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Half Way Done: The Midway Report – The Top 20 Albums Part One

by Travis on July 11, 2008

2008 has been kind of odd. While there hasn’t been tons of albums that have been “mind blowin’”, there has been a large quantity of “enjoyable” albums. When I say “enjoyable”, I mean albums that I can put on and enjoy, although I don’t I probably won’t think much about them after a month or so. Nothing wrong with that. Anymore, if an album gets more than two or three plays from me, it’s doing something right. I just have too much to listen to, as well does anyone that frequents online sites much. I will say that my favorite seven albums are all GREAT albums, which does make it an exciting year regardless. I’ve been HORRIBLE about reading other blogs and checking the forums the past six months, so this list has not been affected much by outside influences. They are all things that I have played quite often. They are found on the iPod at any time. They make me appreciate being a hip hop again.

Of course, my tastes are probably not the typical blogger tastes. In my old age, I like what I like, which is the underground obscure shit. I guess I can’t relate to a lot of the music being made these days. There were some albums that I didn’t get a chance to listen to just recently, such as the Snowgoons, Opio, Danny! and most notably, the new Invincible “Shapeshifters” album, which I think would have easily made it into this top 10. Be on the look out for that album in the third quarter report. We will start with the bottom half of the top 20, then wrap it up with the top half tomorrow (or possibly Saturday). As I’ve mentioned before, these are MY personal favorites. There are also NO mixtapes, I’ll cover the mixtapes this weekend. I’m not going to say they are the absolute best, because after all, it’s only my opinion and nothing else. But if you are someone that has similar tastes as me, you oughta check anything out you haven’t heard yet. With that, let’s jump on into it.

Top 20 Albums for the First Half of 2008: 11-20

20. The Camp – The Campaign

Sounds Like: They show a lot of influences from Apathy and the Demigodz crew. Party music, nothing too serious.

Summary: Coming out of the northeast, Boston more specifically, The Camp is just some good ole fashioned boom bap with the party vibe coming down with them. The Campaign is comparable to an action comedy movie, where you don’t have to do a lot of thinking and are entertained through the whole watching/listening experience. Apathy of the Demigodz was the Executive Producer on this project and his influence is readily seen on the album as they soemtimes come off as official Demigodz card carrying members. Only negatives I would say is that with five MC’s, they kind of blend together and it’s hard to tell who’s who and at seventeen tracks, a few could have been shaved off. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable album that fans of this type of hip hop should check out.

Favorite Tracks: “The Campaign“, “Gentlemen Needs“, “Little Story”

19. Weapon X – Portrait of a Starving Artist

Sounds Like: I think Jedi Mind Tricks when I think of Weapon X both in the terms of rhyme style and beats.

Summary: Weapon X was one of those artists that I ran across on a blog, downloaded the album on the strength of a recommendation, and really enjoyed the album. Since then, I’ve have mentioned the album several times on WYDU, posted several tracks from the album, and even interviewed X himself. Goes to show you that blogs ARE good for something. Portrait of a Starving artist is somewhat of a dark album, as we take a trip through X’s psyche that is filled with uncertainty, struggle, and roadblocks. Armed with everything from deep thoughts, to straight up “F.A.Y” (fuck all y’all for those of you not in the know) type tracks, X paints a strong image with this album.

Favorite Tracks: “Destined For Greatness”, “Don’t Dream Of Women”, “Asshole Syndrome”

18. Substantial – Sacrifice

Sounds Like: You’ve heard him on several QN5 projects, as well as part of EFamm.

Summary: Maybe I’m a little biased by the fact that I saw Substantial live this past May and besides being a very cool dude, he put on a hell of a stage show. Then again, Sacrifice was ranked in the first quarter as well. This album is kind of hit in miss as far as the tracks go, but that’s only because Substantial isn’t afraid to take chances. Some of those chances don’t work, but at least he doesn’t create some boring album that plays it safe the whole way through. The songs that do work though are well exucu
ted and creative. Who knew that you could make a quality song using an interpolation of a Christmas carol as it’s hook. Substantial is also a very versatile MC, going from battle rhymes to concept songs almost effortlessly.

Favorite Tracks: “Chain Reaction”, “Resurrection of a House Party”, “It’s You”

17. All Natural – Elements (Fire)

Sounds Like: Coming out of Chicago, these are underground cats should that bring that late 90′s indie boom bap to the scene.

Summary: I’ve been a fan of Chi-town’s All Natural since first hearing them in the late 90′s. They haven’t changed their sound much over the last decade, but in this case, that’s not a bad thing. DJ Tone B Nimble and Capital D are down with the Molemen. Their album, Elements (Fire), it’s nothing more than straight up, quality boom bap hip hop. This is an album that I’m still getting more and more into, so this has a chance to move up even more before the end of the year. Great for fans that wish hip hop hadn’t changed so much.

Favorite Tracks: “The All”, “Poppers Pop, Breakers Break”, “Nothin’ To Lose”

16. Akrobatik – Absolute Value

Sounds Like: A cross of battle rap, political consciousness, and Ak being Ak; a versatile MC

Summary: Absolute Value, grew for me over time and continues to win me over as the year goes on. Akrobatik is a very accomplished MC who brings a versatile LP to the consumer, to almost a fault. Absolute Value has something for everybody, everything from nuggets of knowledge found as Ak and Chuck D kick it “Kindred”, to Ak just kickin’ battle rhymes on the title track, produced by the great and mighty J-Zone. As I mentioned, the album kind of lacks a central focus and strays a bit in some places, but it’s still a quality album that should stay in the top 20 when 2009 rolls around.

