Man O’ Man! I know it’s been kinda’ lazy here at W.T.R. over the last few months, but between opening up a new office, my Wife’s separation from the Military and the girls growing up faster than I could have ever dreamed…well, it’s been a good kinda’ busy, to say the least. Plus, I’ve very tied down compiling the list of contributing artists for the forthcoming When They Reminisce/Sneaker Politics mixtape that hopefully will be blessing your eardrums around the middle of this month. Oh, and did I mention that the mixtape will be sliced to shreds by none other than the Jazz Addixx’ DJ Ragz? The compilation will feature the likes of nearly anyone that’s hot in the underground right now, from the the likes of Buff 1, Shawn Jackson, Now On and Termanology to impressive up and comers such as Has-Lo, tha Connection and Small Pro (the 100 dbs remix track is SIIIIICK kid!!!!!). Tonight, I’ve found this sudden burst of energy and I figured at the rate that I’ve been posting lately, I could at the very least get started on the top tracks of 2008, being that the new year is right around the corner and I didn’t finish the ’07 list until the middle of February. Plus, it’ll give the tracks to ummm…..breath, for lack of better wording. So, to all you die-hards who still drop by to say whaddup you’re greatly appreciated, things are gonna’ pick back up when things at work slow down just a tad bit. Oh, and congrats to my dude Trav @ Wake Your Daughter Up for hitting his 3rd year in this blog sh*t!! Plus, big ups to Dart @ Poisonous Paragraphs, Dan Love @ From Da Bricks and Kevin Nottingham (why you gotta’ make us old mainstays look bad with all those quality posts maaaan!!?? Ha Ha!) for keeping me inspired, keep em’ comin’ fellas!
Big ups to W.T.R. contributing writer Spaise (wikka…where ya at??) for putting me on to this one! While I wasn’t completely sold on the compilation album that featured the likes of Camp Lo, Kweli and Bahamadia, “Can You Let Me Know” caught my ear upon first listen and has been gettin’ constant spins ever since. Spaise mentioned in his write-up for DJ Deckstream’s “SoundTracks” that this cut, that featured current “rapper faux pas” of the moment, Lupe Fiasco (I forgive you on the Tribe “mess” Lupe!), has been circulating around the net’ for more than a minute now (actually, prior to the start of 2008). Nevertheless, this track may be labeled as “soft” to some, but to me it possessed that breezy spring/summertime vibe that was perfect for playing in the ride or just kickin’ it with your girl. The track really didn’t feel like your typical “Lupe” joint as Verbal handled much of the lyrics on this one, along with a smooth hook from crooner Sarah Green (who also appeared on Lupe’s “The Cool”) that gave the track an crazy smoove “R & Bish” feel.
“Bun, you’re album’s so cold I’m numb”, words spoken by current underground fave Termanology on the Bun B assisted, Primo produced, heatrock “How We Rock”. Umm, not quite in my opinion…but again, the East Coast bias (I know, it’s gotta’ stop sometime!) comes into full effect, unfairly swaying my stance on Bun B’s solo joint, “II Trill”. I will say this though, the Mr-Lee produced “You’re Everything” truly repped the South to the fullest (probably more so than any other “Southern” tinged joint that my ears came across this year), while beatin’ the fu*k outta’ your trunk at the same time. No seriously, this joint KNOCKED for days!!! Utilizing the vocal riff from the Jodeci classic, “I Cry For You”, guests David Banner, Rick Ross, 8Ball & MJG and even Bun himself all stepped up to the plate and hit one outta’ the park for the fellas below the Mason Dixon line!!
Comprised of 12 MC’s and producers: Theory Hazit, Cas Metah, Justme, WonderBrown, Mouth Warren, Motion +, Kaboose, Ruffian, EliasGriffin, Re:Flex the Architect, and Mattman. However the core emcees of S.I are: JustMe, Cas Metah, Mouf Warren, Theory Hazit and Wonder Brown….whew, this Cincy/Kentucky-based crew came back with their first follow-up in nearly 10 (!) years. With plenty of dope cuts for your to sink your teeth into, “The Have Nots” is was of those albums where everyone could find at least a track or three that catered to them in some way, shape or form. For me it was a clear cut choice, “Start Livin”, featuring rhymes from Theory Hazit (who also dropped a real nice album last year, “Extra Credit” as well at the ’08 banger, “Lord Fire” ), Re:Flex, Cas Metah and Justme. This track unveiled very descriptive first hand recollections of experiences from each of the emcees that nudged them to start “livin’ every day like it’s your last”. Yet another track that breaths emotion and honesty, be sure to check this album out….good, positive stuff, trust me!
