Heff’s Top Ten of 2019

I’ll be straight with you. It’s been a weird year for hip-hop. It’s the end of a decade and with that seems to come a change in the air. We weren’t given any mainstream instant classics. We lost two big names in the industry…RIP Nipsey and RIP Juice. However, we were given a lot of young guns who have the potential to be the future of the next decade. I’m excited to see what is created in the new decade as rap becomes more and more mainstream. With that said, here’s to a great year for hip-hop and here’s to many many more!

Honorable Mentions

Mir Fontane – Who’s Watching the Kids 2

I had to mention this album on here because it’s like…” who’s watching the kids?” In all seriousness, this is the 4th project from the Camden rapper Mir Fontane and the follow up to Who’s Watching The Kids. It’s gritty, quick, and full of tough choruses.

Juice WRLD – Death Race For Cutie

This was already on my top ten radar since it dropped. It’s a shame we lost Juice at such a young age. The man had some serious talent. Yes, he was an “e-boi” rapper but his ability to freestyle and flow was impressive. Death Race for Love was 100 times better than his debut project and showed me that he wasn’t just a clout chaser after “Lucid Dreams” blew up. RIP Juice!

Beast Coast – Escape From New York

This was missing a certain amount of verses from a prominent member of the Brooklyn scene…aka Joey Bada$$. However, that didn’t keep it off my list in some way or another. This album is fantastic if you are a fan of Pro Era, The Underachievers, and Flatbush Zombies. The only thing it needed to get on the Top Ten was more from Joey but oh well. “Left Hand”, “Coast/Clear”, and “Far Away” never left my rotation this year.

DaBaby – Baby on Baby

Wow…2019 has been something else for DaBaby. This man is no rookie but feels like he cracked the “rap industry” code to break out from regional icon to rap superstar. If you didn’t hear a track off this album at some point this year, I am shocked. I swear every time I’m driving in NY and turn on 105.1 it always is playing “Suge”.

The Ten Spot

Guapdad 4000 – Dior Deposits

Following ROTD3, Guapdad 4000 was suddenly thrown into the limelight. The Oakland rapper had been putting out tons of singles and a few EPs but after his features on the Dreamville collab project, he started to get more attention. Dior Deposits feels like a debut album from someone who knows exactly what they are doing. This project is extremely well produced and has that West Coast vibe. On top of it, Guapdad piles on the features with everyone from Chance and G-Eazy to 6LACK and Tory Lanez. This is the perfect album for anyone who loves hip-hop that toes the line of being R&B. You have to go and listen to “Stuck With It”, “Gucci Pajamas”, and “Can’t Stop Finessing” to catch the wave and vibe out.

The Nine Spot

Denzel Curry – ZUU

Curry is tough and ZUU is tougher. It’s funky and aggressive and I love it. “RICKY”, “ZUU”, “WISH”, and “SPEEDBOAT” haven’t left my rotation since the summer. South Florida has a history of producing talented rappers…Rick Ross, XXXTentacion, and T-Pain. Denzel Curry definitely takes influence from his area while carving out his own unique style. He is aggressive, experimental, and gritty all while making catchy hooks that you want to sing along to. The beats on this alone could make up their own album with the way they blend and flow together mixing hip-hop drums, funky keys, and electronic mixings.

The Eight Spot

ScHoolboy Q – CrasH Talk

“CrasH Talk Take One”. I love Q and was honestly a bit nervous about this project. In high school, I listened to Oxymoron heavily so I had high hopes for this project. From the opening seconds of “Gang Gang”, I immediately got hyped. Is this better than his early music? It has its moments but what is more important is that, as a 2019 album, this stood out. Here you have an “older” rapper who seemed to take more of a mentor position in the TDE camp for the last few years come back and put out an artistically-pleasing, yet style-focused album. You can say what you want about this project but you can’t tell me “CHopstix”, “Numb Numb Juice”, and “Floating” don’t slap.

The Seven Spot

2 Chainz – Rap or Go to the League

This is the best-produced album behind what is at that number one spot. 2 Chainz truly killed it with this album and I’m impressed, to say the least. The Atlanta rapper hasn’t always been very heavy in my rotation but the story that plays out on this project, as well as the hard-hitting verses and well put-together trap beats, made me a fan. The feature list here is impressive…Kendrick, Travis, Thug, Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla, Chance, Wayne, Kodak, and E-40…god damn. On top of it, the beats are top quality from start to finish. My favorite has to be the one on “I Said Me”, which samples “The Sound of Music”. All in all, Rap or Go to the League aged like a fine wine as it only seemed to improve with every listen I gave it.

The Six Spot

Dreamville – Revenge of the Dreamers 3

From the jump this album is awesome. DaBaby has hands down the best verse on the entire album on “Under the Sun”, let alone his best verse of the year. Dreamville has become one of the best creative outlets in the rap industry and that was proven with the short YouTube documentary that went with this album’s release. The idea J. Cole had to bring together rappers, producers, and singers from every clout level is huge, not only for Dreamville as a label and brand but also for rap as an industry. My only issue with ROTD3 is the lack of cohesion between the tracks. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a song on here that isn’t fire but most feel like a combination of singles and not a cohesive album. That being said, there is truly something here for everyone. “Wells Fargo” is for someone who loves fast-tempo rap or is about to rob a bank. “Got Me” is for R&B fans. “Ladies, Ladies, Ladies” is for old school hip-hop fans that love witty rhymes and lines.

The Five Spot

Benny The Butcher – The Plugs I Met

“Crowns for Kings” is one of the best songs of 2019 and I was very late to the game to realize that. The short 7-track album was released in June but it took me until October to recognize how insanely good the second track on the project is, as well as the whole album itself. I was walking through NYC and decided to give the whole thing a listen from start to finish. Man oh man is this project dark, grimy, and wordy but wow is it good. It’s got that old school New York gutter rap style with a new school vibe to it. What’s most impressive to me is Benny himself. He brings on some heavy hitters as features (Jadakiss, Black Thought, and Pusha T) yet still does not get outworked. This record proves that Benny is not the kind of rapper you push aside or ignore. Instead, The Plugs I Met demonstrates Benny’s guttural lyricism and intense craftsmanship.

