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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

Best Rap Albums

The Best Rap Albums of 2014

The traditional idea of the major label rap album seems on the decline — though that didn't stop Nicki Minaj, Future and YG from making great ones — as fans of hip-hop, a genre in its 41st year, are more and more driven by the Internet, bringing worldwide attention to local talent from Washington, D.C. (Shy Glizzy) to Santiago, Chile (Ana Tijox) to Atlanta (too many to name). Though this often means SoundCloud singles (the lo-fi hits of I Love Makonnen, Dej Loaf, Bobby Shmurda and OT Genesis are giving modern rap radio its most independent feel since the Eighties), there's no shortage of great mixtapes, free drops and, in the case of Run the Jewels, high-quality 320kbps self-drops of an album headed to record stores. Here are 40 of the best.

DJ Quik, 'The Midnight Life'
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DJ Quik, ‘The Midnight Life’

Rap music in 2014 is a place where artists float songs to the Internet with wishes of catching a wave — and then hoping its long enough to cobble together a coherent album. It's a place where your single might be produced by the same guy who has 10 other beats on the radio and 10 more to come. DJ Quik's ninth album, The Midnight Life, on the other hand, arrived fully formed, sounding like nothing else except the classically funky beats he's been crafting for more than two decades. It opens with the Compton legend rapping over a banjo and closes with an instrumental of laid-back guitar riffs and piano chords. In between he laments the cancellation of Arsenio Hall's revived talk show and devotes an entire song to longtime session guitarist Robert "Fonksta" Bacon. J.S.