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Half Way Done: The Midway Report – Top 20 Albums Part 2 (1-10)

by Travis on July 17, 2008

It took me awhile to get the second part of this. It was originally scheduled to go up over the weekend, but no dice. Then the last two weeks I planned on getting up, but MLB All-Star festivities on TV put a damper on that, including the five plus hour All-Star game last night. Oh well, you should be out enjoying the summer weather instead of reading this damn blog anyway. Speaking of which, I’m off to my old stomping grounds of Denver, Colorado this weekend (Fri-Mon), so I doubt you’ll see much of me this weekend and if you do, it’ll probably be in a drunken state. I love summer.

Back to the list, in case you missed 11-20, this is what you missed

11 Raashan AhmadThe Push
12 Kids In The HallThe In Crowd
13 Ill PoeticJoe Budden Meets Portishead Mood Musik
14 Jean GraeThe Jeanius
15 One Be LoThe R.E.B.I.R.T.H
16 AkrobatikAbsolute Value
17 All NaturalElements
18 Substantial Sacrifice
19 Weapon X – Portrait Of a Starvin Artist
20 The CampThe Campaign

As I’ve said before, this were MY personal favorites of the first half of the year, so while you are more than welcome to drop your input, arguing with me much is probably going to be futile, since it’s my opinion we are talking about here. No, there is no Immortal Technique, which wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t listen to it until after July 1st, no Nas, which again, I don’t think I listened to until after July 1st, but I doubt that it would make the list if I had. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Nas has no concept of what a good beat is even if it bit him on the ass. All these albums are albums I can listen to from front to back and the top seven especially are complete albums that are solid in all areas. You may agree with me on these, you may not. You may find something you haven’t heard yet, and truly, that is the reason I’m doing this, hopefully to turn you all on to something you might have missed. Here we go, the top 10…..

Top 20 Albums for the First Half of 2008: 1-10

10. Archetype - Unfolding

Sounds Like: It’s kind of difficult to put a “sound” on this duo, coming out of Kansas, they sound like Atmosphere crossed with some Living Legends. Or not….

Summary: This might be cheating in some sense. For those of you that haven’t been around WYDU for any length of time, Archetype’s U.S. label submitted their Bleed For Them, album for review purposes last year and I simply fell in love with that album. Not a knock on anyone who sent me music, but Bleed For Them is my favorite music I’ve ever recieved for review purposes. It was a great album with melodic beats provided by Nezbeat and strong lyrics from iD. Unfolding is basically Bleed For Them, packaged for overseas, most notably Japan. It is armed with seven new songs (so half the album is new), four of which are as equally dope or more so than anything found on Bleed For Them. Only reason this probably isn’t higher is that half of the album has been getting play since September of last year, not bad for a couple kids from Kansas.

Favorite Tracks: (Of the new tracks) “Blocked Up”, “Unfolding”, “Live It Up”

9. Guilty Simpson – Ode To The Ghetto

Sounds Like: That slowly defining Detroit sound, commonly attributed to J-Dilla and passed on to Black Milk. Lyrically and vocally, Guilty reminds me of Beanie Seigel.

Summary: At first I was rather disappointed with this album. Not in the way I’m disappointed with the new Nas album, but in a way I expected a near classic from Guilty Simpson after the Stray Bullets mixtape and the success of Detroit artists of late. While I didn’t dislike it, I guess I expected more. Over the past few months though, this album has steadily grown on me, including a drunken birthday weekend, in which we cruised around in my man’s Mustang from place to place, blasting my newly purchased Ode To The Ghetto CD. I love the sound of this album, sparse, hard as fuck beats and ruff-n-rugged rhymes from Guilty. Shit, I even dig the Madlib tracks, and I’m not a big Madlib fan. I think I have to say Detroit is my favorite locale for music as of late.

Favorite Tracks: “Pigs, “I Must Love You”, “My Moment”

8. Little Brother – And Justus For All

Sounds Like: If you don’t know who Little Brother is, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog. Add traditional North sounds (Native Tongue) crossed with the swagger of the South.

Summary: Yes, this dropped last year as well, but this version of And Justus For All is the trimmed down version with a handful of new songs. I was pretty vocal with my dislike of The Get Back, last year, mainly because I consider LB one of my favorite groups. It’s true that they seem to make better mixtapes than albums (the two Chitlin’ Circuits shit on anything in their catalog not named The Listening) and this is an example of that. I enjoy this album more than anything found on The Get Back, LB is that shit, fuck what anyone else might think. Plus, I’ve used Phonte’s opening line on “Life Of The Party”, so much I should be giving him royalties (of course I change it to blogger, which makes it even worse….haha “Girl, whatcha mean you don’t recognize me? I’m only the biggest blogger star in your apartment complex…”)

Favorite Tracks: “Life Of The Party (Remix)”, “Cross That Line (Remix)”, “Stylin”

7. Shawn Jackson – First Of All….

Sounds Like: Reminds me of a Murs of sorts…strong lyrical MC

Summary: One of the surprising “out of nowhere” albums, Shawn Jackson’s First Of All did catch some fire among the bloggers, such as my cohorts Eric of When They Reminisce and the one who first start pushing his music, Dart Adams of Poisonous Paragraphs. This album is a pure, solid and cohesive project that comes with thirteen quality tracks. Everything on this album is up to par, the lyrics, the hooks, the beats, they are all combine to make a great album that will undoubtedly gain more momentum and could very well be this year’s Below The Heavens. If you haven’t heard this album yet, you need it in your life…

Favorite Tracks: “Fix Ya Face”, “Feelin’ Jack”, “Gold Medal Kids”

6. Pacewon & Mr. Green – The Only Color That Matters is Green

Sounds Like: Back in the day hardcore east coast hip hop….

