2019 was filled with an array of impressive albums worthy of high praise for years to come. Before we talk about those, let’s take a look back at the year’s albums that left us with more questions than answers and much to be desired.
It’s the most challenging part of being a fan of an artist, waiting in some cases years just to be let down by music that fails to live up to it’s potential. Unfocused ideas, failed experimentation at a new sound, or simply not able to live up to the hype set by the fanbase, these things happen all the time in music. Still, when we receive a clunker of an album from an established artist or hyped prospect, it’s hard not to feel some level of disappointment. These aren’t necessarily the worst albums of 2019, instead, ones that left us scratching our heads, wondering what could’ve been.
“Legendary” by Tyga
In retrospect, it seems foolish to get excited over a Tyga album, but heading into 2019, something was a little different for the “Rack City” rapper. After spending the last half-decade in near irrelevancy marred by weak sales and zero charting songs, Tyga had arguably the most significant come back out of any rapper in 2018. In May of that year, Tyga received his big break in the form of the Offset assisted single “Taste.” After peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, Tyga continued his hot streak with singles “Swish” and “Dip.” Each of these singles was fun and catchy, following a similar format to that of “Taste.” Still, most importantly, it looked like Tyga was amid a full career resurgence, reclaiming his role as one of hip-hop’s most effective party hitmakers just like he was at the beginning of the decade. “Legendary” became Tyga’s highest-charting album since 2015’s collaborative effort with Chris Brown, “Fan of a Fan.” However, nothing off of the album other than the preexisting singles translated into any success. “Legendary” sounds like the Tyga of old, the uninspired sound that had made everyone leave Tyga behind after a slew of poorly received albums. I’m all here for Tyga’s resurgence, but nothing off of “Legendary” felt even close to touching his fantastic 2018, a trend that will almost certainly have to change to keep his spot in the mainstream eye.
“4REAL 4REAL” by YG
From 2014 to 2016, YG had submitted himself as one of the most exciting rappers out of the west. “My Krazy Life” and “Still Brazy” were two of the more memorable rap albums of the decade, each having a unique sound, paying homage to the gangsta rap of the past, but with a modern twist. So in 2018, many were confused by the sloppy trap oriented “Stay Dangerous,” especially when looking at the track record YG had built up over the years prior. 2019’s “4REAL 4REAL” was a modest improvement, but still feels empty, mostly due to being dubbed the “Nipsey Hussle tribute album” without any references to his late friend other than the spoken outro “My Last Words.” “4REAL 4REAL” has its strong moments like “Hard Bottoms & White Socks” and “Keshia Had a Baby” but still feels rushed. Unfortunately, now, with two whiffs in back to back years, it feels increasingly unlikely that YG can reclaim the acclaim of his first two albums going forward.
“The Lost Tapes 2” by Nas
A quarter-century into his rap career, Nas is a certified legend without anything left to prove as his legacy is unparalleled. Unlike the rest of the albums on this list, “The Lost Tapes 2” is billed as a compilation rather than a studio album, meaning that this should have been nothing more than a low-stakes late-career body of work. Still, the title of this album has a lot to hold up to as it’s the long-awaited sequel to 2002 classic “Lost Tapes,” which is one of Nas’s best work. Add in the arsenal of A-list producers such as Kanye West, No I.D., and RZA to name a few, it was pretty disappointing to see songs such as “Jarreau of Rap (Skatt Attack)” not just make the album, but be the only single off of the album. The rest of the album has a few decent cuts, but overall “The Lost Tapes 2” leaves much to be desired, especially when considering the star power that went into creating this compilation.
