Hip Hop? Ehh…maybe not? R & B? Umm, don’t know. Even if it may have lacked a certain “classification” there’s no denying the controversy and anticipation that surrounded Kanye West’s eclectic and daring adventure “808s & Heartbreak”. Me, personally? Well, it’s safe to say that the album has eventually grown on me like a bad fungus with “Say You Will” being my favorite track from what some very influential bloggers have named as their “Album Of The Year”. Even though I wouldn’t give “808s..” that valid distinction, you have to give ‘Ye his props for going out on a limb with this one and receiving a fairly decent response. I mean, this album wasn’t really promoted and pushed all that much and Kanye achieved a fair amount of album sales, even if it was “Auto-Tuned” to death.
What I loved most about “The Golden Hour” is that KT made “songs”, he didn’t just take the easy way out and compile a bunch of throwaway tracks that the Athletic Mic League may have shyed away from earlier, just for the sake of putting a solo album out. From start to finish, the album plays as KT put it: “the soundtrack to his life”, and it’s easy to see why it has also served the same purpose in my life as well. The highlight of “The Golden Hour” is delivered in the form of the neck-snapping “Miss U”, this track is….for lack of better wording, CRAZY! Emotional and funky (yeah, you don’t see those two words together quite often, ehh?), “Miss U” has garnered more spins on my Ipod over the last two months than any other track has the whole YEAR!
What? Your “18th” best song of the year is basically a freestyle more or less? Yepper, you’re damn straight! In what was basically a mind boggling expedtion with Joey losing his train of thought midway through each verse over Coldplay’s “Lost” (by the way, I don’t care if this was Hip Hop or not, Coldplay’s “Lost” was actually one of the better beats of the year!), “Sidetracked” served as the perfect “anthem” of sorts for someone who is a scatter-brain much like myself. Lyrically, there’s not many cats that are up to par with Mr. Budden…hmm, if only this cat could be supplied with some decent or better yet, consistent production.
With Ill Poetic’s revamping of Joe Budden’s “Mood Muzik” you were able to hear Budden in a totally different light atop the production on this album. I don’t know if it’s primarily the production (of not only Poetic, but Portishead’s production is extremely daring as well!) on this “re-working” or what, but after just a few listens your sold on Budden’s story-telling abilities and lyrical skills in general, enough to push to seek out Budden’s prior releases in the “Mood Muzik” series.
“All Of Me” is an 8 minute recollection of some of the many road-blocks that have occurred in Budden’s history atop sharp, stutter-step drum kicks from ill poetic intertwined with bits and pieces of Portishead’s finale from their debut smash “Dummy”, “Glory Box”. The track has numerous twists and turns that all come come crashing together at various moments to coincide with Budden’s lyrical “highs and lows”, although the real treat arrives at the 7:47 mark as a pulsing drum track is inserted for the track’s “outro” only leaving you wondering why this track wasn’t utilized to it’s full potential (ill poetic has made a habit of doing that, peep a few of the track endings from my favorite album of 2007, “The World Is Ours”)
OK, so what if The Roots’ less than spectacular effort “Rising Down” came and went in what seemed like the blink of an eye? To compare “Rising Down” with earlier Roots classics may be a bit of a stretch, but that’s not to say that the album didn’t boast it’s fair share of heat, with “Rising Down” serving as the most devastating moment from what was the Roots 8th (!) studio album. Featuring a rejuvanted Mos Def and the somewhat odd inclusion of Styles P, the title track packed the most bang for the buck on a somewhat uneven album. Fueled by moving lyrics, a slick guitar replay and a bassline that will rattle your ribcage, “Rising Down” was almost long forgotten by this blogger due to it’s early year release. However, you just can’t snooze on music that is this fresh without rekindling that same flame sooner or later.
All small talk aside, these two cats are the closest thing to Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth as you’re gonna’ witness these days. Raw Poetic isn’t the illest lyricist on the market, and he isn’t gonna’ slay you with an endless barrage of metaphoric assaults – and that’s completely OK with this listener. However, nor did C.L. Smooth, he wan’t always the flashiest emcee and he was no Rakim, Nas, Biggie or Jay, but just for the record: C.L. Smooth is my favorite emcee EVER..hands down!! One thing is for certain, Raw Poetic is clever beyond measure and his voice and well thought-out rhyme patterns are very easy on the ears and he doesn’t lose you within his fluid rhyme patterns either. Plain and simple…CONSISTENT!
What’s funny is that on Panacea’s MySpace page the crew’s bio reads the following: Panacea Live is Aaron “Enron” Gause: keys & trumpet, Patrick Fritz aka “P-Fritz”: guitars and samples, Adam Hopkins: bass, Jon Laine: drums and Dilla essence. Hmmm “Dilla essence”, I mean, yeah Dilla was a legend indeed and he is highly missed within the Hip Hop community, but I feel as if Dilla’s beats and techniques aren’t even comparable to K-Murdock’s compositions. Yes folks, it’s that serious, you can hear Dilla’s influence within much of Murdock’s work, yet it’s as if K captured certain elements of Jay Dee and has taken it a few steps further.
