So 2015 is already half way over and I just wanted to take the time to share some of my favorite hip-hop albums that have dropped so far this year. Here are my top rap albums of 2015 (as of June), in alphabetical order.
Czarface - Every Hero Needs a Villain - The first album on my list is the sophomore release from Wu-Tang Clan's Inspectah Deck and veteran rap duo 7L and Esoteric under the moniker Czarface. The group dropped their first self-titled album back in 2013 and it was really dope, but this one is even better in my opinion. The production, by 7L and Spada4, is banging the entire way through and Deck, Esoteric and all of the featured guests rip every song. This album has gotten a ton of play from me since its release a few weeks ago and shows no signs of leaving rotation any time soon.
Dr. Yen Lo - Days With Dr. Yen Lo - Ka and Preservation follow up their extremely ill "1200 B.C" EP that dropped last year with a full length project under the name of Dr. Yen Lo. The atmospheric and at times psychedelic production from Preservation perfectly suits Ka's laid-back flow and vivid street imagery that he is known for. Hopefully these two collaborate more in the future.
Ghostface Killah and BadBadNotGood - Sour Soul - I believe this is the third album in a row that Ghostface has dropped in the last year or two that finds the Wu-Tang emcee rhyming over live instrumentation. Whats funny is that he actually has a fourth coming soon ("Twelve Reasons To Die II"). Anyways, the production on here, from Canadian hip-hop band BadBadNotGood, was pretty dope and had a mellow, jazzy feel to it and Ghost came correct as always. It's not his best album, but it's still one of the better albums to drop this year.
Jazz Spastiks and Rebels To The Grain - Unkut Raw - I'd venture to say that this album is the most slept on project of 2015 (so far), with UK production duo Jazz Spastiks providing an entire album full of jazzy boom-bap beats for Los Angeles duo Rebels To The Grain to rhyme over. The beats kept my head nodding the entire time and the rhymes are just as tight. Don't sleep on this one folks.
Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$ - This is the first album on my list that isn't a collaboration album of some sort, which is kind of strange I guess. With that insignificant observation out of the way, the debut solo album from Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ actually turned out really well. While there were a few missteps, songs like "Paper Trail$", "Christ Conscious", "Hazeus View", "Black Beetles" and "Piece of Mind" are still in rotation today despite the album dropping 6 months ago.
June Marx - Legendary Tactics - Speaking of underrated/overlooked releases, June Marx came through a few weeks ago with his latest album and the shit is fire. As usual for June Marx projects, the beats on here are really dope and the rhymes are just as strong - with June holding down all of the production himself and with all of the featured guests sounding just as good as June himself on the mic. People really need to stop sleeping on this guy since everything he puts out is dope.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly - I don't really have much else to say about this album that hasn't already been said in countless reviews and other blogs. Just let it be said that Kendrick avoided the sophomore slump and delivered an album on par with his classic debut "Good Kid M.A.A.D City".
Killah Priest - Planet of the Gods - The first half of 2015 also found Sunz of Man and Wu-Tang affiliate emcee Killah Priest following up his classic "Psychic World of Walter Reed" album with yet another banger. "Planet of the Gods" might not be quite as good as "PWOWR", but I'd definitely put it up there as one of Priest's best albums. The production on here, entirely from Dutch production crew Godz Wrath, is otherworldly and Priest definitely does his thing - spitting rhymes teeming with esoteric references and knowledge while sticking to a space theme.
Lewis Parker and EastKoast - MK Ultra (Operation Hypnosis) - "MK Ultra" is the debut collaboration album from British hip-hop producer Lewis Parker and NYC rapper EastKoast. The production (handled entirely by Lewis Parker himself) is really dark and gritty and suits EastKoast's gravelly voice perfectly. Couple that with guest features from John Robinson, El Da Sensei, Shabaam Sahdeeq and others and you got yourself a dope album.
Lupe Fiasco - Tetsuo & Youth - Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco dropped his fifth album earlier this year and the shit was real nice. Lupe usually always comes correct with the rhymes and he definitely did on this album (especially on the album's opener "Mural"), but what made this album better than his last few was the great production.
The AbSoulJah - When The Moon Shines... - The final album on my list is the latest release from Queens rapper The AbSoulJah. Like the "MK Ultra" project above, the beats on here from Profound, B-Sun and I.N.C.H are all really dark and ominous, which is the usual for an AbSoulJah project, but the shit bangs. There are a few points on the album where AbSoulJah steps back from the hardcore street rhymes and really opens up about himself, which is a nice change from the gloomy vibe of the other tracks. All in all, another dope release from The AbSoulJah.
Canibus and Bronze Nazareth - Time Flys, Life Dies....Phoenix Rise
Dirt Platoon - Bare Face Robbery
EDO.G and Street Wyze - Afterwords
Estee Nack and Purpose - 14 Forms (The Book of Estee Nack)
Illah Dayz - The Illahstrator
Large Professor - Reliving
Oddisee - The Good Fight
Skyzoo - Music For My Friends
And there you have it. Did I miss some? Sure. I didn't get a chance to hear everything I wanted to hear and surely didn't get a chance to review everything I wanted to review. Are some of the "Honorable Mentions" great albums that should be up in my list? Probably. These are usually albums that sounded really dope on a few listens but I just haven't had a chance to really dig into them enough to form a solid opinion (outside of knowing that they are better than most of the other stuff to drop this year). Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts. I'd love to get some other recommendations of albums I missed or to see some of your lists. Thanks for reading.