Hip-Hop Album of the Year – 2015 The Boombox Fan Choice Awards
From party anthems to political critique, hip-hop had everything in 2014. Newcomers held their own while OGs proved that rap is anything but dead. To top it off, we even got a surprise album or two.
The West Coast kicked off the year with two big debut albums. YG brought Bompton to the forefront with 'My Krazy Life.' Blessed with beats from longtime collaborator DJ Mustard and featuring the hits 'My Hitta' as well as the Drake collaboration 'Who Do You Love?,' the album had something for the clubs and the streets.
Schoolboy Q also enjoyed success with his highly-anticipated debut 'Oxymoron.' Taking the Top Dawg Entertainment torch from Kendrick Lamar, Q proved that he could stay true to his mixtape roots, but also find new fans with tracks like the triumphant 'Man of the Year' and surprisingly alluring 'Studio.' On another coast, producer-rapper Travi$ Scott dropped his 'Days Before Rodeo' project. A teaser until his actual album, the project was heralded for its cutting-edge sounds and visuals, as exemplified in cuts like 'Mamacita.'
Hip-hop heads rejoiced in 2014, with a slew of releases from respected lyricists. Killer Mike and El-P dropped 'Run the Jewels 2,' which ran the gamut from poignant and emotional to political. Another rapper who was keenly aware of the state of the world was Common. His album, 'Nobody's Smiling,' was an ode to his hometown of Chicago. In the wake of the city's gun violence, Com and longtime producer No I.D. joined forces with some of rap's newest voices like Lil Herb and Vince Staples to make music with a message. 'Kingdom' is a prefect example of this, which Common movingly performed at the 2014 BET Hip Hop Awards alongside the parents of slain teenager Michael Brown.
Another project heralded by rap heads was the collaborative duo PRhyme featuring rapper Royce Da 5’9″ and producer DJ Premier. Royce plays lyrical miracle to Premo's vintage production wizardry on tracks like 'Courtesy.' The album boasts help from guests like Jay Electronica and Mac Miller. On the topic of solid duos, we have to include 'Piñata' by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. Indie heads celebrated this offering filled with Freddie's killer rhymes and Madlib's diverse beats, which range from spacey to ferocious (sometimes on the same song).
Everything in 2014 wasn't heavy though, and Wiz Khalifa proved that sometimes we just want to have fun. The rapper released his 'Blacc Hollywood' LP upon the heels of his insanely catchy anthem 'We Dem Boyz.' Wiz kept true to his friendly stoner appeal on the project and made plenty of tracks to roll up and spark to with help from big name friends like Snoop Dogg and producer Dr. Luke.
Sometimes the best albums are the most unexpected. Lecrae's 'Anomaly' enjoyed commercial success and showcased the rapper's real dexterity as a Christian artist. Christian rap is anything but boring in the hands of Lecrae and songs like 'Nuthin' showcased a message while maintaining a fresh, timely sound.
Another surprise album was J. Cole's '2014 Forest Hills Drive.' The rapper's third studio project literally came from out of nowhere. Cole relied on his true fans, instead of radio-friendly singles or traditional promo methods, and leveraged the power of social media and grassroots marketing to plug the project. His uncompromising take on songs like 'Fire Squad' cemented the North Carolina native as one of his generation's best lyricists. Whether he was playing the effort at his childhood home for select fans or marching in protests against police brutality, J. Cole was a man of the people in 2014.
Now this is your opportunity to decide the winner for Hip-Hop Album of the Year in our 2015 The Boombox Fan Choice Awards. Which rapper deserves the title? Remember you can vote once per hour until the poll closes on Feb. 17, at 10AM EST. Check out all of the nominees here.