Hip-hop is a hypochondriac. Since its first records, the genre has reimagined and revised its own Edenic myth. For every Golden Age, there’s a tin present, allegedly limping from commercial compromises and calorie-free lyrical content. Aside from maybe jazz, no other art form has so existentially lamented its decline from both internal and external boogeymen.
But even by normally cantankerous standards in which past glories are always greater than present achievements, 2014 has been underwhelming. The genre’s most famous names (Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, Drake) haven’t released commercial albums after each dropped new ones in 2013. But most young stars that emerged over the past several years (Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, J Cole, Odd Future, A$AP Rocky) have also been absent. Accordingly, A$AP Yams, who spearheaded A$AP Rocky’s rise, proclaimed 2014 to be “the worst year in rap history.”