Best Hip Hop - Top Rap Albums of 2009
Just wanna say – the hip hop I love is "real". Defined as, at least based in real instrumentation if not real instruments. Real MCs. Real honest. Real stories. So here are my picks from a bomb ass year for hip hop.
- Wu-Tang Chamber Music KOCH Records. The art direction of this release is right up my alley. Earthtones, limited color range, subtle and settling; a good print design. No pictures, not opulent. That is a good feel. It reflects the feel of the music of the album. This is a RZA album in a sense; where he oversees it. All music is by an actual band, The Revelations. It is funky as my unemployed ass with no obligations for days in row. True music propelling top notch mcs to kick ight lyrics. This isn't some mix tape with sorts filled by unknowns. This is an organic, heartfelt album of smooth tunes, heavy on the organ. Short breaks (not annoying skits) of rza philosophizing his "Tao of Wu" over atmospheric beats. Wu All-Stars and NYC big names come together to bring this congo, wah-out bass funk home. INS and U-God with Masta Ace. GFK and INS hook up with AZ. Rae with Cormega and Sean Price come with one of the best tracks; supported with a great string section. GFK killin it over piano beat on "Evil Deeds". Other peeps on it include Kool G, Sadat X, M.O.P., and Havoc. If you like real instruments – a la fusion funk (Billy Cobham would be proud) and RZA production and solid mc's – this is for you. This is New York. This is hip hop. This is real. It gets the number one spot for the full album representing. That is hard to come by in rap these days. And has been for a decade. But I love every track on this independently and as one entity. RZA is exquisitely pushing the boundaries of rap. While this may not have rawness of 36, the intensity of Forever; but it has the cohesion and maturation of a maestro continuing to bring hip hop back into a realm of quality and craftsmanship. Ghost Dog and Indie Culture are similar, but this is the best Wu related album in a long time.
- A&E (Ace & Edo) "Arts & Entertainment" M3hiphip.com Two of my favorite emcees of all time – amidst cool collabos thorough the years, finally we get a full length. These guys were legends in their original incarnations – and if that's all we had in our annals, I would still make sure the next generation knows how much respect these guys deserve. Ed O.G.'s "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto" is monumental – plus being a hip hop fan and someone came from Boston (My dad was working in Roxbury at the time, too) – I felt represented nationally. And, then, as we travel through the last two decades, Masta Ace and Ed O.G. continue to put out quality albums; each one better than the previous and on an increasing independent level. Smart, complex, humble, honest, masterful lyrics were put to vinyl and disc by both of these rappers.
- Cormega "Born and Raised" Aura Records. New York. 8 million stories, right? This is just one. So, while Shyne, Ma$e and countless worthless people (I cannot get myself to use 'rapper', 'mc', and definitely not 'artist') somehow got record deals, Cormega had to stick to the underground. He had deals that went sour and fell through with Def Jam and Violator. So, Cormega had a consistent barrage of guest spots on NY's finest from Nas to the Wu. He had two delayed release albums with no promotion in 2001 and 2005. But considering he had his verse released verse in 1991, there is no justice. "The hiatus is over, I will rise and conquer" he spits on "Journey"; where he brands hip hop with "too much drama". So, am I just screaming at the wind or does this guy really deserve the credit and rewards that I wish he had? This is the resurrection of "Illmatic", "36 Chambers", "Hell on Earth". This is NY rap. Real hip hop. Cormega is a clever, intelligent verbose emcee. He crams as many syllables into tight spots as he can. And those syllables are a myriad of meaningful words chosen from an impressive vocabulary, metaphors that make you rewind, hood tales of the street that show bravado and consequence. His rhymes are reflective on his maturing experiences. He flexes a little on the tokens of success, but it is in no way the pith of his stories. He brings on guests that have helped him along the way; Lil Fame, Tragedy and Havoc. But mostly, this is his turn. He has a lot to say ("it's been a long time"). And he has a fair amount of elbow room in which he fills gloriously with humility, skill, sage, and expertise. He does bring the best of the best on the beats. Khrysis, Easy Mo Bee, Pete Rock, Premier, Large Pro, and Nottz all produce tracks. He does save the best for last – a song with Red Alert, PMD, Grand Puba, KRS-One, and BD Kane. What? Cormega is so steeped in well-earned street cred and instead of rushing out and resting on that, he puts out a humble, aged perfect album. There are no filler songs here. The title "Born and Raised" is showing of the fact that he has grown. He does have fun though, lots of basketball and cars and kicks references. But, every sentence in every song is serious. Every second serves a purpose. This QB repper finally is getting his platform. And he utilizes every inch, every impulse. Whether it will reap rewards for my man, who knows. Get it.
