With the 2014 rap season in full swing, it's time for our first album roundup of the year. Critics are divided over the merits of Rick Ross' Mastermind, not because it's controversial or innovative, but because they can't decide whether they're satisfied with its business-as-usual tone, especially given its lack of breakout hits (at least so far). Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Schoolboy Q's Oxymoron, which has drawn a collective shrug. We're not ready to give up on him as a potential headlining star, though. Y.G.'s My Krazy Life is surprisingly good. He may not be the best rapper or conceptualist, but he knows how to make hits, and DJ Mustard is a beast on the production boards. Young Money's Rise of an Empire was bound to get bad reviews -- nearly all label/crew comps encounter the same fate -- but at least there's a lively dialogue around Nicki Minaj's "Lookin' Ass N*gg*" and Drake's "Trophies." Isaiah Rashad's Cilvia Demo announces the arrival of a promising talent, though it remains to be seen if he can grow past the "demo" stage. Also check out major releases from Kevin Gates, Kid Ink and Kid Cudi, and don't sleep on critically acclaimed works by Le1f and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib.
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