15. Azealia Banks - 'Broke With Expensive Taste'
Now that Azealia Banks is over the buzz of being a new artist, we're so totally ready to peep her progress. Last year, Banks dropped two projects -- 1991 (EP) and Fantasea (mixtape) -- that proved, among other things, that she can stretch her talent over the course of a full-length disc. Her skill set is undeniable. What remains to be seen is how that will translate to an album. *Fingers crossed.*
14. Ghostface - 'Twelve Reasons to Die'
Ghostface was on a creative high between 2006 and 2010, serving up five albums in four years. After a three-year layover, hip-hop's most consistent MC is now back full of enthusiasm. It gets better. Twelve Reasons to Die will also reunite Ghost and The RZA. In addition to issuing Twelve Reasons on his boutique label, Soul Temple, RZA will serve as executive producer alongside composer Adrian Younge (Black Dynamite). And, in true Ghost Deini fashion, the album will come with a new comic book.
13. Schoolboy Q - 'Oxymoron'
Last year, Schoolboy Q made the mistake of dropping the brilliant Habits & Contradictions too early. Habits hit shelves in January, kicking off what would eventually become a Black Hippy year. But by summer everyone had forgotten about Q. This time, he's is feeling pressure anew to follow Kendrick Lamar's critical smash Good kid, m.A.A.d. city. "Kendrick left me no choice but to drop a classic," Q said last November. That competitive spirit should spur him on to some success on his Interscope debut, Oxymoron.
12. Raekwon - 'FILA'
Raekwon could barely wait for the new year to begin before sharing the title of his sixth solo album. F.I.L.A. stands for "Fly International Luxurious Art." Word on the street is that the Chef is already thinking ahead to his next LP, the third installment of his Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Chances we'll get both this year? I wouldn't bet the dog on it.
11. Freddie Gibbs w/ Madlib - 'Cocaine Piñata'
Freddie Gibbs has a laundry list of projects lined up for 2013: a Str8 Slammin Click mixtape, an Eastside Slim mixtape, an album titled Necktie Party, etcetera. The one I'm really psyched about is his madlib collaboration, Cocaine Piñata. If both parties come to the project with their A-game, it could be one of the year's most interesting albums. *Fingers crossed*
10. Kendrick Lamar and J Cole - 'TBA'
This one's easy to root for. After all, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are arguably the two of the top young talents in the game (Freddie Gibbs, Big K.R.I.T., and Danny Brown are the other three). Their energy and message are largely similar, which will undoubtedly prove an asset in the recording booth. The pair has been recording in between solo albums, so we could get the album before the year is over.
9. GOOD Music - 'Cruel Winter'
Let's face it, Cruel Summer was a warm mess. It's also common knowledge that Mr. West, when sufficiently inspired, is capable of conjuring something magical out of the air. Look for the G.O.O.D. Music crew will look to shed some of creative fat on the sequel, Cruel Winter, which will undoubtedly drop in summer. I only have one request: más Pusha T y Q-Tip, por favor.
8. Pusha T - 'My Name Is My Name'
Catchy title. Pusha T says My Name Is My Name is a nod to Marlo Stanfield, one of the most memorable characters on The Wire. "He was just basically saying, 'I am who I am. This is what I got. I stand on my name. I live this,'" Push explained. "And if you know anything about his character, he's young, brash, amongst a lot of heavyweights. But he didn't care about any of the past or history. He was like, 'Man, I'm out here to get my money at all costs. No rules, no regulations. I'm here to compete.' I just felt like that really embodied my presence in the rap game."
7. Q-Tip - 'The Last Zulu'
Q-Tip joined G.O.O.D. Music last year and is gearing up for his first album in five years. Tip's last solo disc, 2008's The Renaissance, took 10 years to arrive. As I wrote then, it should hold us over until 2018. Thankfully, we won't have to wait that long for a new set. Tentatively penciled for summer, The Last Zulu will feature Marsha Ambrosius, Kendrick Lamar, and Fiona Apple, and Esperanza Spalding.
6. J. Cole - 'Born Sinner'
You didn't really think Cole would drop Born Sinner in January, did you? Cole prematurely announced the title and street date of his sophomore album (Jan. 28) but quickly conceded that he needs more time to get the campaign rolling. The good news is that the album is almost wrapped up and we should get a solid release date soon. Listen to "Miss America" for now.