Summary: I’ll probably always be biased toward the artists that I grew up on when they drop a quality album. That’s the case with Pacewon and his new producer, Mr. Green. I was a hardcore Outsidaz fan from back in the day and have always picked up anything with Pacewon’s name on it. “The Only Color That Matters…”, is one of those albums that I probably favor more due to Pace’s “back in the day” ties, but don’t let that fool you. Mr. Green brings a sound that….it’s hard to put my finger on, but it’s a sound that I’ve always liked. That’s saying, it’s nothing ground breaking, nothing that hasn’t been heard before, he just takes a sound and does it to the best of his ability. A rugged sound with lots of strings and dusty drums combine to offer the PERFECT backdrop for Pace to drop his raw, yet smooth, rhymes. Trying to find this album on CD is kind of a bitch, but you can order one from Mr. Green’s myspace page

Favorite Tracks: “Hip Hop”, “Four Quarters”, “Children Sing”

5. Dagha – The Divorce

Sounds Like: A lot like his label mate, Dooley O….

Summary: In what could very well go down as the most creative album of the year, Dagha dropped The Divorce, in which is about what it sounds like, a shitty divorce. Now, I’ve never been through a divorce, but any man who has been through a break-up after a long term relationship can relate as well. Dagha raps for a whole album about, what I’m assuming, his divorce. Without sounding whiny or turning it into a long bitch session, Dagha brings a cohesive album that flows together quite nicely. The beats are on point and the story telling style of Dagha makes this album a fav of mine this year (obviously).

Favorite Tracks: Scat”, “My Luck”, “Devil’s Work”

4. Grip Grand - Brokelore

Sounds Like: quality underground/backpacker (I hate that term), maybe Grouch? I’m not sure I have a good comparison.

Summary: I absolutely LOVE Grip Grand’s Brokelore album. I could listen to this album every day for the rest of the year and be okay with that. I wasn’t familiar Grip Grand until about April, when in the same day, two people who’s opinions I value and also know my tastes said I had to check out the album. Eric from WTR and my homie Scholar from Souled On both told me I needed to check this album out. I’ve been bumping it since then. There is only one track that I don’t care for (“Handle That”), the rest are all great tracks. The beauty of the album is there is a lot of variety in the terms of subject matter and sounds, yet it still comes in as a cohesive album. Grip has everything from straight up braggadocio hip hop, to dissing himself, he talks on the social ills, to braggin’ about “Poppin’ Pockets”. He has two classic guest apperances in the form of Percee P and A.G., but he is more than capable of handling the rest of the album on his own. I can’t brag about this album enough. If you are someone that has similar tastes as me in the past, then this album is a must.

Favorite Tracks: It’s hard to pick three, but right now, I’d say “But Anyway”, “Love/Drama”, “Remember The Time”.

3. Atmosphere – When Live Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold

Sounds Like: Lil Wayne meets Master P

Summary: After putting on one of the most interesting promotional pre-album release events ever seen, Slug and Ant delivered on the goods, with When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold, which might be the best since Lucy Ford, if not of all their catalog. It’s a different sound for them, in some ways, Ant has returned back to his earlier sound. At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like or not, but after hearing the project as a whole, I’ve grown to really get down with this album. It’s a more mature Atmosphere, as Sean delivers a loosely themed album, talking about the common man’s struggle. I can see this dropping a few slots as the replay value isn’t as strong as some of the albums behind it, but still, this is a great album for established Atmosphere fans and I’ve already heard of heads who weren’t fans of them before this get on board.

Favorite Tracks: “Puppets”, “You”, “Me”

2. Nicolay & Kay – Time Line

Sounds Like: Nicolay has his own sound for sure….as a whole, this album is similar in feel to the Phonte and Nicolay Connected project.

Summary: Nic & Kay hooked up to drop an early gem on us back in February. I’ve been playing Time Line since then. I know Kay got some knocks on not being the best MC, but truthfully, I’ve never had a problem with his MC skills. The beats on this album or amazing, as Nic comes with an interesting sound that matches the albums theme perfectly. The album starts with “birth”, goes through a life cycle, with the music fitting each theme, and goes to the death. It’s one of those albums that should be listened to as a whole, but nothing wrong with spending a solid 45 minutes with quality hip hop.

Favorite Tracks: “Tight Eyes”, “Blizzard”, “I’ve Seen Rivers”

1. eMC – The Show

Sounds Like: Good Hip Hop Music

Summary: Did you really think I’d have anything but The Show? Yes, I’m a border line Ace stan, but that doesn’t mean that this doesn’t deserve the number one slot. Words, Punch, Strick also show up with Ace to deliver an album that is a well constructed concept album (what did you expect from Ace?. The came wit
h some great beats and work their magic lyrically, as they take you through a day of eMC starting with getting picked up in the airport to the after party. Yes, it could have been cut down by about 15 minutes, yes, a couple beats were lacking and yes, a couple hooks could have been better, but they still bring the heat, that you can ignore that.

Favorite Tracks: “Winds Of Change”, “Leak It Out”, “We Alright”

Honorable Mentions: Albums that were on my radar, and are worth checking out, but didn’t quite make the list…

Presto – State of the Art
Astonish – From Now Until Forever
The Roots – Rising Down
Prolyphic & Reanimator – The Ugly Truth
Yameen – Never Knows Best
J-Live – Then What Happened
Foul Mouth Jerk – Street Light music
Lazerus Jackson – Filthy
Prodigy – HNIC 2
Praverb – Center Of Attention
Tha 4rce – Mind The Gap Anthems
Silent Knight - Restoration
Braile – The IV
Craig G – Operation Take Hip Hop Back Trav Williams – The Trickle Down

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