- Marco Polo & Torae "Double Barrel" Duck Down Records When Premier comes out and intros an album you know it is "authentic hip hop", as he puts it. On duck Down records? Steeped in anticipation. This delivers. One of my favorite beat makers comes through on every track; hard hitting, adrenaline pumping, funk and soul boom-bap. Horns and guitars and hard kick drums. So, then take BK repper, Torae, spitting the fire. He may encompass the opposite of my accolades for Cormega, but this dude dlivers the raw shit. This gets you pumped like M.O.P.; Torae got that fire. Mos Def. His lyrics of street tales and industry examining/criticizing and pop culture references are fast, furious, and clever. Marco Polo throws in lots of scratches and samples in the hooks that bring back the old school. No dance move hooks here. Torae loves the gritty but this ain't random thug rapper number 482. Torae grabs your attention it uniquely with tremendous skill. This is hardcore Brooklyn shit. And again, as has been missing in hip-hop, this entire album is listenable front to back. Forget, "listenable", this album is bangin', beginning to end. This is a mix of Onyx/MOP energy with Pete Rock level beats and Nas, Ins Deck emcee'ing. I love this. Put this with Kool G Rap "4,5,6", "it was Written", EPMD "Business Never Personal", etc as NY classics.
- Mr. Lif "I Heard it Today" Blood Bot Tactical Enterprises. I went to an FYE the day this came out and listened to the 30 second snippets of each song of this album and put it down and left without leaving. Dumbass. I went back in October and realized the mistake that I made. I wanted a style that was more like the previous reviews, as far as beats. But that is not what Lif does. It is refreshing new, vibrant, and brave. I mean this isn't MF Doom or anything, but it is enough of a variation that it catches you off guard. But it is inventive. "Breathe" has a smoky, dark jazz feel (a la "Deep Cover"). "The Sun" is electro-trance type stuff, but it is fitting and catchy. He uses the sun as perspective for looking down on happy Africans to the oppressed American slaves in the fields. Genius. "Hatred" is muted drum beat with eerie synth as he spits about being again "common rapper fashion". "Collapse…" has a hectic drum beat, Latin America style, but interpolates guitars and chirps; which reflects the over-whelming dizzying effects of this world's atmosphere, 2009. "What About Us?" is that hard hitting, funky boom bap shit. With a walking bass line and a somber popping organ. It is a call to arms; a defiant wail to the powers-that-be. "Is this our best interest to infest the world with stress?" This album combines funk, jazz and rock natural beats with massive instrumentation, organic and mechanical. Lif joins them to illustrate the confusion, exhaustion, frustration that our politicians and police and pop culture continually cultivate. War, bureaucracy, black male identity, poverty all provide fodder for Lif to run through the turmoil that pervade through our every breath these days. Lif does not find naïve hope in Obama either – his distrust of politicians keeps his views in a realistic check (remember this was recorded a year ago). Mic skills and turntables support a fully listenable album that does not come to help you party. With all the hypocrisy and stress of today, I wonder how the angered social rap of the late "80s/early '90's does not again flourish. Well, the spirit of Cuck D is here. Bring Back the early Geto Boys, Ice-T and Ice Cube, when they got down for the hood. He includes song explanation and lyrics to his songs – remember why we do this? Lif does. Mr. Lif knows his place. He is cursed with intelligence and will never be a pop rapper. So, this mc runs with this blessing and creates an amazing album that is a an emotional, visceral, cerebral haul that is exhausting with its introspection. And I love him for it.
