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Sunday Lite (A Few Days Late & A Dollar Short): The Decade of Decency

by Travis on August 6, 2007

As my second full decade listening to hip-hop draws closer and closer to an end, I started thinking about the decade so far and how it’s mark will appear in the history books years down the road. The culture has changed in leaps and bounds since the start of 2000 (which is the landmark we are going to use for the beginning of the decade). At the start of the decade, I was pretty unimpressed with the direction hip-hop was taking. The DMX’s of the industry had taken over and things were monotonous and rather boring, kind of like now, at least on the surface. One thing hip-hop does for me is sort of “re-invent” itself every so often. Early on, there was “Yo!”, then “The Source” popped up on the scene. In the late 90′s, my discovery of message boards and internet retail sites such as Hip Hop (RIP) and Underground Hip Hop brought a new awareness to me. When I finally got my own computer toward the end of ’99, sites like Audiogalaxy and Napster turned me onto loads of stuff that I would have never otherwise heard of. Both this revalation and the rise of the blogs are the two dominate factors in my hip hop listening this decade.

Downloading, in all of its evils and forms, has helped me keep my interest in the newer hip hop that has been released since the turn of the decade when if you were to just look on the surface, you’d think the whole genre has been over ran but the latest trend or fad, whether that may be the southern crunk music or g-unit or whatever it may be. I’ll admit, I’ve gone through times this decade where I thought hip-hop was on it’s last dying leg, particulliarly 2000-2003, which were some real weak times. I realize the music will never be the same, nor do I really want it to, I guess, but two of the things most important to me in music (and blogs) are creativity and originality and those have been lacking in any great numbers since the “good ole days”
This post is probably two years too late, but I’ve never been one to be on time, let alone being in the right place at the right time. I’m never one to pass on a chance to make a list as well, it’s just a sickness I have. I realize it means absolutely NOTHING in the grand scheme of things, why would anyone really give a rats ass what my favorite albums are of this decade? But I have a blog and that gives the rights to push my unwanted ideas and opinions on the unsuspecting public. It’s a great thing, isn’t it?

Once again, I’m not calling these the BEST albums (from a critic view point) of the decade, if it was from a critic point of view, I’d have some Ghostface and the such on it. These are just MY FAVORITE (from a fans point of view) albums of the decade. I realize, my tastes differ from others and can be kind of “weird” in some aspects, but it is what it is. I’m sure if the 1990 Trav were to make a list of his favorite release from this decade, it’d be MUCH different.

I’m starting the decade at 2000, regardless of any “official” words saying it started in 2001. My list, my rules…haha.

15. Common – Like Water For Chocolate (MCA, 2000)
I almost forgot that this album dropped this decade. I’m one of those weird people that doesn’t have “Resurrection” at the top of his Common list. I prefer “Like Water For Chocolate” or even “One Day It’ll All Make Sense”, despite it’s obvious flaws. Some people consider a “One Day…” a misstep (I’m sure those same people would take that over his last three albums), so Common came with a solid effort in the form of “LWFC”.

It was the first album that had no sign of No ID or Dug Infinite, which I kind of wish he’d go back to. It did have the Soulquarians, which consisted of the late, great Jay Dee. DJ Premier also did a great track in the form of the “6th Sense”. It’s a solid album, maybe the last (you could agrue “Be” was solid and I’d probably agree as well), before he got caught up in all the neo soul bullshit. Some my say this was the beginning of the end of the Common we all knew and loved, but at least we have this to remember the old Common by.

14. Louis Logic - Sin-A-Matic (Solid Records, 2003)
I have been a fan of Louis Logic’s music since the indie boom days that took place in the late 90′s. I’ll agree that there is probably better albums out there than this one, but I played the crap out of this album for the second half of 2003. The Drunken Dragon is one of those few MC’s that diverts my attention more to his lyrics than his beats. The beats are not bad at all, but Louis is a commanding Logic used a combination of humor, realism and shock value to produce an album that had a little bit of everything from the emo fans, to the hardrocks to the back packers and maybe even a few “reality” rap fans could enjoy.

