“Before I even peeped Eternia’s mixtape “Where I’m At-The Setup” (hell, judging from the cover art, I assumed the album was “electronica”) I made damn sure to click on the MySpace link provided below the album’s post to ensure that I wasn’t wasting my time. Needless to say, while surfing Eternia’s MySpace page I came across the video for “Struggle” featuring Wordsworth and Kenn Starr (whose “Starr Status” was one of my favorite albums from 06′). Featuring a Primo-esque beat (I have yet to discover who produced this but I’m telling you it’s a “deadringer” for Primo) and the always on point Words, Eternia (who sounds like a more lyrically adept Angie Martinez) more than holds her own amongst the likes of two of the underground’s finest over an extremely ill production that features sparse drum kicks, providing an inevitable continuous head-nod”.
From Quence’s highly slept-on “official” debut “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”. So, what’s so great about a song that already features an outdated hook that Dilated Peoples popularized a few years ago?: ”So when worst comes to worst/My people come first/So if you ain’t bussin’ down/Please disperse….For starters, the production on this joint is as sharp as a straight razor. Think CRU’s classic “Just Another Case” on steroids. A pulsating bassline rattles your spine, lowering another decibel after each snare, enough to blow the Pioneer 6 X 9′s that sit peering out your rear window, right beside your Yankee fitted and king’s crown air freshener. Plus, Quence has never been a slouch on the mic even since his “Beats, Rhymes & Life” days.
While Skyzoo may not be your favorite blogger’s favorite (ahem…Trav) rapper, I’ve been expected big things from S-K-Y-Z-O-O! His flow reminds me alot of a more “underground-friendly” Fabolous, with lyrics on “Never Sleep” like: “Everybody tryin’ to figure how I do shit/Fan-base is lookin’ kinda’ exclusive/The flow got wings on it/I jet blue shit/Best product on the market/How I move shit/But still they takin’ it for granted/Till’ I break somethin’ to make em’ understand it/And now they all suckin’ me and gettin’ they knees scuffed/I rap like I’m ridin’ shotgun on the cheese bus/Time is of the essence/Muhfuckas grind but don’t respect it/And everybody lyin’ on they record/So I be in the back/Tryna’ tally up a stack/Take a lil’ bit of this/And try to add it up to that/Work a lil’ with the wrist/And if the batter is exact/Then you can see the vision like a panoramic flat/First one to blink/Is the first one to think/Shit is sweet/Then I dead president the brinks”……see the comparison? Taking a page from Nas’ “N.Y. State Of Mind”, Skyzoo borrows the infamous “I never sleep, cuz sleep is the cousin of death” lyric for the hook. I wanna’ say that 9th Wonder laced Skyzoo with the heat on this one, but I’m not 100% sure. The production truly has 9th’s signature snare, but the synths and keys on this joint could have easily passed for the workings of Dr. Dre (although, I know that’ll never happen!).
Yet another borrowed lyric that serves as a dope hook for a superb track. Reworking Masta Ace’s “Black boy, black boy turn that shit down/You know that America don’t wanna hear the sound” lyric from his 1993 classic “Jeep Ass Ni*guh”, Chi-Town’s Pugs Atomz along with some added help from Hall Of Fame, delivers yet another solid offering from the city that has blessed us with the likes of Kanye, Lupe, Common & Rhymefest. And the production on this joint? BANANAS!….thanks to Hi-Tek’s signature bounce. The only thing that prohibited this track from being even higher on the list is Pugs’ flow and lyrical deliver which at times leave a bit to be desired. However, can you say CATCHY?
Let’s state the facts…..Nina Sky have become the “it” hook girls for New York rappers even though their vocal talents are less than impressive, Prodigy can’t rap for shit anymore and The Alchemist is better suited behind the boards rather than on the mic. However, thankfully Alchemist is the shit with the beats, his…..errr…..Prodigy’s “Return Of The Mac” mixtape/album IMO is one of the best produced albums of the year. Clever move on ALC’s part to re-create the entire essence of “70’s soul music” on the Prodigy joint, “Key To The City” follows the same blueprint. In what is a somewhat “nosier” track than usual from the Alchemist, a clever studder-step drum loop is laid beneath a sliced “Apache” sample to create a fly, rendition of “rider music”. I anointed Alchemist as my mid-year “comeback producer of the year” thanks to his work with Prodigy & Evidence, but his “buzz” has worn off somewhat due to his lack of output lately….hopefully, “Key To The City” will provide a nice ending to a strong year for him.
