While I’ve noticed that “Project Jazz”, Razah’s collaborative effort with MF Doom & Talib Kweli (from Razah’s early 2007 release “Renaissance Child”), has faired quite well on a collective of “Year End Lists”, it was”The Cube” that garnered more than it’s fair share of spins on my Ipod since it’s release. The production duo of Blue Sky & Black Death provide sparse, pulsating drums and a collection of unique sounds that prove to be a more than ample sound-scape for the highly intellectual, conversational rhyme style of Hell Razah. The track nears it’s apex around the 2 minute 35 second mark as it is lifted to new heights when the vocal sample (just for you, A-One) of “Malcom X again with a pen” (damn, brain-freeze, I can’t seem to place who said that!) is sliced to pieces via the dope scratch break. Even though “Renaissance Child” may be the bloggers’ album of choice, don’t sleep on the well put together rhythms and lyrics that appear on “Razah’s Ladder”.
I can already hear it, “Damn Eric! How you gonna’ throw an instrumental track on your year end list?”. Sheeeeeet, brace yourself there’s more to come thanks to Hi-Tek & Waajeed. Many of you will be familiar with Thes One, thanks to a few superb albums as a member of People Under The Stairs, but on “Lifestyle Marketing” he takes the “clever” route and constructs a running theme of beats around….get this…..sound bites from department store commercials. Thes has nearly done for department stores what Kwest did for V.I.M. with “I Met My Baby At The V.I.M.” (from “This Is My First Album”). Now keep in mind, I’ve never been that “big” on albums that are comprised of strictly “instrumentals” but with “Lifestyle Marketing” Thes does a heck of a job keeping the tracks from being stagnant and boring. With cleverly placed samples, mellow filters and most importantly “clarity”, “F & F Daily C” is one of many tracks that could have made “the list”. However, make sure you have a decent pair of headphones on your ears to fully enjoy “Lifestyle Marketing”. The perfect album to bump while your playing “Live, Madden or 2k8″ when your tired of hearing the same ol’ soundbites from the game’s announcers.
I’d go out on a limb and say that underground favorite Aesop Rock has to be fairly pleased with the overall reception of “None Shall Pass”. Once an emcee of strictly “cult” status (man, I still can’t get past the third track on “Bazooka Tooth”), Aesop even enjoyed a slot as MTV’s “Flavor Of The Month” during ’07. Much of Aesop’s success could be attributed the “Def Jux Bounce” anthem “Coffee”. With a slick guitar riff and heavy drum kicks, Aesop rides the track like a surfer rides a wave, swiftly gliding over the beat with his intricate….to say the least…..rhyme patterns and lyrics. However, the real gem on “None Shall Pass” is the bonus cut that followed “Coffee”, “Pigs”. Although, you may have missed this one due to the gap in track sequencing, you may need to revisit “None Shall Pass” to witness Aesop spit venom over a bluesy guitar lick that is sure to make you mush up your face like Craig Mack. Who woulda’ thought? (shaking head)…Muthaphukin’ Aesop Rock!
You might as well chalk Median’s solid full-length debut “Median’s Relief” up as yet another album that will probably never receive it’s due props. What may hinder the album is that a few of the tracks that are included have been floating around the net for quite some time, so….your “fairly acclimated” with them already. Personally, I love the album and feel that it ranks right up there with his Justus League croonies’ efforts….Little Brother’s “Get Back” & 9th Wonder’s “Dream Merchant II”. “Right Or Wrong?” is just one of those tracks that you can close your eyes and nod off to…but, in a good way. The subtle production fits perfectly with Median’s “ricky-icky-iddic” flow that seems to come effortless from one of the more lyrically inclined members of the J.L. Producer Centric get crazy kudos for the ill piano solo that takes the track to it’s closing. Also, if nothing else, Median gets my vote for “Best Album Cover” of ’07.
If you have any sort of Military background whatsoever, you’re bound to love “Dusk”. Hell, even if you’ve never made it to a morning formation or had a sloppy joe (and I mean SLOPPY) in the chow hall, the forcefulness of Waajeed’s production will damn near make you wanna’ drop and grind out twenty push-ups! Continuing in the tradition of talented beatmakers hailing from Detroit (Dilla, Black Milk, T3, etc.) Waajeed brings a less “Neo Soul” approach to “The War LP”. The album, which was released as a dual disc that featured a mixed and unmixed version…is a collective of talent comprised mostly of Wajeed’s Bling 47 compadres Timbo Lockhart, Ta’ Raach (who released two equally dope LPs last year. While the album is still very soulful, you will no doubt identify the more Hip Hop driven feel of this disc. With pulsing beats, cleverly placed samples and SUPER crisp production this album deserves to be heard.
