This week in album releases, we’ve ended up checking out some of the latest hip hop and rap releases and found some cool discoveries. Whether you are a fan of the genre or just skim the surface, some of these albums are on the must-listen-to list, including the last you’ll hear from the late king of pop. Yeah, somehow he’s still releasing music… give it a listen along with these other albums featured this week:

The Bad

9th Wonder, 9th’s Opus: It’s a Wonderful World Music Group Vol. 1

9th Wonder – the multi-talented Patrick Douthit who is involved in producing, DJing, and collaborations with pretty much everyone in the hip hop world, is releasing 9th’s Opus, a compilation and remix album featuring some of the industries finest hip hop artists today. There is no doubt that 9th is catchy, talented, and enjoyable, but critics agree that there’s a lack of range and cohesion on Opus:

  • Hip Hop DX: “So the issue here isn’t quality. It isn’t even really a matter of talent – though uninspired emceeing a la Halo 9th can do without; rather, it’s a matter of range. With each release, fans hope to hear 9th Wonder step out of his comfort zone, and he just doesn’t do it here. Instead of providing clarity on the matter, 9th’s Opus will instead fuel both sides of the 9th Wonder argument: is he a brilliant producer, or a one-trick pony?” — Slava Kuperstein
  • Above Ground: “If we may be honest here, aside from Skyzoo and his R&B acts no one on this album belongs on this album. Big Remo, Halo, Actual Proof, The Away Team, GQ, TP, Hos, Thee Tom Hardy and Rapsody all get bunched in the category of wack to okay at best. 9th Actually takes a stab at the mic as 9thMatic and, as he does an okay job, I don’t understand why he’s even trying in the first place.” — Jamal Frederick

9th’s Opus is available on Amazon for $10.65

Diddy and Dirty Money , The Last Train to Paris

Diddy teamed up with Dirty Money on his latest album release, Last Train to Paris, a work that he claimed would be a concept album about lovers on Europe’s rail system. Sounds ambitious and interesting to say the least, and critics who reviewed the album this week don’t seem impressed by Diddy’s album line up or his dance-tracks:

  • Entertainment Weekly: “As that partial guest list might suggest, this is a very crowded ride. The sheer number of cameos overwhelms the narrative conceit after a while, around the moment when Justin Timberlake inexplicably starts rapping about X-Men characters (“Shades”).” — Simon Vozick-Levinson
  • HitFix: “Diddy doesn’t really show up until his rap around 2:50 [for "Ass on the Dance Floor"]. To his credit, he’s created a song that doesn’t really need him. We’re not sure that’s what he meant to do.” — Melinda Newman

Last Train to Paris is available on Amazon for $8.99

The Good

Damned Things, Ironiclast

If you’re a fan of (the late) Fall Out Boy, Anthrax, and/or Every Time I Die, then you’ll be thrilled to know that some of the key members of those bands have joined forces and created The Damned Things, releasing their first studio album Ironiclast this week. Fans and critics are actually impressed… and this may well be one of the best supergroup album releases you’ve heard in a while. Check out the reviews:

  • The Music Cycle: “the album reflects the good times the band had while creating the album. The album opens with a song the band had previously released to the public known as “Handbook for The Recently Deceased”, giving the album a heavy opening and featuring memorable melodic chorus.” — Jon Richard
  • Rock Sound: “And man, if you’ve never heard Buckley use his vocal chords to this end before, you’re in for a surprise – this lad can sing! ‘Handbook…’ is loaded with a hooky chorus and one hell of a swing that’ll not leave the grey matter until it’s replaced, quite conveniently by the next catchy track! ‘Bad Blood’ is classic-sounding rock which features handclaps and castanets for added tongue-in-cheek rockability, while ‘Friday Night (Going Down In Flames)’ is a blazing inferno full of sharp and scorching guitar licks and an urgency that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.” — Ronnie Kerswell

Ironiclast is available on Amazon for $6.99

Michael Jackson, Michael

For any of the MJ fans out there… We might never get to hear the real studio album that Michael would have recorded, but this release is as close as it gets. We might never know what Michael would have thought about Michael, but we can hold fast to the final tracks and rough tunes on this consistant release:

  • The Independent: “Suddenly, on track four, something amazing happens. The summery, “(I Like) the Way You Love Me” begins with a snatch of Jackson humming and beatboxing into a Dictaphone: “This is the tempo and this is the melody…” Those few seconds are the most thrilling of the whole record.” — Simon Price
  • Dallas News Entertainment: “Stylistically and lyrically, it’s signature Jackson with grand pop ballads, piercing rock workouts and percussive R&B-hip-hop jams. He convincingly covers the pitfalls of fame (“Monster,” “Breaking News”); the ambition to thrive (“Hollywood Tonight,” “Keep Your Head Up”); and the need for togetherness (“Hold My Hand,” “Best of Joy”).” — Mario Tardell

Michael is available on Amazon for $8.00

The Great

R. Kelly, Love Letter

R. Kelly’s legacy of debuts, producing, collaborations, and compilations is far from over, and Love Letter is his impressive album release this week, marking the 10th studio album to date. Kelly is bringing love songs back to the radio, and even suggests a lyrical transformation that shows progress over the years:

  • The Washington Post: “Odes to the pained iconoclasts of R&B are de rigueur these days, and “Love Letter” locks into a familiar but sometimes drab facsimile of the sound. “Can I bring the love songs back to the radio?” Kelly sings on “Lost in Your Love,” a curious request for the notoriously lascivious singer. He’s historically pushed R&B forward, stretching the limits of language and grandeur. But Kelly, who wrote and produced everything here, is operating in a style that is fatally loyal to his forbears.” — Sean Fennessey
  • The Guardian: “cue liberally applied horns, assorted sweet nothings, and nods to Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and the Righteous Brothers. It’s pastiche, certainly, but Kelly’s expressive croon carries the day: equal parts honeyed and rasping, and bristling with a sincerity that reaches its zenith on the spine-tingling, a cappella finale of “When a Woman Loves”.” — Hugh Montgomery

Love Letter is available on Amazon for $8.99