The Four Spot

YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

In 2018, I had never heard of YBN Cordae. In 2019, he was one of my favorite “new kids on the block”. He mixes the perfect amount of soul, hip-hop, and the sound and feel of everyday Chicago. For a debut album, Cordae had to prove that he was more than “Have Mercy”. Luckily for us, he did exactly that and introduced us to a very talented young Chicago artist who looks like he could become another heavy hitter in the industry. This album was ranked highly on a lot of blogs and I gave it a 9.5 as well. It’s clear that this kid has the potential to truly be a name in hip-hop. I believe that in ten years, we will all be looking back at The Lost Boy with the same nostalgia we look at Drake’s So Far Gone or Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon. I can’t forget to mention that “RNP” is my song of the year…nothing has even come close to topping it.

The Three Spot

Anderson .Paak – Ventura

Ventura making my list gives Paak back to back years on my list. Once again, the Californian has provided the definition of vibes in an album. It’s soothing, sexy, and feels like you are cruising in a drop-top along the West Coast. Starting the album off with “Come Home” was Paak’s sign of respect to the legend, Andre 3000, who gave him the honor of a feature. Paak has some of the most unique vocals in hip-hop. I never get bored of giving these tracks a listen. They just sound fun to the ear and make you want to dance with the fast, funky tempo of his voice. “Make It Better”, “Good Heels”, and “Chosen One” are just a few that highlight this specifically. On top of everything, the album has a great culmination of beats that are just as smooth and sexy as Paak’s voice. The drums throughout are fantastic and I highly recommend going back and only focusing them through an entire listen.

The Two Spot

Boogie – Everything’s For Sale?

This album was soooooo incredibly close to getting the number one spot if it wasn’t for Freddie Gibbs. I initially discovered this album on Reddit’s r/hiphopvinyl. Someone had picked it up and talked about how amazing the album was in the comments. Being a skeptic but intrigued by the cover art, I gave it a listen…and then another and another and another. This album is Compton all the way but depressing as hell. Boogie is brutally honest about his feelings and was determined to get people to reflect on their own lives even if they don’t directly connect to the stories he unravels. “Rainy Days” is a perfect example of a raw, reflective mood. Everything’s For Sale? is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated projects of the year. It has some amazing features like 6LACK, JID, Eminem, and Snoh Aalegra that all fit perfectly onto the album. Boogie does a great job finding his flow on this album as he provides that low, melodic feel the project gives you. You can’t help but vibe on every track or sing along to the chorus of “Silent Ride” and “Skydive”. Luckily enough for me, after discovering this album on a hip-hop vinyl forum, I was able to pick my own copy and it is easily my most spun record.

The One Spot

Bandana album cover

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

As mentioned in the intro, 2019 felt like a changing of tides for hip-hop. However, one producer came back to prove that the days of “crate digging” are far from over. Madlib and Freddie Gibbs teamed up to release a collab album at the end of June. If you have never heard of even of these two, I would recommend first checking out their 2014 album Piñata, which is one of those “must-listens of the decade”. While this album is no Piñata, this album is insanely well done. Madlib surprisingly enough announced that he made every beat on his iPad, which is impressive, to say the least. “Half Manne Half Cocaine” has one of the cleanest beat switches of the year while “Giannis” and “Crime Pays” are the waviest beats on the album. On Gibbs’ end, the vocals are on point. Everything feels perfectly organized and well-executed. I can only imagine some of these tracks took take after take to get just right. Gangsta Gibbs stays true to his sound on this album, providing us with the dark, gritty, and aggressive feel we are used to. Is it for everyone? Hell no. However, for anyone who appreciates lyricism, Gibbs will provide that for you. Favorite line has got to be “Shot caller, put them shooters on you like D’Antoni/Top dollar, lock me up and I make the bond, no Big baller, father, you my son like Lonzo”. I promise you that if you haven’t listened to this album yet, give it a listen and you will understand why both Classic and I thought this was a no brainer for Album of the Year!

– Heff

Rello’s Top 10

Before you read any further, I just want to say this was really fun and it was cool to look back at what made this year so great. Quick thank you to Colossus, all the artists, and everyone who continues to support what we love doing. Also, I would love to hear what your top albums for the year are. We all have different tastes and that’s what makes music so great and unique. Also, I like data so I decided to mention all the streaming numbers.

*Equivalent units moved are streaming numbers combined with pure albums (iTunes, CD, Vinyl, etc..)

Honorable Mentions:

Sheff G – The Unluccy Luccy Kid

Wale – Wow…That’s Crazy

Rapsody – Eve

Calboy – Wildboy

Fabolous – Summertime Shootout 3: Coldest Summer Ever

The Ten Spot

Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding

Post Malone is a rockstar, there is no way around it. That is why I have his album at the 10 slot because I truly don’t believe his work fits into just one genre, especially not rap. Post is one of the most talented artists of our generation, whether you like him or not, and he once again proves that on Hollywood’s Bleeding. Post maintains his rapper persona as he recruited Young Thug, DaBaby, Meek Mill, and more while continuing to cross blend genres with an incredible feature from Ozzy Osbourne. With over a billion streams and many anthems, this album deserves a spot on this list. Is this his best album?

This is no surprise…Debuted at #1 on Billboard Hot 200 with 489k equivalent units sold

The Nine Spot

ScHoolboy Q – CrasH Talk

With his first album in three years, Schoolboy Q blessed his fans with CrasH Talk. Schoolboy Q was planning to release the album in 2018 but when his close friend Mac Miller passed away, he wasn’t in the right state of mind. However, that didn’t stop Schoolboy Q from creating once again another classic, in Mac’s honor. The label TDE continues to release solid albums while maintaining their own styles of rap, and in CrasH Talk, Schoolboy Q does a fantastic job sticking to his own ways. With tracks such as “Numb Numb Juice”, “CHopstix”, and “Floating” respectively making the Billboard charts on their own, it proves the Q is still a top dawg (pun intended). Q has nothing else to prove as a successful veteran and is at a point in his career where he makes music because he wants to and as long as he’s having fun. Although he isn’t making anthems such as “Studio” or “Hell of a Night”, CrasH Talk is a well-rounded project with hard-hitting lyrics and an unmatched style.

