Happy Holidays thREADERS! As a hip-hop head and overall music lover, my favorite part of the holidays is to recap my favorite albums of the year. I’ve been doing this for at least 5 years, and its fun to go back and see what albums you loved in a given year, and to decide whether those albums are still listenable or not. If that’s not good enough reasoning for you, every other blog does this, so why not us?
Anyway, ’10 was a solid year for hip-hop! Need a refresher? Check out the top 30 hip-hop songs of the year put together by my boys over at A Thousand Grams. Anyway, without further ado, here’s albums 6-10. These albums have my personal seal of approval, so check them out! (Also, I’ve posted links to purchase all the albums so SUPPORT GOOD MUSIC!)
Both Skyzoo and Illmind both made waves on the scene by collaborating with North Carolina super-group Little Brother. Skyzoo is an emcee from Brooklyn with the perfect voice for his occupation, and is a self-proclaimed “master with the pen,” showcased on his debut album “The Salvation” last year. Illmind is a rising star on the production side who has done work for the likes of Little Brother and others. Together, they collaborate to create an album designed to take the listener back to the early 90’s, circa boomboxes and cassette tapes, and to capture the feel that the legends in the early 90’s captured by having one artist and one producer work on an album. With Illmind’s infectious baselines and Skyzoo’s witty pen, the album is a treat from start to finish. Everytime I hear this album I can’t tell whose better, Sky or Illmind. Thats a good thing…
- “Frisbees”-the way Sky flips the verses by taking a word from the previous bar and making it the heart of the bar that follows is just one example of this guys talent. He’s pretty gifted when it comes to writing songs, and his flow is top notch.
- “Burn Notice”- anytime you put Sean Price on a track, consider me a fan. Add a nice guitar-laden beat from Illmind and you got a classic track here. “No proctologist, Ruck is rappin his ass off”
- “Speakers on Blast” -this track is gross. That beat represents everything this disc was supposed to be, and Skyzoo was in rare form. “And now they wanna bring the 90’s back, thats ok cuz thats where they designed me at”
- “Langston’s Pen”-Wow…listen closely.
- “Digital Analog”-this was an OK track, but with that beat and those rhymes, I didnt think it was the right way to jump the album off.
- “Winner’s Circle”- This track was (roughly) based on the Lebron “Decision,” but really was a dud IMO. Maybe its because I hate Lebron?
“Ink has never been this important, you can quote that”
Ok, full disclosure; this isnt an album at all, which is probably the only reason its this far down my list. Brooklyn rapper (I promise that every rapper on the list isnt from Brooklyn) Sha Stimuli released a classic debut album (I chose my words carefully) last year called “My Soul to Keep,” which I thought was easily the top album of that year and truthfully one of the best I’ve ever heard. For my money, Sha is the best rapper out there right now. You may have heard of him around 2008 for releasing an album every month for a year (check out “March on Washington”).
After dropping the aforementioned classic, Sha decided that he’d give the fans a little treat and go BACK IN over the beats on the album (hence the title, Overtime). With a few added new tracks, the mixtape rocks just as hard as its retail predecessor, and really serves as a great compliment to the album itself. Sha deals with issues such as life and death, religion, his current place in the industry, and the fact that he’s a “normal person” just like the rest of us. Its the kind of refreshing content that makes you want to scream about it from a mountain and slap everyone that isnt up on him yet.
