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The 25 Best Albums Of 2013

Wale, The Gifted

Label: Atlantic Records

Wale’s The Gifted was arguably his best work to date. The MMG signee had big supporting singles like “Bad” and “LoveHate Thing,” which held much stain on the charts, even ruling the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 100 during his release date. The D.C. spitter shows considerable amount of progress as an artist and will only go higher from here. —MJ

Danny Brown, Old

Label: Fool’s Gold Records

After a two year hiatus from his breakthrough mixtape, XXX, Old finds a sharper and more patient Danny Brown delivering a strong cohesive concept project. Old still features Danny’s drug-filled rockstar tales but shows his maturity and constant battles with his past. The 19-track album is split in two sides, reflecting on Brown’s past, his present and his nightmares, showcasing his honesty and depth as a writer.–ECM

Jay Z, Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Label: Roc Nation

When Jay Z drops an album, he makes sure people stand up and take notice; with Magna Carta…Holy Grail, he did just that, partnering with Samsung for an album release that made first effort since Watch The Throne went platinum within a day and instantly soundtracked everyone’s Fourth of July barbecues. And it has its share of big songs—”FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” has one of the best beats of the year, “Holy Grail” was a massive radio smash, and “BBC” was one of the slept-on songs of the year. But despite its obvious success, it marks the second album in a row where Jay rapped about his Basquiats. Mothafuckas can’t rhyme no more, ’bout crime no more, but there can be a little more variation in subject matter than that.—DR

Earl Sweatshirt, Doris

Label: Tan Cressida, Columbia Records

Doris is Earl Sweatshirt’s first full-length album for Columbia Records and his official return to music. Doris find Earl forgoing the violent lyrics that was a signature of OF in its early days and shows his well rounded skills as a MC. The production is mostly dark and menacing yet never unsettling. It’s not always focused and takes extremes at times, but it fully shows his rapping ability as he effortlessly stacks his words, vividly illustrating every details of whatever story he wants to get across.–ECM

J. Cole, Born Sinner

Label: Columbia, Roc Nation

After a two year hiatus, J. Cole gifted hip-hop heads with his sophomore LP Born Sinner. The project that features guest appearances from Miguel, Kendrick Lamar, and TLC served as the follow up to Cole’s 2011 debut Cole World: The Sideline Story. As a current gold LP and previously with the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 100, which beat out Kanye’s Yeezus for first week sales, Cole’s second studio album should be at the top of everyone’s year-end list.—MJ

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