Debuted at #3 on Billboard 200 with 81k equivalent units sold

The Eight Spot

Offset – Father of 4

I have to admit, I did not like this album when I first listened. However, it continued to grow on me with songs such as “Came a Long Way” and “Legacy” being on shuffle in my car. The more I listened and actually listened, it was nice to hear Offset being more outgoing and rapping about the other side of his life. The first track, “Father of 4”, is all about Offset being a father and doing everything he can to be there for them. It’s enjoyable to hear about his past life and the struggles of finding himself while taking care of his own. Offset invited J. Cole, CeeLo Green, Gucci, and even his wife Cardi B to complete his debut solo album. Overall, the music on this album can be played at parties, in the car, pregaming, or if you are going through some tough times. It’s a side of Offset I would like to see more of in the future if another solo album ever comes to light.

Debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 with 89k equivalent units moved

The Seven Spot

Tory Lanez – Chixtape 5

This mixtape almost didn’t make my list. After I realized how different and creative this album came to be, I thought it deserved a spot. I still listen to all the songs that influenced Tory to make this tape and the way he altered the tracks to still make you have nostalgia is truly amazing. On top of creativity, he even got most of the original artists as features! However, the one downside I feel is not giving enough time for Ashanti, Fabolous or T-Pain. Lanez used a lot of adlibs throughout the tape and I feel it takes away of what could have been an even more special album with some extra verses. The mixtape was different for 2019, and I love different. We have seen so many new styles come to life in recent years and it was cool for Tory to showcase those who helped paved the way. Don’t get me wrong, sampling old music has been occurring for decades, but for Tory to create a complete project honoring the artists was very cool to listen to, Overall, very enjoyable and Tory really continues to make a case for the King of R&B, behind Chris Brown of course.  

Debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 with 84k equivalent units moved

The Six Spot

Rick Ross – Port of Miami 2

After thinking we may have lost Rozzay to a heart attack earlier in the year, he bounced back with yet another solid album added to his catalog. With meaningful lyrics, skits, and beats, the project is well thought out and enjoyable from start to finish. This album is not as hard-hitting as his past projects but that’s what I think makes it so memorable for me. On the track, “I Still Pray”, Rozay depicts his feelings and memories of almost dying and you can feel the emotions that he felt about losing everything he’s worked for and the ones around him. Rick Ross is a legend and has created some of my favorite songs of all time (“Stay Schemin”, “Ashton Martin Music”) and although it is not what we’re used to from Rick, it’s a very enjoyable and well thought out project.

Debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 200 with 72k units sold, BOSS.

The Five Spot

DaBaby – Baby on Baby & Kirk

Arguably the biggest rapper of 2019, Dababy is really something special. Not only is he funny as hell, but he knows how to entertain people and create music. I have Baby on Baby and Kirk placed together at 5 because I think they are both solid albums but have very similar styles. However, in Kirk, he opened up more about his life and created a story for his listeners. I am a fan of DaBaby because of his worth ethic, confidence, and style that he brings to the rap game. Although he is a fast-paced rapper, he can also create memorable melodies such as “Best Friend” and “iPhone”. DaBaby created many classics this year with “Suge”, “Baby on Baby”, “Bop”, and more, but that’s what makes him so special…his ability to create those in such a short time. I also have to give credit to Jetsonmade for his ability to create these special beats for DaBaby to take over. With tons of memorable songs, these albums I believe will be a centerpiece for a long career.

Baby on Baby peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 200 and earned Gold

Kirk debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 selling 147k equivalent albums (crazy!!)

The Four Spot

YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy

Up for rookie of the year and album of the year, this one was no doubt. The Lost Boy is a work of art and seems as if he’s taking us through the changes of the seasons. As a debut album, you couldn’t wish for anything more from YBN which earned him XXL Freshman List, a Grammy nomination, and arguably one of the best albums of the year. The one track I keep coming back to is “Nightmares are Real” featuring Pusha-T solely because of the flow, creativity, and delivery. Adding Push really complements YBN perfectly. Cordae is incredible at painting his audience a vision as he tells stories about his life, and that’s what keeps me coming back to this album. A solid project and I can’t wait for more.

Debuted at #13 on the Billboard Hot 200 selling 26k equivalent albums moved, solid for a debut album.

The Three Spot

Mustard – Perfect 10

DJ Mustard has been working just as hard behind the scenes of his music as he does on his music since he started his career. Having what I think was the song of the summer, “Ballin” ft. Roddy Ricch, and many more bangers, Perfect 10, made this Top 10 list. Mustard maintains his west coast style of producing while seeking the likes of Atlanta’s Migos, Future, and even Gunna. You may be asking why a producer has one of the top albums, but it’s because it was Mustard who put this album together. Perfect 10 solidifies that Mustard is a leader in the industry and that producers can create albums just as well as an artist would, although it helps he got some of the best songwriters to help him out.

Debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 36k equivalent units moved 

The Two Spot

Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

This was my most highly anticipated album of 2019. When I first heard Roddy, I knew he was special. His delivery, changes in flow and cadences are unmatched right now. This project proves he will be here for a long time as it highlights his versatility. Right from the jump, “Intro” begins with a slow tempo and a soothing, calming voice, then halfway through he flips right to a faster and harder tempo. On the track “Trap God” I truly thought I was listening to Young Thug, if you don’t believe me go back and listen. Influenced by Nipsey Hussle, Compton, and a hard past, it is clear Roddy is using his experiences to lock in his emotions as he tells his story through music. Songs like “The Box” and “Start Wit Me” get you bouncing, “Moonwalkin” and “Perfect Time” and “High Fashion” get you singing, and “Prayers To The Trap God” and “War Baby” get you in your feelings. I haven’t stopped listening since it released a few weeks ago and I can’t wait for the many years to come for Roddy.   

