Every year there are albums and projects that are highly anticipated. Some live up to the hype, but often many simply fall short. Then there are other albums – released with little to no anticipation around them, and eventually turn out to be critically lauded. This year was no exception in this area, so our Music Editor, Duane Benjamin (a.k.a. @LahGic), put together a list of the top three projects of 2014 that he was most pleasantly surprised by.

Mobb Deep // The Infamous Mobb Deep
Bangers: “Dirt”, “Lifetime”, “Conquer”

With about eight years past since their last LP, along with a well publicized feud and reconciliation between Prodigy and Havoc, a lot of listeners didn’t have very high hopes for the Mobb’s The Infamous Mobb Deep release. With the title alone they were putting a great deal of pressure on themselves. But sticking true to their gritty, street roots, Hav and P put together a hardcore, cohesive piece of work that reminded us why we were fans of them since the days of Juvenile Hell and The Infamous. And in case that wasn’t enough, the second disk contained unreleased recordings from The Infamous sessions when the two emcees were in their most raw and hungriest form.

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Lox // The Trinity: 3rd Sermon
Bangers: “Now Listen”, “Real Is Real”

After dropping a couple surprise EPs, The Trinity and The Trinity: 2nd Sermon, the Lox put together an absolute fire mixtape keeping with the theme of the previous EPs, naming it The Trinity: 3rd Sermon. Everything you could hope to get from the group is on this offering. Sheek Louch spitting that bully rap, Styles P with those, ‘I’m the wrong one to fuck with,’ verses and Mr. Raspy, a.k.a. Jadakiss, bringing that slick talk, all over hard banging beats. You’ll be hard pressed to find many missteps on this mixtape as each emcee brings it on every verse. If you weren’t anticipating We Are The Streets 2, after bumping The Trinity: 3rd Sermon, you will be.

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Gillie Da Kid // King Of Philly 3
Bangers: “Make It Home”, “Bottom Line”, “Not To Be Fucked With”

For the most part, Gillie has been one of those artists that I recognize his skill, but I’m never really actively checking for his next mixtape or song. But from the moment you press play on King Of Philly 3 you can’t help but admit that Gillie is focused and can effortlessly switch up his flow for whatever beat he’s spitting over. The first verse on “Make It Home” is a perfect example of this as Gillie absolutely kills it. Track after track, Gillie spits over solid beats, his chorus game is on point and even the cuts with auto tune aren’t overdone and add something to the project. If you haven’t had a chance to check out King Of Philly 3 yet, you definitely gotta bump this loud through your speakers and give your subwoofer some work.

@LahGic