- Brother Ali "The Truth is Here/Us" Rhymesayers entertainment. Robust, heavy-hearted, moving and soulful. These words help describe the wondrous beats and musical environments of Ali albums; as well as describing his lyrical delivery. Intense, complex, personal and brutally honest. Ali is completely exposed when he grabs the mic. 3 strong, top-notch full albums before these and 2009 slams the same. He talks of his kids, wife, religion, hood, dreams, rhymes, wants as if he has known you all his life. "TIH" came out early as an EP (w/DVD as the prior and following has – Br. Ali loves his fans). I did not take that 9 track wonder out of my player for weeks. As soon as it ended, I would just play it again. The smooth trumpet hooks me instantly, the jazz rhythm section comes in to play "As Real as Can Be'; synth piano bubbles about as a nice contrast. It's a short ditty that encapsulates his previous year. "Philistine David" is a heavy bang from an electro beat with catchy hook. "Little Rodney" is a funky tune about jail – not just doing time but how the system perpetuates the recidivism. The songs continue to astound, especially "Good Lord" and "Begin Here" with real keyboards, guitars, and turntables; real stories and emotions. "Us" continues with this vibe. Upbeat songs that are for the revolution and the party. We are guided through every aspect of a boastful rapper and a humble human. That thin line is mirrored in "Tightrope"; that has him walk the same balancing act through verses of dual familial situations, being a white rapper (and by white, I mean, albino) and conflicting love. Peep "House Keys", where we are invited into the home of Ali; references to "Sunday mornings with Al Green making pancakes" and half a verse about buying his first home, he is bursting with pride. Other standouts are road tales on "The Travelers" with a banging 808 and a "True Romance/Badlands" xylophone. The '70's funk, singing guitars and plucked bass of "BMF pt II" is sick. "Games" and "Slippin' Away" bring us close to the end with cold lyrics and distant melodies; synth bass and atmospheric guitars. I am surprised by a Freeway appearance, but hey. "Best @ It" brings these two plus Joell Ortiz (who I like) together on a quirky, solid track. Ant produces little bits of musical variances to construct a complex architecture of evocative implements. Six other musicians come in with actual instruments to provide true feelings. I am not religious, but Brother Ali brings me to his church and I am caught up in the singing, praising and glory of his world. He captivates you with meticulous descriptions of his environment, family, and heart. …oh, yeah, and Chuck D has an intro. Boom!!!
- Bekay "Hunger Pains" Coalmine Enterprises. word. Bekay is BK. Brooklyn man loving his time to shine. A frequent guest, Bekay now has his chance to light it up. And he does. Bekay is a hungry MC that is vicious and smart. This man comes fierce with spits that are vicious. To me the stand out track is "Young". It's a walk through his life over a fast paced Primo type beat by Shuko with a cool loop from a sad song, accented by scratches and subdued keys. Also, on this LP is beats by Alchemist, Marco Polo, Babu among others. He does have a chip on his shoulder for being compared to Eminem; I see it – but this album helps him stand on his own. The flow can be similar, but it is also cuz he's angry and white. Bekay does not resort to dissing him (a la a has-been Canibus); which is good. He has nothing to do with him except what the media puts on him, so it would not make sense. I don't listen to Em except MMLP – so I don't care. "Rapstar" is a specific walk through the pain of paying dues and depression and the industry keeping non-pop rappers down. It is done over a ill dark, guitar boom bap beat. Helping Bekay get it done are Heltah Skeltah ("Crazy" – a nutty indulgence), Masta Ace ("Brooklyn Bridge", a nostalgic piano roll walks us through an homage to BK), Wordsworth ("Skemers", a fun romp about bein' a prick), R.A. ("Pipe Dreams" over an Alchemist haunting beat about pitching your rap to Labels), and Ins & Saigon on "Raw" which is a dope older single. He shines alone He is funny at times, but with a cynicism and anger that propels a ill album. Production is bomb on every track, plus he brings on ace DJs for amazing cuts & scratches on almost every song. Check the slow somber plea to his dad on "Pops" or his pure hip hop over banging drums and rollicking piano on "I Am (Remix)" with Dilated Peoples. From front to back, this album is solid, voracious hip-hop ready to devour.