Debuted at #1 on Billboard Hot 200 with 101k equivalent units, ………

The One Spot

2 Chainz – Rap Or Go To The League

One of the most forgotten and underrated albums of the year, in my opinion. 2 Chainz has always released solid albums and he went above & beyond for this one, even recruiting NBA All-Star Lebron James to be his A&R. With features from Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Lil Wayne, E-40, and the princess Ariana Grande, there is a song on here for everyone to enjoy. What makes this album so special is the messages Chainz brings to surface such as, “growing up in a community where a young man’s only two options are to either be a musician or athlete”, and that’s “apparent” (pun intended) on the track “Forgiven”. The reason it is my number one album of the year is because of how enjoyable it is and how it started the year off for what was to come. My favorite part of the album was the production and samples used. In the track “I Said Me”, he uses a well-known sample from The Sound of Music, and somehow turns it into a complete banger of a rap song. Overall, this album, in my opinion, is the best and most enjoyable to come from 2019 and I think the best Chainz album to date. (He may have even gotten the NCAA to listen as they are now going to test paying its players…coincidence?)

Debuted at #4 on the Billboard Hot 200 with 65k equivalent albums.

Classic’s Top Ten of 2019

Looking back on 2019 it feels like it was a transition year. Certain sounds have been dominating for a minute now and while that standard continued, we also got some new and different styles along with the breakthrough of multiple artists celebrating a vintage aesthetic. All this seems to be signaling a shift in the culture. 2019 may not have had the quantity of solid releases that 2018 did but it certainly matched, if not exceeded, last year as far as quality. 

Note: As of this writing Purple Haze 2 hasn’t dropped yet and Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, Born 2 Rap and Blood Cuzzins are all in constant rotation and may or may not have been included if I wrote this list 3 months from now.

The One Spot

Bandana album cover

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana

Sometimes there is a clear winner for album of the year and in 2019 it’s without a doubt Bandana. The chemistry is solidified this time and the result is a perfect collaboration as Gangsta Gibbs effortlessly navigates the sonic playground envisioned by the Beat Konducta. Whether spitting the rapid-fire of an early Jay-Z (“Flat Tummy Tea”), the elder statesmen style of Scarface (“Soul Right”) or the crooning of a silk shirt R&B singer (“Gat Damn”), Freddie Gibbs is easily the most diverse rapper in the game right now, and on Bandana we get everything, with Madlib providing his signature dusty drums and deep crate samples. Gibbs floats on “Giannis”, while Anderson .Paak’s eerie vocals perfectly complement the haunting keys. “Practice” is a somber reflection about ruining a relationship over a Donny Hathaway sample while still having gems like “how you complain about the price when you getting everything fronted?” Pusha T delivers a verse-of-the-year contender on “Palmolive” which is built off a signature Madlib beat, something that makes no sense when you first hear it but over time clicks when the brilliance of the sample chopping finally comes to light. It’s madness but it’s beautiful. For me personally the best song is “Cataracts”, as Freddie showcases all his strengths in two reflective verses over a heavenly soul sample and then effortlessly switches his flow at the beat flip for the third verse.

Speaking of beat changes, there are many on this album along with the standard Madlib interludes fusing together the tracks. If you can find it (and it’s definitely out there), the “Director’s Cut” version of the album is superior as it maintains the same tracklist but has different skits that provide a more seamless transition between songs. While subtle, it makes a huge difference for the overall feel of the album. It’s not often that this happens, where everything just comes together perfectly, but what Freddie Gibbs and Madlib did here will no doubt go down as a classic and that’s why Bandana takes the top slot for 2019. 

The Two Spot

Tsu Surf – Seven 25

Newark’s own Tsu Surf pours his heart out on Seven 25, a project named after the day he got shot and almost died. From discussing his moral code (“see me with a teller that’s only to take the funds out”) to just dropping straight up slick lines (“spent a couple bands on another ‘where you find that?’”), everything here feels authentically autobiographical (“my mother found the pound and the strap with the bodies”). I could really do this entire write up just highlighting the endless quotes on this album as Surf never takes a bar off, but it’s not just lyrics, his passion is felt in every word of every line. He’s not someone who’s here for the fame or jewelry, he’s just trying to survive, as on “Me or You” when he admits “wanna cop the rollie, but the hood need choppers more”. Few rappers get to Surf’s level of self-reflection in their music. He continuously drops in lessons from his mother and grandmother (“hoes keep ya dick hard, but home be where the dinner at”) while also spitting words of wisdom (“they gon’ love you or hate you whether you saint or you sinnin’”). The production is mostly driven either by beautiful piano lines like on the title track or vocal samples that lay the foundation Surf’s street gospels as is the case on “Killing Me”. Guests include Mozzy and Benny the Butcher, along with the OG Beanie Sigel (“old Beans for the homi”). There are female-centric tracks, “What Changed” and “Double Life”, along with the sprinkling in of relationship advice (“if she don’t know if you ate today, then she ain’t for you”).

There isn’t a better rap album this year. By that, I mean rap in its purest form. The hunger and the pain are felt in every bar with pictures painted so vividly they border on terrifying (“body still twitchin’, spooky how we hit him it look like the game glitchin’”). While other albums may be more “enjoyable”, Seven 25 deserves some real attention in order to soak up game and remember that it wasn’t just parties but also pain that birthed the culture of hip hop. It’s fun to vibe out on something laid back or turn up to hype shit but as PUSH! Montana once said, “as long as there’s gangsta shit in the streets that’s going on, there’s gon’ be gangsta shit in these songs”.

The Three Spot

Lucky Daye – Painted

The most complete and well-crafted R&B project of the year belongs to Lucky Daye. This expansive collection of songs brings together the passion, yearning, regret and happiness of life. While other albums this year focused on a theme and had a particular sound, Painted doesn’t stay inside any one box as it ranges from new age Prince-influenced funk to quiet storm desperation. When he isn’t pulling at your feelings he’s providing the soundtrack for top-down freeway drives and songs you share with the woman you can’t get enough of.  To kick things off, “Roll Some Mo” sets the tone with Lucky inviting you to ride along with him. Once you’re hooked he kicks it up into a celebration with feel-good songs “Late Night” and “Extra”.