Soooooo….”The Formula” or “Chemistry”? Me? Personally, I felt that 9th and Buck’s first collaborative effort, “Chemistry” had more of a street edge with tracks like “No Comparison”, “Now A Dayz (That’s What’s Up), “U Wonderin” & “Money Makes The World Go Round”. And let it be known, when “Chemisty” hit the streets, 9th had not only me, but much of the underground mesmerized with his “Fruity Loops” so my infatuation with everything that 9th had a production hand in was at an all-time high. In the earlier months of ’08 and to this day, I’m not really checkin’ for 9th like I was once before and that’s not to say that 9th has fallen off by any means….but, I think you get the picture. Don’t get it twisted though, “The Formula” did have it’s share of bangers with “Throwin’ Shade” leading the way with it’s airy background and thick bass knocks. Plus, judging from the chorus, you can definitely hear somewhat of a Pac influence in Buckshot’s always on-point delivery on this slick track.
Taken from what was one of the most slept-on and highly albums of 2008, Chaundon’s “Carnage”. Lyrically, Chaundon has what so many up and coming (although, after being featured on countless Justus League releases over the last few years, dude isn’t much of one) emcees lack when on the M-I-C….a “presence”. This card-carrying member of North Carolina’s Justus League surprised the hell out of me with his latest offering “Carnage”. Featuring an all-star production team (9th Wonder, Illmind, Khrysis, etc.) that an aspiring emcee would kill for, this album was loaded with heat and very few, almost forgotten missteps. The “Carnage” was very similar to what Evidence’s “The Weatherman” was for me last year, an album that stayed in rotation for 12 months providing me with a new “favorite” from the album every other month or so. Nothing really “ground-breaking”, but still VERY solid, kinda’ like what Horace Grant was to the Bulls during their championship run…ahh, that may actually be discrediting “Carnage” but it’s the best I could think of., And wouldn’t you know it, after leafing through various sites and finding the actual production credits, on every page that I found the credits for this album “Everything Ain’t Easy” was left unlabeled. My best guess is that this was a 9th Wonder beat, however, it could’ve just as easily passed for Khrysis. Whatever the case, this sh*t was a certified “head-nodder”, with Chaundon and guest emcee Charlie Smarts revisiting the days of their youth over the undeniable, soulful production. Do yourself a favor this week, prop down in your favorite chair, relax, put in some Madden or in about a week or so…NBA 2K9 and enjoy the dopeness that was, “Carnage”. Oh, and by the way be on the lookout for this joint on the forthcoming When They Reminisce/Sneaker Politics mixtape “Preservation” sliced up by the Jazz Addixx’ DJ Ragz!!
Now, you know I’m a sucker for knockin’, musically inclined production with sultry vocals fueling the hook. Needless to say, 1/4 of the Lab Techs, 14 KT must have read my mind with certified neck-breaker, “Inside”. When I say “neck-breaker” I’m not kiddin’ either!! Straight up and down, I’m not quite sure if it was KT’s “Inside” or Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own” (since I played them back to back for like…three days straight, at least), but I couldn’t pick up a weight for nearly a week. Plus, I had a helluva’ pain in my vertebrae that an $85.00 visit to the chiropractor couldn’t even do the trick. Now, that’s some good shit right there kid!! If you asked me today whom would be my pick for “producer(s) of the year” I’d have to say the Lab Techs with little or no hesitation whatsoever!! I mean, think about it….you bump Buff 1′s “There’s Only One” and Now On’s “Tomorrow Already” back to back and there’s next to no filler at all! I know that KT has been leakin’ a track a week from his forthcoming LP “The Golden Hour” (dropping Oct. 14th) at his MySpace page for free download, loading all the bases so he can knock it out the park with his debut solo effort. You heard it here first, Lab Techs are the FUTURE in Hip Hop production!!!
