If you've seen our Best 30 Tracks of 2013, then you'll already have been subjected to some of the year's finest hip-hop - classics from Kanye, Pusha T and A$AP Rocky to name just a few. Consider this an extended playlist then, showcasing a bunch of rappers who might be on their way to the top tier themselves. We know our #1 ranked artist and best newcomer, Chance the Rapper, certainly is (and no, his Bieber collaboration did not make the list).
We've managed to narrow this one down to 30 tracks as well - one per artist, bar guest appearances and a couple of exceptions near the top. Most of them are drawn from mixtapes (so if you like what you hear then head over to Datpiff), but there's also a couple of slept-on album cuts (notably from Wu-Tang affiliates) and some one-offs that never made it onto a project. You can blame sample clearances for those. The whole year is covered, all the way back to January. The Busta Rhymes mixtape even dropped yesterday, so you can't say we don't keep you up to date!
Trends may becomes obvious as you listen through. Suffice to say that Atlanta in particular had a banner year, with New York and Chicago not far behind. We should probably try and forget that hyperbolic Vice article proclaiming the coming of the Third Golden Age, but that said, this list shows there was definitely some fantastic hip-hop this year.
Right, that's enough rubbish from me. Hope you find something you like.
30) Le1f - Spa Day
29) Curren$y & Smoke DZA - 10 Bricks (feat. French Montana & Big K.R.I.T.)
28) 100s - My Activator
27) Casey Veggies - She in My Car (feat. Dom Kennedy)
26) Black Hippy - U.O.E.N.O. Remix
25) Chinx Drugz - I'm a Coke Boy (feat. Rick Ross, Diddy & French Montana)
24) Rich Homie Quan - Type of Way
23) Young Scooter - Colombia
22) Killah Priest - New Reality
21) Lil Bibby - Water
NY rapper Le1f came back with two fine mixtapes this year, with 'Fly Zone' the better by an inch. Hopefully his mic talent and openness about his sexuality will go some way towards addressing homophobic attitudes in hip-hop. Harry Fraud continues his immaculate series of producer credits with beats for Chinx Drugz and Curren$y, who put together an all-star cast for 10 Bricks. Black Hippy teamed up for some bars over U.O.E.N.O, Childish Major's beat-of-the-year contender. Rich Homie Quan and Young Scooter broke out of Atlanta with these two monsters, while Lil Bibby was one of many artists this year showing that Chicago has more to offer than just nihilistic drill.
20) Tree - No Faces (feat. Danny Brown)
19) Czarface - Savagely Attack (Esoteric, Inspectah Deck & Ghostface Killah)
18) Lil Durk - Dis Ain't What U Want
17) Jose Guapo - Sittin on It (feat. Young Thug & PeeWee Longway)
16) Rockie Fresh - Superman OG
15) Gunplay - Pyrex
14) Death Grips - You Might Think He Loves You for Your Money...
13) Big Sean - Control (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica)
12) Busta Rhymes - Thank You (feat. Q-Tip, Lil Wayne & Kanye West)
11) Action Bronson - Contemporary Man
Talking of Chicago, both Lil Durk and Tree broke out a bit further this year, Danny Brown showing up on No Faces for a typically unhinged verse. Inspectah Deck teamed up with 7l & Esoteric to tide us over until that new Wu-Tang album, with Action Bronson representing Queens and the newest generation of New York talent. Both Gunplay and Jose Guapo's manic delivery almost gave us a heart attack, while Rockie Fresh rolled with that cool after-hours vibe. Oh, and the obligatory millionth mention of Kendrick stealing the show (and the rap game) on Big Sean's Control.
10) Young Thug - Picacho (feat. Maceo)
9) Migos - Versace
8) Freddie Gibbs - One Eighty Seven (feat. Problem)
7) Roach Gigz - Don't Forget the Gigz
6) The Underachievers - The Mahdi
5) Run the Jewels - Banana Clipper (Killer Mike, El-P & Big Boi)
4) Danny Brown - ODB
3) Action Bronson - Strictly 4 My Jeeps
2) Main Attrakionz - Summa Time
1) Chance the Rapper - Good Ass Intro / Juice
Young Scooter and Migos kicking us off again with a pair of Atlanta bangers. Versace has to be the year's most addictive track. Freddie Gibbs previewed some tracks off his upcoming collaboration with Madlib, but One Eighty Seven was his finest hour. We're going to give a joint 'Beat of the Year' to Don't Forget the Gigz and Summa Time - those floaty synths had us coming back every time we really needed to relax, with that saxaphone-led Underachievers track not far behind. Run the Jewels - a classic new pairing with true veteran power, Big Boi showing up to help out his old pal Killer Mike. Danny Brown at #4 with a killer psychedelic track that didn't even make it onto his album. Action Bronson at #3, showing off his new hook-writing ability over a hard-hitting Harry Fraud beat. Finally, the year's breakout star, Chance the Rapper. His Acid Rap mixtape felt more like a fully-realised album, and was host to some of the year's best lyricism. So good, we had to pick two tracks off it.