The mood music really begins with “Concentrate”, a string-driven ballad which highlights Lucky Daye’s vocals. The ease with which he hits notes and the smoothness of his voice really stand out, and that’s what takes this project to the next level. The way he reinterprets a Ginuwine hit on “Karma” and questions a troubled relationship on “Misunderstood” are also what set him apart from other R&B artists. The runs on the distressed “Floods” put you in the storm of emotions he’s feeling while “Try Your Fire” pulsates with blissful confidence. “Real Games” is the shining jewel, a song in which the verses, hook and breakdown are all distinct and yet all flow together naturally. It goes from funky to swooning before turning into a rally cry and then fading off after a slick third verse. There’s really something for everyone on Painted whether it’s dance floor bangers or simp anthems. We even get that classic ballad with a spoken intro to close everything out as this project is both fresh and mature with its sound. Lucky Daye is an extremely talented songwriter as well as a gifted singer and Painted focuses both into something you’ll keep coming back to and having a different favorite song each time. There are many great R&B albums out right now but none are as satisfying as Painted and if there’s one record that really showcases how great music as a whole is right now, it’s this one.

The Four Spot

Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby

With her unique voice conveying the sage-burning reflections of a young woman trying to figure out life, Ari Lennox delivers a soulfully blunted album that is the definition of a “vibe”. Throughout the project she does everything from question if her sex drive is too high to both celebrating and lamenting the lack of furniture in her apartment. For anyone who fondly remembers what was dubbed the “neo-soul” era, this record has sprinkles of that sound and is bold yet still introverted. “BMO” makes no secret of what Ari Lennox wants from a man over an updated version of classic Busta Rhymes track and “Pop” masks its filthiness with a beautifully stripped-down innocent sound. “New Apartment” is a clear highlight for anyone who can relate to the feeling of having just enough to get your own place, being too broke to furnish it, but not caring because the freedom to leave clothes on the ground is better than money.

On every song Ms. Lennox’s voice is poignant and gripping, while the backdrop of her musical sound is soothing yet funky, utilizing simple drum beats, lush keys, and strong horns. She travels through various powerful vocal runs on what is actually a very relaxed sounding “Up Late” while the title track employs a rougher sound yet the music never overpowers as she matches it with her voice. “Whipped Cream” is carried by an upbeat pulse but the vocals still ride the track like a smooth wave as Ms. Lennox uses her own powerful instrument to complain about her ex, especially in the infectious bridge. The closer is a horn-driven culmination of everything the album’s provided, from solid harmonies to soulful production to the strong leading vocals of a new shining star. Shea Butter Baby is one of those albums that keeps the same energy from start to finish and while it’s not a concept album it very much has a unified theme and that makes it the perfect package, radiating with the smoothest of barefoot soul on every song.  

The Five Spot

Snoh Aalegra – Ugh, those feels again

Snoh Aalerga’s album is best described as something you get lost in. While it ranges from spacey vibe music to straight-up hip hop, once you’re hypnotized by her sound it carries you through the entire record. Featuring the backdrop of No I.D. combining sultry soul and hard-hitting drums, the beautiful vocals from Ms. Aalegra are what really bring this album to another level. “I Want You Around” is light and simple but sets the tone of the record as Snoh reveals her preference for beach shoes, an ordinary day, and listening to Innervisions on replay. After the seductive “Situationship” come the first two highlights, “Whoa”, which will put you in a trance with both its beat and the flowing hook and “Find Someone Like You”, which feels like a late-night jazz club but is still powerful enough to make a statement. “Charleville 9200, Pt. II” is a rollercoaster ride of a song with its guitar-backed hook in which Snoh cries “why you take me up this high, just to put a hole in my parachute”.

You get every emotion on this album including the finale which is an uplifting if somewhat conflicted, declaration that “I Didn’t Mean to Fall in Love”. On this triumphantly beautiful closer, the songstress lets herself get lost in the moment, her voice breaking from a controlled serenade and instead just passionately belting out all her feelings, perfectly summing up the album’s title of Ugh – those feels again. Between the seasoned sound of the vocals and the fresh-yet-still-classic production, Snoh Aalegra delivers a beautifully crafted record that touches on every emotion and through it all, feels like you’re curled up by a warm fire. 

The Six Spot

Chris Brown – Indigo

While music has been trending toward shorter albums with an emphasis on quality over quantity, Chris Brown has proven yet again that he can deliver both as he packs a double-disc full of greatness. Indigo is another phenomenal effort and further adds to the argument that Breezy is not only a master songmaker and incredible singer but also the greatest entertainer of our generation. With 35 songs it’s pretty much expected that you’ll get a little bit of everything but what’s so stunning is how solid each track is. The songs range from upbeat (the title track) to remorseful (“Sorry Enough”) to vocally driven sonnets (“Don’t Check on Me”) to party anthems (“Temporary Lover”) to dance songs (“Back to Love”) to just pure fire (“Come Together”). Guests contribute but never outshine the star, such as Juicy J and Juvenile lending their talents to “Emerald / Burgundy”. In fact, this album is really more than 35 songs as there’s several instances where 2 songs are combined, oftentimes with the second song being just as strong, if not stronger (“No Judgment” and “Aura” being the best examples of this). “No Guidance” was the definitive song of the summer and the leadoff single “Undecided” successfully reboots the catchy hook from Shanice’s “I Love Your Smile”. Always a student of the game, Chris Brown borrows the iconic Neptunes lunchroom-table drums from “Grindin” for the aforementioned “Sorry Enough” and runs through a slew of R&B classics on “Early 2K”.

In an era of short albums and even shorter attention spans it’s especially impressive that Breezy fashioned a double album that doesn’t feel like a chore to get through and has tremendous replay value. While it might seem overwhelming at first, you’ll be left wanting more when the album is finished (which you can get – he gave us an extra 10 tracks back in October, which are also fire, particularly “Technology”, “Going At It” and, the appropriately named, “Overtime”).

The Seven Spot

22Gz – The Blixky Tape

Hyped up street anthems make this debut tape from Brooklyn’s 22Gz one of the catchiest albums of the year as he blasts through The Blixky Tape with infectious energy. A young star in the making, 22Gz is full of vigor, delivering an onslaught of gun raps over lively production that never slows down for the entirety of this project. New York has always been great at making anthems and this tape is full of them as pretty much every hook is bound to get stuck in your head and would be appropriate to yell out while throwing bottles across the room in celebration (“Man Down”, “Crime Rate” and “Rap Sheet” all being prime examples). This isn’t just a one-note record though as on the “King of NY” 22Gz recounts the time he spent inside Florida following a highly publicized gun battle and swoons about his main chick on “On Me”.

