Yep, I too was late to catch on to all this “Wale” hype. Choosing rather to think: “Man, what is the big deal with this Wale cat?”, while basically grouping him in with the Jay Electronicas and Saigons of the world. Man, do I deserve a slap for that! After listening to Wale’s lates mixtape/album, the Seinfeld-theme inspired, “The Mixtape About Nothing”, I was left feeling pretty damn impressed. Believe it or not, this (“the mixtape…”) was actually my first exposure to this talented D.C. cat and while I may have not been “blown away” so to speak, I did walk away thinking “Damn, this dude is pretty lyrical”. I’m not gonna’ jump on the bandwagon and state that Wale is “THE FUTURE” of Hip Hop until he delivers a bangin’ full-length, but he is most definitely the real deal and does have the potential to be one of the music’s torchbearers. I just can’t believe that I’ve avoided much of his material for soo long!!
Hailing from the D.C. area, you can really hear the “Go Go” influence (it’s all about the drums baby) in much of Wale’s beats, also as witnessed from his appearance on the Roots’ “Rising Up”. “Artistic Integrity” is quite a variance from the majority of the production on “The Mixtape About Nothing” and one could even go as far as to label it as “Just Blazeish”. Wale holds his ground while never compromising to the masses and sacrificing his “Artistic Integrity” for the sake of record sales over thumping drums and a thick baseline. I see that Wale has since signed to Interscope, so who in the hell knows how long it’ll be ’til we actually are blessed with an actual “album”. I feel like Seinfield was speakin’ to me in the track, “what were you thinkin’?” after snoozin’ on Wale.
Sweet Jesus! Sound the alarm! Ya’ mean a Lil’ Wayne track actually made W.T.R.’s “Top Tracks of ’08”? Yep, as much as I HATE to admit it, I did spend many an evening this past year, headphones intact and “MLB2K8″ (I hate baseball, but this game is the shit! Ryan Howard is an absolute BEAST!) in the XBOX 360 and give valiant attempts to engulf Wayne’s highly anticipated, “Tha Carter III”. Did I ever make it through the album without even hitting the skip button once? Not quite, but that’s not to say that “Tha Carter III” was complete bullsh*t…believe it or not. Make no mistake, I am quite possibly the biggest Wayne hater in all of blogosphere (man, whomever crowned that catchphrase needs an award), but certain portions of the album are pretty fresh. Every Kanye laced joint on this album is fairly decent (”Tie My Hands”, “Comfortable”…even though, the Babyface-crooned hook just ain’t cuttin’ it! “Shoot Me Down” and “Let The Beat Build”). Just Blaze delivers a rush of heat with the Jay-Z featured “Mr. Carter”, even though Wayne’s delivery on the track is irritating beyond measure. I was also surprised to find out that the Alchemist also lent a helping hand in the form of “Nuthin’ On Me”, too bad he gave Weezy a “throw away” beat. However, I was most surprised with the very “Un-Swizzy” like production of Swizz Beatz submission “Dr. Carter”, which features the same sample used for the Buckwild remix of “C’mon Wit’ Da Git Down” from New Jeruz’ the Artifacts CLASSIC “Between A Rock And A Hard Place”.
“Tie My Hands” found Wayne offering his honest perspective and exposing his vulnerability in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which wiped out much of Wayne’s turf (and even his home, I believer). Honestly, if Wayne made more records like this rather than trying to be like Roger Troutman and acting like a complete asshole with no media training whatsoever, I’d be twice the fan I am now (which still isn’t saying much). His subtle lyrics and honesty on this track are a nice change of pace from “Lollipop” and much of his mixtape fodder. The Robin Thicke sung hook on “Tie My Hands” may not be an “added bonus”, but it sure does smooth things out quite a bit over a very un-Kanyelike beat. Take it from me, “ThaCarter III” is definitely worth checking out…hell, I’ll even go as far as to say that I may actually (*gasp*) buy this record someday. Next up, my evaluation of T-Pain’s debut effort and the evolution of the voice encoder….just kiddin’. Seriously though, be sure to at least give “Tha Carter III” an honest listen…you may be surprised.
