With 2015 in full swing, we hope you're done consuming every year-end list you could click on. And we sure hope you're all caught up with the best 2014 releases, because 2015 is looking like it's going to be a great year. Well, at least it seems that way right now. There's no better feeling than anticipation. You can let your imagination run wild with the possibility that all of these albums will not only be released, but will be just as good as you want to them to be. But, of course, in truth some will disappoint, some won't even come out (do we even have to mention Detox at this point?), and a few will actually live up to the hype. With that said, here are the 50 Most Anticipated Albums of 2015.


Juicy J 
pure THC: The Hustle continues


Image via Tiffany Komon

Juicy J will turn 40 in 2015, but his solo career is just getting started. His 2013 album, Stay Trippy, executive produced by Wiz Khalifa and pop hitmaker Dr. Luke, established the Three 6 Mafia vet as a star outside of his longtime group. And in 2014, he managed an unlikely appearance on a No. 1 smash, Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” and became the go-to guest for R&B strip club anthems like Usher’s “I Don’t Mind” and Ne-Yo’s “She Knows.” His second Sony solo album, Pure THC: The Hustle Continues, is set to continue his balancing act between trippy underground rap and subversive pop crossover, with the Nicki Minaj-assisted single “Low” and other new songs with A$AP Ferg and Mike WiLL Made It already making the rounds. —Al Shipley


The Documentary 2


Image via Game

What a difference 10 years can make. A decade removed from the original Documentary, Game has released five albums, been a reality show star, had various beefs, launched a health challenge, and even managed to recruit over a dozen acts to pay tribute to the late Mike Brown. The efficiently named sequel, The Documentary 2, is set to be released in early 2015, and like the previous installment, the album will feature Dr. Dre production in addition to sounds from Just Blaze and Scott Storch. Game has remained mum on other collaborations and while listeners shouldn't expect as much involvement from 50 Cent this time around (or should they?), the Compton rapper is set to continue a legacy that's befitting the initial installment, including an anniversary concert later in January. —Ernest Wilkins


Hudson Mohawke


Image via Tim Saccenti

Five years ago, Glaswegian producer/DJ Hudson Mohawke was still something of an under-the-radar cult favorite; his 2009 debut LP via Warp Records, Butter, felt like barely controlled chaos, with its consistently over-the-top blend of hip-hop beats, 8-bit melodies, and candy-coated synth freak-outs. Of course, this preceded the sudden rise of EDM-trap a few years later, a macho fusion of trappy 808s and windows-to-the-walls electronic club sounds that HudMo himself helped define in the early 2010s with TNGHT, his collaboration with Lunice. The duo became the poster children for the EDM-trap sound, even garnering the attention of Kanye West, who sampled their track “R U Ready” for Yeezus’ “Blood on the Leaves.” Mohawke is now signed to West’s G.O.O.D. Music as a producer. In short, he’s come a long way since his days as a precocious turntablist (he was the youngest-ever U.K. finalist in the prestigious DMC World DJ Championship at age 15). What effect will Mohawke’s whirlwind past five years have on his sophomore album, expected this year via Warp—and will Kanye show up? He’s said that the album was finished a few months back, so hopefully we’ll find out soon. —Meaghan Garvey


Joey Bada$$


Image via Joey Bada$$

B4.Da.$$ made our most anticipated albums of 2014 list and, disappointingly, reappears on this iteration because Joey continually pushed back the album. Although his spectacular arrival into hip-hop back in 2012 as a 16-year-old excelling with a 20-year-old sound was among the most exciting in recent memory, it is fair to say that his relevance and contributions have suffered a little as 1999’s excellence has worn off. Despite Summer Knights failing to match the hype and cohesion of its predecessor, Joey has retained an extremely devoted fanbase that is absolutely starving for a new album. He’s already released five singles off of the upcoming album, each of which show that the lyrical skill and intoxicating smoothness that made him originally so exciting still exist. —Max Goldberg


Twin Shadow


Image via Twin Shadow

Before Dev Hynes, there was George Lewis Jr., a.k.a. Twin Shadow, a dapper, contemporary NYC soulman with a synthesizer. The heart of his sound is 2010’s Forget, which beats with a dull, somber ache to a New Wave beat. There are comparisons to Morrissey and the Cure, which seem unoriginal and commonplace in a post-metatag world. So for 2012’s Confess, he switched things up, leaned in on the synths and guitar and went strong and loud. What he’s good at is writing hummable pop-R&B hooks, and giving them a certain gravity because of the unusual, grave tone of his voice. Twin Shadow’s spent his time working on some unexpected things—writing for Haim, collaborating with Toronto dubsteppers Zeds Dead, and touring with Florence and the Machine—which hints at this year’s Eclipse moving away from outré New York pop-soul to something slicker and more grand. —Anupa Mistry 




Image via Corinne Bailey Rae

It’s been so long since Corinne Bailey Rae has released a full-fledged album. The British singer-songwriter who first made waves with her self-titled debut and its lead single, “Like a Star,” back in 2006 has not released a studio LP since 2010, which was a hit in the U.K. but did not match the success she yielded the first time stateside. There have been other offerings—namely live albums and EPs—but even the last EP, a collection of covers called The Love EP, came out in 2011. That was actually good, particularly her rendition of Belly’s “Lower Red Moon.” Last year’s cover of Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Bluebird” is even better, though word’s gotten out that Rae is about “eight songs in” for a project that’s been described as a “back to roots” album. Please and thank you. —Michael Arceneaux


BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah



Three years after pissing off jazz critics and striking big with a slew of kinetic, instrumental rap covers of songs by Gucci Mane and Odd Future, Toronto trio BADBADNOTGOOD has become rap’s new reigning house band (sorry Questlove). Clutch collaborations include: backing for Frank Ocean at Coachella 2012, and features on Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris and Danny Brown’s Old. For their third studio album, 2014’s III, BBNG diverted from covers into original material. While they’ve long ditched the tired "jazz band" affiliation, BADBAD’s never strayed too far from their hip-hop roots, which makes their upcoming partnership with Ghostface Killah—who is as reliable as he is versatile—particularly well placed. Sour Soul is the nth entry in Ghostface’s catalog and promises to take inspiration from ’60s and ’70s live recordings. Ghost has three collab records docketed for 2015 (he’s also working with Sheek Louch and MF Doom), but this is the only one that will undoubtedly resurrect the rapper’s steamy, screwy, soulful alter ago, Ghostdini. —Anupa Mistry


EST. IN 1989 PT. 3 (THE ALBUM)


Image via Mike WiLL Made It

In a few short years, Mike WiLL Made It went from producing mixtape cuts for Gucci Mane to changing the sound of hip-hop radio with Future’s trap ballads and producing massive pop hits for Miley Cyrus. Now, he’s focused on building his own empire with EarDrummers Entertainment, and started off 2015 with the label’s first album release through Interscope, Rae Sremmurd’s debut album, SremmLife. Having already released five free mixtapes online, including Ransom in late 2014, Mike WiLL is taking his Est. in 1989 series to Interscope for his first retail album. And if the mixtapes already yielded radio hits like “23” and “Buy the World,” then a major label album is sure to be packed with big stars and big singles. —Al Shipley




Image via Justin Bieber

Some of the best music often comes out of artists’ hectic moments or periods of emotional turmoil, and Justin Bieber definitely seems to be going through a bit of turmoil right now. Seeing past all the distractions that plague Bieber and shifting that attention to his music, the kid is a talented artist with a legitimately awesome voice. On Journals, he proved that his decision to adopt a hip-hop aesthetic could pay off when handed the right production. “Confident” is probably the best song in his catalog, and the snippet showing what he would’ve done with what became "IDFWU" is incredibly promising. Now that Bieber has fully bought into his new musical persona, we’re excited to see what happens when he skips skateboarding and starts recording. —Max Goldberg




Image via Jay Rock

Jay Rock was the first artist to put Top Dawg Entertainment on the map, releasing the Lil Wayne-assisted single “All My Life (In The Ghetto)” in 2008 and appearing on the cover of XXL’s Freshmen issue in 2010. But as his TDE labelmates have ascended into the mainstream, Jay Rock has become the roster’s secret weapon. He hasn’t released an album since 2011, but pretty much every project his Black Hippy groupmates release has included a scene-stealing Jay Rock verse, as did YG’s My Krazy Life. It remains to be seen whether Jay Rock is aspiring to Kendrick Lamar’s level of acclaim, ScHoolboy Q’s radio domination, Ab-Soul’s cult hero status, or another path all his own. But the late 2014 release of “Pay For It,” a single featuring Kendrick and Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, made the statement loud and clear that Jay Rock is planning on raising his profile and finally getting an album out in 2015. —Al Shipley




Image via Wunmi Onibudo

Could 2015 bring us a new Beach House record? Fans of the duo (consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally) have been waiting patiently since 2012's Bloom, and longer since the group's best album, 2010's Teen Dream. Beach House helped popularize the sultry haze-pop landscape that has become arguably more popular than it was back then, giving the duo the unenviable task of following up a trendsetting effort (the band's music has even been sampled by big names like Kendrick Lamar) without sounding like one-trick ponies or swagger jackers. No need to fret: If the group's next release can echo the indie pop aesthetic they brought on their second-to-last Sub Pop release, fans will embrace them solidly. One request this time? Turn up the Fleetwood Mac influence. More songs like "Norway" and "Silver Soul," please! —Ernest Wilkins




Image via Future Brown

Future Brown reads like a fantasy team drafted by a savvy, Hood by Air-swathed Boiler Room enthusiast. They’re an avant-club supergroup, comprised of Kuwait-born, London-based Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush of NYC’s Lit City Trax, and Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda of Los Angeles duo Nguzunguzu, all of whom produce, DJ, and share a love of rap, grime, and boundary-pushing club music. Their name’s based on an anecdote from a friend’s mushroom trip, during which he envisioned a color not yet in existence. In short, they’re the poster group for a generation of melting-pot-stirring, genre-bending artists who aim to transcend regionalism with the help of the Internet. And the tracklist for their self-titled debut album (due out February through Warp Records) reads as such: The group has enlisted a wide-ranging but impeccably curated features roster of cult favorites, including Tink, Sicko Mobb, Kelela, Shawnna, Tim Vocals, 3D Na’Tee, Maluca, and more. It’s hard not to be intrigued. —Meaghan Garvey




Image via Daniele Dalledonne

A staple on college playlists for close to three decades, Radiohead still causes a sizable ripple with every release. Maybe we won’t say that in 10 years when frontman Thom Yorke slithers out of his snake pit, slicks his hair back, and goes full Bono, but part of the Radiohead’s appeal is that unlike, say, U2 or Coldplay, they’ve never descended to douchebaggery. Before 2007’s In Rainbows, you were either a The Bends or OK Computer or Kid A person. These were albums that presented the harder and softer edges and iterations of Radiohead’s sound, with no clear "best." With In Rainbows, Radiohead cohered one sound from the different emotions and aesthetics of their back catalog—it was somehow sentimental and raw and hollow and progressive, at the same time. Since 2011’s King of Limbs, which built on that same processed/organic dichotomy, Yorke’s been DJing Boiler Room sets and Jonny Greenwood’s scored major films (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Master, Inherent Vice). There’s no way they’re not getting even better. —Anupa Mistry