As someone’s who clearly trying to take the right path in life, this tape is the sounds of an up and comer who’s spent years on the streets honing his skills to become a solid MC. It’s very much a modern-day rap record with endless adlibs and repetitive beats but unlike other projects that come and go from forgettable rappers, The Blixky Tape doesn’t have a single bad song on it and 22Gz has a charisma that you only get from a select few. This whole tape is full of highlights but “Timing” and “Spin the Block” are two of the best. The former will have you doing the two-step while the latter finds 22Gz teaming up with Kodak Black over a haunting and menacing beat that utilizes the same sample as a vintage Wu-Tang posse cut. “Chandelier” has an ominous sound that is similar to the Migos “Deadz” and “Salary” showcases the diversity in 22Gz’s flow. New York rap will always be relevant and it’s great to see a young artist such as 22Gz coming up and keeping the streets hot with this brand of rap. He’s got all the energy and talent to become the next superstar and this tape is proof that he’s a hitmaker.

The Eight Spot

J Balvin/Bad Bunny – OASIS

This one isn’t easy to write about since I’m ignorant and only speak English, therefore, I can’t understand a single word they’re saying on this. That said, I had this album on repeat all summer. Sounding like the fusing of Latino and Reggaeton, what J Balvin and Bad Bunny created on OASIS is, for me, the definition of feel-good outdoor party music. The album starts with the powerful “MOJAITA” which has what feels like the traditional reggaeton beat and gives you a good impression of what’s to come. “YO LE LLEGO” showcases the range and power of both singers over a slithering track that lets you know this won’t just be one long song of an album but a diverse collection of Latino music.

Easily the highlight, “QUÉ PRETENDES”, is a cross between seductive and fun as its upbeat soulfulness and lush vocals make it the standout anthem. While there’s a variety of styles on this project, from the late-night chill vibe of “LA CANCIÓN” and the breeziness of “COMO UN BEBÉ” to the damn near hardcore thumping of “CUIDADO POR AHÍ”, everything flows together so well, and each transition is a welcomed change from one track to the next. OASIS is short (only 30 minutes), but it’s something you can keep on repeat for a couple of hours because of how different each track is. J Balvin and Bad Bunny are both exceptionally talented, with each having a unique style they bring to the music while also feeding off each other as a strong duo. Whether you’re at a backyard cookout or beachside, these two have blessed with us with the perfect soundtrack to any outdoor celebration as OASIS is a quintessential summer album, full of fun songs to make any party hype.

The Nine Spot

Little Brother – May the Lord Watch

The unexpected release of May the Lord Watch provided the (somewhat) reunion of one of the most influential and well-respected groups of the new millennium. Almost like they never left (it’s been a decade since their last release), Phonte and Big Pooh proved their chemistry is very much still alive on this grown-man’s rap album. For a duo that’s always made music that felt mature this album is especially appropriate for those teetering in mid-life as both rappers are pushing 40. Maturity doesn’t mean a lack of fun as the skits the group’s been known for are present and brilliantly executed, particularly in the transition between “Inside the Producer’s Studio” and “Sittin’ Alone”. The latter track is an exploration of the feelings of the old man at the club, realizing that his time has passed for this life and embracing the idea of being at home with family. “Black Magic” is a thumping ode to greatness and “Goodmorning Sunshine” is a simple concept track but as always the two MCs showcase their veteran rap skills to discuss the topic.

There’s no 9th Wonder production but this still feels very much like a Little Brother album as Big Pooh and Phonte both haven’t lost a step, with the latter successfully dropping ridiculous rhyme schemes like “Nolan Ryan / soldiers dyin’ / shoulder cryin’ / Cobra Kai’n (trust, it all connects lyrically). Backed by pure rap skills and humor in both the bars and the skits, fun-loving mature hip hop is still sounding fresh in 2019. We’re thankful these guys decided to link back up for this much-needed reunion as May the Lord Watch feels like breath of fresh air in the genre even as it’s coming from two seasoned veterans. 

The Ten Spot

Crooked I (KXNG Crooked) – The Weeklys

This is somewhat cheating, but if we’re talking best of the year then this absolutely has to get mentioned. Every Friday since the beginning of January, Kxng Crooked (formerly Crooked I), has released a song. Each time the beat is a repurposed classic and he has proceeded to rip every single track to shreds. We constantly give credit to artists who are able to drop multiple projects in a year but to release a song a week and for each one to be a 4-minute lyrical onslaught without burning out is wildly impressive. Crook has always been a rapper’s rapper and while some of these tracks contain hooks there’s a lot that are just him spitting straight bars throughout the whole thing. Between his rapid-fire flow and clever wordplay alone it’s been quite the feat to witness. But in addition to his Hall of Fame level technical skills it’s clear he wrote and recorded these in real-time as this collection also functions as a time capsule for the year with news and other trending topics being mentioned so as to remind you what was happening during those seven days.

Some of the highlights including “Pistol Grip”, “Up2TheSun” and “Bar’d Up”, and that’s just within the first 3 months. As Crook’s level of skill is such that he can carry on one rhyme scheme for multiple bars I won’t bother to drop any quotes here but pick any one of the tracks and there’s no doubt you’ll be pulling back multiple lines trying to keep up with all the dope shit he says. This is top-notch lyricism from one of the game’s best spitters and as far as rapping goes there aren’t many better when it comes to pure skill. Some people think lyrics are dead, but Crooked I spent the entire year proving that bars are still very much alive and well.

Honorable Mentions:

Anderson .Paak – Ventura (“Jet Black” is the one)

Moneybagg Yo – 43VA HEARTLESS (melodies are fire, overall strong album)

Rick Ross – Port of Miami 2 (he rarely disappoints and this is no exception)

DaBaby – Baby on Baby (this was his year and I can’t wait to hear more from him)

French Montana & Max B – Coke Wave 4 (the WAVE IS BACK!!)

