1. Paten Locke – Super Ramen Rocketship
I ain’t going to lie, at this moment in time, Paten Locke’s “Super Ramen Rocketship” is my favorite album of the year. I’ve long been a fan of Paten’s aka DJ Therapy since his days with The AB’s (aka Asamov) and I was a big supporter of the Smile Ray projects. On “Super Ramen…”, Paten handles the production, the lyrics and the cuts. No guest producers, no guest MCs and I wouldn’t be surprised if Paten didn’t do the art work (he didn’t). There are no gimmicks involved with “Super Ramen Rocketship”, just straight up dope rhymes and beats with a lot of variety, “Breakthru” is nothing like “Funky Hit Record”, which is nothing like “Til The Dawn”. And I’m talking both sounds and subjects. Even though you have this variety, the fact that he is solely responsible for everything in the music, it still keeps that common “feel”. I know a lot of cats sleeping on this, which is mighty unfortunate, this is easily one of the best albums of the decade.
2. Poorly Drawn People – Motion, Not Emotion
As far as cities go, Providence RI is on my list of the next place to put itself on the map, think Minneapolis earlier this decade. The city contains a gang of talented cats that are on the up and up. Of those up and comers, Poorly Drawn People have been voted best hip hop group three years in a row by the Providence Phoenix Music Poll. Not too shabby, almost Patriot-esque in nature (without the cheating). I’ve mentioned this in the past and I’ll mention it again; why the hell this album hasn’t caught fire is beyond me. Storm Davis and Reason show a chemistry that is reserved for the greats in the game ala EPMD, Run DMC and even the Beasties and the rock tinged production is original and unique to satisfy those cats that say nothing is original or interesting anymore, such as myself. Tracks like “Stress Filled Days”, “Might Blow Up”, “Ain’t Hard To Make A Million Dollars”, “Stealers Wheel” and “Sawbucks & Fins” is straight up hip hop with a nice musical ambiance to the tracks. I don’t know what to say other than go listen to this album and tell me you ain’t at least feeling some of this EP.
3. Diego Bernal – For Corners
Diego Bernal’s “For Corners” is another album that I’ve trumpeted it’s greatness since first stumbling across it back this spring. An instrumental joint full of dusty Latin samples, “For Corners” was an effort that kinda came out of nowhere. The sounds and melodies that are hooked up on the album have stuck out in my mind throughout the year as I went through a good three month stretch of listening to it nightly while writing. I also hipped numerous personal friends in my life to his music, including my mom (who jacked my free CD that Diego himself sent me). Using lots of horns and strings in his production, this comes off more as a completed project such as a Blockhead release than a simple beat tape. I’m guessing that the fact that it’s a free download is a main reason why cats are sleeping on it, since nothing good ever comes for free (yeah right). Fans of straight up instrumental beats and dusty samples would be correct to want to download this.
4. Diz Gibran - Soon You’ll Understand
I’ve already mentioned Diz and this album in our Bloggerhouse Next 30, but I’ll mention it once again, since it’s currently in my top 10 albums of the year so far. Part of the L.A. new school, Diz is probably the most talented of the bunch (imo), and almost sounds like a young Lord Finesse on the mic. The beats are nothing to slack off about neither, as New York producer Moonshine provides everything bass rattling tracks (“Once Again”) to soothing and melodramatic production (“Impossible”). Truly one of the better albums of the year that should be heard, and once again, it’s FREE
5. Blame One – Days Chasing Days
Another west coast cat, Blame One came with a solid release that garnered lots of plays from me, but I fail to hear cats mention it much. Full of production from some of the best of the left; Exile, Blu Oh No, Kan Kick and a host of others give Blame some great tracks to paint his tales of hip hop head in his elder years. Lots of strings and soft piano keys dominate the “Days Chase Days” LP, but Blame can also get loose on tracks like “Disturbed” with it’s sax stabs and guest Sean Price kicking straight up daggers. Blame has a voice that is kind of an acquired taste, but it’s unique and keeps the listeners attention. Blame One retired after the release of “Days Chasing Days”, but has since came back. Hopefully the next project is half as good as “Days Chasing Days” and I’ll be happy.
6. Tha Connection - Love Royale
The New York duo of Hus The Kingpen and SmooVth Dude have been getting digital ink from Eric and I since last year. The came with “Love Royale” this spring and kind of brought everything together that the duo had shown on their earlier releases. Not the most lyrical of cats, they use their voices and flows as an addition to the beats and the beats are used to accompany Tha Connection’s vocals. Confusing, maybe, but you will understand where I’m coming from when hearing the album. They have a multitude of producers they work with, but that does not take away from the cohesiveness of the album. Maybe they are good at picking the style of beats they want or they actually do work with one producer who uses a bunch of different names. They also use a lot of commonly used samples, but they always bring their own sound to each of them, making the songs and sample feeling like comfortable old shirt that fits well every time. A group and album that deserved more press from the blogosphere than it got, most definitely worth checking out.
7. Low Budget – Laserdisc
As an American, I realize that we are kind stuffy when it comes to overseas hip hop. That might be one of the reasons that the Aussie group, Low Budget, didn’t get a lot of love for their cutting edge “Laserdisc”. Gentleman Gene (MC) and Debonair P (DJ, yes a real DJ, and producer) come with a sound that rivals any American release (and beats most of them). The production is kinda different on here, lots of synth sounds and slick bass lines, but it makes it more than interesting. For the Americans, Gene’s accent might be a turnoff but after a few listens, you don’t even notice it. A strong album from the Low Budget, but one that won’t get much play since it’s not American, not really right but the way it is.
8. Quite Nyce – Through My Eyes
Coming out of Worcester, Massachusetts, Quite Nyce had a solid year, with his release with Raydar Ellis “Champs Vs. The League”, then he came with his homie Seen in the RadiX group and dropped “monSTAPLEx”. Then after a successful mixtape, “Hello, My Name Is Quite Nyce”, he dropped “Through My Eyes” in August. The “Through My Eyes” project is full of heartfelt rhymes and production to go along with it. It’s nothing mind blowing or that is going to make you want to get your crunk on, just honest music through the eyes of Quite Nyce. Dude had one of the nicer years in the biz, he needs his just due.
9. Notes To Self - A Shot In The Dark
Admittedly I didn’t know much about this four man crew out of Toronto Canada neither. And I still don’t. I do know that their debut release, “A Shot In The Dark”, is dope hip hop and an album I’ve been bumping continuously since. Tracks like the Evidence assisted “Yellow & Grey” and “Days Like These” give you a true feeling what these cats are about. They also show to different type of tracks found on the album. “Yellow & Grey” is straight up adrenaline pumping hip hop with it’s blaring horns, while “Days Like These” is a kick back summer joint over a bluesy guitar lick. There are several other dope cuts on the album, “Lifelines” comes into mind, with straight up banging production. Very solid album that I didn’t hear much from anyone.
10. Mr. S.O.S. - How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb
Hip Hop is plagued by what I call a bunch of fast food (aka McDonald’s) artists. It’s quick, filling, if not entirely devoid of any nutrition. We want quick music, the average MC should be dropping three to four mixtapes a year. Music we can just slap in and not have to worry about deciphering. That’s NOT what SOS’ album “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb” is all about. As complexed as it’s title, the album is not an album you are going to slap in and just let it play. It takes multiple listening sessions to even start to get it. You have to think and pay attention and in a genre full of short attentions spans, I’m sure SOS went way over the top of cats. “How I Learned…” is not simple music, it’s complex, and that is something I find refreshing anymore. The complexity surely scared listeners away from yet, which is unfortunate.