Image via AlunaGeorge

R&B is a rapidly evolving genre, and no group better personifies the development and hybridization of R&B than the London duo AlunaGeorge. The band excels in the amalgamation of different sounds, and as many have begun to mix the classical sounds of previously separate genres like house, pop, and R&B, they have proven themselves to be among the best at it. Lead singer Aluna Francis’ baby-voiced vocals are a perfect complement to the intoxicatingly danceable beats provided by George Reid. Importantly, a new album also very likely means a new tour to support and promote the music. AlunaGeorge put on an incredible live show and have killed festivals like Coachella. If you aren’t hip to them yet, get hip now so you can say you knew them before they blew. —Max Goldberg




Image via Earl Sweatshirt

2013’s Doris remains one of the most underrated albums of the last few years. On the 15-track debut, Earl Sweatshirt’s rhymes are as dense, methodical, and enjoyable as ever and sound absolutely punishing over production handled by the usual suspects like Earl himself, Tyler, the Creator, and the Alchemist. In the year and a half since his debut dropped, Earl has returned somewhat back to the mysterious quiet he seems to enjoy, not releasing any major projects and cancelling his national tour. However, as of late, he’s excitingly upped his output. The minute-long, Alchemist-produced lyrical assault that is “45” is a reminder that he can spit with the best, and on the Lil Herb-assisted “Knucklehead,” he sounds album ready. Unfortunately, there are signs that the label album drama that has recently robbed us fans of so many albums might be getting to Earl too, as he Tweeted that his album has been finished since June. —Max Goldberg




Image via French Montana

All of the material French Montana has put out in advance of the much-anticipated Mac and Cheese 4 has showcased the versatility that makes him such an interesting artist. His laid-back New York drawl works equally well over the fast-paced bangs and snaps of his club-oriented hits like “Don’t Panic” or the epic melodic samples and sounds of frequent collaborator Harry Fraud on Mac and Cheese 4: The Appetizer. French’s last full album, Excuse My French, remains highly underrated, and he’s grown significantly as an artist, in terms of skill, popularity, and reach, and hopefully that will shine through in an album that will certainly be under a spotlight. The album’s star-studded list of super producers is full of names, including Harry Fraud, Kanye West, and DJ Mustard, that should inspire nothing but excitement in French fans. Chairs to this album’s future success. —Max Goldberg




Image via Jamie-James Medina

Jamie is the only xx who seems to have made it out alive. A prodigious producer, his solo debut was basically recontextualizing famed American musician and poet the late Gil Scott-Heron on an official remix album, We’re New Here. No easy feat for a white kid from London, but he managed to match Scott-Heron’s soul, albeit with the pulse of a new generation: the gristle and rumble of the British electronic underground. One of those songs, “I’ll Take Care of U,” even wound up being further reworked for Drake’s 2011 opus Take Care. Jamie’s stayed quiet but busy with live gigs, as well as hinting toward a more lush, lax sound on last year’s single “Girl.” His new release is untitled for now, but his low profile bodes well: At this point he might be one of the only young tastemakers left in the game. —Anupa Mistry


father john misty
i love you, honeybear


Image via Father John Misty

Back in November, folk rocker Father John Misty both confused and won over American hearts on Late Night With David Letterman, playing a cantankerous, vaudevillian troubadour for his performance of “Bored in the USA” over a cued laugh track. “Save me, white Jesus,” the song goes, and in one fell swoop Misty (better known as J. Tillman) crushed the ghost of his evangelical childhood and lampooned the primary obsession of the same America that still idealizes Springsteen’s Born in the USA as peak music. I Love You, Honeybear follows 2012’s Fear Fun, and Tillman’s new bedraggled crooner shtick suggests renewed energy, and camp, from the former Fleet Foxes band member and Our Father Who Art in Orbit. The sound, which so far can best be described as ayahuasca folk pop, was apparently conceived while Tillman was tripping in Joshua Tree. —Anupa Mistry




Image via Courtney Harvier 

Frankly, I support anything Vanessa Williams-related, so I’m inclined to support her daughter, Jillian Hervey, on that principle alone given not enough people honor the musical legacy of her mother and former Miss America. However, Jillian, along with the other half of Lion Babe, producer Lucas Goodman, can get by on meritocracy. If you haven’t heard their four-track eponymous EP released in 2014, you are missing out. Between Goodman’s slick production and Hervey’s quirky, ethereal voice, the two make my favorite R&B-based duo since Changing Faces. If their previous works, including the Bop-tastic “Jump Hi” featuring Childish Gambino is any indication, their album will be outstanding. Hervey should probably record a remix of one of ’Nessa’s tunes, though. Pay homage. —Michael Arceneaux


the gold album: 18th Dynasty


Image via Instagram

All things considered, 2014 didn’t smile upon Tyga. Sure, there was “Hookah” featuring Young Thug—easily the rapper’s best single since “Rack City,” and the first of London on da Track’s trifecta of warm, breezy productions that deservedly conquered 2014 radio (along with “Lifestyle” and “About the Money”). But there were also highly public social media beefs with Lil Durk, Drake, ex-girlfriend Blac Chyna, and YMCMB as a staff, record label, and as a motherfucking crew. The rapper took to Twitter last fall to vent his frustrations with Young Money, claiming the label had been holding his completed fourth studio album, The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty, hostage. To make the situation even crueler, the album is executive produced by none other than Kanye West. That’s right: A full-length Kanye and Tyga collaboration, whatever that even entails, is currently gathering dust in some lonely annex in Young Money HQ, probably guarded by Lil Chuckee. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Here’s hoping we finally get to hear it (it’s set for the end of this month). —Meaghan Garvey




