In the last two years, 50's album has won TRU hardware for being hip-hop's lost album, inheriting the throne that "Detox" had when people still took it seriously. The album also was on TRU's most anticipated of 2013 list, perhaps ranked higher than it should have been by yours truly. The four singles - "New Day," "My Life," "First Date," and "Major Distribution" - were dope, which makes it all the more disappointing that the momentum for SKI was halted by, according to 50, shifts among Interscope's staff. Recently, 50 said that he may release a different project than SKI in 2014. Either way, it will be nice to finally hear what Curtis Jackson has been up to. - Aaron
The Dilated vet and the grimiest beat creator from the west have always maintained a strong connection. Back when ALC started to move out of the Soul Assassins camp and made a name for himself with his many newfound infamous friends from QB, Evidence was still collaborating with him on the regular, defying regionalism and divisions in mainstream and underground, which were much stronger forces in rap in those days. Alan The Chemist's psychedelic samplework was a crucial element in many of last year's highlights and Evidence's slow-flow punchlines pack an impact hard to ignore. Now that these two have finally sat down for a full-length project together, expectations are appropriately high. If single 'Step Master' is any indication, one of the most important factors is locked down; they are having fun with this one. - Jaap
Q-Tip is an artist who has earned the right to put out music when he feels like it. And in the last decade, he's done exactly that. Nine years filled the gap between his first and second solo albums and "Kamaal/The Abstract" was recorded in 2001 and was shelved for eight years before its release. But for Native Tongues heads, it all was worth the wait. They'll have even more to be excited about, with rumors being that the full ATCQ line-up is involved in creating the album. So, if "The Last Zulu", his first album since the freshly minted deal with G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam, does indeed drop in 2014, expect it to satisfy in Abstract style. - Aaron
(FYI: This is not the official artwork, which is not available yet, it's the cover of the first ELE with a Roman numeral 2 slapped on it) Sure, there's nobody who'd call the first ELE a classic of any sorts, but it was a good album that came out during Busta's height of fame. The title may come across as something bound for underwhelment, the first signs of its output certainly do not. 'Thank You' with Q-Tip is a great single that reached and impressive cross-section of old and new heads, and more importantly, pleasing both, and his recent 'The Abstract & The Dragon' mixtape put him right in the spotlight. Besides all that, the last time Busta returned to a former well of inspiration for a sequel album, was when he served as executive producer on Raekwon's OB4CL2. Those results were about as far from disappointing as you can get. - Jaap
A decade ago, it would have seemed weird for a rapper to name an official debut album "Victory Lap." But in the age of the internet and large quantities of online output, it's not uncommon for a rapper to become burnt out before the release of a debut album. Add Nipsey's eventful 2013 into the equation, and the title seems flat out appropriate. The West Coast rapper sold his "Crenshaw," online album/CD/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, for 0, and who else but Jay-Z and Roc Nation purchased 100 copies. He also had it out with Complex over the website's coverage of hip hop. It's safe to say he's had a lot going on, and while I'm not sure what differentiates "Crenshaw" from "Victory Lap" as far as official albums go - being that the former was sold in a physical format - the latter is nonetheless anticipation-worthy. The album is set to cost 0 via the Proud 2 Pay program, but also will be available in retail stores and on iTunes. Nipsey confirmed that Ralo 1500 or Nothin', The Futuristiks and DJ Mustard have produced for the album, and that it will be released sometime in early 2014. - Aaron
Raekwon has gracefully stepped into his role as one of rap's elder statesmen. After defying expectations with a glorious comeback album, Raekwon dropped a strong successor and maintained an undeniable presence in rap with various guest performances and loosies, like his take on Drake and Jay-Z's 'Pound Cake' which easily outshined the original. Raekwon has stated he wants to branch out with this sound and reach an international audience (hence the title) with a more glamorous, sophisticated style. It should be interesting to see how The Chef cooks up his fish when it's outside of Shaolin waters. - Jaap