Score me a late pass for “Tight Eyes”! Man, I can recall seeing this single posted throughout “blogosphere” waaay before the official release of “Time Line” during the early stages of 2008. Damn, I’m a sucker for a smooth hook, and “Tight Eyes” most definitely has one! As far as the rest of “Time Line” is concerned? Not quite sure how I feel about “Time:Line” to this day, I’ve only given the album…maybe….10 (?) full listens since it’s leak. And while I will say this, the sequencing of the album is on point. Meaning, the tracks bleed into each other after their completion, providing a cohesive and fluid album that is more like an actual album rather than just a bunch of singles compiled and packaged to the consumer as “finished” product. Of course, I, much like many of you (from what I’ve read, at least) also feel that the emcee, Kay, is an odd pairing with Nicolay. His lyrics are decent, but his drawl and delivery just don’t match up to Nicolay’s beats (which, by the way, didn’t light a match to his production featured on “Connected”). Still, I plan on sitting down with “Time Line” again just as soon as I finish up this post to give it one last ‘go round. I don’t know, maybe we just got spoiled with the chemistry between Nicolay and Phonte on “Connected”? Ummmm.., anyone else crazy amped for “Leave It All Behind” after hearing the “all-too-brief” sampler?
Damn, I’m lovin’ this track right now!! You recognize the sample (Tragedy’s “Return Of The Life (Remix)” anyone?), you may not know Tha Connection just yet..but, if this impressive duo keeps droppin’ shit like this they’ll soon become a household name in the underground. Did I mention I’m lovin’ this track right now?! I just got back from a “spur of the moment” road trip to PA this past weeked and this Vans Cal-produced track must’ve received nearly 50 plays in the Ipod. My homeboy and I couldn’t get over the sick instrumentation within this track, for a full blown case of the “goosebumps” be very attentive near the 2:24 mark and you’ll feel exactly what I’m sayin’. Not to put any added pressure on this Hempstead/Long Island duo but there’s somethin’ about these dudes, or maybe it’s the way they carry themselves on the mic that reminds me of an “Infamous-era” Mobb Deep. Hell, lyrically these cats are definitely a step up on Havoc and Prodigy right now. I can’t wait to hear what tha Connection has up their sleeves for ’09.
From Torae’s album/mixtape “Daily Conversation”, “Switch” was a pulsing, electronic Black Milk production that changed pace as Torae “switched up” each verse, imitating the flows of everyone from Tupac to 50 Cent. Hell, the 50 Cent mocking is nearly worth the price of admission alone and the Pac cover is “dead-on” as well. As for the album? “Daily…” was fairly well-rounded, solid but unspectacular if anything. Even though Torae did boast a dope lineup of producers (9th, Khrysis, Black Milk,etc.) for “Daily”, the album err…mixtape seemed to lack that one true “knock-out” track that would push it over the top. However, “Daily Conversation” was a very lyrical album as Torae came off as an upgraded version of Skyzoo. Even worse, “Switch” got jocked and trumped at the same time by Reks, who took the same format and capitalized on it with “All In One (5 Mics)”.
The battle is on!! Who’s the winner? Jake One with his compilation album “White Van Music” or DJ Revolution and his “King Of The Decks”. Me? I’m ridin’ with Jake One, I feel that from the Black Milk and Nottz-assisted opening track “I’m Coming” to the album’s closing ode to Seattle “Home” (f. Vitamin D, C Note, Maine and Ish….uhh, I just realized, that isn’t Ish from Digable Planets, is it?) the album is extremely well assembled. Plus, you have little goodies like the Blueprint led-”Scared” sprinkled throughout the album to hold you over. However, I’m a little pissed at Jake (time to put em’ on front street!) for not getting back at me (one of only two artists…waddup Common Market???) after I asked for the inclusion of “Scared” for the “W.T.R./Sneaker Politics” mixtape (trust me ya’ll, this shit is going fill you up till’ next winter!). So, instead of being at like…umm, let’s say “50″, “Scared” finds itself at “91″, how ya’ like me now Jake One?!? Nah, just playin’..but, on the real, Jake’s “White Van Music” is most definitely one of the highlights of 2008 for me so far. I mean, who else could pull off a track with the likes of Brother Ali and Freeway? Surely, you’ll be seeing much more of “White Van Music” before the finalization of this countdown.