Image via Adele

It’s been four years since 21, the album that shattered all commercial expectations and countless sales records, and remains the only album this decade to reach diamond certification, with over 10 million copies sold in America alone. Adele Adkins, the young singer from London with the enormous voice and indelible songs, has spent much of the intervening years starting a family and raising her son, Angelo, and hasn’t been in a rush to follow up a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. But the singer, now 26, is gearing up to release her third album in 2015. And whether she sings about a contented life of love and motherhood, or gives us the kind of catharsis and heartbreak that made “Someone Like You” a blockbuster, the world will be eager to hear her voice again. —Al Shipley


Action Bronson
Mr. Wonderful


Image via Coup d'Oreille

2015 is go time for Action Bronson. Since he entered hip-hop’s consciousness with the release of Dr. Lecter four years ago, Bronsolino has consistently flaunted his possession of an unreal lyrical ability, larger-than-life personality, and obvious star quality. While his mixtapes, features, outrageous live performance, and general hilarity have kept him in the spotlight and developed his cultish fanbase, his debut album, the oft-delayed and aptly named Mr. Wonderful, will ultimately outweigh those factors in determining his future. If the first two singles—Easy Rider, produced by Party Supplies, and "Actin' Crazy," produced by 40—are any indication, Mr. Wonderful will be exactly what Bronson lovers want and exactly what Bronson as an artist needs to turn people who are simply fans of his antics into fans of his music. —Max Goldberg


The Album About Nothing


Image via Complex

Wale’s trajectory, since his rise to prominence in 2006, has been as much a product of the Internet’s massive effect on the way we experience music as much as his own career decisions. He was one of the first rappers to leverage blog buzz into a legitimate mainstream career; he collaborated with Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, and Lily Allen, remixed blogwave darlings Justice, and crafted a critically acclaimed mixtape homage to Seinfeld, 2008’s The Mixtape About Nothing. But though Wale’s profile has only raised since then, things started to unravel a bit in recent years. His major label albums haven’t been received as favorably as his earlier work, and that didn’t sit well with him; in 2013, he called the Complex office, enraged that his album The Gifted was overlooked on the 50 Best Albums of 2013 list. But it seems Wale’s been trying to make up for that; in his 2014 Complex cover story (along with none other than Jerry Seinfeld), he even poked fun at the infamous phone call incident. His upcoming fourth studio album, The Album About Nothing, has been called a return to his mixtape heyday. Will it be Wale’s redemption? —Meaghan Garvey


lupe fiasco
tetsuo & Youth


Image via Lupe Fiasco

​Yet another one of the albums that can say it made the most anticipated albums of 2014 list, Lupe Fiasco's follow-up to 2012's Food & Liquor II is slated to be delivered this year. The four singles ("Mission," "Old School Love," "Next To It," and "Deliver") released in support of the album have had varying degrees of success, but the tracklist (including collaborations with names like Trae tha Truth, Ab-Soul and Ty Dolla $ign) looks enticing, and while Fiasco has claimed in the past that the album wouldn't feature any social or political commentary, a lot has changed in America since then. The sincere hope is that Fiasco continues to speak out on society's ills while pumping out solid music on this album. —Ernest Wilkins


Mac Miller


Image via Mac Miller

In 2011 Mac Miller’s Blue Slide Park became the first independently distributed debut album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Its follow-up, Watching Movies With the Sound Off, moved more than 100,000 copies in its first week, proving that the Pittsburgh-bred rapper had a strong, albeit small, fanbase. Critical appeal has always been a challenge, though his mixtape Faces, which lyrically tackled his substance abuse problems, depression, and social anxiety, might’ve been the start of a turnaround. Now comes the challenge of broadening his audience. Last year, Mac Miller signed with Warner Brothers (via his own imprint) and was candid that much of that decision was rooted in trying to expand his scope beyond the Internet. His new resources will yield him his first real chance to both be taken more seriously as an MC and to widen his appeal. —Michael Arceneaux




Image via Shamir

“20, musician, comedian, singer, rapper, twerker, chef, writer, filmmaker, tumblr, skinny fat ass. Love Me?” If Shamir Bailey’s self-description in his Twitter bio didn’t clue you in, to say the ambitious Las Vegas native contains multitudes doesn’t begin to cover it. Bailey’s official debut, last year’s Northtown EP, released on NYC’s Godmode label off the strength of a demo sent just after graduating high school, mined from stripped-down disco and house, young Michael Jackson’s precocious, gender-revoking vocals, Prince’s funky sensuality, and Grace Jones’ raw power. Powerful opening track “If It Wasn’t True” instantly felt like it had been around forever; it reminded me of a slogan DFA Records used to use: “Too old to be new, too new to be classic.” His latest, the perky and immediately beloved “On the Regular,” evoked a contemporary take on late-’80s Miami, bass-tinged rap like Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” and L’Trimm’s “Cars That Go Boom.” “Really how long till the world realize/Yes, yes, I’m the best, fuck what you heard,” Bailey proclaims, and it’s safe to assume that his debut full-length, due out this year on XL Recordings, might be when the world realizes. —Meaghan Garvey


