Friday, February 26, 2010

Best Albums of '09

So this year was a weird one in the rap world. For the first time ever, the mixtape game caught up and lapped its secular album counterparts. To reflect that, I'll have a separate EP/mixtape Top 10 because there honestly would only be about 3 of these joints that would survive on a combined list. That's dirty. Unless some record exec comes up with something serious, this industry's gonna die a whole lot sooner than later. There's only gonna be like three and a half dudes left that could put out hit albums from any given genre. Or albums are gonna be weeded out altogether and you're only gonna be seeing singles for the rest of forever. Oh well. Let's move on, shall we, with the few LPs that did escape the grasp of the label heads. And we'll make no further mention of Robert Plant, ever.

10. Asleep in the Bread Aisle - Asher Roth

Yes. This shows how lacking 2009 was. But I can't lie, the album that was forced out immediately on the inexplicable hype of "I Love College" had some quality to it. If you wanna go back and read my track-by-track Twitter review, go ahead. For a few months at least, the resident thugs of rap were asked to step aside and make way for the MTV-friendly blonde frat boy who could twist a rhyme scheme a lil' bit and make all the teenage girls swoon. He was just as easily discarded from the limelight, but not before the blog campaign to support the guy's debut album as the first 09 Freshman to get a release. With strong features such as my man Cee-Lo, Miss Keri Hilson, double time Busta Rhymes, pre-Jigga-hating Beanie Sigel, and the always great Slick Rick, I genuinely enjoyed approximately 85% of this album. When avoiding the topic of weed smoking and hitting on anything that walks, Asher can be pretty interesting. Who knows if the guy will ever recover for a major sophomore follow-up, but he undeniably had his impact on 2009. Surprise track: "Fallin'"

9. Brooklynati - Tanya Morgan

These guys came to Lexington last semester for a show and I'm very proud to have attended. The trio with a girl's name released Brooklynati to their cult-like following those privileged enough to be amongst them knew what to expect. With Ohio natives Ilyas and Donwill plus the Justus League's resident New Yorker Von Pea, Tanya Morgan is all about the rapping. With stylistic inspiration of the old Native Tongues crew and the Soulquarians, all the production by Von Pea and Brick Beats nestle in on a range of boom bap to soul hop. Jermiside, Phonte, Che Grand, Kay, Blu, and even Ms. Info all join the party on features. The hook are most always chant worthy and transitioned perfectly into their hyped live show, which forever cements this album as essential in my book. Brooklynati is fun, lighter listen than the rap world's grimy alternatives. It's all about style and dopeness with this crew who you can tell just loves hip hop more than the majority of rap acts out. Surprise track: "Hardcore Gentleman"

8. This Perfect Life - Charles Hamilton

Yes, I know this never got its proper release. But it should have, so we'll treat it like it did. I already gave a long rundown of the circumstances around this project, so I'll just talk about the music itself. This was unfiltered CH. It was completed before the industry exile and represented all the aspects of composition that Charles loved to experiment with. The beats were all self-produced with heavy drums over roughly chopped samples that had been utterly decomposed. And over this signature lo-fi sound, Charles rapped in his free-associating, lazy manner while distortedly crooning on the hooks. Each song was heavy on this album. Whether discussing the industry, racism, or the motivation to live, Charles did it his way and with witty thoughtfulness. This music was the epitome of his bare-all diary reading, making it everything that caused his fans to connect with him on the most instinctual level while it also was exactly what made his detractors disregard him in the first place. You either love or you hate this failed Interscope CD. Just like you do with all of Charles' music. Surprise track: "Post-Lynching Ceremony"