13. CunninLynguists – Southernunderground (Freshchest, 2003)
This was my introduction the Cunninlynguists crew. I had heard the name before (despite how corny you might think it is, you never forget it) and during one of my drunken message board nights on UGHH, I asked about the group and Kno himself (who visits a lot of message boards) told me to go by the album and if I didn’t like, he personally would refund my money himself. Tracking down the CD wasn’t the easiest, I think I eventually ordered it off Hip Hop Site or one of the online retail stores. For me, 2002 and 2003 were rather shitty years in hip hop and really testing my faith in any new music, but when I checked this album out, it was a breath of fresh air.

The album covers more than just your drug and gun tales from the streets. The track “Appreciation” is probably one of most emotionally moving hip hop tracks I’ve ever heard. Other tracks like “Seasons” and “Old School” demonstrates the groups love for the music and the culture. The only bad thing about this album, is when compared to their “classic” “A Piece of Strange”, it doesn’t quite hold up, but when put up against the rest of the comp, its a great album that deserves the praise.

12. Felt – A Tribute To Lisa Bonet (Rhymesayers, 2005)
I know what your are thinking, “that damn backpacking Trav, I bet he has his Jansport on right now”. Yeah, whatever. I’ve liked Atmosphere/Slug since hearing “Scapegoat” on the UGHH snippets back in the spring of ’99. Murs is another story, I didn’t really get into his music until the 9th Wonder albums. You put the two together and you get the ultimate backpacker dream team. The duo had one album together already, which I didn’t feel all that much. Maybe it was the production by The Grouch that threw me off for that first album, but the production on “A Tribute To Lisa Bonet” really made up for that. Produced by Ant, who gets better and better with each project he does, the beats are soulful. The lyrics are mainly about chicks and sex, I guess something my white honkey ass can get with.

11. Little Brother – Chitlin’ Circuit (Roy Lee’s Records & Tapes, 2004)
I am usually not a big fan of mixtapes and the such, but I consider Little Brothers original “Chitlin’ Circuit” (nothing wrong with the 1.5 version, it’s pretty much the same, minus/add a few tracks) as good as most albums. This came out when I was in my “9th Wonder” can do no wrong state of mind, and for the most part he doesn’t do much wrong on this release.

Tay really came into his own on these cuts. Both MC’s got the “Slum Village” treatment on “The Listening”, with people saying it was a good album, but the MC’s were a weak link. On tracks like “Track It There”, Tay comes like a rapid dog, ripping the mic to shreds, but still keeping a sense of humor that only Tay can keep. 9th drops his trademark soulful joints like on “Starship” and “Sinners”, two of the better tracks on the collection.

10. J-Zone Presents The Old Maid Billionaires – Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes (Old Maid Entertainment, 2002)
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I dig J-Zone’s music, both beatwise and lyrically. The man doesn’t care what you think about him or his music, he just does himself, which is the way it should be. Behind the boards, I’ve said before, but the man reminds me of the Bomb Squad on acid or something. Lots of weird ass sounds, noise, and just plain unorthodox styles litter his soundscapes. His rhymes are both humble and braggadocios in nature, rhyming about picking up chicks in his busted out honda or busting some cock blocking fan in the mouth. Zone also brings his two partners in rhyme along for the ride on “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes”, Huggy and Al-Shid. Both MC’s add to the concoction that is by far one of the most enjoyable albums to listen to that was dropped that year and this decade.

9. De La Soul – The Grind Date (Sanctuary Records, 2004)
Maybe I’m just a sucka for De La, but I thought this album was much better than most people were giving credit to. Maybe its the fact it doesn’t stack up to some of their previous works, in that case, yes, it maybe a little bit of a let down. If you put it up against the other stuff that was dropping around the same time, or even the stuff in this decade, it more than stacks up. The production is better than most of that found on the Bionix release that proceeded it in 2001. Even the Madlib jawn isn’t all that bad. Of course, Dave and Pos never disappoint on the mic. Ten solid tracks on this release, don’t sleep on it.