macklemore & Ryan Lewis


Image via The Come Up Show

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, they say. And in light of the past year’s bounty of white artists nailed for mining hip-hop culture for profit while refusing to acknowledge the socio-political baggage attached, I can’t help but feel a twinge of nostalgia for that time, in 2012 and 2013, when Macklemore (along with Ryan Lewis, his producer, engineer, and unofficial hypeman) was the white rapper du jour. The Seattle MC’s brand of earnest, socially conscious pop-rap may not have been without flaw; upon winning the Grammy for Best Rap Album early last year, even he recognized that it might not have been the right call. But in a recent Hot 97 interview, he came off as a pretty self-aware guy, admitting to his own privilege in the rap game and urging white people to question their own privileges. Musically, Macklemore laid low in 2014, but now that he’s had some time to re-appraise his goals (not to mention, now that you’ve finally gotten “Thrift Shop”’s indelible horns un-stuck from your subconscious), it should be interesting to see what he’s got planned. So far, there have been no official announcements regarding dates for The Heist’s follow-up—but you’ll have to take his word for it. —Meaghan Garvey




Image via Grimes

The 26-year-old Canadian singer, songwriter, producer, and music video director has always been blunt—often taking to Tumblr to opine on topics ranging from sexism down to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—but it took a lot of balls for her to admittedly tell The New York Times last fall that the material she was working on as a follow-up to 2012’s sublime Visions album “sucked,” so she tossed the material and started all over again. Though I don’t agree with frustrations some fans had with her single “Go,” which was originally intended for Rihanna, I do trust Grimes and her ability to mesh multiple influences and tones into something that sounds seamless and wildly listenable. She proved that with Visions, and if she was frank enough to declare that what she previously worked on wasn’t up to par, she’ll make sure whatever she does offer fans next will make up for it. —Michael Arceneaux


bruno mars


Image via Bruno Mars

The ascent of the singer born Peter Gene Hernandez to superstardom was so swift and all-encompassing that Bruno Mars headlined the 2014 Super Bowl Halftime Show with only two albums under his belt. And he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon—Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” with Mars strutting across the song’s ’80s groove doing his best Morris Day impression, is quickly shaping up to be the first inescapable pop smash of 2015. Details are scant so far on the third Bruno Mars solo album, although Ronson, who worked on three tracks on 2012’s Unorthodox Jukebox, will likely be a part of it. And there’s no reason to believe that it won’t add to his quickly growing roster of platinum plaques and chart-topping singles. —Al Shipley




Image via Kid Cudi

For Kid Cudi fans, of which there are many diehards, the 2015 release of Man on the Moon III will be bitter sweet. The album is the conclusion of Cudder’s Man on the Moon Trilogy, and while the completion of a narrative six years in the making will certainly be gratifying, it also means that the story, and the excellent music that comes with it, will come to a definitive end. MOTM 1 and 2 are two of the better crafted concept albums in the recent history. Factoring in that the albums’ narrative evolved in lock step with the changes in Cudi’s own life—as he went from relative unknown to superstar struggling with addiction to a father—makes for an even more emotional conclusion. Cudi said that the “series was meant to show me grow as a man” and that this final chapter “will really be answering the biggest question: Have I found happiness?” While Indicud and WZRD are excellent, albeit slightly experimental, albums, Cudi has always sounded most focused and at his best when working under the MOTM concept. The conclusion to the trilogy will hopefully be no different. —Max Goldberg




Image via Big Sean

Even the biggest Big Sean supporters will admit that Hall of Fame fell flat. Singles “Beware” and “First Chain” were interesting, but the rest of the album sounded uninspired. As 2014 wore on and Big Sean’s name was featured on more gossip blogs that rap blogs, many felt it was time to write him off. Then, in September, he took to SoundCloud to swiftly silence haters and completely change the narrative of his career. The four song drop, which featured “4th Quarter,” "Jit/Juke,” “Paradise,” and “IDFWU," was unexpectedly and refreshingly honest, as Big Sean reflected on the chaotic past year of his life while still managing to keep the songs knocking. The Mike Will Made-It produced “Paradise” is excellent for it’s trunk-rattling simplicity, “4th Quarter” features one of the best verses of the year, and “IDFWU” is one of, if not the, best mainstream hip-hop singles of 2014. This was Sean at the peak of his frantic, erratic-flow-switching powers. Hopefully, he can bring the same excitement to a full length album in 2015. —Max Goldberg




Image via The Come Up Show

My Name Is My Name was good though not without its faults—maybe too much due to what appeared to be a reliance on guest spots which didn't allow for enough distinctiveness between Pusha T and his peers—but with his debut album the rapper continued to illustrate that he is a witty, gifted lyricist who can command attention and draw excitement…even over the most minimalist production. The other half of the Clipse has been recently spotted back in the studio with the Neptunes, raising excitement and curiosity over the sort of musicality we might find on the VA native’s sophomore offering. Then there was the release of “Lunch Money,” which suggested that he and Kanye West, who produced the single, are looking to charter new terrain sonically. If that song is any indication, the album may well indeed be as “amazing” as he’s recently promised. Hopefully so, and here’s hoping more people pay attention this time around. —Michael Arceneaux