Whether it was URB Magazine giving him a half a page in their “Next 100″ (their version of “artists on the rise”, so to speak) issue, or Portishead’s Andy Smith speaking his praises, Shawn Jackson built up quite a head of steam prior to the release of his extremely solid debut, “First Of All. Featuring beats from Mekalek (Time Machine), Jack Sample (SA-RA, Too $hort), Newman (Giant Panda), and Thes One (People Under The Stairs) you knew what you could expect production-wise before it hit the shelves. Needless to say, Shawn also proved to be up to snuff with the lyrical portion of the LP as well! I know that in the weeks leading up to this release, Dart (Poisonous Paragraphs) had mentioned to me: “Hey, have you heard of Shawn Jackson?”, but I may have to battle him out for this cat as a “flagship artist” for W.T.R. ’cause I’m really feelin’ what this West Coast brought to the table with “First Of All…”. Remember the quality that was evident with Blu & Exile’s “Below The Heavens” in 2007? Well, prepare yourself, as I truly feel that “First Of All…” is gonna’ find itself amongst the big-hitters when it comes to the best albums of ‘08. Solid from beginning to end, remember where you heard it first kid!! Oh, and keep your ears peeled for “Maan Up” (f. Ta Raach), the next single to be released from the album and another track that you’ll see later in the countdown.
Remember a few weeks ago when Jake One’s “White Van Music” and DJ Revolution’s “King Of The Decks” leaked almost simultaneously? It was the battle of the compilations, and the question was posed on numerous occasions “who’s album is better”? Jake’s or Rev’s? Well, it’s safe to say that Beantown’s very own Statik has recently emerged to dethrone both of the aforementioned discs with the follow up to his ’07 debut “Spell My Name Right”, with the new release of his “compilation” album of sorts, “Stick 2 The Script”. Yet again, boasting a strong supporting cast of artists ranging from Little Brother to Termanology to Bun B, “…Script” is a solid play from beginning to end with almost no filler. Whether it’s the old school knock of “On The Marquee” (f. Little Brother and Joe Scudda, whaddup Scuds!?) or the “strangely enough it works” pairing of The Madd Rapper, Redman and Black Rob for “This Is It” (Showoff Remix) to my personal favorite “Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)”, this complilation is sprinkled with enough flavor and variety to appeal to a vast array of listeners.
What do you get when you take a snippet of Stat Quo’s “Let’s Get Higher” and blend it with some simple high hits and a rolling bassline? A certified banger! I mean, let’s be honest Skyzoo, Joell and Talib? Yet another “odd pairing” that comes out quite nicely. A simple ode to the ladies, “Talkin’ Bout…” was the soundtrack to my Jamaica vacation this past week along with 14KT’s “The Golden Hour” and Foreign Exchange’s “Leave It All Behind” (yes, it does grow on you). Statik also does his thing on the hook as he splices together vocal snippets from the likes of Jay-Z, Q-Tip and Biggie to add a nice finishing touch to one of the hottest (and club-pump worthy) tracks of the year!
Holy shit!! Can a brotha’ get an instrumental!? In what is without a doubt one of the hottest beats of the year, The Outsidaz card carrying member, Pacewon & Mr. Green blasted out of the gates with “Children Sing” from their criminally slept-on collaborative effort “The Only Color That Matters Is Green”. I know that in the earlier portion of ’08 Trav spoke highly of this album, but for reasons unknown I snoozed on this record BIG TIME…giving it a first listen near the end of September (I know,right?). “The Only Color…” was a throwback to the era of 94-96, mostly in part due to Mr. Green’s knockin’ production and Pace’s highly addictive, almost nonchalant lyrical delivery. “Children Sing” serves as the “oh shit!” moment on “The Only Color…”, and while the remainder of the LP is very solid as well, this track truly did it’s best to seperate itself from the rest of the pack. Plus, with a chorus that rings: “I’m gettin’ good/ I’m gettin’ clever/ I’m gettin’ things right in my life, I’m gettin’ better/ I’m gettin’ somethin’ for me, I’m gettin’ chedder/ The girls are lovin’ me now, they gettin’ wetter..”, how could one go wrong?. Pacewon’s humorous lyrical references are a perfect match to Mr. Green’s thumpin’ track, especially with lyrics such as the following: “Fu*k at least one broad a day/ And like Chingy I’m only “One Call Away”…..Ha Ha! Classic!
“Baby, Baby/ Love Don’t Motivate Maaay…”. Okay, I know that upon it’s initial “leak” I sh*t all over Blu & Ta Raach’s joint effort, “The Piece Talks”. So, needless to say, prepare yourself for another rendition of “Eric eats his words” (once again!). I think that the initial shock upon hearing this album for the first time was the fact that it wasn’t ANYTHING like I’d heard in the Blu & Exile CLASSIC (damn skimpy!) “Below The Heavens” (which, I see that alot of you STILL haven’t even heard yet, BUY THIS SH*T!!!!). Plus, the “Hey Ya” vibes of “Buy Me Lunch” may not have been the most accurate selection for a first single, by any means. But I’m hear to tell you that after listening to “The Piece Talks” for a better portion of July/August this was a damn good album. Ta Raach’s daring production has grown on me like a bad fungus and Blu is Blu….one of the best emcees in the game as we speak. And speaking of Blu, tell me THIS isn’t one of the dopest tees on the market right now and the lyrics to “The World Is..” (which has served as my ringtone for quite some time) on the back is a nice touch as well (well worth the price tag, a quality tee with a nice fit). “Love Don’t” was catchy as hell, especially when you factor in Ta Raach’s frantic production and the slick Blu-belted hook: “Baby, Baby/ Love Don’t motivate me”, the Beanie Sigel sample from “Do It Again” was pretty slick in itself.
