15. Dwynell Roland – Factors EP
As a bright new face on the scene, Dwynell Roland proved that he is a factor with his latest EP. By combing his bouncey flow with his ear for engaging beats, Factors shows the skill and potential within Roland and his talented supporting cast of Finding Novyon and Devon Reason. The catchy single “98′ Regal” alone a standout moment of the year as he illustrates his day-to-day thoughts with braggadocios bravado. Along with his unstoppable grind mode, Dwynell Roland is not fading out anytime soon.
14. The Stand4rd – The Stand4rd
The Stand4rd debut self-titled album (aka I Am A Fucking Stoner) is a hazy, mystified journey into these young men’s reality. The super group consisting of Allan Kingdom, Psymun, Bobby Raps and Corbin (formerly Spooky Black) have found their comfort zone on this album. Crafted with the help of the legendary Doc McKinney, The Stand4rd have established their place in the scene and beyond.
13. Dem Atlas – DWNR EP
After taking part in his first national tour with Atmosphere and Prof, deM atlaS released his first EP under the RSE imprint. By combining the organ and synth soaked grunge-hop with his hook heavy melodies, the St. Paul eccentric is carving a lane for the angst ridden youth and becoming a star in the process. Dem Atlas floats effortlessly from raps to singing and back again that illustrate his frustrations and observations about growing up and being an adult as seen in the song “Wannabe A Kid Again.” With 2014 closing out on a high note, it’s time to get down with this sensational Rhymesayer.
12: Franz Diego – Float
The Illuminous 3 MC & Turnt Up! host returns to get fans twerking and searching for a sense of self on his latest full length, Float. After almost losing the album due to a computer crash, BLVCK SPVCE producer 1990 saved this sonic journey by mixing together the stems of Enron Hubbard’s acid trap productions with Diego’s philosophical mind. Between the nihilistic “Long As Im Alive” and the wagged out “Yamagucci,” this is an album that you can bring to the club and the classroom.
11: Why Khaliq – Room 603
Like many artists, the transitional stages of life are great sources of inspiration for their crafts. Why Khaliq was no different as he dropped out of St. Cloud State University to pursue his passion for music and his desire for #FreeLiving. The result is the DJ Youngstar hosted project, Room 603, allowing Khaliq to air out his frustrations with cliches, alcoholism and relationships; all with a touch of tenderness. Although his song is “Nothins Gon Change,” it’s best to keep an eye on this MC because he is going to be someone to watch in the coming year.
10: Big Wiz & Big Jess – Glass Half Full
The unlikely duo of Big Wiz & Big Jess turned out to be a rejuvenating collaboration. The two styles mesh perfectly over classic sounding production from Big Jess, Mike the Martyr, and Mac Nass. In the case of Glass Half Full, these two veterans have found themselves sounding on point track after track. Lyrically, the Big Brothers (they should have called themselves that) split their bars between fun songs like “Beard Game Proper” and perspective rhymes like in “Crazy.” Hopefully this wont be the last album from the duo.
9: Sifu Hotman – Embrace The Sun
With Dem Atlas’ meteoric rise with Rhymesayers and Guante going viral on Upworthy, no one expected a full length release from Sifu Hotman. By pairing the remastered songs from their debut EP with newer conceptual creations, three of the most underrated figures in Twin Cities Hip Hop swung a sledgehammer against the scenesterism while brandishing raw skills reminiscent of golden era boom bap. In a 30 minute cipher combining Guante’s poetic defiance, Dem Atlas’ melodicism and DJ Rube’s jazzy beats; Sifu Hotman struck purist perfection and delivered a release that is sure to be embraced by breakers and scene shakers alike.
8: K.Raydio & O.D. – One Drop
Less than a year after LucidDreamingSkylines, expectations were high for K.Raydio. Thankfully she lived up to the hype by teaming up with O-D to release a new album full of sweet serenades over funky, retro productions. After 40 minutes of empowering anthems, K. Raydio is quickly becoming Minnesota’s answer to Ms. Erykah Badu while O-D is bringing it all back to the basement with his latest audible offerings. Just like the title, this is one that will make you drop what you’re doing and dance.
