12-16-2012 § Leave a comment
New Years is one of my favorite times, because among other reasons the year-end lists come out from all the Hip Hop sites. I love finding new music, and this time of year I’ve inevitably missed at least one major release, and many underground projects that will soon amaze me.
I’m hoping some of these you’ve heard, but others perhaps you haven’t – and you can take this opportunity to check them out.
I’m not putting these in order, i feel like an ‘best of the year’ list is an overrated concept, and flawed at best – with so many subgenres out there in Hip Hop how can we crown just one album as the best of 2012? And are we using just retail releases, or do free albums and mixtapes count as well? I’m more interested in posting the absolutely best projects, of all types rather than stressing over a definitive “Best Of” list.
Here you are, in no particular order the best projects of 2012.
S-K-Y-Z-O-O is the rapper to name drop amongst snobby fans, for a reason. Lots of reasons, actually – he’s got a quality catalog of ‘Oh, shit I didn’t catch that the first time’ lyrics over beats from the industry’s absolute best producers. One of a few artists I blindly support, because there simply isn’t a reason to doubt the man. He shows a new variety of flows here, over unorthodox beats sometimes – rocking instrumentals better than most could imagine their favorite MC accomplishing.
The most complete album of 2012? That’s not a hard one, actually. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have crafted an album that literally has something for everyone here. Uplifting tracks, introspective tracks, party tracks, tracks about addiction or starting over … the list goes on. Mainstream success whilst making fun of the mainstream? They’ve got a truly spectacular body of work across this disc. All of this, and it’s an independent album. That kind of makes sense, actually.
Kendrick killed this year’s effort, his Aftermath debut “Good Kid, Maad City.” A film on record, technically – it all comes back around and has massive replay value. I’ve had people who don’t even really listen to much Hip Hop call this the album-of-the-year, and though I said above I wouldn’t do that I tend to agree. It’s not even a hard decision, really. “The Recipe” was the hardest leadoff single, since Kendrick unleashed “HiiiPower” last year off his Section.80 album. The man cannot lose, it appears – and with Doc Muthafuckin’ Dre executive producing. I can’t stress this enough.
I’m sure you noticed two albums above, the common theme being Apollo Brown on these two Mello Music Group releases. Apollo put out two more great albums this year, after being the king of my prior years lists with 2010’s The Left & 2011’s Daily Bread. I cannot stress this man’s talent level enough, and I honestly couldn’t pick between Trophies with D.I.T.C. vet OC, and Dice Game with fellow Detroit native Guilty Simpson.
Apollo’s beats have an old-school feel to them, his samples are not what other producers would’ve flipped or how, and his basslines punch a hole through your heart sometimes. There isn’t another producer I get excited about new music from, as much as Apollo. Both albums are devoid of guest appearances other than two verses on Guilty’s album; Planet Asia and Torae appear for a quick sixteen across two tracks. Otherwise it’s up to OC & Guilty to fill in the lyrical content on their respective albums, both capable MCs put together an amazing lyrical show over Apollo’s backdrop. OC’s album is more veteran style hip hop, and Guilty Simpson keeps it pretty street.
K.R.I.T.! I’m going to tell you a secret, about what’s wrong with Big K.R.I.T. – the man gives away too much free, dope music. Serious. The reviews of this album haven’t been what they should, and almost all of them include something to the effect of “It’s not as good as his mixtapes recently,” but then in turn give props for a fine major label debut. This album fucking B-A-N-G-S! It’s as good a major label debut as you could wish on an emerging artist who’s always done it his way. The underground way. On LFTU, K.R.I.T. delivers that same message and formula effectively to the masses. People who listen to bullshit hip hop are still bumping this album, and what more could you ask of a Def Jam signee from Mississippi? “I make it cool to be southern.”
What can be said about Curren$y that hasn’t already been said about Curren$y? The hardest working man in Hip Hop has given us four straight albums that landed on top of the end of year lists, and countless mixtapes / guest verses in between. He’s the most versatile “weed rapper” out there, and his braggadocios rhymes are more complex than most braggadocios rappers’ albums. I was sad to see Ski Beatz not make an appearance here, but you have to keep it moving & Spitta is fantastic at just that. Bringing in Monsta Beatz for the bulk of the Weekend At Burnie’s album, he relies here instead on a variety of production credits. Wale kicks off the album in a grandios manner, and K.R.I.T., Wiz, Smoke Dza and surprisingly Daz Dillinger carry the torch throughout. Still an album I regularly listen to, which says a lot – albeit not quite in my opinion of the quality of his previous efforts.
The best produced album this year, came from one of the best producer-rappers’ long awaited debut, in Oddisee’s “People Hear What They See.” Like Phonte last year, this was one I was eagerly and patiently awaiting – and they both lived up to the lengthy careers molded prior to their first album. Oddisee crafts a listener-absorbing experience here, you can see everything he is laying down in his verses and I think his production has elevated in this effort, which is fucking impressive. This album is classic, period.
