Our favorite podcast of every year has finally arrived! This is our Best Of 2019 podcast. Trey Alessio and Brandon Ogden rank their top TV shows, movies, songs, albums, sports moments and much more from the past year and look ahead at 2020. This is the culmination of everything we're passionate about!
By Trey Alessio
2019 was a very interesting year for hip-hop. I hate when people say, "It was a down-year for rap." False. It was just different because we didn't have the top dogs like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole or even Drake drop solo albums, which made us rap fans look a little harder for good music in 2019. But if you know where to look, you know that 2019 produced some gems of hip-hop albums. Here’s this year’s top-10 list for hip-hop albums. (Reminder: this is based on what I like to call the “body of work,” meaning I take everything (quality of the music as a whole, storytelling, message, cohesion, production, rap skills, lyricism, streaming performance, chart performance, etc.) into account.)
10. Is He Real? - IDK
IDK has been creating solid, conceptual projects since 2016, and his label debut is no different. Is He Real? tackles some heavy topics regarding religion, faith and vices. The album lures you in with its eye-opening first track that showcases what appears to be a kid proclaiming that God isn’t real. IDK takes you on a short but dense roller-coaster-of-a-journey through this project. If IDK doesn’t believe in a higher power at the beginning of the project, he talks us through this ambiguous metaphor about colors and hints at his belief in its finale. The album ends with an epic cliffhanger.
I think Is He Real? could have definitely been a lot higher on this list, but the project’s ambiguity placed it where it is. I believe IDK even tweeted he wanted this album to be the Da Vinci code of hip-hop, so the obscurity is more-than-likely intended. My placement of this album could also be due to the fact that I haven't cracked the code on this album quite yet. Its core theme and the connected songs are generally up to the listener’s interpretation. I believe somewhere muddied in the album’s theme are IDK’s vices: money, women and sex, all of which may or may not have led to his mother’s death by AIDS, in one way or another. Don’t get me wrong, I think IDK is insanely talented. He can rap; he can sing; he can assemble a dope cast of features; he can piece together a solid, conceptual album. I just want to see IDK land the ship. I want to get a conclusion to this fascinating story. I’d also like to see what he has to offer on an album longer than 36 minutes, especially since the subject matter for Is He Real? is so dense. However, IDK has all but confirmed a continuation to this album entitled U See 4 Yourself, so hopefully we'll get more IDK in 2020!
9. uknowhatimsayin? - Danny Brown
It has always been about Danny Brown's singles for me until this point. uknowhatimsayin? is unapologetically unique and weird, just like Danny Brown. He just feels like he's having fun on this album, and it's a breath of fresh air. The content is more meaningful, and it reflects in the album's overall quality. With A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip lending his hand as executive producer, Danny almost feels like he is reinvigorated. Songs like "Change Up," "Theme Song" and "Savage Nomad" are still in rotation for me. uknowhatimsayin? seems like a more mature version of Danny Brown. This is a fun, weird, dope album that I wanted to make sure got its much-deserved recognition.
8. Snubnose - Grip
Pigeons & Planes and DJBooth put me on to this artist and this album, and I'm genuinely glad I pressed play. Newcomer Grip does a beautiful job of peeling back the curtains and painting a vivid, violent picture of his hometown through the perspective of a gun. Through vocal alterations, stout storytelling and precision lyricism, Grip gives us an example of what happens when a gun comes into the possession of a group of young boys and the troubles that come along with it. We get a number of different sounds and vibes on this album—soulful beats with violent storytelling, trap-bangers with quotable hooks and everything in between. Snubnose isn't really a linear story, but it's a unique concept and a distinctive way to piece together an album. Grip has proven he has the ability to be a force in hip-hop with this album. I'm really happy I discovered this artist and this project!
