I’d like to start this off by thanking everyone that has been a constant supporter of Embassy: Interactive for the couple years that I’ve had the site running now. I love that I can share with you guys some great music and appreciate you and the artists for everything you do that keeps me motivated to keep passing around nothing but quality work pretty much daily. 2013 was a great year for music and below are the standout albums that held my attention from the time of their release to the present day still. If you trust my taste in music these albums will definitely keep you satisfied from the first listen on if you’ve never heard them. The list below is in alphabetical order and links are provided with each album for you to go listen to the albums and either purchase the album or download it free if the option is available. Without further adieu…
Embassy Interactive Presents Favorite Albums of 2013
AB & 14KT – Saturn Return
A collaborative R&B album that was also a 5 year labor of love, singer Aaron “AB” Abernathy and producer 14KT show that it was not all for naught with the perfectly executed album “Saturn Return”. Conceptually the album is a story of sorts, as it centers on the tumultuous relationship of the main characters AB and Lalah. Album producer 14KT was a low-key beast in 2013 and it would be almost criminal if he’s not being utilized by some big named artists for tracks in 2014. AB has been doing his thing for years and hopefully this will be the wake up call the world needed.
Favorites: Lover’s Galaxy, Can I Be Your Lover, Forgotten
Click here to preview/purchase: AB & 14KT – Saturn Return
Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips 2
Earlier this year Action Bronson’s EP “Saaab Stories” made my 2013 Mid Year favorites list. While that EP spawned Bronson’s biggest hit of his career so far with “Strictly 4 My Jeeps” and shows how he gets busy over Harry Fraud’s production, there’s no denying that Bronson’s personality and creativity gets truly displayed when he’s paired with producer Party Supplies. The results of this lead to Bronson being more charismatic, doing things like incorporating more skits and humorous sidebars, while also flawlessly rocking over instrumentals which sample “Tequila” (of Pee Wee Herman fame) on the track “Pepe Lopez” or a “Jackin’ For Beats” style jacking of ’80s radio classics on the track “Contemporary Man”. Bronson became one of Hip-Hop’s breakout stars in 2013 and I’m sure that he’s only gonna keep that momentum going into 2014.
Favorites: Jackson & Travolta feat. Meyhem Lauren, Contemporary Man, In The City feat. Jeff Woods
Click here to preview/download: Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips 2
Beyoncé – Beyoncé
The top secret self titled release from Beyoncé is in my opinion her best project since her debut album “Dangerously In Love”. What I liked most about the album is that Beyoncé music on this project in my opinion targets a more mature audience in terms of it’s sexiness, which is something I never felt was done before. I could also be wrong because I will admit that I’ve never just sat and listened to Beyoncé albums that same way I do music more targeted to my demographic. The genius move in the album was also making a video for every song, as it gave guys like me something to watch while checking out the music.
Big K.R.I.T. – King Remembered In Time
K.R.I.T for me has always been an artist that is easy to support and root for. This even occurred when I felt that his talent hadn’t matched his output. The same issues I’ve experienced with J. Cole’s music are what I’ve had with K.R.I.T’s, but I do believe K.R.I.T is more ahead of the curve as an overall artist. I believe those problems will all be in the past based on the excellent project “King Remembered In Time”. K.R.I.T completely hits the bulls’ eye with this project and it is easily one of my favorite Hip-Hop albums of this year. His production on the album is as strong as ever, and his ability to mix introspection and uplifting song concepts and throw in something for people to party to made this an easy choice to add to this list.
Favorites: My Trunk feat. Trinidad James, Banana Clip Theory, Life Is A Gamble feat. BJ The Chicago Kid
Click here to preview/download: Big K.R.I.T – King Remembered In Time
Black Milk – No Poison, No Paradise
Black Milk’s album “No Poison, No Paradise” is to me the best display lyrically and possibly even musically by the Detroit emcee/producer. “NPNP’s” dark feel and story line is a much different animal than Black’s much celebrated previous release “Album Of The Year”, but the elements of Hip-Hop, Jazz and Funk on the production side of things gives the album the perfect mood to carry the concept of a young man finding his way around life for better or worse in the worst environments.
