This year of underdogs and shooting stars ends with greater fanfare than months January through May initially suggested. A string of fall mixtapes and Q4 surprises means our mid-year list now looks rather distant in rear-view; you’ll notice that from our mid-year list to our year-end ranking, we’ve done some shuffling and spring cleaning. 

Major label bricks and delays aside, 2014 was a strong year for rap’s sophomore class, and a wonderful year in music overall—if only because D’Angelo’s back

We’re not just looking at hip-hop, however. While Run the Jewels dominates year-end critical consensus in rap circles, 2014 otherwise yielded a glut of top-shelf R&B projects, with traditional hit records from Chris Brown and Trey Songz, a strong debut from Tinashe, and quirky, “alternative” projects from the likes of FKA twigs and PARTYNEXTDOOR. On the mixtape circuit, Rich Gang, Gangsta Boo, and King Louie all dropped some of their best music yet. Listen with us, as we revisit the 50 Best Albums of 2014.