I Hear You – Shane, the Shaman

Building up the Colossus brand and running the blog has not been an easy, straight-forward journey. However, what drives me and keeps me going is the relationships I have developed through this work. Of the many blog-artist relationships I have developed, Shane was one of the first ones. He DM’d me way back in May right around the same time I had made plans to expand artist submissions on the platform. He first sent me “Heart?” and immediately the flow and vibe of the track pulled me in. Shane has that clean, old-school Brooklyn feel that isn’t nearly appreciated enough these days. I have been bugging him all year about when his first big project was going to drop and it finally did at the end of November. Let me introduce you to Shane, the Shaman, and his debut EP, I Hear You.

The Vocals:

One of the reason’s that Shane’s flow first attracted me is because of its imperfection. To some that may sound strange, however, this helps him play into that old-school vibe. Before the days of mumble rap and this new school stuff, verses didn’t have to have perfect flow. Instead, they made a point. Go back and listen to any late 80s or early 90s hip-hop record and you will find what sounds like imperfections in the flow or cadence of the vocals. I have never seen these as imperfections but instead a part of the art. Just like poetry, hip-hop has cuts, breaks, and hiccups. Does Shane need to work on his cadence at times? Sure…but I also feel that it gives him that old-school, roots-of-hip-hop vibe he is chasing.

“Bring It On” is hands down his most lyrical on the project. It has witty, hard-hitting lines that leave you thinking and analyzing. This is a Brooklyn born track through and through. Every lyrical rapper coming out of that borough always seems to have at least one track in their catalog about the place they are from. “Bring It On” is Shane’s version of this. He then moves into “Again” which is quite different. It’s got a chill, love song vibe, however, it is missing a female vocalist. He has some great bars on the song but never really focuses on the chorus. If he went back and really built out the chorus and featured a woman singing it, I think “Again” would be fire.

The Beats:

I will preface this section with the fact that I do not know where Shane is getting his beats from. He could be making them himself, using the help of a friend, or grabbing them from the internet. Regardless, he does a great job creating a vibe. They all fit extremely well together and make you groove along. I love the flirty piano keys on “Peace” as it really sets the stage for what we are about to be listening to. “Bring It On” has hands down the best beat and I swear that little saxophone sample is from a Pete Rock and CL Smooth song. Yet, I could be completely wrong.

The Production:

Before I get into the overall production value of I Hear You, I have to talk about “Bring It On” one last time. I love it when rappers spit without a beat. It takes a lot of talent to be able to sound good without a beat supporting you. Shane does a great job at the entrance of the track and really sets the stage for the rest of the two minutes.

This EP is the perfect introduction of Shane, the Shaman. He is young, independent, and still underground. Before he gets anywhere, he will need to build a strong fan base and I truly think this is the perfect project to do that. With this thirteen-minute EP, he gives new listeners a taste of what he can bring to the table and leave them hungry for more. It’s got solid mixing, hard bars, smooth beats, and a great vibe.

The Essentials:

Listen to the whole thing plus listen to “Bring It On” more than once!

The Rating:

I really like Shane if you haven’t been able to tell. This guy has a ton of talent in my opinion and I am extremely excited to see what he does with his music. Even if he always stays underground, I will always be a big fan. Every time he sends me a new track, it seems to get better and better and his ceiling of potential raises more and more. With all that said, I Hear You is just the beginning for Shane and I believe he will only get better with time. I Hear You gets a…

Very solid 8

If you are an old head or just listen to rap like you are an old head, you will appreciate Shane’s style and lyrics. Trust me on this one!

– Heff

[VIDEO] Another One – Mackavon

Jamaica-born and Florida-raised rapper Mackavon brings listeners versatility with his music. He states that he listened to Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, 50, and Usher as a kid. Those influences show in his music as he ranges from rough and abrasive to sensitive and poppy. The young rapper is getting more and more attention and growing a solid fan base with his latest releases.

Florida has been producing some top-quality talent as of late. Denzel Curry is hands down one of my favorites out of South Florida and I immediately get that same vibe with Mackavon. “Another One” has a dark, trippy beat but his vocals bounce around from raspy to smooth and flowy. This is what drew me into this single when it was first sent to me. It’s catchy but twisted. The subject matter feels like an emo-rap track but at the same time, it has the cadence, beat, and roughness that can only come out of Florida. Heavily recommend checking this dude and don’t be surprised if he starts to gain some more traction in the rap game!

Watch the music video here:

Stream Mackavon’s other tracks here:

[Video] “Young Kings & Queens” – Foreign Beggars ft. Maverick Sabre and Mali Hayes

The well-known trio, Foreign Beggars, out of the U.K, has been around since 2002 and have teased their final album together, releasing on December 13th called Matriarchy. The reason for this being the last is that the members, Orifice Vulgatron, Metropolis, and DJ Noname’s have decided its time to focus on themselves and indulge in their solo careers.

The single and visual off of their last album is called, “Young Kings & Queens”. There is nothing crazy or special in the video, but it is the lyrics and message that wraps it all together. The black & white video following the trio and a pair of kids around the streets of Manchester creates a visually appealing experience that helps tell the story. What’s special about the group is their different backgrounds meshing to create something special and meaningful to its audience.

“Kids growing up these days have years in hostile environments and felt a lot of struggle due to a decade of Austerity.. with so many youth centres shutting down and violence on the rise wanted to make a song to reach out and shed some light and guidance. The video was shot in and around Manchester by Tarnish Vision and really captures the bittersweet essence of the song.” Pav – Foreign Beggars

Stream more from Foreign Beggars here:

[EP] Titans Over Spades – Backstreet Peejay

Backstreet Peejay is a rapper from Orlando, Florida who’s musical influences come from the deep south. He has a palette for soulful, jazzy beats that really bring his work to life. He began to take his artistry seriously in 2016 when he released his project “Inner City Blues”. It was at that time he was able to develop his sound and find his niche as an artist. Just like one of his influences Kendrick Lamar, Backstreet hopes his music can uplift the black community, as well as being able to shed a light showing how beautiful his culture is.

This is a ridiculously smooth project. The beats are clean and the vocals are tough. It starts off with the title track, which introduces Peejay’s style. His cadence gets a bit messy towards the middle but regardless, it never really loses your attention. It’s got that Chi-town vibe with a southern sound. LB199X, which is a crazy cool stage name, really adds to the project with his feature on “Glow”. This track might be my favorite of the four tracks. It’s a head bobber no question. “Truth Be Told” is the track that was originally sent to me and there is a reason it snagged my attention. The lyrics are fire and the flow is perfect. Peejay seems to master his cadence with the beat on this track. Lastly, he wraps things up with “Whatever Whenever” which is an emotional piece. Super smart to finish off the EP with this track because it slows things down just the right way without getting boring. All in all, this is truly a must-listen for anyone that even slightly appreciates soulful hip-hop.