- Tame One & Del
Parallel Thoughts "Parallel Uni-verses" PT did all the beats. Uh, …thank you? You put two of my favorite mcs from the 90"s. When I saw this I thought, "Wish this happened 15 years ago". But it didn't. I was hesitant. They now are hit and miss for me (for full-lengths, cameos they always bring it.) Tame One; "When Rappers Attack" and "Da Ol' Jersey Bastard" are mostly sweet, but "Spazmatic" and "O.G.". Definitely have songs here and there, but front to back whole albums is tough. Well, Parallel Thoughts has resurrected these two funky geniuses. PT takes '70s funk and that '70s singer songwriter symphonic tapestry; that weird era where '70s white ex-hippie woman meets has-been Motown bands that needed 64 tracks of nuance and string sections. Well, as an incarnation, this has inspired two consistent MC two step it up to the days of yore, when they were exceptional. Seriously, they each spit the best raps that they have in a decade. Real cuts, real music. Scratches, jazz and funk. Old school hip-hop head. We take it over" ("…this decade ain't amaze me….you all settle for mediocrity") This album is amazing. Every song is a stand-out. Grab an El and vibe out to the mutli-layered, thick, broad tunes and staggering verbal gymnastics.
- BK-One with Benzilla "Radio do Canibal" Rhymesayers Entertainment Again. That real instrument feel. To be honest, when I heard it – I thought they just spit over a Brazilian band. It is indiscernible. So BK-One and Benzilla got together and made beats and music all in the vein of Brazillian instruments and spirit, and made them funky. Then got Slug, Brother Ali, Aceyalone, Phonte, Raekwon, Black Thought, Murs, P.O.S., Blueprint. And, uh, ….Scarface. yep. Take flutes and congos and bass; layers of rhythms and and organic instruments with some horns and you have a briliiant album. The Raekwon and I Self Divine song ("The True & Living) sounds like a snowy night, wet and cold, in a 1970's hard city landscape decorated by a solitary funk/soul soundtrack. One the other end of the spectrum, We have a fun celebration with Slug & Ali opening with "GITITIT"; just upbeat boasting on the corner shit. Murs brings the girl story with "18 to 21" in a fun little acoustic plucking joint. "Mega" is most likely my favorite song, - it is funky and musical. "Here I Am has a smooth coalition of quirky bass and synth and bells and clav; with a slight crackle laced over it to you to feel a t eas. Roots and Common – an alliance of influences from 9th Wonder and Premier. "Blue Balls" with Blueprint is a heavy B3, gritty funk romp. "Philly Boy" with Black Thought keep us in that '70s Motown groove. "A Day's Work" is my favorite music track. Just a nasty funk with popping synth and minor piano bandying back and forth. P.O.S. spits a stream of conscious flow that goes nicely. I don't know how it happened, but Scarface and Brother Ali close out the album with a dark, hypnotic rolling beat. "American Nightmare" has a jazz piano highlight the looming atmosphere and lyrics. The instrumentals that are peppered throughout the album are brilliant and as with RZA – brings the album into tight cohesion that delivers a refreshing interpretation of our hip hop music that has not been felt in ages.
- Apathy "Wanna Snuggle?" Demigodz Entertainment My favorite mc out there comes with a blazing full album. He brings it a little different; Shorter songs, more songs about girls, but the beats and words are the same. There's a guest on almost every song. "Money Oriented" is the "Chemical" of "WS?". "Gov't Cheese" is a bold-horn, symphonic treat with the old-school clap behind Ap as he goes through his past and present of down trodden burdens. "Shoot First" is some thug shit with Celph and B-Real over whiny, fast guitar and rolling drums having many interpretations of guns. Phonte Emelio Lopez and Blue Raspberry and King Magnetic and J-Live show up among others. I love Apathy albums for the thug attitude and references and ridiculous punchlines and metaphors and flow and allusions to old-school memorabilia and personas. Apathy uses every kind of music to illustrate his stories. I love every extreme varied musical background that he spits over. "Back in L.A." (over smooth '70s soul, organs and horns and looping bass) and "I'm a Demigod" (over sweeping '70s strings), "Mind Ya Business" (over a dub beat with heavy horns and organ about rumors), "Thinkin'" (over '60s soul beat about nosy, paranoid ladies), "Run, Run Away" (over a perky '60s Motown pop song feel), and many others. "Gov't Cheese" and "Shoot First" have 2 of my favs bring it in; and my other two favs help us out. "Hard Times on Planet Earth" is a slamming joint that has Ap go through his down times; the frustration of being consistent and on the fringe, but yet to be "successful". Of course, Ap wins my heart with "Rhode Island" in a sweet nod to the smallest state. Now, there are no real battle rhymes on this album. He tells a story, an actual tale, on every song. 2- 3 minute jaunts of his life's experiences. But told through Apathy where the clever metaphors and similes still trip you up, as you scratch you head. Joke grenades abound! Big, mature solid release from one of the most intelligent/down to earth rappers out there.