7. Padded Room - Joe Budden

Joey's another hate-him-or-love-him type of emcee. Especially when he's on his mentally tortured steez. This album is the second in a series of (kinda) conceptual releases. Besides a couple of weird momentum shifters, this record's pretty much halfway to an old school Eminem-type project minus the white boy angle and at half the speed. Filled with hallucinations, drug binges, depression, and suicidal notions, Joe narrates you through his inadequacies in life. The main problem a lot of people had with this release was the lineup of unknown producers. I'm not going to give him the Nas title of having a lead ear, though. I don't mind most of the beats, even though some of them seem to fall short in contributing to the darker mood that you'd assume he would've wanted. And I'm never one to complain as long as Budden is going on thought-provoking rants or just simply telling a story about whatever. Somehow this is technically his sophomore release, but that's a nonexistent point with Joe's veteran status on the mic. While it doesn't always stay on track from song to song, I don't really care. If you don't mind your hip hop in emotional turmoil and somewhat disorganized, then this will be found in your rotation. Surprise track: "Exxxes"

6. Slaughterhouse - Slaughterhouse

The blogosphere's darling supergroup actually got a release. Color me surprised. New Jersey's Joe Budden, Detroit's Royce da 5'9", New York's Joell Ortiz, and Los Angeles' Crooked I all took a pause from their mixtape campaigns and joined together to make the hardest album lyric-by-lyric in years. Sure, it's a lot of murder, murder, murder talk, but when the emcees doing the talking can rap like these four can, it's anything but recycled. In my opinion, you know you're dope when people can't agree on what to hate on you about. I read some reviews saying that Slaughterhouse is too monotonous with their hardcore lyrical aggressiveness on every track. But then I also read some reviews complaining about the concept tracks of "Pray", "Cut You Loose", or "Rain Drops" when they switched their collective style up. So ... ya know. This album, bar for bar, is stank-face-inducing. But I have to air my one and only gripe ... You should NEVER have Pharoahe Monch on your tracklist and confine him solely to a chorus. It's a dope track, but "Salute" could have been an all-timer with a single additional 16. Ha. Surprise track: "Not Tonight"

5. Attention:Deficit - Wale

I feel like this album got the "disappointment by popular demand" treatment. You know, when something's really dope, but everyone listens (or doesn't listen at all) to it after they've read that it's a sellout attempt that couldn't compare to The Mixtape About Nothing. And then that person perpetuates that one quotable description and everyone jumps along with it. Attention:Deficit is dope. Yeah, he has commercial features by Lady Gaga and Gucci Mane on his singles, but he also K'naan and J. Cole features along with BKS and Dave Sitek beats. Is that selling out, too? And I don't care how dumb Gucci's mumbling rapping (I had to fight myself to not put that in quotations) is, nothing could ruin the inerrant greatness of "Pretty Girls" as a bomb single or any other classification. Dude puts a go-go singer that all of us non-DMV residents have never heard of and it rocks like none other. Wale's musical stylings are still the same as any of his other projects, his awkward rhyme schemes at times are still there, his punctuating punchline referencing is still adamant, and his diverse subject matter is still present. The quality gap between this debut album and his mixtapes that reviewers quip about simply isn't there. If you liked Wale before, you'll enjoy this album and spin it ridiculous. Don't believe the non-hype. Especially if you extend your iTunes version of this album by tacking on the joints that didn't make the cut, like "Ice & Rain", "Letter", and "Bittersweet". Surprise track: "Contemplate (feat. Rihanna [sampled, but close enough])"

4. The Blueprint 3 - Jay-Z

I don't care what anybody accuses this album of being. This is destined to be a classic in my book. With three legit smash singles in the calling-out of "D.O.A.", the (NWO) anthemic "Run This Town", and the hometown opus "Empire State of Mind", this album easily meant more to commercial hip hop than any other release last year. But the heart of it to me is the deeper digging chemistry of Jay with Kanye and No I.D.'s work on the boards plus all the chances that he took with hip hop's newcomers. Some call it a desperation reach to remain relevant, but I see his collaborations with J. Cole, KiD CuDi, and Drake as spotlight generosity. His album was gonna be on easy platinum status whether or not anyone else was on it, so don't kid yourself. And if you were lucky enough to get in on a leg of the Blueprint 3 tour, then you heard, saw, and felt the purpose that each track served. Hov brought back his quiet flow, experimented with some techno sounds, and even threw out a full blown indie collabo with Empire of the Sun. It's already cliche for me to repeat, but if you want the old Hov, buy his old album. Surprise track: "Venus vs. Mars (feat. Cassie/Beyonce)"

