16. Kevin Gates, 'Luca Brasi 2'
The Baton Rouge-based rapper Kevin Gates has moved in a steady incline over the past two years. The definition of a street-rap auteur, Gates has yet to produce a major crossover single, but his fanbase is one of hip-hop's most passionate and invested. Like last year, 2014 hosted two Kevin Gates tapes. The early By Any Means included a few of his best records, but overall felt like an odds-and-ends compilation. But this month's Luca Brasi 2, much like its prequel, is one of the year's most consistent releases. Packed with emotive, confessional rapping ("In My Feelings") and laced with sung choruses that manage the neat trick of sounding at once gritty and soothing ("Wassup With It"), Gates bridges the soft/hard divide like few others. D.D.