- La Coka Nostra "A Brand You Can Trust" Suburban Noize Records. I loved their ep from 2008. 6 songs that were tight and crushing. When I got this lp – I felt like it wasn't as good. But for this list I went back and was way off. LCN is House of Pain (on coke…), Ill Bill and Slaine. I was a huge HOP fan when they came (and I like their 2nd better). Good boastful hip hop, a la EPMD sautéed in L.A. butter, spiced with Muggs beats. Ill Bill and Slaine (Boston!) are two of my favorite mcs right now. And they have heavily influenced Everlast on this. All three MCs come vicious on these tracks. Dark, enraged, callous, proud, cruel, paranoid. There are talks against the system and cops; talks of drugs (a lot), guns (yeah, a lot of those too), and general hip hop machismo. And it blends awfully well. They definitely take the road of showing you te ugly by-product of America and ask, "What did you expect?". They play the stark, cold rejected abortions of poverty and neglect. Musically, they go everywhere. Danny Boys off-time from rap in electro side projects come through; but balanced with Lethal's skilled dark, dizzying hip hop sense. There are heavy organs, whiny guitars, soulful horns, clap beats, hard rock riffs, slow blues rock – Whitey Ford things (3 of them). The two best songs come from the e.p., "I'm an American" w/B-Real and "That's Coke". Infectious, dirty, grimy hip hop is on every tack. Depraved, vile, wretched, perverted – yes. In a beautiful way. Again, I think they embellish in this imagery to reflect the forgotten and silenced of our cities and oppressed ("We bring Scorcese to reality"). Sick Jacken (Psycho Realm), B-Real, Sen Dog (as the perpetual on the ac/dc type opener, "Bloody Sunday"; amped up and pretty awesome), Snoop (playa chorus on "Bang, Bang"), Bun B, and my man, Immortal Technique as guests, LCN runs the gamut. This is gangsta hip hop still in 2009. Take three of my favorite rappers and add some DMS street cred, this hardcore-punk kid becomes very happen as a cynic of the current state of a culture I have loved for 25 years. I may of trimmed 2 or 3 tracks, but this is heavy, ugly, gritty endeavor. It is not life-affirming, it just is. This album is in the family of pollutes rivers, corrupt officials, conspiracy theories, alley sex, dirty coke, laced bones, cheap booze, broke wallets and boarded up homes. "that's coke!"
- Raekwon "Only Built for Cuban Linx pt II."
ICEH2O Records. I hate when old heads use "..Part 2" for an album. You know you are only trying to harp on some shit you used to do. You are trying to get people who aren't feeling you since you got bigger and convince them that you arfe still keeping it real. A sshame. EXCEPT HERE! And, uh you will notice this is the only 'pop' rapper on my list. And he ain'y pop. He just sells records. No hate here. He reinvents the Wu Brand with a stellar album. On the real. It's not the gritty, haunting sparse beats of RZA, but it's an amazing collection od 70's horns and chill bass. There are Kung-Fu quotes throughout the album. There is some singing from r'n'b ladies here and there. It's a long outing, maybe I skip a song or two. But mostly this is what made them great so long ago. Raekwon gets back to his strength: unique, cold verbiage to paint the indifferent street tales of guns and drugs that pollute the cities to condemn young brothers just trying to maintain. This is the "Black CNN" of the golden era. Tragic, lamenting soul rhythms that this generation of rap grew up on in – the only solace of joy and spirit in cold constraining projects – are the foundation of meticulously detailed stories of the dispensed souls of the gutters from the ghetto. Ghostface is all over this – and bring the rambunctious style we loved back on "36" and "Forever". Inspektah Deck has two whirlwind, brutal verses. Meth comes in tight. RZA reps a few times. So good to hear. But the gem (to me) is We will Rob You with Slick Rick (although not a verse…WTF!?!?), GZA, and Masta Killa. "Gihad" with GFK, "Black Mozart (Ins, Tash Mahogony, RZA)", "the New Wu (Meth & GFK)", "Canal Street", "Sonny's Missing", and "Surgical Gloves" is Rae solo and at his peak. "Ason Jones" is a tribute to ODB and brilliant. "House of Flying Daggers" is an old style Wu joint with Ins, GFK, Meth & GZA. Quick strings and a booming bass. Other songs have Styles P & Kiss, Busta (over a deep piano Dre beat), Blue Raspberry and Beanie Seigel. Again, though it is a relief to here the Wu come so strong and gritty again, Rae shines strong solo. You can tell this album wasn't rushed, just to put something out. Well thought out and produced heavily, this lp is a gem.