Image via YouTube

No album or mixtape encapsulated everything that was fun and exciting about 2014 hip-hop better than Rich Gang’s The Tour, Part 1. The album is formed like a NBA super-team, with Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug as the superstar players discovering that their considerable powers are heightened by playing together, the who’s who of new wave mega-producers like Sonny Digital and London On Da Track work as the complementary role players who allow the stars to shine, and Birdman assumes the role as the hand-rubbing Pat Riely-like mastermind. The mixtape’s mercurial lushness is the sound du jour of the past year. One minute Thugger and Quan are cooing over the soft pianos of “Givenchy” and the next they are growling and howling on “See You.” Any one of about 10 songs on the album could’ve busted out as a major hit because everyone involved in the creation of this album has played a major hand in determining what hit songs have sounded like for the last year or two. Plus, Birdman’s “gold turrlets” intro is the best verse of the year and he didn’t even have to rap. —Max Goldberg


radio silence


Image via Wikipedia

James Blake’s 2010 CMYK EP—in particular, its Kelis and Aaliyah-sampling title track—set trends that are still echoed by bedroom producers worldwide, and ushered in a new wave of restrained, moody two-step with a penchant for disembodied R&B samples. And while many of his disciples have since burned out those habits, Blake has continually evolved since then. His 2011 self-titled album expanded upon the so-called “post-dubstep” sound of his early EPs, focusing on soulful piano and fragile falsetto vocals. I’ve never heard a concert audience so quiet as that of his Chicago tour stop I attended in 2011—waiting breathlessly as Blake took a seat at the piano, you could’ve heard a pin drop. He’s only sharpened his compositional skills since then. His second album, Overgrown, won the illustrious Mercury Prize in 2013. In a November interview with the Miami New Times, Blake dropped hints about his forthcoming third album, saying it was 70 percent done and that he hoped to get Kanye West to contribute to the record, only making it harder to wait for its release. —Meaghan Garvey




Image via Jeremih

Chicago R&B singer Jeremih may be at the pinnacle of his career right now, even though he hasn’t released an album since 2010. The 2012 mixtape Late Nights With Jeremih and a collaboration with producer Shlohmo on 2014’s No More EP cast the Birthday Sex hitmaker in a new light and exposed him to different audiences. Meanwhile, guest spots on hits like DJ Khaled’s “Hold You Down” and Wale’s “The Body” have helped his voice remain a steady presence on R&B radio. But as the DJ Mustard-produced smash “Don’t Tell ‘Em” climbed into the top 10 of the pop charts and cleared a perfect path for Late Nights: The Album in 2014, Def Jam mysteriously pushed the release date back over and over, until it finally disappeared from the schedule. Jeremih ended 2014 on a low note, getting arrested trying to force his way onto a plane in New Jersey. But we’re confident he’ll work it all out and get that album to us in 2015. —Al Shipley 




Image via Complex

After the release of 2013's Acid Rap, Chance the Rapper and his bandmates in the Social Experiment spent 2014 on the road, playing huge shows and festivals all over the country. After a consistent stream of loosies (and a cover of the theme song from '90s cartoon Arthur that has since become a highlight of the groups live performances) the group announced its next project will be a full band affair with Nico "Donnie Trumpet" Segal serving as curator. Chance let it slip in an interview last fall that the band has been collaborating with names ranging from Rick Rubin to Frank Ocean to Migos (!!!) and with the release of the first single "Sunday Candy" garnering a positive response, it's easy to see why this album is one to watch. If the rest of Surf sounds like "Candy," listeners can expect a juxtaposition of jazz, gospel influences, and pure soul music that will surely please. Them boys good. —Ernest Wilkins




Image via Nas

Nas spent 2014 taking a well-deserved victory lap for the 20th anniversary of his landmark debut album Illmatic, with festival performances of the album and the documentary Time Is Illmatic. But in 2015, he’s focusing once again on new music and completing his Def Jam contract with his 11th solo album. In October, Nas released the rumored first single from the album, “The Season,” which finds him rapping over J Dilla’s “Gobstopper” beat and teased what’s rumored to be the album’s title, The Season of Nasir. Also, back in 2013, he confirmed the existence of a collaboration with Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, and Timbaland titled “Sinatra In The Sands.” But whether the album focuses on dusty Dilla breaks or superstar features, anticipation is high after 2012’s Life Is Good became his most unanimously acclaimed album in a long time. —Al Shipley




Image via Flickr

Between Owl Pharaoh and Days Before Rodeo, it took Travi$ Scott less than two years to prove he is one the most innovative and exciting rapper/producers in hip-hop. While Owl Pharaoh showcased his potential and had incredible high points, the album lacked an overall consistency that would’ve taken it to the next level. Scott stepped it up on Days Before Rodeo, one of the best projects of 2014, and made a more complete album with the same interesting sonic aesthetics of its predecessor. Days Before Rodeo is so excellent because Scott treated it like an album. When an artist with his talent commits that much energy to a project, the product is often spectacular. With a similar level of devotion almost guaranteed, his true debut will be even more exciting. —Max Goldberg


​Free TC


Image via Flickr

Ty Dolla $ign​finally broke big in 2014. After his Beach House mixtape series led to a deal with Atlantic, the singer (born Tyrone Griffin) rode the West Coast ratchet renaissance to a 2014 XXL Freshmen slot, working with everyone from Wiz Khalifa to B.O.B to Chris Brown (for whom he wrote the smash "Loyal") to his longtime collaborators DJ Mustard and YG. Recently, he's revealed that he has forthcoming music with Rihanna and Kanye West (who's new single "Only One" features vocals from Dolla $ign.) His first major album release Free TC (named after his currently incarcerated brother) is set for release this year. Here's hoping he continues his streak of sensitive swag talk seen on thumpers like "My Cabana," "Paranoid," and "Or Nah," leading to a new level of stardom. —Ernest Wilkins




