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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.

Mac Miller - Faces
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Mac Miller, ‘Faces’

In the most underwhelming year for commercial rap music since Rick Rubin woke up in his dorm room, Mac Miller signed a record deal worth a reported $10 million. That contract came on the heels of Faces, a primarily self-produced mixtape that's the least pop full-length the 22-year-old has ever released. So what gives? Miller has deftly aged along with his fanbase, slowly transforming his music from squeaky and excitable kegger anthems to insular, stoned scribbles. Faces is his most blunted album yet, a 24-track inventory of drugs, snacks, Will Ferrell quotes and punchlines absentmindedly mashed into his iPhone. People in suits are betting money on this kid, but he remains blissfully focused on the everyday banalities of life: "I'm playing hot potato on the Winnebago/The chips are stale but they taste OK, though, when they dipped in queso." In a year this messed up, even the idea of eating Ruffles in peace was welcome escapism. J.S.