Even though I wrote “The Piece Talks” off earlier this winter, it is steadily became one of the most innovative albums of the last few years. Do yourself a favor and give this one another listen, you won’t be disappointed.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m here to let you know that T.I.’s deeply personal and surprisingly introspective album, “Paper Trail” is definitely one of my front-runners for “Album Of The Year” despite my disdain for the whole “Down South movement” over the last few years. Even though, according to T.I., this album was recorded (for the most part) while he was on house arrest for his highly publicized run-in with the law for his illegal firearm possession, “Paper Trail” doesn’t come off as sounding “rushed” in the least bit. Lyrically, T.I. has really stepped it up a notch or two and the production for the better half of the album is extremely impressive as well.
With “Swagga Like Us” T.I. was able to assemble one of the most radio friendly line-ups in Hip Hop history with the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye and “Mr. Overkill” himself, Lil’ Wayne all making a guest appearance. Even though it has taken a while to sit well with me (after the first few listens, I wasn’t too big on the M.I.A. sample, and Kanye’s production did seem less than stellar), “Swagga…” has been receiving it’s fair share of bumps outta’ my two 12″s for the last month or so, despite the “run of the mill” Vocoder deliveries of both Kanye and Wayne. Who would’ve guessed that amongst some of Hip Hop biggest players, T.I. would stand head and shoulders above his lyrical partners with such a scene stealing vocal performance?
Is that even the accurate artwork (to date) for Saigon’s (forever, it seems) pushed-back-yet-again “The Greatest Story Never Told”? I thought this sh*t was slated for a December, 2007 release, WTF?? Anyway, Saigon better be thankin’ the Lord for having Just Blaze as his producer for his highly anticipated debut. As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about Saigon lyrically, but if Just Blaze keeps churnin’ out heaters like this…well, shit, I’d even listen to Soulja Boy over productions like “Believe It” & last year’s “C’mon Baby”. And even though the voice encoder is the certain “it thing” of the moment now (and for the better portion of 2008), not only in Hip Hop but in R & B as well, it doesn’t really take anything thing away from Just Blaze’s throbbing track. Simply put, “Believe It” is just catchy as all get out….even with a bootleg T-Pain (aka Just Blaze) belting out the hook! Now, if only we could get “The Greatest Story Never Told” in our hands all would be well!
Nevada’s Canto I is back with their follow up to last year’s heavily slept-on “Entry Level Elements”, “While You Where Sleeping”. Canto’s “First Things First” (from “Entry..”) not only made W.T.R.’s “Top 100 Tracks of ’07″, but also appeared at #16 on Hip Hop.com’s “Top 50″ of ’07. Needless to say, this duo has outdone themselves once again with “While You Where..”. “Death Connection” is a clever narrative that follows the “Speak Ya’ Clout” format, switching up the beats with each verse. I’m not quite sure as to which beat I’m feelin’ the most, but the break for the second verse is on some Dan The Automater/Dr. Octagon type ‘ish for sure. Don’t sleep on “While You Where…” either, as the album also features resident W.T.R./W.Y.D.U. fav’ Has-Lo on the “Check 1-2 ish” “To The Sky!”
Taken from M Phazes remix project “Gridin”, London’s Foreign Beggars absolutely ride this bouncin’ beast of a beat to absolute perfection. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony ain’t got nuthin’ on these cats when it comes to the so called art of “fast rap”. And the M Phazes production? In a word or two, NUCKIN’ FUTS!!! “Hold On”, unless something else comes along and completely blows me away, features the most thunderous bassline that I’ve heard thus far in ’08 (shit, the year’s almost over!). Listening to “Hold On” in your headphones just won’t do this track any justice, you HAVE TO hear this cut in a booming stereo system, at home or in the hooptie. I’ve heard of Foreign Beggars, but I’ve never actually “heard” the Foreign Beggars. However, after their performance on “Hold On” I’ll most definitely be diggin’ thru their catalog and keeping up with their future work. This track would be even higher on the list had I not just heard it in the earlier part of September for the first time.