40 Best Rap Albums of 2014

From Young Thugs to Old Droogs, Rich Gangs to broke MCs with expensive taste — the year's best in rhymes

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Ghostface Killah, '36 Seasons'

31. Ghostface Killah, '36 Seasons'

On recent albums like last year's Twelve Reasons to Die and this year's 36 Seasons, the Wu-Tang Clan's most consistent solo artist has refocused on concept albums that blend his love of Blaxploitation-style action and vintage Seventies cop funk. 36 Seasons is backed by the Revelations, a New York retro-soul unit that spin elongated grooves out of old soul standards like the Fuzz's "I Love You For All Seasons." As for the comic-book plot, it's a thrilling tale straight out of Luke Cage: Hero for Hire. Tony Starks returns to Shaolin after a nine-year absence only to be betrayed by rapper AZ, who performs magnificently in a co-starring role as a crooked cop: "The link to the cartel…it's that Denzel in Training Day shit." M.R.

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