Image via Migos

Sure, Migos basically just shouted “Versace” over and over for the hook of their 2013 debut single, but it was never really that simple: repeated to the point of oblivion, “Versace” transcended a brand and became a mantra. Over the course of one and a half years and three mixtapes, the trio’s trajectory has gone something like this: YRN proved Migos as reliable hitmakers and the life of the party. No Label 2 lashed out at biters trying to cash in on what’s become known as the “Migos flow” (and introduced their most successful single to date, “Fight Night”). And on Rich Nigga Timeline, the group tipped their hand to reveal that they could actually rap pretty damn well when they felt like it. Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset have certainly had more longevity than many early detractors who pegged the group as a novelty act may have predicted. Still, it’s hard to tell how much further their range extends: will a Migos album sound all that different than a Migos mixtape? (And maybe more importantly: how does it stack up against A Hard Day’s Night?) We’ll have to wait for the tentatively titled Y.R.N.2 to find out. —Meaghan Garvey


the weeknd


Image via Wikipedia

When an unknown Canadian named Abel Tesfaye uploaded three songs—demo versions of “What You Need,” “Loft Music,” and “The Morning,” perhaps still his greatest works to date—to YouTube in late 2010 under the mysterious name The Weeknd, he couldn’t have known how influential they’d become. The term “gamechanger” is often tossed around hyperbolically, but his first release, 2011’s House of Balloons (the first of three free mixtapes he’d unveil that year), did just that. The critically acclaimed tape, which housed finalized versions of those early demos, sparked its own (albeit stupidly titled) subgenre, PBR&B, and with it, ignited the interests of a new wave of R&B fans who’d previously overlooked the genre. Whether the new wave of “hipster R&B” was a blessing or a curse is another story (it’s hard to ignore the radicalized aspect of the “PBR&B,” which was initially coined as a joke). But all that aside, if Tesfaye was able to make that much noise with his first ever mixtape, it’s exciting to think about what it could mean if he channels that energy again. His debut album, 2013’s Kiss Land, didn’t quite live up to the hype, but this year, he’ll get another shot. —Meaghan Garvey


lil wayne
tha carter v


Image via Lil Wayne

With a resume of his caliber, Lil Wayne deserves better than what's going on with Tha Carter V. His final installment in Tha Carter series was supposed to have been released last fall. What happened instead were delays and radio silence, culminating in a distraught Wayne lashing out against Baby and the Young Money/Cash Money brass, who he claims are keeping the album from being released. While the idea of Wayne and Baby having issues is noteworthy, more people should be paying attention to the fact that FOUR singles from the album have been released ("Krazy," "Grindin'," "Start a Fire," and the Drake-assisted "Believe Me") and we still haven't heard about a release date. It's too early to count Tunechi out, but regardless of what occurs, this has been a less-than-stellar chapter in the history of one of the best rappers to ever do it. —Ernest Wilkins




Image via Flickr

For an artist of his stature, A$AP Rocky hasn’t produced very much music. He has only two major projects and a bunch of solid features under his presumably fashionable belt. While that relatively small body of work is excellent enough to assure hip-hop fans of his skill, he has depended heavily on his personality, general likeableness, and extracurricular activities to elevate him to his status as one of the genre’s handful of superstars. That’s why this album will be so critical.

Rocky ended 2014 on an incredibly strong note. “Multiply” is as good as any rap single this year and the video’s brief teaser of "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2" was enough to have fans absolutely clamoring for the song before its New Year's Eve release. Both tracks are hard and haunting as Rocky bangs through his verses with the effortless cool that’s characterized all his best work thus far. 2015 is poised to have releases from almost all of rap’s major headliners and, if his album sounds as good as “Multiply” and “LPFJ2,” Rocky can once again prove that his name belongs amongst the stars. —Max Goldberg


meek mill
dreams worth more than money


Image via Meek Mill

Meek Mill’s 2012 major label debut Dreams & Nightmares was a modest commercial success, though its epic title track became a club favorite and, in Drake’s opinion, “really one of the best rap moments of our generation.” Meek came close to releasing the follow-up album in 2014, even though the advance singles “I Don’t Know” and “Off the Corner” stirred little enthusiasm for Dreams Worth More Than Money. Then, a Philadelphia judge revoked the rapper’s probation, and he spent the second half of the year in jail. Since coming home in December, Meek Mill has managed to generate renewed excitement around the project with the Boosie collaboration “Fuck You Mean” and his two appearances on Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint, to say nothing of growing rumors about his personal connection to Ms. Minaj. Just before 2015 started, Meek uploaded several snippets from the album to Instagram that featured guests including Chris Brown, Big Sean, and French Montana. —Al Shipley