Comprised of Masta Ace, Wordsworth, Punchline & Strick, E.M.C. formed like voltron to deliver a continuous “head-nodder” fueled by an uncharacteristic (at least judging from his joint effort with Phonte, “Connected”) yet very original production from Nicolay. While Words, Ace & Punch deliver the type of lyrical performances that we’ve become accustomed to, I’m not so sold on Strick just yet. Still, it’s not enough to deter you from enjoying the ill production that is highlighted by a furious rattle that adds a unique twist, that is anything but “traditional” or even somewhat predictable. Gotta’ admit it though, Ace is a legend….no doubt, but the dopest verse on “What It Stand For?” goes to Wordsworth who is unfairly overlooked much of the time when mentioning your “favorite emcees”.
I’ve always been partial to Freeway, even though his voice and flow are definitely somewhat of an acquired taste. As far as Cassidy is concerned? Simply put, dude is a dope lyricist who can’t quite put together a cohesive full length. However, on “What Would You Do?” from Statik Selektah’s noteworthy compilation “Spell My Name Right”, both of these Philly residents bring their “A” game over a soulful Statik production that features a chorus that has no real association with either of the emcee’s lyrical content. Still, it’s hard not to like a track that features two very unique lyrical stylings of the aforementioned emcees when coupled with a familiar sample that fits nicely with this uptempo heater from the Beantwown producer slash D.J.
Okay….help a brotha’ out here! Is Riz actually Kurupt? Also is this the same Sean Kingston who did the “Beautiful Girl” track that was all over the radio this year? Whatever the case, I’ve read all the negative reviews of Hi-Tek’s third offering fittingly titled “Hi-Teknology 3″ and while I can agree with some of them, there are still quite a few hidden gems on the album as well. The first of them being the superb production (notice I said “production”) “Back On The Grind”. If your looking to be blown away by dope, mind-boggling lyrics then I advise you to just skip this one over. However, if your looking for thumping production and a catchy hook, then this one’s right up your alley. Fueled by a “heartbeat” bassline (thump thump, thump thump) and “easy on your ears” synths, “Back On The Grind” is highlighted by the soulful hook sung by Dion. Yes, the same Dion who stole the show away from Q-Tip & Kurupt on “Keep It Moving” (which was one of muy top 5 tracks from last year) from “The Chip”. I don’t know much about this cat, and I seldom check for R & B cats, but this dude sings with soul! Yet another Hi-Tek production that graces today’s list (along with Pugs Atomz’ “Black Boy”).
In a year loaded with dope compilations, California’ Choice 37 delivered “Diligence” without much fanfare whatsoever. On the other hand, “Diligence” was maybe the most cohesive compilation released this year that also featured the lyrical workings of underground favorites such as Othello, Aloe Blacc & Braille. However, it’s “Piece” the 2007 “Fu*k Tha’ Police” anthem from W.T.R.’s lyricist of the year, Blu that takes the cake as the highlight of this well-produced entry. Producer Choice 37 crafts a soulful yet pulsating track that favors much of Exile’s production on his collaborative effort with Blu, “Bellow The Heavens”. Lyrically, Blu is just plain SICK and is one of the few lyricists within recent memory who has made me wanna’ cop every track he blesses. Oh, and be sure to peep the remainder of Choice 37′s “Diligence” as well, there’s a nice mixture of goodies for everywone to be found on this slumbered release.
From one of the truest ”gems” of the year, Jazz Addixx’ “Oxygen Refreshed”. Trailing not far behind Blu & Exile as the best “Pete Rock & CL Smooth” of ’07, Mudd & DJ Ragz crafted a soulful yet thumping album that truly captured the essence of Hip Hop’s “Golden Era”. “Don’t Judge” is a bass heavy track that lyrically stresses the importance of being yourself over knockin’ drum kicks. Lyrically, Mudd is as consistent as they come, never changing his flow all that much on the album yet still proving to be extremely effective and witty. However, the true highlight of this track comes near the 2 minute 14 second mark when DJ Ragz slices the track to pieces and catapults it to a whole ‘notha level. The production on this track reminds me soo much of Pete Rock’s production on “Main Ingredient”, maybe it’s the “wah wah’s” that instantly conjure up the instant comparisons. A dope album from some of the “good guys” in today’s Hip Hop. Oh, and even though I’ve just recently linked him up (sorry bruh!) be sure to peep DJ Ragz’ site “93 Til”.