7. Eve - Rapsody
Rapsody is going to go down as one of the best female rappers to ever grace a mic. Eve is just a continuation of her ability to put out solid albums to add to her discography. This project is a nod to the empowerment of black women throughout history. Each track is named after a notable black woman, and Rapsody does an excellent job of honing the persona and aura of each female through each respective song. She also displays her amazing lyrical skills on this album. "Sojourner" featuring J. Cole is one of the most powerful songs I've heard in a minute. I really wish Rapsody got the credit she so rightfully deserves. Eve is a beautiful, honest and fun album, and it just might be my favorite Rapsody has offered so far.
6. Revenge of the Dreamers III - Dreamville
There always seems to be a "moment album" every year. Revenge of the Dreamers III was probably the biggest moment in hip-hop in 2019. 343 invitees shared their "golden tickets" on social media. Rappers, singers, producers and members of the media met the Dreamville team in Atlanta to create the third installment of the Revenge of the Dreamers compilations over a 10-day period. 147 songs were recorded with 27 guest artists and 30 guest producers, but only 18 songs made the cut for the album. The outcome was a powerhouse compilation that rocked the summer, all the way through the rest of the year. With the documentary to compliment the album, this moment felt like something special for music-discovery. There were artists I had never heard of before and artists to which I never thought I'd give a listen before hearing ROTD3. "Down Bad" might be the song of 2019, that Kendrick Lamar sneak-feature on "Under the Sun" was jaw-dropping, the old-school feel of "LamboTruck" was vicious, the bonkers-like chemistry on "Wells Fargo" was insane and the thought-provoking passion on "Sacrifices" touched my soul. These are just some of the highlights on this album. This is the moment Dreamville put their stamp on hip-hop and showed everyone they're a force to be reckoned with. TDE isn't the only label dominating rap anymore. Dreamville is here to stay!
5. Bandana - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
I won't lie, I hopped on the Freddie Gibbs train a little late. But, I promise, I'm here to stay. Top-to-bottom, Bandana with Freddie Gibbs showcasing his tremendous rapping and storytelling abilities over Madlib beats is outstanding. Who doesn't love a good, ole gangster album laced with drug-dealing raps? (See what I did there?) The concept stays the same in just about every song on this album, but Freddie Gibbs' flows and Madlib's production kept it interesting throughout the entire project. I was blown-away by this album the more and more I revisited it. The flows, the variety of production choices and the features were all top-notch. Pusha T may have one of the best verses of 2019 with his spot on "Palmolive," Anderson .Paak killed the hook on "Giannis" and Yasiin Bey and Black Thought's old school flavor breathed life on "Education." Don't sleep on the power-duo of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib.
4. Mirrorland - Earthgang
This is the first Earthgang project that I've ever listened to, and I was blown away. Olu a.k.a Johnny Venus and Wow Gr8 a.k.a. Doctur Dot together are one of the most unique acts I've heard in quite some time. Their contrasting voices, unforgettable deliveries and raw storytelling are unmatchable. Mirrorland tells Earthgang's collective story of their time in Atlanta. It paints a fun, weird, Wizard of Oz-like backdrop for their hometown and lets the listener hear a different perspective from the ATL. It's easy to compare Earthgang to OutKast because they're both duos from Atlanta with unique voices, but Earthgang definitely stands on its own. There's a different song for every mood. "Top Down" is joyous. "Bank" is an absolute banger. "Proud of U" is lovely. "This Side" is soulful. Every track portrays Earthgang's adventures in Atlanta in a very different way and peels back another layer in the process. Mirrorland isn't a linear story or even cohesive, for that matter, but it is fun, unique and has Atlanta written all over it. Earthgang is bound for stardom, and 2019 is just the beginning.
