( and got to e-connect to with them ). This Australian band’s fly blend of at least five genres had me dancing in random airports and in person vibing to the four strong musicians’ chemistry evident onstage. Yep, they blew my “lace skull” off.
2. Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe rocked 2013, dropping a highly anticipated album that played as a cohesive statement, infusing punk, funk and baby-making R&B. Her collabos with Prince, Miguel, Solange and Erykah Badu were brilliant. Add that to her infectious energy, sophisticated style and natural stage presence and the Q.U.E.E.N earned her well-deserved crown.
3. El-P and Killer Mike-Run The Jewels
Polar opposites and exactly the same in all the right ways, El-P and Killer Mike delivered “a job well done” and then some. Already making their mark on “R.A.P Music”, without hearing one track, you just knew this would be dope. Combining superior production and quotable lyrics with endearing behind-the-scenes videos showing the masters in a real friendship at play and at work, it’s about time hip-hop has a historic duo again. I luckily spoke to El-P about this dynamic and can’t wait for “Run The Jewels 2”!
4. Amel Larrieux
Six years since her last album, “Ice Cream Everyday” was well worth the wait as this “Bravebird” delivered sweet, subtle and seductive flavors in her trademark way. Attending Amel’s CD release party in November, her down-to-earth affability and the intimate, safe atmosphere showcased the songs perfectly. I did “SEE” her and Amel IS “the shhh”.
Putting me onto the hip-hop scene north of the border (which I slept on), I happily connected with Juno Award-winning Canadian artist Madchild mid-year as I’d heard so much about this “monster” personality. He lived up to all the hype and is as real as they come. I explored his discography and it’s obvious someone this talented cannot be denied. Dropping another solo album, “Lawn Mower Man” after battling demons, this “underground king’s” mission to slay the competition stands complete.
6. Childish Gambino
With a few weeks to go before the New Year, singer/rapper/writer/actor/producer Donald Glover dropped another clever collection of experimental snippets of stream of consciousness genius. Bringing Lloyd, Chance the Rapper, Azealia Banks, and Lloyd along for the exploration of the real/fake virtual fame vortex, “because the internet” snuck into “the party” through the secret celebrity back entrance.
7. The Internet
Stumbling upon this alt R&B tag team of Syd tha Kid and Matt Martians attending the Odd Future Carnival last year, they’ve stepped up as formidable members of the crew with their sophomore effort, “Feel Good”. Reflecting influences from the synch-heavy 80’s and modern day soul, this album floated me away on “a cloud of my own”, showed great promise and felt great.
8. Black Milk
One of the best producer/MCs to come out of the well-established music’s Motor City, Black Milk released his fifth album, “No Poison No Paradise” with its attention-grabbing cover art and promptly made a new fan out of me. Around the release, I spoke to Black about working with Dilla within Slum Village and his left-field collabo with Jack White, both of which I loved. Mixing The Roots’ Black Thought, Robert Glasper, Dwele with newcomers Mel and Quelle Chris, the album hit constant rotation and proved he was every day of the week’s “Best”.