3. The Element of Freedom - Alicia Keys

I think it's her best album. If I don't know what to listen to at any given minute, I scroll down just a little bit through the A's and double-click that gorgeous spoken word intro and let this album ride. Ms. Keys (I will never refer to her as Mrs. Beatz) creates some of her most catchy melodies and accompaniment of her career and still somehow finds a way to take her vocals to different places even on her fourth album. It only takes managing to get to track 2 ("Love is Blind") to find that out. The LP's sole blemish is the God-awful Beyonce collaboration, "Put It in a Love Song". Alicia rarely does any collaborations in any way, shape, or form, and this track kinda shows why the majority of pop artists probably shouldn't break into her artistic circle. Forgetting that that song exists ... the three lead singles ("Doesn't Mean Anything", "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart", and "Empire State of Mind, Part 2") are all anthemic and have already carved up the charts. The insanely classic "Un-thinkable" that just so happened to be written by Drake needs some single treatment, too. That cut is too big to be denied. Alicia is 4 for 4 on studio projects and I don't think she could drop a disappointing album if she tried. Surprise track: "Love is My Disease"

2. Man on the Moon: The End of the Day - KiD CuDi

This debut destroyed any defining barrier that was possibly left in hip hop. No one can convince me otherwise. CuDi hit the emotional vein of a generation of listeners who have never heard someone live through their music for them. Kanye tried, but he'd already been rich and critically acclaimed ten times over again by the time 808s came around. So while Kan's music was easily full of brilliant expression, CuDi hits that nerve in a more genuine way and did it on his very first attempt. He sorta rapped and sorta sung his way into the consciousness of a fan base that he created himself. He didn't go out seeking his niche in music, he just made it and let people flock to it as they pleased. Yeah, "Day N Nite" was a smash hit that was released years before this album dropped to the public, but that joint was included on this album by default of the record label. Man on the Moon is about a journey. An incomplete journey. An incomplete journey filled with lowest of mistakes followed up by five minute highs and rounded off by further disappointment. It's about not being good enough and knowing that even though you're not good enough, sometimes that's good enough. It's about not understanding your purpose. It's about knowing that even though you may never know your purpose, the journey to try and understand it anyways may very well be your purpose. It's about being the man on the moon. And KiD CuDi managed to pick the most epic instrumental landscape ever in which to articulately melodicize his way through this journey. And it would have been the album of the year in pretty much any other year ever. Surprise track: "Up Up and Away"

1. BLACKsummers'night - Maxwell

The first time I heard "Broken Wings", I knew this was gonna one of my favorite projects of the decade. I admittedly had to do some Maxwell research as I came to my age of musical appreciation right in the middle of Maxwell's hundred year break from music-making. But that hiatus only made this album more perfect. And let me emphasize the last word in that sentence. Perfect. This LP, though only 37.3 minutes long, is perfect. Each of the 8 songs, plus the musical outro, is perfect. Maxwell has as distinctive a voice as anyone in music history and he uses it to its full effect crooning over every track of his own production. I've listened to this whole project 22 times straight through. And that says nothing to the spins of each individual joint. I can't imagine a greater R&B record than this. I literally can't. While I thoroughly enjoy contemporary artists such as John Legend and Anthony Hamilton who are insanely great at what they do, no one I've ever heard has crafted an album like this down to every micro-detail of its development. I guess some of the greatest music ever comes in the briefest of packages. From "Bad Habits" to "Cold" to "Pretty Wings" to "Help Somebody" to "Stop the World" to "Love You" to "Fistful of Tears" to "Playing Possum", Maxwell crafts an immaculate atmosphere of absolutely wherever he wants to take his listener. While you may think the subjects of heartache and desire are familiar, this album is enough to make you rethink that. The brevity keeps you dying for more of this audible experience. I cannot articulate how much I need blackSUMMERS'night and blacksummers'NIGHT in my life. And my future woman's life. Surprise track: "Playing Possum"

