Picks by Kevin Cortez
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE
Flatbush Zombies – “MRAZ”
Run the Jewels – “A Christmas Fuckin’ Miracle”
Chance the Rapper ft. Nate Fox and Lil K – “Pusha Man”
Pusha T – “King Push”
Action Bronson – “Pepe Lopez”
Winner: Run the Jewels dropped one of the dopest albums of 2013, with El-P and Killer Mike literally having fun and bouncing lyrics off each hardcore beat dropped. Every single track was a force field with the mantra “Don’t fucking fuck with us” echoing back. But on the very last track of the album, “A Christmas Fuckin’ Miracle,” the duo got super serious and dropped some high-grade truth; deep ass shit about their childhood, upbringing, and motivation to keep in the rap game. They reign realness all over uplifting Christmas bells and deep synths, pretty much writing their miracles and existing as modern day underground legends. Like if Scrooge and the Grinch started robbing clowns in broad day light.
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
Drake featuring Majid Jordan – “Hold On We’re Going Home”
Drake featuring Sampha – “Too Much”
Pusha T featuring Chris Brown – “Sweet Serenade”
Tyler, the Creator featuring Pharrell Williams – “IFHY”
Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson – “Bound 2”
Winner: Yo, I really don’t like Drake that much, but I can’t deny the absolute power Drake and Sampha have together on “Too Much.” The way Sampha croons all over that piano is a thing a beauty and really make really makes the track a contender for best encapsulation of Drake’s style and direction. It’s ballad, layering the stress and success of Drake’s commercial and family life. Cue Sampha’s sweet serenading lyrics: “Don’t think about it too much,” and you’ve got the best rap/sung collaborations of 2013.
BEST RAP SONG
Pusha T – “Numbers On The Boards”
Eminem – “Bad Guy”
Kanye West – “New Slaves”
Kendrick Lamar – “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”
Drake featuring Jay Z – “Pound Cake”
Winner: “New Slaves” is one of the best written songs of 2013, hands down. Look at powerhouse of folks behind it: Ben Bronfman (who previously helped West with “Monster”), Rhymefest (who helped West with “Jesus Walks,” which also won a Grammy), Frank Ocean, the incredible poet Malik Yusef, Cyhi the Prynce, Travi$ Scott, Elon Rutberg (who helped wrote the Cruel Summer film), Mike Dean, and a couple of other dudes I don’t really know. All these men combined their efforts to create something controversial, powerful, and never officially released as a single. People know “New Slaves” regardless, though it may seem a bit foreign for a mainstream artist to release, that aids in its pioneering ability and ambition.
BEST RAP ALBUM
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Drake – Nothing Was the Same
Kanye West – Yeezus
Danny Brown – Old
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels
Winner: Alright, as much as I really would like to say Danny Brown’s Old should win best rap album, Kendrick Lamar needs to grab a Grammy. He missed 2012’s deadline and Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is the greatest and one of most important hip hop albums of the last decade. (*Look at crowd all bug-eyed and shit*) It’s a goddamn record, from front to back. It tells a story, it’s cohesive; every hook, sample, backing vocal, and verse was extremely well-thought out and grand, and overall, the entire album plays as a record that is almost impossible to stop once it has begun.
Overrated? Maybe at this point in time, but the absolute least that should happen for Kendrick is a Grammy win. No excuses, no substitutes. If Macklemore and Ryan Lewis end up taking the Grammy, the award will have officially lost meaning. Just remember, whether you hate or love the award ceremony, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences created this category to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” If every music critic, rapper, and music aficiano has awknowledged the importance and talent put into Kendrick’s debut effort, why can’t the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences do the same?
BEST RAPPER COLLABORATION
Big Sean featuring Jay Electronic and Kendrick Lamar – “Control”
Earl Sweatshirt featuring Vince Staples – “Hive”
Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Nosetalgia”
Danny Brown featuring Freddie Gibbs – “The Return”
ASAP Rocky featuring Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. – “1 Train”
Winner: After Good Kid, M.A.A.D. dropped Kendrick Lamar unleashed a whole slew of incredible features. Can’t front like he didn’t — some of the best verses of 2013 came from Lamar on other people’s songs. Pusha T had the best chemistry with K. Dot on “Nosetalgia,” and I doubt that’s even a debatable claim. Let’s face it: You probably can’t even drop a quote from Jay Electronica’s verse on “Control.” Half of “1 Train,” featured some of the weaker verses from all the emcees (don’t get me wrong, they’re still REALLY fucking hard verses). But what song of 2013 had the PERFECT blend of emcees on one topic, creating a conhesive and quotable anthem? Pusha T’s “Nosetalgia,” with both Kendrick and Push painting vivid pictures of selling coke, hustling, and the true grit and realism of the streets.
BEST LOSE-CONTROL-AND-BECOME-SOMEBODY-YOUR-MOTHER-WOULN’T-RECOGNIZE-IN-A-LINE-UP SONG
A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky – “Shabba”
Danny Brown – “Side B (Dope Song)”
Migos featuring Drake – “Versace (Remix)”
A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky, French Montana, SchoolBoy Q, and Trinidad Jame$ – “Work (Remix)”
Ace Hood featuring Future and Rick Ross – “Bugatti”
Winner: A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord had a lot of bass-ridden beats, banging hard in the trunk and harder at shows. “Shabba” is that one staple that stands out as the go to “I-wanna-party-and-hit-people,” kinda songs. It fucking knocks, no doubt, and it’s super catchy, so you can rap alongside Ferg within a single listen of the track. In fact, tell me you’re not singing it right now in your head.