3. The Lost Boy - YBN Cordae
When I first heard about YBN Cordae jumping onto the hip-hip scene, I thought to myself, "Here comes another trap-rapper that will probably be another fad. He'll drop a couple hits, get some love on the radio and eventually fade away." That was before I pressed play on any of his music. I was sorely mistaken. YBN Cordae's debut album The Lost Boy is amazing. This is a cohesive, thought-provoking, lyrical album with different vibes for different moods and bangers and deep-cuts to match. It's a story about family, dream-chasing and finding one's identity. YBN Cordae is only 22 years old, but he feels like an old-soul. Even though this is his first project, and he still has much to learn and hone as an artist, Cordae feels like a seasoned veteran. Much to my surprise, he is a lyricist, a storyteller. I think it would've been super easy for Cordae to appeal to mainstream hip-hop audiences and gravitate toward what's popular right now, but instead he stuck to his guns and created a special piece of art with The Lost Boy. It goes to show that things pay off when you simply tell your story because now this is a GRAMMY-nominated album. I can't wait to see what the future holds for YBN Cordae!
2. Everything's For Sale - Boogie
No, this is not A Boogie Wit A Hoodie. Boogie is the next rapper from Compton to blow up. Everything's For Sale is his debut album on Shady Records. Yes, this man got Eminem's attention, so he caught mine as well. I've been bumping Everything's For Sale since January. It's an album that I think got overlooked in 2019, and it's a damn shame because it's an incredible piece of work. For me, the theme stems from the coinciding film. In the film, we see a young, black boy who is going door-to-door, trying to sell candy bars among other things. He offers the candy to an elderly couple, but they say, "What else ya got? Can you dance?" The boy then dances for them. The lady then asks, "Can you sing?" The boy then sings for the couple. It's very powerful. To me, this is the theme for the album: the music industry, fans and corporate America will buy anything to be entertained. They will pay anything for a black man to entertain them. But, I think, Boogie is telling us that a black man in America just wants to be himself. He doesn't want to sell himself, but everything is for sale because he must survive, and he needs money to do so. That's my take. I could be totally wrong, but that's what I think Boogie is trying to tell us.
This is a beautiful, introspective, lyrical album with a variety of different sounds and vibes. "Tired / Reflections" is, to no surprise, reflective. "Silent Ride" is thought-provoking. "Swap Meet" totes the line of love vs. lust. "Skydive" depicts insecurities in a relationship. "Soho," "Rainy Day" and "Self Destruction" are all bangers with deeper, conceptual meanings—something fellow Compton great Kendrick Lamar has mastered. Everything's For Sale is outstanding, and Boogie deserves all the credit.
1. IGOR - Tyler, the Creator
IGOR is a special album. It's not an album that's super lyrical. It doesn't showcase Tyler's rapping abilities. Some may even consider it a pop album. But it does evoke emotion. IGOR is a love story. A story of love and heartbreak and the realization that it will all be okay in the end. It's weird because I'm normally all about the lyrics. Tyler, the Creator was even quoted saying melodies and sounds are more important than lyrics—something to which I can't fully get behind. But something within this album struck a chord with me. It goes from "I think I'm falling in love" to "I'm running out of time to make you love me." It goes from "closing a door to opening a window" or finding a new perspective to finding love by looking elsewhere. It goes from "I'm your puppet" to "I'm coming to my senses" to "I don't love you anymore." It goes from love to heartbreak to "can we still be friends?" IGOR is a mixed-bag of emotions wrapped up in a linear, cohesive story that everyone can probably relate to.
For Tyler, the Creator to do something completely different than anything he's ever done in the past with IGOR, especially after the success of Flower Boy at the peak of his career, and then going no. 1 on the charts in the process is such a remarkable feat. I'm so happy IGOR is up for a Best Rap Album nomination at the GRAMMYs. It's an incredible work of art that deserves all the flowers.
Foto - Kota the Friend
My cousins put me on to Kota the Friend earlier this year. I had never heard any of his music before, but I'm really glad I decided to press play. This is an album about traveling, finding your way in life and making a point to create some memories along the way. It's a little lengthy with 19 tracks, but each song has a purpose to the overall story. It's a dense but easy listen. I'm highly impressed with Foto and Kota. I'll have my eye out for his follow-up project.
