Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker The Berry”

TDE’s Kendrick Lamar gives us another taste of his forthcoming album with “The Blacker the Berry.” It’s a lyrically nuanced portrayal of one character’s reaction to the racial tensions that boiled over for much of 2014.

Open Mike Eagle – A Special Episode Of EP

Hellfyre Club’s Open Mike Eagle follows his excellent 2014 LP up with a solid EP.

Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth

With what might be his final project with Atlantic Records, Lupe Fiasco releases his most conceptual and headiest album in years, backing these tracks up with an instrumental set that’s a step above what he delivered on his two previous LPs.

Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$

New York rapper Joey Bada$$ meets expectations on his commercial debut.

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory

For this latest installment of CLASSICS WEEK 2014, Anthony Fantano takes on a quintessential jazz rap album: A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory.

Pusha T – “Lunch Money” (Video)

The spacey, otherworldly by Kanye West on Pusha T’s latest single “Lunch Money” makes for the perfect antithesis to Push’s boastful coke rap lyrics, and sets the Virginia emcee up perfectly to release a new album that will make him worthy of being solidified as a true leader of new millennium hip hop. The video is also a practice in ideas that might not at first seem to go together: as Pusha arrogantly mocks the competition, around him is a stripped down, barren, drug-riddled environment dominated by pop lockers and hood rich dope boy decadence. It’s a simplistic and unexpected approach, but it allows the song to take center stage. And at this stage, that’s exactly how it should be as “Lunch Money” makes hip hop heads salivate for Pusha T’s next full-length project.

- Ron Grant

Various Artists – “Detroit vs. Everybody (Official Remix)”

I recently reviewed the new Shady XV compilation with Mr. Steven Francis, and I remember commenting on how much of a letdown the “Detroit vs. Everybody” cut was. While there were come decent verses on the track, the list of featured MCs seemed kind of limited. However, this new official remix fixes that in a big way. I mean, the thing is 16 minutes long, and features over ten rappers.

Really happy Shady saw fit to cast a wider net here, and I think the results speak for themselves.

Death Grips – “Inanimate Sensation”

Death Grips drop a new single to tease toward the second half of their yet-to-be-completed double album, The Powers That B.

Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99″ (prod. Statik Selektah)

What makes Joey Bada$$ such an interesting MC at the moment is, not surprisingly, his combination of youth and talent. This combination leaves us with a technically gifted rapper who is currently at the most crucial moment in his career. While he certainly deserves to succeed, there is always a chance that that simply doesn’t happen–if you think he isn’t smart enough to know this, diagram his internal rhymes and ask yourself that question again. The result? Joey is a with a highly skilled artist earnestly putting over 100 percent effort into everything that he does. On “No. 99,” Bada$$ doesn’t make it sound easy. He’s consciously making what he’s doing sound as difficult as possible. At the midway point, he swaps 90′s style New York delivery for off the wall Jah inspired rapping akin to Kendrick Lamar’s recent style. All the while, he treats the beat as merely a suggestion for the ways his words should play with the time signature. Similarly, the 90′s Boom bap intertwines with the more modern bassline lurching behind it. We end up with a microcosm of Joey Bada$$ himself: reverent and irreverent at once. Yet all the while, he’s unbelievably entertaining while he’s making his statements.

- Garrett Cottingham

J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Even after stripping back the hooks and instrumentals, and giving himself center stage, there isn’t much outside of J. Cole’s baseline technical abilities that makes him a compelling rapper and lyricist.