- MC Esoteric "Saving Seamus Ryan" Brick Records. Um, ambitious. Way more initiative than anyone else out there. This is, like, 5 years in the making, based on a dream he had – his dog died and he got mugged when his ring was stolen. All while trying to make a record. A concept album, a whole story broken in little songs. Now Esoteric is in my top 5 of the last decade. Backpack, battle rapper, whatever you call it. His verse on "Well, Well, Well", is worth Hall of Fame status. "Soul Purpose" and "DC" are classics. His cameos are spell-binding. He is from Boston (my heart bumps). His lines and metaphors are better than yours. He is real – no guns ("I bring the metal to your face like Dr. Doom…is that true?...Nah, but it's a hard rhyme"); comic books, action films, hip-hop history and mc flows are his fodder. But the Eso solo and "A New Dope" irritated me as it is all electro-computer beats and he changed his flow to this mumbled monotonous marble in mouth stuff. So, how will I dig this? Back to the old flow. Thank god! Again, like Ap, take a battle rapper and have him tell stories, and he still shines? That is when you distinguish MC from rapper. This is an exquisite, exponentially creative output from any rapper in decades. Some of the hi-paced techno beats come up. But mostly there are good beats. Spider-Man and Indiana Jones are stars of this woven tale. Lots of love to his dog. Fun, scary moments bounce back and forth to keep the interest of the listener. Masta Ace has a great verse and Main Flow shows up. But this Eso alone for a long time explaining his tragedies. And the beats and sounds and (thousands of) samples create a confusing, dreamy atmosphere. So appropriate. A+ for concept; A- for execution. Just a couple of those techno beats drag for me; otherwise his is brilliant. This is Radiohead for hip-hop heads.
- KRS & Buckshot "Survival Skills" Duck Down Records. a solid release; some damn good standout joints; but all in all, kind average. And I am the biggest KRS fan. I hope he keeps putting out yearly cd's – I will buy them. I just have never 'loved' buckshot. Lots of computer beats. "Murder 1", "Think of All the Things" (a furious call out – to dead beat dads and the mind state of hoes and the effects on the kids), "One Shot" and "Runnin' Away" feel like complete production with instruments. Sean Price, Immortal Technique (not surprisingly, the strongest verse on the entire album), Smif 'n' Wessun, Talib and Pharoahe show up with ill verses. The best song is "Clean-Up Crew" with Rock of HS. This is a good album, I just expect so much from KRS. Actually his verses are spectacular, They are a show of how he still is an elite mc. His social, introspective, functional and directive; inspirational, just and confrontational words are as crisp as ever. Maybe just some mediocre beats and buckshot brought it down for me to play it front to back.
- Granite State "The RE: Public" Showoff Records. "Every line has a message, every beat knocks". That line is hidden in "The Get Up" amongst a push of eager rhymes. And its true. Every beat is solid and catchy and layered with real music. 14 tracks of tight, hard-working New Hampshire white kids. Yeah, New Hampshire? I was surprised too. But I got New England love. This is quite an ambitious wave of concerned positive rap. Not overly, but in the end, they want rap, the listener, and our society to be better. This is laid out blatantly in the 2 best songs, which are back to back. "Societies Ill" and "American Beauty". They talk about the celebrity/image-obsessed society. Shit I love. I would say other songs feel like a less goofy Skitzoprheniks, and Reks appears on "Just Think". The beats a little soft for me, but the spirit (take a step back from the stress) and lyrics are very good. Eso comes on the fantastic "What I'm Used To" about being on the bottom rung despite talent. "Work" is an ode to the grind; which, is what I (used to) relate to. The pros – New England style linguistics: smart, honest, bolstering, verbally heavy, smart, clever, dissecting, introspective (a la Eso, Ap, Akro, Reks). The beats by DC the Midi Alien (Termanology who shows up on "One Shot with Evidence", ECA) are captivating. Brilliant. They sound like a band is in the studio. Funky boom bap. The cons: some weak hooks and (for me) some of the beats, as expert as they are, are just a little soft. Lots of '70s funk and soul, and with some of that comes the love song. Not so much a criticism, just not always my thing. But this album is still better than anything on the radio and in you chain stores. All those people that are household names and these guys are chillin' on a yacht? Shit ain't right. But the true always find this conundrum. Motivation, Authenticity, Failure, Humility, Persistence, Talent, Skill, Perseverance is what made this East Coast Dilated Peoples a respectable outfit, and the continuation of these attributes will ensure the integrity of these cats if not their "success".