Bronso-lin-o continues his quest to work with every dope producer in the game with another banger of a (free) project with Party Supplies this go round. I feel Bronson is a fresh burst of flavor in Hip Hop, with an interesting come-up story and vicious verses over everything he touches. An Alchemist produced gem called “Rare Chandeliers” also recently dropped, but I don’t feel it on the same level as this album. The chemistry between these two is apparent here, and each and every verse on the album is served up over a custom-laced instrumental complete with snippets of all kinds of wacky soundbites. I watched a few of the interviews these two did for promotion, and they had a lot of fun making this album – it shows.
An EP made the list? Yes. It’s super dope and happens to be a collaborative work from my favorite production team JR & PH7, featuring two Hip Hop trios, Brokn.Englsh and St. Joe Louis. Nothing but smooth, refined beats and real Hip Hop lyrics across each track. This project is amazing, the chemistry is here between the verses and the two groups complement each other in a perfect sort of balance I didn’t completely expect.
Dom has continued to up his craft, and drop projects for free that should have been on iTunes. After his last album in 2011 this was a worthy follow up, featuring heavyweight guest appearances from Too $hort, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross & Freddie Gibbs. Despite all that, Dom doesn’t get shown up on his own album like a lot of artists would have in this mix. The production is nice, original as always and it has that ‘album feel’ because it is just that; an album. Available free at the above link (click the cover) I highly recommend this one.
12-10-2012 § Leave a comment
In anticipation of my 2012 End Of The Year List, coming next week – here are the projects that came close but ultimately missed my collection of ten.
An album I enjoyed greatly despite being made up of ‘leftover’ tracks from Ski Beatz first two “24 Hour Karate School” sessions, this is actually a more cohesive project featuring mostly underground MCs over Ski’s legendary production. I didn’t feel like an album made up of a producer and many many rappers should be on my list, but this is a smooth enjoyable project.
The official mixtape follow-up to his 2010 “1.1.10” mixtape, this tape is pretty dope and a free project. His intermediate projects haven’t flowed as well, but between these two projects & his other verses on Diamond District’s album I have to say XO is here to stay as a relevant MC.
Schoolboy Q’s album was interesting, and he’s promised to continue the dope releases after Kendrick Lamar blessed us recently this year – I’m not sure he can top that effort, which is not on this particular list but I did enjoy most of his album. Included some memorable shots at Jay Z, amazing guest verses from Kendrick Lamar, Dom Kennedy, & Curren$y and more of what has made him (and his label) an exciting mainstay in Hip Hop’s underground. Probably too long for it’s own good, with some filler here and there along the way.
As a rather large fan of Slaughterhouse, I enjoyed the album but I wouldn’t say it’s among the very best this year – lyrically the four were on-point but too many skippable tracks bogged down the otherwise well-done debut album on Shady Records. I can’t think of a track on their true self-titled debut I skip, aside from the few skits.
Just not the same Nas I was expecting, and a weak three tracks right in the middle throw the album off for me. I had heard a few of the tracks over and over on satellite radio and wasn’t really into this album when it dropped. It grew on me, yes – and there are some amazing tracks but the album itself just wasn’t what I expected from Nas. A step backward from his 2010 album with Damian Marley, we won’t likely rank this among his all-time great releases.
A good mid-year release from TDE / Black Hippy to hold off the rest of the year until Kendrick Lamar’s album. Control System is a solid offering from the most eclectic of the trio (I don’t count Jay Rock so it’s not a quartet), I’m looking forward to his next release.
A good album, from a great MC – just not on my ultimate list. Brother Ali will always likely be underappreciated, and albums like this will continue to steer him into that elite category. Deeply personal, a very forward album and Brother Ali has that always-an-activist type demeanor – just didn’t hold my attention as much as other releases this year.
This was probably the hardest album for me to leave off my main list, as it was an amazing album – I hadn’t heard anything about Lushlife prior to this release but was definitely impressed. The beats are insane, and his flow fits perfectly in crafting an excellent album.
I knew I would forget something super dope, and it was Talib Kweli’s free project in September! Always informed, and dope with the lyrical craft this doesn’t disappoint.
12-03-2012 § Leave a comment
I was able to run through this album today, and it’s quite good actually. I find that when I listen to DMX, the biggest thing against his new music is that it’s not his older music – there is a strong feeling to go back and re-listen to his first five albums all over again. That’s not exactly a negative, the man has a classic catalog before he became inconsistent (in timing) with his albums – but the new one is worth checking out if you’re a fan. One of my favorite tracks below, is “Head Up” produced by Tronzilla (I’m not kidding, that’s what it said). Tronzilla sampled Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Keep Your Head to the Sky” and made a nice track with DMX. Check it out;
Another good one is “What They Don’t Know” produced by longtime friend Swizz Beatz, who had done most his best work with DMX in my opinion. “Have You Eva” is a Dame Grease produced, more slow track but has X’s characteristic rough side over the smooth instrumental. Nice sample of Freddie Jackson’s “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” throughout.