While Special Teamz’ (Slaine, Jaysaun & Ed O.G.) first official full length “Stereotypez” hasn’t made a whole lotta’ noize just yet, I’ve been bumpin’ “Long Time…” ever since I received the promo a few months back. Trav and I have already touched base on the overall quality of the album (click the archives to read the review), “Long Time” finds Special Teamz at their best. With production that is somewhat reminiscent of Rockwilder’s on Red & Meth’s “Da Rockwilder”, newcomer Xplicit delivers a crisp track that should have emcees lined up on his front doorstep beggin’ for a beat. With beats on the album from household names such as Pete Rock, Primo & Jake One, it’s good to see a producer that’s not as well provide the highlight of the album. Also, Jaysaun’s verse is crazy nice but solid performances from both Slaine & Ed O.G. only add to the dopeness dispayed on “Long Time Comin’”. Pick up the album if you haven’t already. Plus, how can you lose with Devin on the hook?
Ahhhh, this is my shit! Fu*k being hard, fu*k being gangsta’, “Things Change” is most def on some real life iddish, relationships. Releasing “A Breath Of Fresh Air” under his birth name Emilio Rojas, Raks One dropped a beast of an album loaded with very soulful production and deeply personal lyrics that seem to flow almost effortlessly. Trust me, this dude can rhyme his ass off! Why this album isn’t mentioned as one the best (or even Top 25) of the year is beyond me (even though it may have actually dropped in ’06). With a production lineup filled with heavyhitters (Illmind, Muneshine, etc.) and a sharp lyrical wit, Raks One dropped an album that was indeed “A Breath Of Fresh Air” in ’07. “Things Change” was not only one of my favorite cuts of the year but also a cut that anyone in a marriage or longstanding relationship can identify with.
Although the B.C.C album of the same title is now somewhat of an afterthought by now (the same could also be said for Smif-N-Wessun’s “The Album” as well), this Marvel (another dope overseas cat) production is a crazy melodic track that finds members of the B.C.C. recalling their fallen comrades over a somber track….more or less their version of “T.R.O.Y.”. “Casualties….” kinda’ has the same feel as the Marco Polo produced “He Gave His Life” from their previous album “The Last Stand”. I don’t know much about the cat who that produced “Casualties..” (Marvel), but if he keeps bringin’ heat like this he’ll be makin’ a name for himself in no time.
Taken from Ill’s solo debut “Illumination” that was released in ’05…no matter, I just heard the album this year thus it’s inclusion on the list. Talk about beautiful imagery, Ill relates “suicide” to writer’s block and bypassing all the bullshit in Hip Hop. If you don’t get “goosebumps” at about the 2 minute mark of this song, I’m calling your bluff. While Ill’s debut is still mad impressive it’s not “The World Is Ours”, “Suicide Note” however just may be the best song that Ill Poetic ever recorded. The Biggie vocal, intertwined with the buttery vocals on the hook and Ill’s always crisp, crystal clear production make “Suicide Note” a definite must hear. Oh, and listen closely for the Marvin Gaye sample. Do yourself a favor and be sure to check this one out!!
Talk about growing on you like a bad fungus! After shitting all over Kanye’s “Graduation” earlier in the Summer, I’ve grown to actually….like?…well….no….accept, Kanye’s third run in what is already a highly documented recording career. “Everything I Am” (featuring DJ Premier on the cuts) is the the obvious highlight of “Graduation” hands down. With it’s subtle piano keys in the background and the simple drum kicks it’s only fitting that DJ Premier is featured on “Everything…” because the track truly feels like it’s almost more suited for “Daily Operation” rather than “Graduation”. Would you have ever imagined hearing Chuck D’s voice scratched in on a Kanye record? Yeah, me neither. Kanye also lays his best vocals on this track, always clever with the metaphors, Ye’ also attempts to get a little “introspective” on “Everything….” while recalling Chauncey from BlackStreet, whom according to Kanye was “black as the street was”.