1. “Clearer Hearing”-Skyzoo
From: “The Power Of Words” mixtape: Hosted by DJ Drama & Statik Selektah
“S-K-Y-Z-O-O”, how many times have we heard this brewing mixtape king in the making’s infamous moniker shouted out on numerous releases and guest spots over the last…damn, 3 years? While my opinion on Skyzoo may not be shared with my homie Trav, I’ve always felt that Skyzoo just needs that extra little….umph…to get him over the hill. Lyrically, Skyzoo has always been on point but something is missing and I just can’t quite seem to identify it. However, “Clearer Hearing” is a good starting point. Over a bare bones, simplistic production that is eerily reminiscent of the MC Lyte classic “Stop, Look, Listen” (courtesy of little know producer, Fatin “10″ Horton) Skyzoo delivers the extremely sharp, original metaphors that he’s become so well-known for. Now, if we can just get an album all will be gravy.
2. “Same Song And Dance”-Eminem
Taken From: “Relapse”
Ehhhh, I’m really on the fence with Em’s most recent leak “Relapse”. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about it, do I really wanna’ hear Em recollect the bouts with his Mother (once again) and Mariah Carey on what seems like every other track!? And, what’s up with Em switching up his voice? So much to the point, that it does tend to wear on your nerves a bit after a few listens. I bumped the album on at least three occasions from start to finish yesterday, and I’m still not sold…just yet. Yes, their are occasions where Em shows flashes of brilliance, yet others that leave you scratching your head like “when is dude gonna’ grow up?” or better yet: “maybe I’m getting to old for this sh*t”? Then, there’s a part of me that Eminem thinks: “F*ck it, I’ve mastered this lyrical sh*t, so much in fact, that I need to find ways (such as the different voice persona’s) to keep myself motivated”. Still, at the end of the day, “Relapse” is better than 3/4 of the stuff that comes across my airwaves. Sorry Em, it just comes with the territory.
On a good note, Dr. Dre’s production on “Same Song And Dance” would do the LabTechs proud as it gives new meaning to the term, “Beat The Speakers Up”. Jesus, I can see this one making it’s way to the dance floors quickly as “Same Song And Dance” is most definitely club-pump-worthy. Now, if only Em would lose the voice…again, all would be gravy.
3. “They Call This Hip Hop”-Classified f. Royce Da 5′ 9″ & B.O.B.
Taken From: Classified’s “Self Explanatory”
Classified, Royce and B.O.B.? Hmmm, I wonder where this connection stems from? Or better yet, who owed whom a favor here? Nah, don’t get it twisted because strangely enough this version of “Three’s Company” gets it right with a hard-hitting production and another classic verse form Mr. “5’9″. Matter of fact, I believe that I read somewhere that Classified will actually be touring with Royce and D12 this summer…hmm, would have never guessed it (*scratched head*). Be sure to peep Classified’s “Self Explanatory” as well, which puts Canada back on the map. By the way, this is supposedly Classified’s 11th (!) studio album, I don’t know what they put in the water up there that causes Classified and fellow Canadian, Moka Only to churn out albums at such a rapid pace.
4. “Memory Lane” (Remix)-Oddisee
Taken From: Oddisee’s “102″
Plain and simple, if you don’t know who Oddisee is by know, you’re about to find out in 2009 and approaching 2010. This extremely talented double threat has really stepped his game up this year with the relase of Diamond District’s “In The Ruff” as well as a slick EP with Peter Rosenberg, “A Roseberg Oddisee” that many of you probably missed out on (Get it HERE). Prior to the release of “In The Ruff” admittedly I’d been snoozing as well, but those days are over. After enjoying Oddisee’s “101″ & “102″ for the majority of last week, I’d forgotten just how dope his remix to “Memory Lane” was.
Featuring an almost protocol Biz Markie sample for a track entitled “Memory Lane” (“Now lemme’ take a trip down memory lane”), Oddisee rides the track with ease as a thick bassline serves as the backbone to this overlooked gem. Take it from me, listening to “Memory Lane” in your headphones just won’t do the production on this joint justice. There is an underlying, rolling bassline that catapults this track to “In The Trunk” status. Support Oddisee, this cat is one of a handful of artists in the underground that is poised for stardom and payin’ his dues in the meantime!!
5. “Forever”-De La Soul
Taken From: “Are You In?”/Nike + Original Run
Wow, this sh*t beats the hell outta’ the A-Trak and Aesop Rock tidbits that they contributed to the Nike + project. Even though “Are You In” isn’t truly an “album” per se, it’s still great to hear vintage De La for 10 full tracks on any given day. And while some of the production featured on this “soundtrack that caters to your run” is NOT vinage De La, “Forever” represents the trio of Mase, Dove and Pos in the truest sense. You gotta’ remember not every runner is gonna’ be prone to having De La bumpin’ in their headphones during a six mile run during the wee hours of the morning (i.e, my Wife’s been running about 60 miles a week for the last year and her top two tracks on her Ipod are: 1. “Lost!”-Cold Play, 2. “Sunday Morning (at least it the ?uestLove remix)-Maroon 5). Oh, and on a side note-cop the new Air Max 2009 joints, especially the neons. Trust me, those will be CLASSICS come 2015, get em’ while you can!
