Welcome to our 2nd annual Year-End Cypher Awards for the year that has been 2013. There has been a LOT of music this year and while we would like to cover it all, it just isn’t possible. Like last year however, we will share our top seven albums of 2013 (including our album of 2013), The Most Underrated Artist of 2013, The Hardest Working Artist of 2013, The Most Controversial Artist of 2013, The Artist That We Wish We Had Known More About Award (a.k.a the Capital Steez Award), and The Next One Up Award, which will be an artist Cypher Sessions believes will make their mark in the upcoming year (starting with the artist that will do that in 2014). Let’s get into things.
For 2013, our Seven Best Albums are:
7. Joey Bad@$$: Summer Knights
6. Big K.R.I.T: King Remembered In Time
5. R.A. The Rugged Man: Legends Never Die
4. Rapsody: She Got Game
3. Talib Kweli: Prisoner of Conscious
2. J. Cole: Born Sinner
1. Run The Jewels: Run The Jewels
Honorable Mentions: M.I.A: Matangi , Kanye West: Yeezus, The Underachievers: Indigoism, Talib Kweli: Gravitas, CJ Fly: Thee Way Eye See It, Blu & Nottz: Gods in the Spirit, Swollen Members: Beautiful Death Machine, Black Milk: No Poison, No Paradise, ASAP Rocky: Long. Live. ASAP
There was just so much music this year to go over, and it was very difficult to listen to a lot of projects more than a couple of times. The seven best albums of 2013 were selected based upon the message that was given by the whole body of work, the delivery of that message, and it’s lasting impact. As always, there were projects listed above that have been discussed all year, and there were some projects that were criminally slept on. Run The Jewels’ self-titled debut was the one album to us that stood above the rest because of how Killer Mike and El-P put together a solid project. The social commentary that is a signature part of Killer Mike’s lyrics paired with the production and rhymes of El-P made this piece of work stand out. That was the major reason we selected it. It might not have been as critical as Born Sinner, Prisoner of Conscious, or any of the other top seven albums, but it did something that came across as something that’s harder and harder to do: it stuck with us.
The Most Underrated Artist of 2013:
The Brooklyn MC has been a veteran in the Hip Hop world for nearly two decades, but has always been an artist not given the attention he deserves for the lyricism he possesses. For 2013, he has also released two albums (Prisoner of Conscious, and Gravitas). Only Mac Miller, Tech Nine, and E-40 have released at least two albums this year (to our knowledge), and all of those artists received quite a bit of coverage for at least one of the two projects. Mr. Kweli did receive some coverage of Prisoner of Conscious, but it STILL did not receive anywhere near the attention it deserved. The combination of Talib’s story telling and rapid delivery while still offering thoughtful social commentary made him our most underrated artist of 2013. While there has been no word of a 2014 project coming as of yet, don’t be surprised if his second project Gravitas gains some buzz once the holidays pass (it’s available as a digital-only until the physical release in February 2014).
Hardest Working Artist of 2013:
Technically, Snoop didn’t make any Hip Hop albums this year. However, his personal journey to become a Rasta and make his Reggae-inspired Reincarnated, as well as his project with Dam-Funk on a funk-inspired collaboration called 7 Days of Funk required a lot of studio time. Most artists don’t make one album a year, and when they do it often doesn’t make a lot of noise due to all of the projects coming out nearly daily. The idea of a veteran in the game deciding to do two different projects that forced him to go about things in a newly creative way had us giving the West Coast artist nothing but respect. If you haven’t already listened to either of his 2013 projects, you can do so here:
The Most Controversial Artist of 2013:
This selection wasn’t one that had to even be really debated over at all. In fact, before we even finished typing the award above we knew it would be Mr. West. Grandiose tour stages, writing songs because of “glass ceilings” in the fashion world, continuing to fight with the press, giving one-sided interviews, and declaring “YOU DON’T HAVE THE ANSWERS SWAY!!!”…. that sums it all up pretty well. Kanye made it really easy to dislike him, and the only place we thought he performed really well was in the studio. Yeezus was a really good album, one that challenged our sonic expectations, and one that put several class issues into our faces bluntly. Were there some contradictions by Yeezy in this album? Of course. Did it make people discuss topics they might not have of as much as they did this year? It certainly contributed. All one can do is sit back and wait to see what Ye cooks up next year.
The Capital Steez Award (or, the Artist We Wish We Knew More About Award):
This guy was one of those few artists who was able to put out two different projects this year, and Watching Movies With The Sound Off was released around the same time as Born Sinner and Yeezus. It also was considered by a lot of listeners out there to be as good as the projects above and on some blogs-even better than Cole or Ye’s tape. We unfortunately have missed the boat on this guy, and what we have heard we’ve liked. There will be no surprise whatsoever that this emcee will be a name discussed for years to come.
The Next One Up Award:
This choice was one of the harder ones to choose because there were a number of artists that we feel will be making a lot of noise next year. CJ Fly and Dillon Cooper were also on the list to be considered but we HAD to go with the Beast Coast members UA. These two have a very similar sound to last year’s Next One Up Award winner Joey Bad@$$ in terms of content and beats. The Beast Coast movement is one that is honestly helping to put New York back in the limelight, and these two are adding quite a bit. Indigoism was on our Honorable Mention list because of The Underachievers’ ability to weave narratives of their environment together with their motivations and “lifted” perspectives on numerous topics. They will continue to do so in 2014, and more and more people will take notice. Just Watch.
That’s going to do it for Cypher Sessions in 2013. We yet again appreciate all of you who have been reading since the beginning, and for those of you who have started to check us out this year. It has been an interesting and enjoyable journey to write all of these articles, conduct some interviews, and discuss numerous topics in Hip Hop. Cypher Sessions will continue to expand next year with interviews, articles, and other things yet to be announced. As always, we hope you continue to check us out, and comment below with any thoughts, feedback, etc. Happy New Year, and we’ll see you next year!