- “Thinkin’ Out Loud”-this is one of the new tracks, and starts off with the lines “This is not the realest shit that I ever wrote, but its close/And some of it is just jokes…”, and he goes on express his feelings on some industry superheroes, including Diddy, Drake, and Wale. Real talk all over this track. “Do the people want saving? I’m not sure…”
- “Horrorglyphics” (ft. Nas) – With a nice beat, Sha goes line for line with Nas and does more than hold his own. This was a great look. “I’m stronger than typhoons, get ya hands up line high noon/I rap like I’m ready to die soon” “This aint a debate, but we forth and back like some soldiers, strapped/set to take you off the map, this is more talk than rap/I’m in the almanac for killin and assualtin tracks/caught some flak for mimicing jesus, guess I was wrong for that”
- “Thee Apology” – a 6-minute banger over a soulful sample where he apologizes for his shortcomings and for his foresight that others choose not to see. “We took one, look son, on my way to fortune/but the kid never ever came out, its like abortion”
- “Blasphemy (Overtime)” – This is another verbal assault at God himself that mirrors the original, where Sha goes right at the man above and points out a few contradictions he sees. It gives you chills …”Maybe an album like mine aint supposed to sell/Cuz I would make a dent, since I be making sense/To make dollars is hard/I talk to demons up on twitter but be following God” “So spiritual I deliver truth/but my glock aint poppin and Wacka Flocka’s getting a million views
Missteps: I mean this y’all. No missteps here. This one is a banger from start to finish. Ok…the DJ was annoying as hell, so the DJ-less version is the way to go.
Also, look out for the Street Album “Unsung” dropping 12/28.
Amidst label drama and rampant leaks of his album (SHEESH! Amazon put it out 3 months early?!?!), Joell Ortiz of Slaughterhouse fame managed to drop a pretty solid follow-up to his debut album “The Brick: Bodega Chronicles.” I’m sure if you’ve ever heard one of Joell’s verses (Like this gem) you know dude can spit, but that means nothing when it comes to his own album. However, I was pleasantly surprised on this one. Nicely produced and of course, lyrically its beasty. This guy has some talent. Watch out for him…
- “Battle Cry” -This is the track I’d show to anyone whose never heard dude spit. On a soulful ass Just Blaze beat, Joell showcases some true pen skills on this one. “Put the hottest rappers all on one stage together/See who hold they arm up like Che Guevara/I rhyme hotter and I say it better/Ima win the cold war, I’m a product of the Reagan era”
- “Put Some Money On It” (Ft. The Lox) – This is a greasy old school sounding track with Joell holding his own with some hip-hop royalty. Tell me The Lox is on it and I’ll give it a listen 100% of the time. “Brooklyn off the hook when Ortiz is there/Poppy got it locked like peasy hair”
- “One Shot” (ft. Fat Joe) -Being of Latin dissent, it was a good look for Joell to get up with Joey Crack himself. This one is a banger. “Niggas get kilt for less…”
- “Finish What You Start” (ft. Royce da 5’9)-Joell hooks up with is Slaughterhouse brethren, and 1/2 of Voltron go all the way in. “I’ll give it to anyone that want some/Go silly on they achilles til all they runs done”
- “Call Me” (ft. Bilal)- Great single. He had some buzz with this one on NY radio too…
- Not putting Joe Budden on the album. #EPICFAIL! There was rumor of some track called “We Don’t Believe You” with Joey, but it didnt make the cut.
- “Checkin For You”-Its pretty creative that he used a different voice on this one sort of like Biggie on “Gimme the Loot,” but I thought it was a bit dry…The novelty wore off for me.
- “Cocaine”-This track is his ode to Cocaine if you will. YAWN! This has been done before. Not to mention that this was the last track on the album. He coulda easily just cut this one…
“Day thinkin til the page ‘inkin/My 16s free yall, I’m hip-hop’s Abe Lincoln”
I know what you’re thinking…”Freeway? He aint nice!” WRONG! This isnt Freeway‘s first foray into my top 10 of the year, as his last (real) album “Free at Last” had some all-time bangers on it. He’s well known from his work with Jay and his all-time great verse on “1-900-Hustler,” but he’s done some really good work post-Rocafella. This album is no different, as we get some vintage Freeway with his rugged verses and clever ad-libs. Freeway is consistent and always energetic.
However, as good as Freeway is, the real star here is Seattle’s own Jake One, the producer responsible for the beats on the album. These beats are unlike any I’ve heard in a long time, and Jake makes sure the album never gets boring with his booms, blaps, and creative samples. The album has a little bit of everything, and it was really a slept-on album this year. If you love soulful beats (who doesnt?) that knock in the whip, check this out. EASILY the best produced album of the year…
- “Never Gonna Change”-This is one of my favorite tracks of the year. The beat goes from fast to slow, forcing Free to showcase his versatility by changing pace throughout. The track also exhibits the storytelling abilities of Free, as he gives the listener his rendition of the classic Biggie track “Warning.” Free’s style and Jake’s production blend perfectly on this one. When things get heavy and the story comes to a climax, the beat actually speeds up and so does Freeway.