6. “Fuzzy Navel”-Floyd The Locsmif
Taken From: Floyd’s “Divine Dezignz #2″
Thank you Dart Adams for hipping me to this latest release from one of Hip Hop’s most overlooked and underrated producers, Floyd The Locsmif. My first exposure to the production mind of this ATL resident came in the form of “The Outskirts”, Flyod’s unofficial remixes of classic Outkast tracks. If my memory serves me correctly he actually dropped some material nearly two years ago that made it’s rounds on the interwebs (and it wasn’t Divine Designz #1 either), but I just can’t seem to track down the title of the disc. This time around, Floyd is sure to garner a bit more widespread attention with the release of “Divive Designz #2″.
With only appearances from Dave Ghetto (speaking of which, that Hustle Simmons album was waaaaay overlooked!) and Kam Moye aka Supastition, “Divine Designz #2″ grants “the Locsmif” the opportunity to showcase his production range, that up until now, has been under the radar for the most part. One listen to the electro-funk of “Fuzzy Navel” will soon change all that, as Floyd exemplifies the meaning of clarity and most importantly depth in the layers of his beats. While you won’t be able to find the album floating around in blogosphere for free DL, do as I did and shell over the 10 bones on Itunes, a purchase that is well worth it…to state it lightly.
7. “Royale”-tha Connection
Taken From: “Love Royale”
Right about now, the duo of Smoovth and Hus can do no wrong, at least in my eyes. With the forthcoming release of “Love Royale” (cop it when it drops June 5th) I’m sure that others will soon witness the progression that these cats have made within the last two years. The presence that tha Connection have on the mic when paired with Wu-Tangish’ (circa 1993) beats is a sure-fire formula for longevity in a field where so many careers are cut short. As many albums and remixes that Hus and Smoovth put out, one would normally tend to worry about market saturation, not with them putting out quality sh*t such as “Royale”.
Produced by Baker, “Royale” is the perfect intro for “Love Royale”. Smooth, yet hard enough for fans of underground East Coast Hip Hop, “Royale” could be best served for a quick “cool down” with your favorite beverage after a shi*ty day at work, or cruising in your “BMW counting your riches, lookin for bitches” (thanks Red Hot Lover Tone!). Plus, the Sade sample just pushed it over the top for me. Dare I say that “Royale” is the most elegant track to emerge from the hefty discography of tha Connection?
8. “Yesterday”-Krumb Snatcha
Taken From: Krumb’s “Hidden Scriptures”
Umm, did I totally miss the boat with Krumb’s “Hidden Scriptures”, or what? For some odd reason, when I downloaded this album last week I thought that is was the initial leak. Not the case, as “Hidden Scriptures was to drop back in January. Whatever the case, this album was surprisingly GOOD! Right off the bat, the one “beef” that I have with “Hidden Scriptures” is the track listing. “Hidden Scriptures” could have lost some dead weight, as my attention wondered on just a few select tracks (if you’re gonna’ name a track “The East Is Back”, you better pack a lunch!). However, Krumb’s lyrics have withstood the test of time, for the most part. After all, how many cats do you know that can have a noticeable “flub” (“Like Pizza Hut I gotta’ stay Noided”) and receive a “Hip Hop Quotable” in The Source for the same track (Gang Starr’s “Moment Of Truth”)?
Produced by the legendary (although, dude needs to pick it up a little bit, I’m afraid that he may tarnish his legacy with his hot/cold beats as of late) Pete Rock, “Yesterday” is the apex of “Hidden Scriptures. Matter of fact, this may very well be my favorite P.R. production since his collabo with Kurupt, “Yessir”. Fittingly, “Yesterday” also finds Krumb Snatcha revisiting his youth and pairs up quite nicely with Pete’s somewhat somber track. Be sure to give “Hidden Scriptures” a listen, I’m pretty sure you’ll walk away filling at least half full.
9. “Summer Chill”-JR &PH7 f. Edgar Allen Floe
Taken From: JR & PH7′s : Present “The Standard”
Yep, yet another solid LP that I slumbered on this year. With guest features from the likes of Pumpkinhead, Black Milk, Skyzoo, Guilty Simpson, Oddisee & Kev Brown (to name a few), the German production team of JR & PH7 have scored quite an eclectic collection of some of the underground’s finest to rock over their “9th Wonderish” soundscapes. With that being said, Justus League affiliate Edgar Allen Floe found himself right at home with the laid-back vibe of “Summer Chill”.
A track that is perfect for rolling out in that 90 degree Saturday afternoon with the windows down, “Summer Chill” is a track that just makes you feel good, even though Edgar’s lyrics on this joint reflect “good gone wrong” or “lessons learned”. One of the most “under the radar” lyricists in the J.L., Edgar Allen Floe steps out of the shadows of Little Brother with “Summer Chill”.
10. “Old Souls”-Grouch & Eligh f. Blu
Taken From: Grouch & Eligh’s “Say G & E!”
If I told you I’ve been up on the Living Legends crew for the last decade, I’d be lying through my teeth. Aside from Murs, who I’d never even ventured out to peep had it not been his collabo albums with 9th Wonder, my knowledge of the West Coast based crew is extremely limited. Matter of fact, with the exception of “Old Souls” I couldn’t even tell you much regarding Grouch & Eligh’s newest LP, “Say G & E!”. Honestly, what piqued my interest was the inclusion of W.T.R. favorite Blu on the mic as well as Flying Lotus’ contribution behind the boards (thanks to Finale’s “Paid Homage”).
Blu murders “Old Souls, point blank! However, the Flying Lotus instrumental adds a level of depression to the track, a slow prodding beat that just eats away at your soul but keeps your neck bobbing in the same instance (*pause*). Now, I guess I need to give the rest of “Say G & E!” a valid listen…if I could just get past “Old Souls”!