2013 was an incredible year for music, in all genres. But the best of the best, for me, has to be the following…
1. Jay-Z: Magna Carta Holy Grail
The Jigga Man’s long awaited return was as incredible as hoped. HOV’s 12th solo album dropped on July 4th, with little publicity surrounding the release. Magna Carta Holy Grail showed that Jay-Z is still very much on the top of his game with this stunning rap album for the modern age. Holy Grail featuring Justin Timberlake was the lead single, and one of the biggest of the year. Shawn Carter also crossed the boundaries of music and art this summer when he created ‘Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film’, featuring artists and celebrities, filmed at the MET. With Rick Rubin, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and Swizz Beats on board to produce the album, everyone knew it would be a classic before it was even released – which was reinforced by the fact that the album featured not only Beyoncé, but also Rick Ross and Frank Ocean. This album is personal (the first album Jay-Z has made since the birth of daughter, Blue Ivy) slick, innovative and proves why Jay-Z is one of the greatest rappers of all time.
2. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
Canada’s greatest export released their fourth album, their first in three and a half years, Reflektor in October. This followed an incredibly cryptic campaign which saw Reflektor graffiti appear in cities all over the world, but did not say it was linked to Arcade Fire. Lead single Reflektor leaked online and showed fans the new disco-style music AF were making. The single features none other than David Bowie, and Anton Corbijn directed the video – Arcade Fire’s most elaborate to date. Reflektor is nothing like Arcade Fire’s last three albums – but it definitely is a classic. Win Butler and co. are reinventing themselves, creating a style of music like no other. Following the huge success of Reflektor, Arcade Fire are set to have their biggest year yet in 2013, with a headline slot at Glastonbury.
3. Drake: Nothing Was The Same
Drizzy solidified his place as one of the biggest rap stars of recent years with his third album, following up 2011’s smash hit Take Care. Drake faced criticism for being too emotional on Nothing Was The Same – but really, he made a REAL album, and a very good one at that. Lead single, Started From The Bottom blew up, going 2x platinum, winning Track of the Year at the BET Hip Hop Awards and has been nominated for both Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 2014 Grammy’s. Hold On, We’re Going Home was also released from Nothing Was The Same and became one of the biggest hip hop tracks of the year. NWTS features lesser known artists including Jhene Aiko and Sampha, who are sure to become successful following the album. Drake constantly lives up to the hype that surrounds him, and album #3 exceeded expectation.
4. J Cole: Born Sinner
J Cole’s second album was released on the same day as Kanye West’s Yeezus, June 18th, but Cole’s effort outshines Kanye. J Cole pays homage to those who did it before him, including Jay-Z and Biggie (Born Sinner is taken from Biggie’s hit Juicy) The featuring artists on Born Sinner are some of the best in the business – Miguel features on single Power Trip, Kendrick Lamar, one of the biggest rap stars of 2013, features on Forbidden Fruit and TLC feature on Crooked Smile. The album takes many different angles – it has club tracks, and emotional, personal tracks. J Cole will only get bigger and bigger on the rap scene.
5. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
New Yorkers Vampire Weekend released their third album, and their most mature to date in the summer. The group released both Diane Young and Step online, which created huge buzz around the album. VW did not suffer from second album syndrome, and their third album was even better than the last. Vampire Weekend continue on their path of creating indie dancefloor anthems, and hopefully will keep on making beloved tracks for the masses.