Favorite Tracks: “Soul Glo”, “Put Ya Stamp On It”, “Absolute Value”

15. One Man Army – The R.E.B.I.R.T.H.

Sounds Like: A lyrical MC that would rank up with the top MC’s in the game right now. One Be Lo is very consistent, you know what you are getting when you get a One Be Lo album.

Summary: I haven’t heard much about this album being mentioned in the hip hop circles after having a critical acclaimed release in 2005 in S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. One Be Lo’s sophomore retail album, The R.E.B.I.R.T.H., is everything his debut was, but just more focused. After being unceremoniously left off the first quarter list, I made sure the album was included on the midway report. The album is a twelve track focused effort, as One Be Lo is one of the more sociological MC’s, touching on society as a whole as well as the state of hip hop. There are a couple classic tracks to be found on the effort, as both “Hip Hop Heaven”, which takes a spin on Scarface’s “I’m Dead” and “Gray”, which incorporates a laid back beat with a sax loop that should be on any “end of year” list.

Favorite Tracks: “Rebirth”, “Gray”, “Hip Hop Heaven”

14. 9th Wonder & Jean Grae – The Jeanius

Sounds Like: With beats from 9th Wonder, you get that soul sampled North Carolina sound that 9th has basically trademarked. With Jean Grae, you get a lyrical female MC that can hang with any male when it comes to rhymes and making songs.

Summary: The first of three albums that have appeared previously before in one form or another in the top 20. I was a big fan of the version that leaked on the ‘net way back in 2004. The beats found on the original was one of 9th’s best efforts. While a few things have changed on the 2008 version, the reincarnation is still undoubtedly dope. Jea
proves while she should be mentioned as one of the top female MC’s to ever grace the mic as she drops lyrical gems and thought provoking jawns as 9th paints soundscapes that seem to match perfectly with what Jean Grae has to say.

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Rush Me”, “My Story”, “The Time is Now”

13. Ill Poetic Presents Joe Budden X Portishead: Mood Muzik’s 3rd (LINK)

Sounds Like: Something completely new….

Summary: My man Eric over at When They Reminisce has done enough campaigning for Ill Poetic to last the next two years, and while I’ve always thought Ill Poetic was dope, I just wasn’t into his music as much as E. I also liked Joe Budden’s Mood Musik 3, but it didn’t get a ton of play from me. That is until Ill Poetic presented us with this “mash-up” of sorts. For those of you not familiar with the concept, Ill Poetic made beats using Portishead samples and it works WONDERFULLY. It’s something completely new sounding and very creative. Tracks like “Roll Call” is just freakin’ hard as fuckin’ nails. It almost reminds of the 2008 version of The Bomb Squad. Just pure noise and chaos.

Favorite Tracks: “Dear Diary”, “Roll Call”, “Warfare”

12. Kidz In The Hall – The In Crowd

Sounds Like: Little Brother meets Cool Kids meets 90′s Native Tongues

Summary: While some of my fellow blogging cohorts question their taste in fashion (and probably rightfully so), I wholly expected not to care for this album when it dropped for different reasons. Not because of the new image they were trying to cash in on, although the “Drivin’ Down The Block” single didn’t help at all, but I also wasn’t a big fan of their debut, “School Was My Hustle”. I still can’t stand “Drivin’ Down The Block”, and I’m not big on their “image” (I won’t call them douche bags though), the album was a pleasant surprise. Once again, versatility rules, as they cover a wide spectrum of sounds and topics. The production is on some top notch quality, when they aren’t trying to cash in on the hipster sound. I’m not sure of the staying power of the album yet, but so far, it’s getting the spins.

Favorite Tracks: “Let Your Hair Down”, “Mr. Alladatshit”, “The Blackout”

11. Raashan Ahmad – The Push

Sounds Like: Mr. J Medeiros comes to mind and his album from last year. Also, since Raashan Ahmad is from the Crown City Rockers, there is some of that flavor as well.

Summary: I’ve never been one to get into the Crown City Rockers. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I just didn’t pay them much attention. I don’t really remember what made me listen to The Push, I guess a couple people who’s opinions I value said it was a good album. Sure enough, I played this album two times in a row the first time I heard it. There is nothing totally mind blowing on it, but just about every track is quality. Raashan Ahmad isn’t the most lyrical MC there is, but he constructs quality tracks that lends to a overall cohesive album that grows on the listener the more he/she listens to it.

Favorite Tracks: “Cool Down”, “Here We Go”, “Get Funky”

Thirty Tracks from Jan-July 08 That You Need To Hear: 11-20

Amad JamalGoin’ Postal (myspace)

Baje OneMission Statement (Weightless EP)

Camp LoLumdi (?)

EdO. G & Masta Ace aka A&EWhat Does It Matter (Advance)

Kurupt – Yessir (?)

Oddisee ft Motion ManHolding Back (Good Tree EP)

PraverbFreedom To Prevail (Center of Attention)

Foul Mouth Jerk ft Masta AceSmall Town USA (Street Light Music)

Suzi Analog ft DJ SoulClap – HandClapRap (myspace)

The Grouch – Artsy (Show You The World)

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