Other 2009 cds. Remember I buy these CDs, nothing is given to me:
Skyzoo – "The Slavation" Fatbeats. I will get this. From what I have heard, this is really friggin good. His flow is somewhere between Vakill and Big L. Smart, in depth lyrics. Beats by mostly 9th Wonder, Just balze and Nottz – can't fail. Solid storytelling and dope rhyming skills puts this above the norm.
J-RO. Love tha Liks. Didn't hear all of it. I Imagine it's more about makin it than just kicking raps. Kinda all over the place. I love his flow, but usually balanced with Tash. This is good. A little too much Electro beats for my taste. His flow and lyrics are actually really good; just not a lot of deep or varied subject matter. Beats are not my thing – "XO exp" and "FireWater" and last 3 XZ's – not the early shit of each that was real instrument rap. This is present day West Coast. I like some, some I skip.
Sean Price "Kimbo Price"– like him as a HS member or as a cameo, but not sure I can do a whole album. Not the most inventive lyrics. Some strong beats, some strong verses; but kinda average to me. If you like Duck Down, you will like this.
Royce da 5'9" come and go – I like it when he just gets raw, but when he tries to make a 'hit' I am not feelin it.
Slaughterhouse ah, a superroup. I am the fence about this. I like Joell, ; and Royce and Crooked I – again when they do straight rap or political, the come firce. But when they try to make the 'single'; I press 'skip'. This is somewhere in between underground and the pop crap I ignore. I need to listen to the whole thing. In time.–
Rakim "The 7th Seal" Ra Records. Um, yeah………. I want to like this more than I actually do. I bought it when it came out and I have not really gone back. I waited a long time for this. Ra, the legend, the God – I grew up on it. He elevated above what anyone else was doing. The Master and The 18th Letter had strong songs – especially when back ed by Premeir. We all wanted the Aftermath album to happen and it did not. SO, here this is.– The hard dark beast with dark piano are awesome. A lot of the track get ruined by some dude singing over them. I just get irked. Lots of talk of "Gangsta" and "Hustle" and "The Penal" dumb it down (I thought that's why the Dre album didn't happen?) The lyrics – alone – they are vicious, The are still the complicated multi-syllabic verse we love. They are not quite as bullet speed as they were in '88. "Workin' for You" is a great beat and a nice flow. But generic words and that friggin singing detract. I mean, are these thug lyrics better than the thug crap in the top ten? Yes. Mos Def. But that is not why I buy Rakim. Some good shit here, but when I wait 7 years for a legend to drop, I want more. "Put It All to Music", "Walk These Streets", "Man Above", "Working for You", and "Dedicated" are stand out. This album is better than most, but I hold Rakim to a high standard and there is too much singing for a NY street rapper of the old school. All that said, me and my boys got too see Rakim like 2 weeks ago (to a very appreciative crowd of 50 white kids) and he ripped it. It was amazing and he spit so ferocious, proving why I hold that higher standard.
OC & AG "oasis" DITC. Ya know 'em, ya love'em. Some of the beats are a touch to chill. A little glitzy at times. But that's what DITC is. I don't care about the club and crys – focus on the streets and the mic – and they prosper. I do not know who E Blaze is, but he produced some tracks. But mostly it is Lord Finesse and Show, so you know they are phenomenal Like I said, some tracks are a touch too chjill. But two time hardened MCs come with their best output in years. If you already liked them, you will love this, if you are new to these cats, pick it up and feel what true hip-hop can be.
Ghostface Killah – eh, it damn sure ain't "Ironman". It ain't even "Fishscale". You want great GFK, get "…Linx pt II."
Mos Def, Jay-Z and Eminem all released albums. I never listened to them and could not care less.