Rap or Go to the League - 2 Chainz
This is the best 2 Chainz album yet. There's a solid mix of introspective cuts with soulful samples and hearty trap-bangers. I, personally, think 2 Chainz shines on this album when he raps over non-trap instrumentals and tells a story. Rap or Go to the League comes out swinging with back-to-back-to-back deep cuts. "Forgiven," "Threat 2 Society" and "Money in the Way" all proved 2 Chainz wasn't playing around with this album. He also managed to throw in a few bangers like "Whip," "Momma I Hit a Lick" and "2 Dollar Bill." Even "Rule the World" squeaked in there as the radio-friendly track. This album has a little something for everybody. It didn't quite make my cut because I think there are some throwaway tracks on there that could've been kept off the album. However, 2 Chainz made huge strides with this project, and I wanted to give Rap or Go to the League its recognition.
Wow... That's Crazy - Wale
Wale made it a point to announce that he didn't care what critics thought about this album. He simply made these songs that made him content and hoped his fans would appreciate the body of work. Well, it worked because Wow... That's Crazy is definitely a top-3 Wale album—maybe even his best one yet—in my opinion. Wale has always been an outstanding lyricist, and this album proves no different. Wow... That's Crazy just feels like a breath of fresh air for Wale. He seems to be happier than ever, and it comes through in the music. "Sue Me," "Cliché" and "50 In Da Safe" are standouts for me. Wale just keeps doing his thing, quietly stacking up accolades and solid music in his discography.
K.R.I.T. Iz Here - Big K.R.I.T.
I had high expectations for K.R.I.T. after his massive double-album 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time. K.R.I.T. Iz Here didn't quite get there for me, but it was still a fun listen. Songs like "K.R.I.T. Here," "Everytime" and "Prove It" are still in rotation, but, overall, I think the album is a little bloated. K.R.I.T. is ultra-talented, but something about this project didn't have the legs that 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time did. He's a force to be reckoned with, and I'm excited to see what else K.R.I.T. has up his sleeve.
One of the Best Yet - Gang Starr
I'm a 90s baby, so I wasn't fully versed into the hip-hop culture until the early-to-mid-2000s. With that being said, I had heard of Gang Starr before but never pressed play on any of their old albums. So, One of the Best Yet was my first Gang Starr album, and I really enjoyed it. With the legendary producer DJ Premier behind the beats and the late MC Guru spitting bars, it's hard not to appreciate this album. It just feels like an old school project. "Family and Loyalty" with J. Cole is the standout as I think it should be a candidate for Song of the Year. I love the breaks and the DJ scratches and the easy-going rhymes and vibes. One of the Best Yet is just a dope album. Now, I've got to go back and listen to the classic Gang Starr albums.
The Big Day - Chance the Rapper
The Big Day is the most misunderstood album of 2019. Chance the Rapper got a ton of hate for this album, and I just don't get it. This is a concept album about love, marriage and Chance's wife—something a lot of hip-hop fans may not fully appreciate. If I had to guess where all the hate stems from, I'd say it probably comes with the expectations surrounding this album. Chance the Rapper is huge. Acid Rap might be the greatest mixtape of all-time, and Coloring Book became the first streaming-only mixtape/album to win a GRAMMY. However, The Big Day is not Acid Rap nor Coloring Book. Chance also likes to take years off before dropping his next project, which doesn't help when it comes to the hype. But I think there's a deeper issue here. This is an album that unapologetically expresses love. Some people may call that "soft," but I think it's a beautiful thing. On "Big Fish," Chance says, "They don't sell marriage no more. Guess being alone ain't so scary no more." I think this is the root of the problem. Loving your significant other is not whack or soft. Expressing your love for your significant other should be the norm. I think it's sad that Chance had to type out a long (now-deleted) tweet thread to express his confusion with the hate for this album. Let me say this: I can't wait to find the girl of my dreams, and I when I do, I'm going to blast The Big Day.
