9. J.I.D, 'The Never Story'
The Never Story is the most promising album to come from the roster of young rappers on J. Cole's Dreamville Records label. J.I.D has a limber, alluringly raspy voice, the courage to not submerge his vocals beneath bunker-busting production, and the smarts to keep this album to a svelte 40 minutes. The 27-year-old Atlantan largely ignores the style of production that dominates his city's hip-hop scene at the moment, reaching back instead to older sounds: live basslines, snapping drums and Rhodes-like keyboard sounds. The exception is "Never," a nasty, buzzing Childish Major-produced outlier which deserved to be a ubiquitous radio hit. Halfway through the track, though, the beat suddenly morphs into something closer to mid-1990s New York boom-bap. "Down comes the boogie and up jumps the funk," J.I.D raps. "This beat takin' a beating, I hand out the lumps." E.L.