... but do take my word for it.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This is about as dope as it gets. brandUn got the professional treatment on this video. Quality is through the roof and it's 100% in his lane. This vid producer is legit. Here's to hoping it leads to even bigger and better things. Shoot, dude just got a beat on the newest Curren$y tape and he's got Vol. 3 coming up in a minute. This is gonna be that year.

... but do take my word for it.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Never in Charge

Essentially one of the funniest videos I've ever witnessed.

Charles Discharged from jeff on Vimeo.

Random note: I got my tickets to the Drake & k-os show on April 27th. I cannot tell a lie. I'm hyped.

... but do take my word for it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Thoughtful

Great surprise today with this release. I guess I haven't been paying attention as of late, but you should know that any QuESt release is all quality. This one is a warm-up mixtape in the same vein of There's Only One Month Left. That means the focus is more on adding his vibe to industry beats with a few all original joints sprinkled in. And I ain't mad as he takes on such recent tracks as "Angels", "I'm So Appalled", and "Exhibit C" plus past bangers like "I Know" and "Boss' Life".

And by the way, how dope is that cover art? I sweat QuESt's flow regardless and the fact that he isn't afraid to go dark on some of his subject matter. He sounds like nobody else out there and I'll be straight with any project dropping from dude. Even though his manager dude wouldn't get me back about a feature on "Hold On". Haha. He'd kill it too since he's already destroyed some Charlie Hilton production and would sound perfect following up brandUn DeShay on the track. Oh well. I ain't bitter.

QuESt -
How Thoughtful

1. How Thoughtful
2. Exhibit Q
3. Still Calling on Them Angels
4. Trouble
5. Lyrics to Go
6. Elevator Status
7. Life of the Responsible
8. Love Until We Bleed (feat. Lykke Li)
9. QuESt is Active
10. No Future
11. Neato
12. The Anecdote
13. Haiku
14. Swear I'm Putting On
15. Just a Little Closer
16. How Thoughtful (Outro)
17. Letter to a Man's Broken Heart

... but do take my word for it.


Dreamer's Poetry

So Mike Dreams just released his first full album since getting some 2dopeboyz love. And in his honor, I will pause that last statement. I don't know if we're #offthat yet, but you can ask him on Twitter. It's all good.

My favorite track might be the intro. It's legit prolly the best beat I've heard so far in this early year and Mike effortlessly runs throughout the entire track setting the atmosphere for the rest of the songs following. He's definitely got a knack for kicking off metaphor after metaphor referencing any and everything to fill out each verse. And though these aren't the big name producers you'll see on everyone else's projects, Mike definitely has an ear for quality beats throughout. His singer features are really nice highlights and the entire collective project feels like it should. Like an album. Funny how that works when you put the time in like he did and developed out this LP. If you're cool with a break from gutter hip hop and don't mind being uplifted for 17 tracks, then this is the early 2010 album you need to pick up.

Mike Dreams-
Dreamer's Poetry [Purchase link]

1. The Dreamer (Intro)
2. Success Is ...
3. The Greatest Never Heard
4. We Goin' Worldwide (feat. Christina Fisher)
5. Gettin' Ours
6. I Go Crazy
7. Feelin' Out This World (feat. Christina Fisher)
8. Start Over Again (feat. Oli)
9. We'll Be Alright (feat. Ashley DuBose)
10. DreamGurl (feat. Oli)
11. Weekend Jam
12. Highway
13. Heaven's One Step Away (feat. Garey Hannah, Sr.)
14. Never Forget
15. Flight Dream Melody (feat. Margeaux Davis)
16. Hip Hop Anthem (Hello World)
17. Stay Forever (Outro)

... but do take my word for it.