Image via Miguel

Since his 2012 sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream established him as a major voice in R&B, Miguel Pimentel has kept a relatively low profile. But the music he has released has indicated that he plans to continue pushing at the edges of R&B with an adventurous variety of sounds. In 2014, he collaborated with the Chemical Brothers and Santana, covered Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” and contributed the guitar-heavy “Simplethings” to the soundtrack for HBO’s Girls. In December, Miguel quietly released a 3-song micro EP, much like the Art Dealer Chic series that paved the way to Kaleidoscope Dream. And the EP’s incomplete preview of the song “Coffee” sounds promisingly like a potential lead single, much like Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1 gave us our first brief glimpse of “Adorn,” the song that later won Miguel his first Grammy. —Al Shipley


frank ocean


Image via Wikipedia

From the jump, Frank Ocean has done things his way or not at all, with no half measures. The Odd Future affiliate’s 2012 debut album, Channel ORANGE, was widely regarded as the year’s best R&B album: a dense, calmly fantastical universe in which coked-out Hollywood brats, Egyptian pharaohs, high-end strippers, and ordinary dudes plagued by unrequited love coexist. It secured Ocean six Grammy nominations; it felt like a revolution. And then, as fast as he’d ascended, he seemed to disappear; aside from “Memrise,” a minute-and-a-half snippet he posted on his Tumblr last November, Ocean hasn’t released any new music since 2012. It’s raw and free-form, and definitely weirder than anything on Channel ORANGE—but that’s a good thing. If anyone can successfully challenge the increasingly risk-averse major label industrial complex in 2015, it’s Ocean, who’s been recording in exotic locations like Bora Bora over the past couple years. And if there’s anyone who can rise to meet the ridiculously high bar set by Black Messiah, D’Angelo’s transcendent surprise album slipped in at the end of 2014? That’d be Ocean, too. —Meaghan Garvey




Image via Wikipedia

Every calendar year from 2005 to 2012, Rihanna released a new album (or, one year, a deluxe reissue with multiple new chart-topping singles). But with Unapologetic completing her Def Jam contract, she made the not-unexpected jump to Roc Nation. Since then she’s taken her sweet time returning to the album grind. But she's managed to stay busy. An appearance on Eminem’s “Monster” recently added to her impressive tally of No. 1s. She's voicing the lead role in the DreamWorks' animated film Home due out in May. And she has reportedly recorded a 12-song concept album for the movie’s soundtrack. But at the moment it isn’t clear whether the Home soundtrack will get the full Rihanna album cycle treatment, or if she has a whole other project in the works for 2015 as well. —Al Shipley


Views from the 6


Image via Flickr

Going into 2015, Drake is in rarified air. His one-off loosies get Grammy nominations, a mere mention of an artist or song by him is the most powerful cosign rap has to offer, he hosts—and crushes—award shows, and, most importantly, he’s still rapping his ass off. While Drake’s journey to pop-culture overlord has been a long one, his recent omnipresence is majorly owed to the critical and commercial success of his third album. Since Nothing Was The Same did the work of solidifying Drake as the best, or at least hottest, rapper rapping his unnamed fourth album will hopefully feature the flexing that goes with owning the genre. Drake is at the peak of his powers, so why would this album be anything expect epic? “0-100” and “6 God,” which have a combined 30,000,000 SoundCloud plays, show that Drake’s big man braggadocio level is on a hundred thousand and yet he’s somehow still able to convincingly play the emotional self-conscious card on “How Bout Now." If Nothing Was The Same cemented Drake as the best out, his fourth album could etch his name in history. —Max Goldberg 


kendrick lamar


Image via Flickr

Kendrick Lamar's second album (and major label debut) Good Kid, m.A.A.d city was a smash of the highest levels, eventually going platinum and catapulting him to the next stratosphere, leading to seven Grammy nominations and a gig opening up for Kanye on the "Yeezus" tour. His “calling it show-stealing would be the understatement of the decade” verse on Big Sean’s 2013 song “Control”— where he claimed supremacy over peers like Drake, Wale, Pusha T, and, hell, everyone — put him in a whole new stratosphere. So now what? The Rahki-produced first single “i” already has two Grammy nominations and Lamar scored another coup as the last musical guest on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. In recent interviews, Lamar revealed he's recording with a backing band that includes heavy-hitters like Thundercat and Bilal. Will we see an album that showcases a jazzier style than the most brutish moments on m.A.A.d city? It remains to be seen, however we can say one thing: We hope the new music derails the now-annoying responses to his comments about Iggy Azalea in a recent Billboard article. —Ernest Wilkins


Kanye West


Image via Flickr

After the release of Yeezus back in 2013, an album that might be the most divisive moment in the long and heralded career of Kanye West—a career that includes calling out the President of the United States on national television, mind you— you’re not alone in wondering what’s in store for album #7. Generally alienating mainstream fans, Yeezus also managed to divide West's die-hards into those who applauded West’s risk-taking and effort to present heavily acid house and drill rap-influenced sounds while speaking about racial issues with a frankness not usually seen in an artist of his stature and those who either outright hated it, took umbrage with West wifing Kim Kardashian, or just wanted the dude who made “The College Dropout” to come back already. (SPOILER ALERT: That guy is loooong gone.) While album details are sparse, Ty Dolla $ign (who has uncredited vocals on first single “Only One”) revealed more music will be coming from the duo and Q-Tip mentioned in an interview that he’s producing the album alongside Rick Rubin. One thing is for sure: While we don’t expect an album filled with proud papa “Isn’t She Lovely”-style records, it would be naive to assume that West’s daughter North won’t cast a huge shadow over this album. The aforementioned first single “Only One,” a sparse and deeply emotional collaboration with rock legend Paul McCartney, centers on the relationship between his late mother Dr. Donda West and North, arguably the two most important women in his life. If you’re the betting type, you can bet the house that this album will be the final stage in Kanye’s ascendance to the rarefied air of capital-P Pop stars. We’re excited to see what comes next. —Ernest Wilkins