- “Stimulus Intro” (ft. Beanie Sigel)-Free’s homie Beans had to come and show some love over this old-school track, and the chemistry they’ve been building for years comes to a perfect culmination. Great way to open the album. “Hot cold bread and butter, come and get ya supper/this a free stimulus meal that WIC cheese and butta”
- “She Makes Me Feel” – Jake One really did his thing with this Rick James “Mary Jane” sample.
- “One Thing” (ft. Raekwon) -always down with The Chef making an appearance. Like almost every track on the album, Jake One really outdid himself.
- “Stimulus Outro”- This is the best beat on the album. Seriously, WHO THE HELL IS JAKE ONE!!! THIS GUY IS RIDICULOUS!!! Anyway, this one has Free going through fanmail. Nice track.
- “Follow My Moves” was a great track, but he should have left off that Birdman verse. #EpicFail
- “Freakin the Beat” was awful…
“I heard that 900 Hustler and i listened to that/now I’m a certified hustler, put my clique on the map”
Truth be told, I’ve never really been a fan of Fat Joe, and it has only a little to do with his rampant use of the “N-word” (which ironically is one of the first words of this album). However, even his most adamant haters can’t deny that this guy has a keen ear for music and production, and stays true to himself album after album. He consistently has the best producers working on his albums (which anyone can do with the right amount of $$$), but he also manages to get these guys’ best beats. He has Cool & Dre (who really outdid themselves on “If It Aint About Money” ) Just Blaze, and DJ Premier on the album; however, the true standout is a relative unknown named Scoop DeVille, whose genius flip of “Back to Life” by Soul II Soul on “No Problems” was one of the best beats this year. Sick stuff. Lyrically, this album gives you the same ole’ Joey Crack, but with some clutch guest appearances and some great production, its really a worthwhile listen. CRACK!
- “If It Ain’t About Money” (ft. Trey Songz)-This beat is amazing and knocks to no end. Songz (YUUPPPPP!!! sorry…had to do that) did a great job on the hook, and Fat Joe even threw in a couple witty punchlines. The track was a hit from the second it started. Say what you want about Joe, but he knows his formula…”Matress Financial, banks never close”
- “No Problems”-This beat was sick. I still don’t think I know any of the lyrics because the beat is so good, I really tuned Joey out. No disrespect…props to Scoop Deville for this banger. WHOA!
- “Slow Down (Ha Ha)” (ft. Young Jeezy)-I’m sure you’ve heard this one. That Soul II Soul sample is so epic…This one had the streets on fire well before the album dropped, and we already knew that the Crack/Jeezy collabo is a great one.
- “I’m Gone”-This one is a Premo track, which is definitely out of character for Joe. This one talks a bit about the death of Guru and Pun, and is a kind of introspective track from Joe. It came off well though. Shoulda been the outro though.
- “At Last Supremacy” (ft. Busta Rhymes) – This one was a bit too much for me…Joe didnt mess it up, but Busta was WAYYY over the top…If you’ve noticed, I hate bad outros…this was one of those.
- “Rappers Are in Danger” -Ugly beat, lame track. With what Joe brings to the table, he’s really got a small margin of error to play with. This one was a rare miss.
- “Money Over Bitches” – Awful…
“Kanye shrug, Paparazzi takin pictures/see it in my mug shots, mob boss slash killa”
Like I said, good year for hip-hop. Here are a few honorable mentions that didnt make the cut, but you should check out anyway!
- Mood Muzik 4: A Turn 4 The Worst (Joe Budden)
- I’m Better Than You (Mickey Factz)
- Friday Night Lights (J-Cole)
- The Lady Killer (Cee-lo Green)
- The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones (Pimp-C)
Thoughts? What did I miss? Comment! Oh, and stay tuned for albums 1-5 later this week!
“I do this for my culture”