8. J-Zone – A Bottle Of Whup Ass (Old Maid Entertainment, 2000)

This EP received a heap load of critical appraise when it dropped, I remember one certain site giving it 10 out of 10 (the predecessor to MVRemix), even Hip Hop Site, who was my trusted review site at the time gave them a solid 4 @’s out 5 @’s. Many of the tracks on here, show up on the “Pimp’s Don’t Pay Taxes” LP that comes in at number 10 on this list, but the additions of “Candy Razors” and “Orphan Babies” more than bump it up a couple spots. Zone comes a little different on this album, using HUG and Al-Shid and a couple of his forgettable cronies and even drop a few “save hip-hop” and social commentary type tracks that you would never find on Zones new releases.

It seems like Zone has spent most of his career trying to escape this album, as he was close to being showboxed into a sound such as this. While Zone probably did lose a few fans from his original fan base that was down with this release, he has certainly grown as an artist and a producer, I just hope he decides to do another album.

7. Binary Star – Masters Of The Universe (Subterraneous Records, 2000)

One of my greatest memories of this decade was the day I received “The Listening” by Little Brother and this album, “Masters Of The Universe” by Binary Star. For some reason, I didn’t really check this album out until that faithful day late 2002/early 2003 when I got both albums in the mail from Hip Hop Site. I had heard about them back in 2000 when I downloaded “Glenn Close” and “Honest Expression” on Audio Galaxy (I didn’t download albums back then) but didn’t know enough about the group to even know they had an album out (and it wasn’t exactly easy to find, even on the online retail sites). Made up of current underground favorites Senim Silla and One Be Lo (then known as One Man Army), Binary dropped a great album that has very little, if any, fast forward material. Some argue that the beats aren’t up to par, but I disagree, as they fit the MC’s very well.

6. Foreign Exchange – Connected (BBE, 2004)
In early 2004, I moved to Denver in or
der to finish up my degree. I only knew one other person that lived here and we hadn’t really hung out all that much for five or six years. So I basically sat around and downloaded music (it was my first hi-speed connection) and played online poker. Phonte and Nicolay’s album leaked fairly early in the year about a good six months before the retail version became available and I pretty much fell in love with it immediately. It gets some knocks for being to “R&Bish” in nature, which is funny, because I’m usually DEAD SET against singing on hooks, unless it is done.

This album is just beautiful musically and lyrically, full of feel good music. You can throw this on during a Sunday afternoon and just chill to the beautiful grooves that Nicolay lays down. Tay was starting to get spread his wings as well on this album which makes for good music.

5. Slum Village – Fantastic Vol 2 (Goodvibe, 2000)

Yes, I know, it was released on Wordplay in ’98 over in UK (maybe the US?) But I don’t think it was widely available until it was released on Goodvibe in the spring of 2000. Questlove of the roots single handedly stroked the frenzy for Slum on Okayplayer before it was widely released. I know thats what really got me pumped up for the album. It gets some heat for being all about the beats, and it kind of is, but I always thought T3 and Baatin were good enough to not distract from the project.

I played this something crazy that year and in all reality, it really started my love affair (no homo) with Jay Dee’s beats. I was aware of him before then, but it was this album that really showed me what he could do by himself.

4. Little Brother – The Listening (ABB, 2003)
LB was another group that Quest hoisted up on his back on took into internet greatness. I’d like to consider Little Brother as one of the first groups to get “known” through the internet. I mean, really “KNOWN”. They had a HUGE buzz before their debut album “The Listening” dropped, mainly through the okayplayer site. I want to say that was the first place I heard of them, although I can’t be sure. I also want to say that somehow, they started selling the album before it became widely distributed nationwide.

Ninth sounded hungry on there, not with the run of the mill “took 5 minutes to make” beats he has been serving up lately. Both Phonte and Big Pooh have grown in leaps and bounds since the release of this, but they still bring their patent humor to the table as well.