With two critically acclaimed collaborative EPs under their belt and a discography that knows no equal in its uncompromising gangsta approach on the one hand, and one that is deeper than the Grand Canyon and more varied than the Rainforest on the other, expectations couldn't be much higher. Gangsta Gibbs is 100% independent again, which is good since majors can't handle him anyway, and sought to collaborate with Madlib since the man of many names caters to an indie audience of which there's still a large swath waiting to be conquered by Freddie's tales of Gary, Indiana. Makes sense both creatively and career-wise, which means there's a hunger to prove his merit over Madlib's trademark dusted fingers. 'Madvillainy 2' seems to have gone the Detox route, but we may just have a worthy successor on our hands right here. - Jaap
Little details are known about this announced collaboration yet, besides that it will contain ALC's soul and psychedica loops combined with Roc Marci's calm and deadly tales of fly crime. We're expecting 'The Godfather' with Richard Roundtree as Michael Corleone. If that doesn't sound like an awesome alternative universe to you we are done talking here. - Jaap
Black Hippy's secret weapon Ab-Soul and singer-songwriter JMSN are supposed to have an entire album in the can already, and it's been almost a year since 'You're Gone', which was supposed to be its lead-single, was released. You can still grab it in iTunes, but a release date for 'Unit 6' is nowhere to be found. According to Ab-Soul, it was a case of the differing management for both artists not seeing eye to eye. However, Top Dawg himself recently hinted at six(!) TDE albums dropping this year, and it seems hard to believe an album that close to being in the can wouldn't be a part of it. If so, it's good to seen their partnership with Aftermath/Interscope hasn't tempered TDE's taste for musical experiments. - Jaap
T.I.'s been a busy guy lately. A popular reality show, a TV Christmas special, and a one-album deal with Columbia that was made partially off the strength of "Blurred Lines" have kept him in the spotlight. For his new album Tip has been back in the studio with Pharrell, and the direction of their work has caused T.I. to put the "Trouble Man" sequel on hold in lieu of a different style. And while tentative titles including "Trap Champion" may harken back to Tip's old music, it's encouraging to hear that the Rubberband Man is experimenting musically. As T.I.'s last solo effort was released in 2012, and given that he has a consistent output - eight albums in 12 years - we may very well hear his new album in 2014.
The Roots' biggest accomplishment of 2014 will likely be becoming the in-house band of "The Tonight Show" when Jimmy Fallon takes over for Jay Leno. However, the group is still putting in time in the studio. To show for it, "& Then You Shoot Your Cousin" is expected to be released in 2014. If the provocative title is any indication, we could be in for more out-of-the-box creativity a la "Undun."
It'd be an understatement to say Action Bronson made a name a name for himself in the past two years; the former chef turned rapper who drops more gourmet food references than Game does names, has become the blogosphere's darling. The Ghostface comparisons have long since waned off and with each subsequent free project/mixtape received more enthusiastically than the next, Bronsolino can seemingly do no wrong. This year he'll be able to prove if he can continue that winning streak outside of the internet, when he finally drops a project with a barcode on it. - Jaap
Last year, TRU included The Wu-Tang Clan's "A Better Tomorrow" on its list of most anticipated albums for 2013, without being entirely sure that the album would see the light of day. Well, according to Rza, the group is having trouble getting Raekwon to participate, but when he joins the team, the album will be completed in a matter of weeks. If that is true, then we'll be able to see a legendary group round out its legacy with one final go. What's not to be excited about? - Aaron
TDE was said- by the Top Dawg himself - to have run 2013 without releasing an album. This year, TDE is supposed to release six albums, starting with Schoolboy Q's major label debut on Feb. 25. And you can bet TDE is going to want a surefire hit to anchor 2014. Aside from Black Hippy, features are set to include Raekwon, A$AP Rocky, 50 Cent and Action Bronson, while Boi-1da, The Alchemist, Pharrell and J Cole are set to produce. - Aaron
With the year-end lists reflecting on the year that was out of the way, it’s time to turn our vision towards the future again, and anticipate what’s coming from over the horizon. Here are the 14 albums we are anticipating the most.
Ground rules: we’ve only included albums that have been officially announced or mentioned explicitly by the artists themselves. There’ll be a ton more but we didn’t want to make a “hey, such and such will probably release an album, it might be good!” type of list. Also, we’ve only included albums we’re genuinely looking forward to, not what might have necessarily generated the biggest buzz.
Words by Aaron J McKrell & Jaap van der Doelen