“Is He Real?” by IDK
After 2017’s “IWASVERYBAD,” I was sold on IDK, even thinking he was on the fast track to becoming one of hip-hop’s young elite talents. “IWASVERYBAD” felt like a raw “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” with its strong storytelling while still finding a happy medium of both conscious heartfelt lyrics and all-out assault bangers. So what went wrong on “Is He Real?” For one, IDK teased this album for the longest time, to the point it was just ridiculous, but most of all, IDK has submitted himself as one of the corniest rappers out right now. Prolonged obnoxious marketing schemes and IDK’s personality had many, including myself, so fatigued that even after 2017’s gem in “IWASVERYBAD,” interest in “Is He Real?’ wasn’t there. Once the album finally arrived, it didn’t get any better. I admire IDK’s ambition, but underbaked ideas and corny lyrics derailed the overall broader concept of religion on “Is He Real.” The talent is still there, and even if his personality is a tad too goofy, IDK still has a bright outlook ahead of him, maybe just not to the extent I fist expected after “IWASVERYBAD.”
“Escape From New York” by Beast Coast
Beast Coast is the supergroup made up of the members of Pro Era, The Underachievers, and Flatbush Zombies, all of which have contributed to some of the best hip-hop albums to come out of New York this decade. Take into account the track record of the likes of Joey Bada$$ and Flatbush Zombies; it was hard to imagine “Escape From New York” being anything less than memorable. The problem with this joint group effort that was panned by fans and critics alike was the abandonment of the signature sound of the “Beast Coast. Instead of playing to the strength of the boom-bap style of Joey Bada$$ or the heavy and dark production of Erick the Architect, the supergroup ditched everything that made them stand out in the first place with the use of generic trap beats and awkward use of autotune. Many of the members had found themselves having to defend the change in the direction of “Escape From New York” from longtime fans who were citing the album as disrespect towards the vision of the late Capital Steez who’s anti-commercial attitude was a driving force for the Beast Coast’s initial come up. Since “Escape From New York” was just a side project for each of the members, it would be a little premature to hit the panic button in the sense that the heavy trap influence will carry over to future solo endeavors. Still, with the track records of Joey Bada$$ and Flatbush Zombies, it was quite disappointing to see words of potential squandered to appeal to a broader audience while alienation fans that have been supporting them from the beginning.
“Born 2 Rap” by The Game
If this really is The Game’s last album, it feels like a disappointing way to end a legendary career. The Game has been one of the most consistent rappers in hip-hop ever since the release of his 2005 debut classic, “The Documentary.” When looking at his most recent work, The Game has undoubtedly been on a hot stretch the last half-decade with “The Documentary 2/2.5” and “1992,” leaving lots of excitement for what seems to be his last album. Unfortunately, what looked like the perfect storm for the farewell, didn’t translate into sales or a well-received body of work. For a rapper with three number 1 albums and hasn’t charted less than six on the Billboard 200 in his career, “Born 2 Rap” charting at number 19 feels like a significant flop for one of hip-hop’s mainstays of the past fifteen years. Sales aside, “Born 2 Rap” was still a major disappointment; at 25 songs and 90 minutes, it was inevitable that there would be some filler, but even more, to be bogged down by inconsistent features made the album in some areas feel even longer and taxing on the ears. “Born 2 Rap” had a few memorable moments like the impressive singles “West Side” and “Stainless” along with “40 Ounce Love,” but as a full body of work was nothing short of a head-scratcher, especially coming from what appears to be the final album of one of the most well-respected rappers of the west.
“Jesus Is King” by Kanye West
After the prolonged spectacle that was “Yandhi,” which suffered a leak, here we are with “Jesus Is King” in 2019. Very much like last year’s “Ye,” there was an initial album that was scrapped and redone in a short timeframe that leads us to another short album, not even hitting the 30-minute mark. Unlike “Ye,” which had an honest charm and felt well thought out, “Jesus Is King” is the ultimate mixed bag both with fantastic highs and lows. Granted, it felt underdeveloped, “Follow God” proves that even when Kanye West makes a proclaimed “Christian rap album,” the beats are guaranteed to be out of this word. Other fantastic moments were “On God” thanks to Pi’erre Bourne and the reunion of Clipse on “Use This Gospel.” The lows on “Jesus Is King” are well… laughable, “Closed On Sunday” simply shouldn’t have made the album. When you consider “Jesus Is King” was a Christian rap album, it went over much better than one would expect and still managed to put up some of the biggest numbers of the year. On the other hand, “Jesus Is King” is the worst album and will hard not to be seen as a blemish in most people would’ve cited as a flawless discography. However you look at it though, fans thought it would be the highly anticipated “Yandhi” they would be listening to for Kanye West’s ninth studio album, one that was delayed over an entire year. That alone left many very disappointed in the outcome.