For all the justification you would need….be sure, I mean before you even begin to listen to “A Mind On A Ship Through Time” you’ve GOTTA’ listen to the title track first, which also serves as the album’s grand finale. The instrumentation and….THE HOOK on the title track is simply amazing! I have to play this track on at least once a day and even though I’ve tailed off of the album over the last few weeks, “A Mind On A Ship…” is quickly earning it’s spot as one of my favorite tracks EVER!
Woah! Talk about starting your album with a bang! From the opening moments of “Long Story Short” I was sold on Black Milk lyrically as he ran down his version of “how I got where I am today in 5 minutes or less” (well, actually in a lil’ over 5 minutes). I can recall downloading the initial “leak” of “Tronic”, putting it on the Ipod and playing it front to back while washing my car this past Fall. After one listen to “Long Story Short” I proceeded to text Trav of “WakeYourDaughterUp” and stated: “Yo Trav, I think dude got a ghostwriter on this one”!
All jokes aside, Milk stepped it up BIG TIME…I mean, the improvement with his delivery and song structure is just that noticeable. With “Long Story..” Black Milk is not only near his apex lyrically, but the production on this track really seperates itself from the remainder of “Tronic”, which was somewhat of a chore itself being that this album was so well put together. Also, the addition of soul singer extraordinaire Dwele (who dropped a very nice album with “Sketches Of A Man” this Summer) served as icing on the cake.
I’m expecting to take a little bit of flack for placing Illa J’s “All Good” this high on my list. Let me expound: it’s no secret that Illa J isn’t one of the most lyrical emcees on the market, nor do I agree with Black Thought’s sentiments that the late Jay Dee was “the best producer on the mic”. However, being that Illa J’s “Yancey Boys” was a shadow of his late brother (all the beats on the album were handled by J Dilla, of course) the one track that truly made me miss Jay Dee (even more than Dilla’s instrumental opus “Donuts”) was “All Good” almost in an eerie way.
“All Good” still gives me chills with each listen, and lyrically Illa J sounds more like Dilla on this track than on any other featured on the album….I mean, it’s if you can still hear Dilla very clearly through Illa’s voice. Am I freaking you out yet? And the production? Simple, yet extremely addictive and extremely potent. “All Good” was the most bass heavy track that blessed my ears in 2008 by far, yet it was one of the year’s most emotional beats for me simply on the basis of the mood that it inspired. Besides, to quote Illa J: “It’s “All Good”, that’s what Dilla said”. Think I’m kidding, give this one another listen.
Before I get started with the #12 track of the year, “I Can’t Make It Home” from Devin’s less than impressive and uninspired “Landing Gear” let me just clarify that this “Top 100″ is not necessarily the best tracks of the year but more so my favorite and most enjoyable cuts from 2008. Whew! Now that I have that bit of useless information off of my chest we can resume our regularly scheduled programing.
Quite simply, Devin’s “I Can’t Make It Home” is as commercial as you’ll find here at W.T.R., but man-o-man was this sh#t catchy as a muhfu@ka!! I played this track over and over on my to a New Year’s Eve party as a small reminder as to what could happen when things take a turn for the worst. To be quite honest, Devin has always been one of my favorite emcees but on this album he just seemed to lag behind a bit when compared to his prior albums. However “I Can’t Make It Home” is about as much fun as you can have with one track, a song that has the “Gin & Juice” or “I Get Around” feel to it. What else would you expect from a hook that belted: “One blunt/One more shot of Patron/I’m lit/I can’t make it home”??
You know, I’ve been playing Common Market’s “Tobacco Road” (the album, that is) soo much over the last two weeks that it may have moved into my top three of the year. The question is do I prefer the duo of Sabzi and RA over Geo and Sabzi (Blue Scholars)? Man, tell me that isn’t a tough call to make. Everyone knows that “Bayani” was my sh*t last year, however, there are certain instances were I feel that “Tobacco Road” may be just as good, if not better, thank my #3 album of 2008….which is really a testament to Sabzi as a producer.
The first single released from the album, “Tobacco Road” was far from the norm of your typical underground Hip Hop anthem. Fueled by a…sh*t, “Bluegrassy” or “Countryish” piano riff (?), this track was truly one a kind….very original and not lacking one bit in the “bottom” department. An ode to the hardworking laborers RA grew up watching in rural Kentucky, “Tobacco Road” was a track that was unfairly overlooked by most who preferred the more tradtitional smash, “Winter Takes All”.