3. CunninLynguists – A Piece of Strange (LA Underground, 2006)

I’ve already mentioned Cunninlynguists “Southerunderground” LP and while its good in its own merit, their next album, “A Piece of Strange” showed so much growth in sound and maturity in the lyrics. Kno and Deacon made one of the most complete and cohessive albums of this decade and probably ever. Set as a concept album that you kind of have to decipher and could be said is in the “eye of the beholder”, the album follows a tail of a man/person “spiritually” lost as the listener follows them through the trials and tribulations of life…..and death.

Kno does an excellent job in setting a mood for this album through each track. I guess thats what draws me into the album so much, its one of the few Hip-Hop albums that incites strong feelings. It sets a mood in me while listening to the album and the weird thing is that mood changes along with the story, so to me its almost ingenious in nature. Needless to say this is one of those albums I could listen to anytime and anywhere, for eternity.

2. Masta Ace – A Long Hot Summer (Yosumi/M3, 2005)
If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you are probably saying to yourself right now “Wow, like I didn’t see that coming”. But I’m sure even most non Fanboys of Ace would have to say that his two albums are at least in the top 10 of the decade. Ace’s last studio album, “A Long Hot Summer” has been critically acclaimed and has also received the nod from the B-boys on the internet and the streets. Ace delivered a prequel to his “comeback” album “Disposable Arts”, in which Ace’s character tries to get his hustle in the music game while trying to help out his homeboy, Fats Belevedre and the both catch a charge and end up north.

Ace had great beats from a variety of artists, including even some what unheard ones (at least in the American circles) such as Koolade and the production team of Nostradaumus, while letting some vets come in and wreck shit such as DR Period, Ayatollah, and Dug Infinite. Despite the hodge podge of producers, the album has a fairly cohesive sound to it. Ace also brings along some guests in the form of his crew, Punch, Words, and Strick, along with a guest appearance by Big Noyd, Edo. G and others. Only minor complaint I would have against the album is it sounds like it was mixed in a trash can, other than that, its a great album.

1. Masta Ace – Disposable Arts (Yosumi, 2002)
When trying to decide which Ace album I liked better between “ALHS” and “Disposable Arts”, I conceded to the fact that I think “ALHS” is probably overall a better album, but there are a couple KILLER joints on “Disposable Arts” that I think blows anything on “ALHS” away. “Acknowledge”, “Something’s Wrong”, “Dear Diary” and “Take A Walk” are all probably just as good as any joint on “ALHS”…at least in this humble imagery rap critic’s mind.

Similar to “ALHS” in concept, the p
lethora of producers and guests, “Disposable Arts” is a story about Ace, fresh out of the clink and trying to better himself. He enrolls in a “rap school”. The rest of the story is almost stolen by the hilarious antics of Paul Barman, who adds to the comedic factor.

New Jack City OST (Giant Records, 1991)
1. New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme) – Ice-T
2. I’m Dreamin’ – Christopher Williams
3. New Jack City – Guy (bonus track)
4. I’m Still Waiting – Johnny Gill
5. Tellin’ Me No Again (There You Go) – Keith Sweat
6. Facts Of Life – Danny Madden
7. For The Love Of Money / Living For The City – Troop, LeVert, Queen Latifah

8. I Wanna Sex You Up – Color Me Badd
9. Lyrics To The Rhythm – Essence
10. Get It Together (Black Is A Force) – F.S. Effect
11. In The Dust – Two Live Crew

Tony D – Droppin’ Funky Verses (4th & B Way, 1990)

1 Check The Elevation (4:24)
2 Buggin’ On The Line (4:35)
3 Tony Don’t Play That (3:52)
4 E.F.F.E.C.T. (4:27)
5 Don’t Fall For The Gas Line (3:37)
6 Birdie Disease (3:42)
7 Droppin’ Funky Verses (4:03)
8 Listen To Me Brother (4:33)
9 Harvey Wallbanger (4:07)
10 Keep On Doin’ What You’re Doin’ (4:12)
11 I Know Who I Am (4:15)
12 Stop Racism (4:18)
13 Shoe Polish (3:48)

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