“K.R.I.T. Iz Here” by Big K.R.I.T.
Big K.R.I.T. is both one of the most hardworking and acclaimed rappers of the decade. The Mississippi native has churned out fantastic album after fantastic album starting with “K.R.I.T. Wuz Here” in 2010, consistently building off of that debut until his opus to date, 2017’s “4eva Is A Mighty Long Time.” Even as a double album at 84 minutes, K.R.I.T. made an album more enjoying and engaging than those at half the length, a testament to just how good Big K.R.I.T. has been. Out of his record label heading into “K.R.I.T. Iz Here,” it seemed that Big K.R.I.T. would have as much artistic freedom as ever to top the beautiful “4eva Is A Mighty Long Time,” especially taking his time after a year off, a rarity for K.R.I.T.’s output. With the bar set so high, “K.R.I.T. Iz Here” didn’t just fall short of expectations, he released the worst album of his career thus far. Even now that Big K.R.I.T. is independent, “K.R.I.T. Iz Here” sounds like an album that, would have had to have an excess of crossover appeal to get a release date from a major label. Even with ideas with a fraction of the purpose of past work, many songs are enjoyable, and K.R.I.T.’s bars are still sharp, giving off the vibe of a loose mixtape, not the follow up to an opus or the sequel to the album that put K.R.I.T. on the map.
“CrasH Talk” by Schoolboy Q
For the majority of the year, I viewed Schoolboy Q’s “CrasH Talk” as 2019’s most disappointing album; however, I had just a slight change in the heart after recent listens. “CrasH Talk” was never good, but far from terrible, it fell victim to the same issues as “K.R.I.T. Iz Here,” an already popular acclaimed artist with a unique style throwing it out the window to conform to the latest trends. Schoolboy Q’s 2016 “Blank Face L.P.” was a masterpiece, the best release on Top Dawg Entertainment from an artist not named Kendrick Lamar. “Blank Face LP” was a gritty street psychedelic rap crossover met with universal acclaim from critics and fans alike. After a three year wait, expectations were high as ever for Q who had an excellent track record, but “CrasH Talk” was the ultimate letdown. Instead of building off of the glorious “Blankface LP,” Schoolboy Q threw it all away for generic trap beats and uninspired rapping. A handful of the tracks excelled in the goal of making bangers such as “Numb Numb Juice,” but as a whole reeked of an artist who could be fearing that he is falling off the face of mainstream rap in favor of is younger peers that also appear on the album such as Lil Baby and 21 Savage. “CrasH Talk” is a grower if you can get past the fact of how poor of an attempt it is to live up to “Blankface LP,” but even then, it’s still going to leave a bad taste in the mouth of many.
“The Big Day” by Chance The Rapper
Not just the most disappointing album, but the worst album of the year goes to none other than the man that loves his wife. Seriously, I’m happy that Chance The Rapper is living his life to the fullest, but that doesn’t save the fact that this album is downright horrendous. “The Big Day” feels like a parody of the last few years of Chance’s life, the only problem is that “The Big Day” actually came from Chance The Rapper. After receiving high praise from mixtapes “Acid Rap” and his breakthrough “Coloring Book,” Chance drops the ball here on his first studio album. This album is bloated, spanning 22 songs over 77 minutes, and even if it were literally cut in half, 11 songs over 38 minutes containing the best songs it still would’ve still been unbearable. It was so bad that it was a meme for a few weeks, mainly because of the repetitiveness themes of his wife and wedding day. “The Big Day” had zero redeemable qualities, and when an established artist manages to falter this bad, it is inevitable to end up as 2019’s most disappointing album.
Hope you enjoyed the list more than I enjoyed these albums, Top 50 Albums of 2019 will come in the next few weeks.