7: Illab – Good Life, Life’s Good, Worth Living
One half of Minneapolis’ Conflict of Interest dropped his latest album, “Good Life, Life’s Good, Worth Living.” With battle tested rhymes and a flow that is not unlike EL-P, Illab breaks down the life and times of Jacob Stone in an entertaining fashion. With beats provided by Dimitry Killstorm and Mike Frey features from the Metermaids, INF and Freez of Illumionous 3, Illab is back to bring some gritty goodness to your system. Or in other words “it’s good, worth listening.”
6: Sims – Field Notes
Sims continues to offer interesting critiques of American life. Field Notes follows in the futuristic production of No Kings and maintains some of the sample-based warmth of Bad Time Zoo. The album features Sims at his most frustrated in songs like “Uh Huh” and “They Don’t Work For Us” and his most vulnerable in the song “The Whale.” Field Notes is only seven tracks long but there is no filler, each song is as memorable as the last.
5: Mally – The Colors of Black
After teasing us with Strange Rhythm EP, Mally followed up with his most revealing project to date. With the expansive assortment of sounds from Get Cryphy’s Last Word, Mr. 612 allowed the world to hear his pain and revel in his triumphs. From the weary working class anthem “A Long Day” to the frantic banger “City of Fear,” Mally continues to prove that he is the truth and deserves to be mentioned as one of the most revered/feared MCs in the state.
4: Manny Phesto – Southside Looking In
One of the most active members of the Twin Cities Hip Hop scene dropped his long awaited debut album “Southside Looking In.” With the fantastic soulful production from Long Doe’s Mike the Martyr, Manny Phesto hits the people with soul filled ‘Reality Checks’ and flows with the steady and highly relatable streams of consciousness. Plus with fantastic features Metasota, Greg Grease, Akrite & Axel Foley; this is sure to welcome the world into the Southside State of Mind.
3: Mike Mictlan – HELLAFRREAL
After the lackluster response to Snaxxx, the Doomtree dynamo got Hella Frreal on his third solo release. With his boundless energy to match his staccato spitted slanguage, Mictlan showcases the balance between his larger than life persona with the real Mikey facing his innermost turmoil. While the liner notes are stuffed full of the best beatmakers in the state on songs ranging from the restless rally cry on “Wild at Heart” to the tense scene portrayed in “Clapp’d,” this is fun and fundamental listen for anyone lurking for the unique.
2: Muja Messiah – God Kissed It, The Devil Missed It
The B-Boy D-Boy returns with an album that is as suave as his voice. Like Manny Phesto, it’s entirely produced by Mike the Martyr’s soulful boom-bap beats, allowing Muja Messiah to paint the gritty realities faced by those in the “Northside Nightmares” and confront the injustices that have perpetuated throughout our society such as police brutality (It Goes Down) and roots of evil within the almighty dollar (Pocket Full of Slave Owners). With help from Planet Asia, I Self Devine, Brother Ali, Nazeem, Felipe Cuauhtli, Maria Isa and Boots Riley of The Coup; this album does not miss a beat from beginning to end. For fans of the scene and beyond, this is one not to be missed.
1: Toki Wright x Big Cats! – Pangaea
When you bring together one of the most respected MCs in the Midwest with one of the most innovative producers in Minnesota, the result is something of epic proportions. A concept album that feels like watching an IMAX documentary on the Earth, Pangaea perfectly balances Toki Wright’s zen like lyricism with Big Cats atmospheric R&B productions in a grand and mystifying manner. Along with one of the most poignant songs of the year (Gatekeepers) and the haunting assistance of Bomba de Luz’s Lydia Liza and Crunchy Kids’ Eric Mayson, this is sure to be a timeless classic that will unite listeners together in the spirit of a shared ancestry from a land where all things were born.