Favorites: Interpret Sabotage feat. Mel, Monday’s Worst, Parallels feat. AB
Click here to preview/purchase: Black Milk – No Poison, No Paradise
Boldy James – My 1st Chemistry Set
It’s hard to argue against the fact that Alchemist was one of the most impactful producers of 2013 along with Timbaland and Statik Selektah. One of the best projects in collaboration with ALC was the album “My 1st Chemistry Set” by Detroit native Boldy James. While not a dazzling lyricist, Boldy’s strength lies in his gritty and very realistic lyrics of street life and drug dealing. Even when matched with proven lyrical standouts like Action Bronson, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt, James’ overall authenticity keeps your attention over Alchemist’s moody and trademark production.
Favorites: Moochie, What’s The Word, Give Me A Reason feat. Vince Staples
Click here to preview/purchase: Boldy James – My 1st Chemistry Set
Durag Dynasty – 360 Waves
Being a longtime fan of Durag Dynasty’s most familiar member Planet Asia and the albums’ producer Alchemist, seeing the album cover art work (easily my favorite since Action Bronson & Alchemist’s EP “Rare Chandeliers”) and being notoriously known via Twitter for representing all things durag related, it would be easy to call bias on having this album listed in my favorites. However, this album is really, really a sick piece of work. Not only does Alchemist provide Planet Asia, Tristate and Killer Ben with some very gritty production, the guys go completely ape shit over every track given. Vintage Cali Hip-Hop is delivered on “360 Waves”.
Favorites: Fish Meat feat. Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Spiral Event feat. Evidence, Yasir Arafat
Click here to preview/purchase: Durag Dynasty – 360 Waves
The Internet – Feel Good
Easily my favorite project from a newly discovered artist or group, Odd Future affiliated soul group The Internet deliver one of the best albums of 2013 with the very smooth and groovy album “Feel Good”. Honestly, any words I say to describe this album won’t do it justice. Just buy it and listen for yourself. You will not be disappointed, especially if you’re a fan of the Neo-Soul movement from the late 90’s. It will definitely take you back to that time.
Favorites: Tellem (Intro), Dontcha, You Don’t Even Know feat. Tay Walker
Click here to preview/purchase: The Internet – Feel Good
Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe’s album “The Electric Lady” was an excellent body of work from a truly talented singer and songwriter. Combining music with a message in the most entertaining way possible with heavy influences of Soul, Rock, Jazz and Gospel, this album to me was pretty much done with flawless execution (you may get tired of the radio skits after a few listens). As an added bonus not is Monáe an excellent performer she also raps better than most of these mainstream “emcees” you hear on the radio today.
Favorites: Givin Em What They Love feat. Prince, Primetime feat. Miguel, What An Experience
Click here to preview/purchase: Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Pt. 1
I had to listen to the album “The 20/20 Experience Pt. 1” by Justin Timberlake after all of the hype and promotion for the long awaited project finally died down. Seeing people go gaga over the not as good as advertised lead single “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay Z even made me second-guess myself for a while on what I might’ve been hearing and were my ears broken. I also couldn’t help but compare and contrast it to his previous album “Future Sex/Love Sounds” and not just listen to its own merit. The album itself is a very solid and well put together project with more than enough music to keep you dancing. It’s pretty much what you would expect from the duo of Timberlake and Timbaland who pick up right where they left off. Honestly, the true star of this album to me though is it’s chief songwriter James Fauntleroy. This album really made me more anxious for a full length solo project from him outside of his Cocaine 80s EPs more so than the second installment of “20/20 Experience”.
Favorites: Don’t Hold The Wall, Tunnel Vision, Let The Groove In
Click here to preview/purchase: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Expereience Pt. 1
Kenyon Dixon – The Higher Ground EP
I’ve been a fan of the now 2 time Grammy nominated songwriter (for his work on albums by Tyrese & TGT) Kenyon Dixon for a few years and have witnessed his steady progression as an artist with every solo EP he’s released. His latest project “The Higher Ground” to me is his best piece of work so far in his emerging career and was a favorite for several reasons. A prodigy of Tyrese, Dixon’s music does an excellent job in making a listener feel some type of emotion throughout the EP. Even more refreshing is that while his style is more fitting of a mainstream lane than chitlin circuit singer, his songwriting doesn’t use vulgar lyrics to stand out like his peers R. Kelly or The-Dream, etc, which to me is not only refreshing but if other artists take note that you can have commercial success without taking that route, it can’t help but help restore some faith in mainstream R&B music’s direction.
