Midyear, we reluctantly (and partially) joined others in hollering the same damn thing through the media megaphone: Hip-hop struggled. The common sentiment, and a key piece in this year’s narrative, was overblown, though, and once you begin to lift the carpet and tune to releases from those lower on the totem pole, 2014 becomes a bit more precious.
The return of a living legend that, to us, more than dwarfs Timberlake’s comeback capped the 4th quarter. The most successful rap release, J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, dominated the charts the week prior. Backpedaling past the rest of winter, fall and summer brings us to ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, which held down the first quarter — commercially.
Some of these records are also of the highest quality, but let’s be honest. We don’t really care who debuted at #1, who moved more units, etc. Unless your T-Swift or a handful of other big names, those “achievements” are as close to irrelevant as they can get before dancing with extinction. In addition to acknowledging the best of the year (and beyond, really) from other genres, we tried to give some smaller projects the credit they deserve.
Almost every self-respecting artist today treats his or her mixtape like an album. We get that, you all get that, and so both free efforts and for-purchase bodies of work coexist on this list. With that, let’s dive in: These are the 40 Best Albums of 2014.