With all of that being said, I do think this album was a little bloated. I don't think songs like "Hot Shower," "Ballin Flossin," "Get a Bag" and "Zanies and Fools" really fit the overall theme of this album. They are fun songs, but for the purposes of making an album about love and marriage, I think they probably could've been left off. I appreciated the theme and message of The Big Day, but I'll be interested to see what Chance's next move will be.
Hollywood's Bleeding - Post Malone
Post Malone and his album Hollywood's Bleeding are signs of the time. The 17-track album bodes well for the streaming game much like Chance the Rapper's 22-track album. Posty's fun rap-sung blend of music bodes well for young, hip-hop audiences. Hollywood's Bleeding was huge. Songs like "Wow," "Sunflower" with Swae Lee, "Goodbyes" with Young Thug and "Circles" dominated the charts in 2019. Posty makes easy-going, fun music. My only criticism would be that some of it could be considered "fluff music," meaning some of the songs feel empty because they seem to be intentionally tailored for the radio. Don't get me wrong, Post Malone is talented on multiple levels, but I also think he's learned the game and how to play it. And that's totally fine. However, in the long run, I think he will fade away if he doesn't make music that truly matters.
I don't want to sound like a hater. I actually enjoyed Hollywood's Bleeding. I think it's Posty's best album yet because I think he has realized that he shines when he sings. The majority of this album is Post Malone singing, and I'm okay with that. "Circles" and "Take What You Want" with Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott are the standout songs for me. Post Malone will continue to dominate, so lookout for his next move in 2020.
Let the Sun Talk - Mavi
Let the Sun Talk is another album that I discovered through DJBooth. It's a raw and honest look at Mavi's upbringing in Charlotte, North Carolina. The beats are bouncy, the lyrics draw you in and the message is pure. At 20 years old and with a debut album like this, Mavi has the potential to be a breakout star in hip-hop. Don't sleep!
WWCD - Griselda
This is my first taste of Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine and Westside Gunn, and I was very impressed. The Griselda trio made their Shady Records debut with WWCD. This is pure boom-bap, street rap. WWCD is laced with violent bars, potent lyricism and epic ad-libs. Each member of Griselda has a unique voice, but, collectively, they are a force. It feels like Eminem snagged up this group to compensate for the loss of Slaughterhouse. If that truly is the case, it's a solid pickup for the Shady team. WWCD will leave you wanting to commit violent crimes with your friends.
You Can't Sit With Us - Pivot Gang
Saba's popularity has been trending upward for quite some time now, especially after his incredible 2018 album Care For Me. Saba capitalized on that success by gathering his friends for this ultra-fun compilation album You Can't Sit With Us. Pivot Gang consists of Saba, Joseph Chilliams, MFnMelo, Frsh Waters and the late John Walt who are all supremely talented. This album is Revenge of the Dreamers III in 2019 before Revenge of the Dreamers III happened in 2019. It's a cool collection of songs to flex each Pivot Gang members lyrical chops. Don't sleep on this album.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know!
We've got a special one for you guys! Trey and Brandon rank their top TV shows, movies, songs, albums, sports moments and so much more from 2010-2019. A lot of entertainment to sift through in a decade... Find out what the don and the consigliere come up with!
3Peat is back for its final episode of 2019! Chase Mena-Slade, Brandon Ogden and Trey Alessio preview the College Football Playoff, break down the NFL and pick their all-decade NBA teams. We also put Chase on the spot and asked him about his favorite albums, movies and TV shows of the year, too. Check us out!
Trey the don and Brandon the consigliere are back for the final OG podcast of 2019! The boys break down the Black Widow trailer, the No Time to Die trailer, episodes 1-4 of The Mandalorian, talk about D.B. Weiss and David Benioff's next move, Colin Farrell as Penguin, DC's plans, predict GRAMMY winners and Rob Markman's redacted tweet and much more. Stay tuned for our annual year-end Best Of 2019 podcast and a special Best of the Decade podcast.
The Don of Entertainment