Favorites: All The Way feat. Alex Isley, Next Time, Guilty Pleasure feat. J.Doe
Click here to preview/download: Kenyon Dixon – The Higher Ground EP
Mack Wilds – New York: A Love Story
I can’t even lie, this was the album that surprised me the most out of everything I listened to this year. When I learned that Tristan “Mack” Wilds, formerly Michael from the greatest show ever The Wire, was now a singer, I admittedly looked at his new career with some scrutiny. However, upon learning that he was working under the tutelage of the great Salaam Remi, that definitely changed things for me and made me curious to hear what Wilds has to offer musically. The resulting project “New York: A Love Story” was a very entertaining R&B/Hip-Hop hybrid. Vocally, Wilds is comparable to Omarion and half of the production on the album marries Old School Hip-Hop elements with New School state of mind. Think of it as a new era Mary J. Blige “What’s The 411?” styled album from a young man’s perspective. While his rap lyrics do need improvement, this album as a whole was very entertaining with a ton of replay value. Personally I think this is the type of album Chris Brown would kill to make
Favorites: Magic, Keepin’ It Real, Don’t Turn Me Down
Click here to preview/purchase: Mack Wilds – New York: A Love Story
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P bka Run The Jewels are quickly becoming one of the best newly formed duos in Hip-Hop and their collaborative self titled EP is surely just the warm up to bigger things from these giants. Mike showed his ability to rock El-P’s intricate production with last years’ solo masterpiece “R.A.P. Music” and this time around we see what the two can do together lyrically. Their chemistry on tracks is truly organic and the two bounce off one another with a Snoop and Dr. Dre type ease. What’s funny to me is seeing some websites calling Killer Mike the most improved emcee this year. They’ve OBVIOUSLY been sleeping, because even though Mike has a number of sick lyrics sprinkled throughout this project he’s been doing this shit for years.
Favorites: 36” Chain, DDFH, Sea Legs
Click here to preview/download: Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels
Ryshon Jones – In Theory
Released in January after experiencing a few delays with the release date I can definitely say the wait was worth it as “In Theory” is one of my favorite Hip-Hop album of 2013 and the best put together album in terms of cohesion and sequencing since Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, m.A.A.d City”. No hit or miss punch lines or forced singles will be found on “In Theory”. The level of introspection, realism and hunger exhibited on “In Theory” is not only refreshing but I think very impressive given the fact he was only 21 during the time of completion and shows a world of knowledge well beyond his years.
Favorites: False Reality feat. L.atasha A.lcindor, Her Remedy feat. CIDNINJA, Power Of Inspiration feat. Benny Love
Click here to preview/download: Ryshon Jones – In Theory
Skyzoo & Antman Wonder – An Ode To Reasonable Doubt
Skyzoo and producer Antman Wonder create a masterpiece to pay tribute to Jay Z on his birthday with the album “An Ode To Reasonable Doubt”. Skyzoo provides his own take on the original songs from Jay’s classic debut “Reasonable Doubt” with his his thoughts in the forefront and aided by his consistently impressive lyrical abilities under Wonder’s beautiful re-interpretation of the original album production, implementing live instrumentation and a Classical approach to the original tracks. I don’t know if Jay Z has heard the project yet, but one of Reasonable Doubt’s most influential contributors DJ Premier heard and loved the album.
Favorites: Meeting The Presidents, Praying Against D’Evils, Conversing On Coming Up feat. Diizco
Click here to preview/download: Skyzoo & Antman Wonder – An Ode To Reasonable Doubt
Honorable Mentions: (Non Hip-Hop)
Bilal – A Love Surreal
I wanted to love this album more than I did, I truly did. It is still a very solid and well put together LP, just not something I listened to repeatedly months later. “West Side Girl” and “Lost For Now” were my favorite songs from the album.
Click here to preview/purchase: Bilal – A Love Surreal
Chrisette Michele – Better
This was my second favorite mainstream release from a female R&B artist after Janelle Monáe. “Better” was an excellent comeback project from Michele, with the singles “A Couple Of Forevers” and “Let Me Win” showing why it’s earned it’s Grammy and Soul Train Award nominations.
Click here to preview/purchase: Chrisette Michele – Better
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Even though Daft Punk’s single “Get Lucky” was pretty much the most unavoidable song of 2013 along with Robin Thicke’s single “Blurred Lines”, my favorite song from the album “Lose Yourself To Dance” with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers was the true highlight from the solid musically experimental album “Random Access Memories”.
Click here to preview/purchase: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Haim – Days Are Gone
My second favorite musical discovery in 2013 behind The Internet would definitely be the three young ladies Haim. This was also my lesson in not judging a book by it’s cover because these ladies are just flat out good. I was actually on the fence about putting it in the favorites and not the honorable mentions. “Falling” and “My Song” are two of the winners on this album.
Click here to preview/purchase: Haim – Days Are Gone
Jarell Perry – Simple Things
Jarell Perry became a breakout singer in 2013 with not only his debut EP “Simple Things” but also by aligning with Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital for the album’s video releases and making notable contributions on works from artists like Locksmith. Expect more from Perry in 2014 and definitely download “Simple Things”, especially the singles “Awkward” and “Healing”.
Click here to preview/download: Jarell Perry – Simple Things
Khari Mateen – WXPN: The Key Studio Sessions
Khari Mateen has been doing his thing as a producer and artist for a while and most notably providing production to The Roots on their Grammy nominated album “Game Theory”. I anticipate him fully emerging as an artist in 2014 with the continuation of his “Qualia” project. The live versions of “Go Again” and “Move” on “The Key Studio Sessions” are GOLDEN.
Click here to preview/download: Khari Mateen – WXPN: The Key Studio Sessions
Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go
Mayer Hawthorne’s most recent release was probably one of the most slept on albums of the year, and if the lead single “Her Favorite Song” isn’t on your list of favorite singles I think that should be reevaluated. Other highlights include “Crime” featuring Kendrick Lamar and “Reach Out Richard”.
Click here to preview/purchase: Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go
Quadron – Avalanche
“Avalanche” was my mid-year favorite R&B album of 2013 prior to the releases by The Internet and Janelle Monáe but it’s definitely a must own album. The duo of Danish duo Coco O and Robin Hannibal bka Quadron provide a soulful musical experience and Coco O’s voice perfectly complements Hannibal’s production. Check for the album standouts “Hey Love” and “Better Off” feat. Kendrick Lamar.
Click here to preview/purchase: Quadron – Avalanche
RJD2 – More Is Than Isn’t
I was a little on the fence adding this primarily instrumental project “More Is Than Isn’t” by producer RJD2 to the non Hip-Hop side of this honorable mentions list, but the single “Tempermental” performed by Phonte is one of my favorite songs of this year and instrumentals like “Behold, Numbers!” would jam with a listener of any audience.
Click here to preview/purchase: RJD2 – More Is Than Isn’t
Thundercat – Apocalypse
Collaborating with producer Flying Lotus on the album “Apocalypse”, Thundercat excels with this album which was actually inspired by the loss of one of his closest friends and musical partners, Austin Peralta. My favorite tracks on the album would be “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” and “Oh Sheit it’s X”.
Click here to preview/purchase: Thundercat – Apocalypse
Honorable Mention (Hip-Hop)
Add-2 & Khrysis – Between Heaven & Hell
Chicago native Add-2 connected with the always dope producer Khrysis to make his Jamla Records debut with “Between Heaven & Hell”. This project reminded me of a more lyrical version of Black Milk’s album “No Poison, No Paradise” conceptually with the witty “Club Church” and introspect “Runnin’” being my standout favorites from the project
Click here to preview/download: Add-2 & Khrysis – Between Heaven & Hell
Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip – The Abstract & The Dragon
A mix of freestyles, remixes and some old collaborations between these two Hip-Hop legends with a couple new tracks sprinkled here and there, Bussa Buss & Q-Tip’s mixtape was definitely one for the Hip-Hop heads. The lead single from the project “Thank You” was like a breath of fresh air.
Click here to preview/download: Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip – The Abstract & The Dragon
Danny Brown – Old
I kind of feel like a hypocrite for loving this album the way I did. I spent a large part of the year detesting any and all music that had references to usage of the drug Molly and made sure not to promote it on my site. Here comes Danny Brown with the highly entertaining album “Old”, which is split into two parts conceptually. Side A of the album Brown tells us of his past and hustling days, while Side B is the Rap/EDM drug use encouraging wild man we’re familiar with today. My favorite tracks from the album are “The Return” featuring Freddie Gibbs and “Way Up Here” featuring Ab-Soul.
Click here to preview/purchase: Danny Brown – Old
Jay Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
I never thought I would be so on the fence about a Jay Z album but “Magna Carta Holy Grail” was truly a last minute addition to my honorable mentions list. While I think most fans would agree that this may be one of Jay’s most solid “post retirement” albums, he definitely is not the same lyricist that he once was. The production on this for me was rock solid and some of my favorites being “Picasso Baby” and “Oceans” featuring Frank Ocean.
Click here to preview/purchase: Jay Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
Kid Cudi – Indicud
“Indicud” was an album that I initially contemplated putting on my midyear favorites list but ultimately left off. It’s a decision I regret because I don’t think the album got the attention it deserved outside of Cudi’s diehard fan base. Even thought “Indicud” was met with mixed reviews, I dug the dark feeling, mostly self produced project. Cudi does kind of get outdone on his own songs on the album though, notably by Kendrick Lamar on “Solo Dolo, Pt. 2”.
Click here to preview/purchase: Kid Cudi – Indicud
Marco Polo – Newport Authority 2
Producer Marco Polo hit the mark with the accuracy of Hawkeye on “Newport Authority 2”. I preferred this project over Polo’s very dope follow up, “PA2: The Director’s Cut”. Polo’s production along with DJ Shylow’s mixing skills perfectly blended the music of Hip-Hop legends Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Das Efx with current mainstays Lil Fame of M.O.P., Torae and Ruste Juxx, as well as gave shine to some artists on the rise like Midaz The Beast, Big Gutta and Jayshawn to rock over this cohesive and amazingly produced project.
Click here to preview/download: Marco Polo – Newport Authority 2
Ransom & Statik Selektah – The Proposal
Knowing I was going to like the collaborative album “The Proposal” from Ransom and Statik Selektah was pretty much a no-brainer. Ransom has been rapping his ass off since the early days as a member of the A-Team and Statik Selektah has been the most consistent DJ/Producer since Green Lantern. The only question on this project would be if Ransom’s past beef with Joe Budden and more recent situation with Nicki Minaj would overshadow the final project. For me it didn’t.
Click here to preview/purchase: Ransom & Statik Selektah – The Proposal
Roc Marciano – Marci Beaucoup
If you’re a fan of witty, well orchestrated slick talk on records then Roc Marciano is definitely an artist you need to be a fan of. Marci’s newest album “Marci Beaucoup” may be heavy on guest appearances, but the NY heavyweight never gets out shined on any of his work as his words glide across every track with excellent wordplay. My favorite track from the album would probably be “Squeeze” featuring KA and Guilty Simpson.
Click here to preview/purchase: Roc Marciano – Marci Beaucoup
Statik Selektah – Extended Play
The best compilation album of 2013, Statik Selektah assembles an All Star lineup of the undergrounds’ best on his album “Extended Play”. Statik produced every track on the project and aligned some mouthwatering track lineups. I will also confidently say that Black Thought’s verse on the Raekwon and Joey Bada$$ featured “Birds Eye View” is my pick for verse of the year (sorry Kendrick).
Click here to preview/purchase: Statik Selektah – Extended Play
Willie The Kid – Aquamarine
Willie The Kid released two projects this year, “Aquamarine” and the Alchemist produced “Masterpiece Theatre”. As much as I love Alchemist’s tracks, “Aquamarine” was for me the more enjoyable project. Willie showcased the same type of lyricism and nimble wordplay on both projects, however the production on “Aquamarine” was better and allowed it to have more replay value. Tracks like “Moving Forward” and “Aquahydrate” were easy picks as favorites.
Click here to preview/download: Willie The Kid – Aquamarine
That concludes the list. I look forward to some very anticipated releases in 2014, which early in the year will include new projects from Slaughterhouse, Toni Braxton & Babyface, Skyzoo and fellow emcee Torae’s collaborative album, Ryshon Jones, Jamla Records, Khari Mateen, Lupe Fiasco and a few more I’m sure I’m forgetting. I also look forward to sharing more music and interviews with you guys, as I’m set to begin the year with even more fire and some new site additions and features as well. 2014 is shaping up to be a great year and I definitely wish you guys all the same. Happy New Year everybody!