Stream Titans Over Spades here:

Survival – Dave East

If you are from the northeast and have your ear towards NYC, you have most likely heard of the Dave East at this point. Becoming one of the most prominent sounds of his neighborhood, the Harlem rapper has added to the vibe of the city with eight mixtapes, Beloved and Hate Me Now being two of his major highlights. Survival is his first studio album coming in at an hour and eighteen with 20 tracks. There are a lot of notable tracks on here but Colossus’s Chris and Heff wanted to share there own two cents.

Heff’s Thoughts:

It’s almost that time of year again. The time of year that gets every music blogger’s mind going about what should be considered the best album of the year. In my opinion, this album will get the Championships treatment…a great album getting released just too late to get enough attention for consideration for any Top Ten list. However, I’m not counting it out just yet because it is phenomenally well done.

Dave East often struggles with getting attention due to his lack of singable choruses and only giving us hard-hitting lyrics. Beloved was a perfect example as he and Styles P just traded off spitting fire on the mic. This album is a bit different. There isn’t a “radio hit” necessarily, but the storytelling here is extremely well done with tracks like “On My Way 2 School” and “Baby”. Yes it’s hard and still isn’t for your Drake fans but for anyone who appreciates rap just for rap, this is the album for you.

He also gets help from a lot of great features like Teyana Taylor, Rick Ross, and Nas to name a few which definitely props this album. The only one who I feel like could fit perfectly with Dave East’s flow is Joyner, but that might be a pipedream to see happen.

As many readers know, I love skits on rap albums. They convey a story and provide a different side to the rapping or instrumentals. I’ve talked about it on Bandana, The Lost Boy, and countless others. Survival is another great example of how to do this correctly. You don’t just hear the bars, you hear the actual voice of his mom or his daughter…the reasons he keeps grinding and rapping. I also love the introduction of “What You Mad At”. It reminds me so much of the skit on “Have Mercy” from French Montana. All in all, Survival is an extremely well put together record and don’t be shocked if it gets a Grammy Nomination next year.

Heff’s Essentials:

“Seventeen”, “Godfather 4”, and “Wanna Be A G”

Chris’s Thoughts:

East’s debut album, Survival, was a highly anticipated album for true rap fans from NYC to California. Did it live up to the hype? Some say yes, some say no. Debuting at #11 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums with 24k units sold, I claim that a win. Why? Because it goes to prove that real rap is still alive and relevant. Dave East is a true artist that focuses on the lyrics to convey a message to his audience. In Survival, one aspect of the album that made it whole to me was the skits and storytelling. East locks into a journey of where he’s been and where he’s going.

In “On My Way 2 School”, he uses a skit with his mother’s voice to introduce the track about the everyday struggle of waking up for school. Here, he conveys what it was like trying to go to school every day in the environment he grew up in. East says, “They ain’t teach me shit in here anyway, These teachers is broke, I’m goin’ to the NBA, Fuck this school shit”. That is in fact what Dave East pursued as a young star basketball player, playing with the likes of Kevin Durant in AAU. Instead, he found his true calling in rapping, and although he can still ball, he seems happy with his decision.

Dave East has had some incredible features in the past, but this album is on a whole new level. Nas, Fabolous, Snoop Dogg, Max B, Teyana Taylor, and Nipsey Hussle are just the major features to name a few. The way the album is designed from top to bottom pays homage to all styles of the rap industry from today and yesterday. With the guidance of the legendary Nas, Dave East is still only just beginning and the stories (Marathon) will continue.

Chris’s Essentials:

“OG”, “What’s Goin On”, and “Nightshift”

The Rating:

Survival is an extremely well put together project and easily deserves a…

Solid 9

– Chris and Heff

[EP] Xavieon – Live in Peace

I often talk about how the rise of lofi has improved the rap game. It brings that old-school-cool sound back that you would hear with the cratediggers of the 80s and 90s. Xavieon does just that! The Georgia-raised MC pulls inspiration from Mos Def, MF Doom, A Tribe Called Quest, Curren$y, Schoolboy Q, and even Isaiah Rashad. On his newest and first EP “Live in Peace”, Xavieon showcases the gritty hip-hop side of his music while also keeping a balance of funk and melody. It’s a very chilled out vibe and sound that really gets your head bobbing to the beat.

The EP itself is pretty short and simple, only five tracks coming in at just under 8 minutes. However, that doesn’t mean that Xavieon drops the ball. Instead, he paints a picture with his smooth lyrics and witty metaphors. It’s clear what this dude listens to in his free time because all I hear is a late 90s vibe. I really just wish the tracks were longer. He seemed like he was after the whole “spit one hard verse then dip” but I think he would really benefit on a lot of these songs with a hook. 90s hip-hop heads will enjoy this “preview” of what Xavieon has to offer, and while I love the vibe he puts off, I hope his next project is a bit longer so we get even more witty metaphors about Kyle Lowry and Tony Stark.

Stream Live in Peace here:


Mohammad Ahmad, better known as MOE, does it all. He raps, produces, writes, and engineers all his own music. With inspiration from the lyricism of Nas and Tupac as well as the electronic sounds of Flying Lotus and James Blake, the German Lebanese talent brings various styles and vibes to the table. He has done work with the German collective Resistant Mindz and is now focused on displaying his “one-man-army” approach for all of the world to hear.

“Soul” stuck out to me for one big reason…the heavy references to 50 Cent. “Many Men” is hands down my favorite track by the NYC legend and I love seeing his influence everywhere, even in a rapper from Germany. This track is honestly really catchy and smooth. The hook is singable and the beat is tough. It’s got just the right amount of darkness complimented with the playful melody of the piano. MOE isn’t perfect but he definitely has some solid potential. He has a great vibe and quick cadence and honestly is just fun to listen to.

Stream “Soul” and MOE’s other top tracks here: