“Why We Do What We Do”: Message from Apollo Brown
Released in July of this year, it’s easy to state that Alchemist’s 2nd studio album, “Chemical Warfare” was somewhat of a letdown. Glancing at the tracklisting for “Chemical..” , one would have expected more from the collabos that featured the likes of Kool G. Rap (“ALC Theme”), KRS-One (“Grand Concourse Benches”) and Pusha T (along with Snoop & Jadakiss dropped a complete dud with “Lose Your Life”) and seemingly less from a track that featured the “my recording career has seen better days” , Fabolous. However, it was the Alchemist throwback to the late-eighties, Bomb Squadish’ production that propelled the F-A-B-O-assisted “Some Gangster Shit” to it’s inclusion on this list as one of the more pulsing, aggresive beats of 2009. Oh, and what was Fabolous spittin’? Who gives two sh*t’s? Alchemist laced this one with pure heat!! “Da, Da, Da, Da, Da, Da, Da…Dayum! (c) Fabolous
Proving once again that while 2008 may have been the year of “the D(etroit)”, ’09 belonged to another D(MV), as Kev Brown followed the string of dopeness and released “Random Joints”, the follow-up (not too sure if “Random Joints” is to be classified as an album though?) to his much slept-on “I Do What I Do”. Much more than just “another random joint”, Kev Brown hit a home run with this dusty joint that was entirely too short. Featured on Low Budget’s collective mixtape “The Budget Is Low”, “Another Random Joint” was accompanied by a pretty dope video, that while may have been “low budget” as well, didn’t short you on any visuals whatsoever. Also, to be picky, is it just me or was the sound quality of “The Budget Is Low” mixape a bit “off” or is was that just my bad ears hearing that?
Wooooooooo!!! A track that serves as the defining moment to the second LP, the follow-up to 2005′s critically acclaimed “Feelin’ Earatik”, “The Good The Bad And The Ugly”, from the Chicago-based Earatik Statik, “Knock ‘Em Out” is in the same vein as M.O.P. classics such as “How About Some Hardcore” and “Ante Up” (well, maybe not on that level, not just yet anyway!). Flipping the sample most recently made popular by Kanye West and Cons to tha Quence with “Grammy Family” (Lou Rawls’ “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”), producer Kaz1 completely chops this sh*t to pieces and adds the ever so necessary hint of rolling drums to make this track a true neck-spasm inducing banger!! Of course, it almost goes without saying that “Knock ‘Em Out” also featured a stellar, scene-stealing verse from resident sh*t-talker Sean Price who unleashes a flurry, of hilarious one-liners that we’ve come to expect from the man who penned such instant classics as “Onionhead”.
The first thought that popped into my mind after listening to “Philadelphia Freeway 2″ was that the album seemed somewhat rushed. I mean, prior to reading this, did you really know that Freeway had released an album this year, other than the Jake One-assisted mixtape? Yeah, me neither! While the production on this album was fairly nice, something was truly missing. Most of the hooks on the album where provided by Freeway himself, perhaps the budget was too low for any guest appearances (the lone “guest” on the album is Sheek Louch, and the way that cats been putting out flops, it’s fair to say that he’s willing to hop on any track right about now), and a full album on Freeway-hooks tends to become very monotonous after just a few listens. Trust me, some of the hooks on the album are HORRIBLE, almost embarrassing to a certain extent. Here, check this winner from the horribly titled “Gotz 2 Be Tha’ Bomb” (no really, I know, the track’s title looks like a TLC leftover, right?):
“Mama said if you wanna’ do it/then do it/you gotz’ ta’ be tha bomb/you gotz’ ta’ be tha bomb/you gotz’ ta’ be Sadam Hussein on the rap game…you gotz’ ta be the bomb”…..(*shakes head*…honestly, I’m speechless..)
However, for just as terrible some of these tracks on the album are, you had blazers like the “Dynasty: Roc La Familia’-ish’”, “Crack Rap”, where Free recollects days where he sold crack to his own family (”if you don’t get it from me, you gon’ get it from someone else”) over a pulsating neck-snapper. I have yet to find the production credits for this album anywhere online yet, but if I had to put my money on it, I’d guess that “Crack Rap” was laced by either Bink or Just Blaze
96. “Forever”-De La Soul
Taken From: “Are You In?”/Nike + Original Run
Wow, this sh*t beat the hell outta’ the A-Trak and Aesop Rock tidbits that they contributed to the Nike + project. Even though “Are You In” wasn’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 Air Max 2009 joints, especially the neons. Trust me, those will be CLASSICS come 2015, get em’ while you can!
Now, this is how efficient and vibrant Hip Hop can be. “Build Up” flows effortlessly as Raydar (of RADix) killed it on the production tip. Slick horns, potent drums and a well-placed Method Man sample make “Build Up” an instant classic. While “Champs vs. The League” was solid, had it sounded more like “Build Up”, the finished product would have been totally different. Yet, on the same token “Champs Vs. The League” remains one of 2009′s most overlooked LPs. Raydar & Quite Nyce’s chemistry, passion and desire to speak out and be heard is very clear on this album. “Champs Vs. The League” was a project comprised of positivity, pride in family and community, self respect, reflection and hard work. It was truly an intelligent breathe of fresh air in the current, yet picking up somewhat a bit, realm of Hip Hop’s underground.
Hell, score me a late pass on “Jay Stays Paid”, because I thought that this was the official released of Jay’s unreleased MCA “Pay Jay” which leaked last year sometime. I suppose the similarity in album titles is what really threw me off, ehh? Released on Nature Sounds on June 2nd, “Jay Stay Paid” was a 28 track collection of unreleased Dilla beats that where mostly tracked while Dilla was in his last days on this earth. The unreleased material was then later compiled by “Ma Dukes” (Mrs. Yancey) and placed in the hands of Pete Rock who mixed and arranged “Jay Stays Paid”. While the album was intended to focus mainly on Jay’s instrumentals, one can’t help but salivating after one glance at the contributing artists whom appeared on the track listing (Blu, Rae, Doom, Black Thought, Lil’ Fame and even Diz Gabran). Of course, you already know that copping this album is standard protocol for any Dilla release!
One track in particular, that really gave me the “Oh” face, was the Black Thought-featured “Reality Check”. And before I begin my “rant” on just how extremely dope this track was, lemme’ just say that Black Thought has gotta’ be one of (if not the) best to ever do it on a frantic, uptempo track (see: “75 Bars” and “Don’t Feel Right” for even more proof) since Kool G Rap in his prime. Thought just completely zoned out on this Dilla-blessed masterpiece that sounded somewhat like a sped-up version of Slum Villa’s “Conant Gardens” (from “Fantastic Vol. II”).
For the most part, “After Midnight” is an instrumental LP with the exception of a select few guest appearances from the likes of Tha Connection (where Elaquent completely flips the script on my favorite Connection track, “Take It Higher”), Moka Only (damn, does this dude have a life besides putting out an album for what seems like a weekly basis?) and more. Instrumental albums are usually a nice change of pace or “a break from the norm” if you will. As I’ve grown older (Jesus, 34 in a month..SH#T!) I guess it’s the “chill” side kickin’ in, or maybe it’s the long, tedious two hour trek that I make from my home to my office on those dreaded Monday mornings. Whatever it may be, Elaquent’s “After Midnight” scratched my itch in 2009. Yet, it’s nothing too groundbreaking or unheard of, it’s just a simple recipe for success: consistency and quality, 3/4 of the rap world oughta’ give it a try..it works wonders!
The Dilla-influence is most prevalent on Elequent’s pulsating “ode” of sorts, “Gobstopper”. Shoot, I swear I’ve had this track on repeat for most of my workouts this year. While “Gobstopper” may not be one of those “Ante Up”-type joints to make you wanna’ punch a homeless cat in the face, it’s most definitely one of the funkiest, bounciest loops that I’ve heard in a long time. The crazy thing is, when I first heard the album earlier this year I kinda’ blew it off as another Dilla-wannabe spinoff. Boy, was “waay off” (think Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber” and the “Samsonite” incident) “After Midnight” has carved out a niche of it’s own and deserves to be heard!
92. “Love”-Stat Quo
Yet another track that was all too short (“Love” clocked in at less than 2 minutes), but still got the job done. Produced by Sicknotes, Stat Quo’s love didn’t venture too far from the formula that made “Let’s Get Higher” and it’s spin-off, “We Broker” soo damn irresistible. Stat is truly “king of the catchy hook”, too bad Stat is too much of an enigma, and his digital releases in 2009 “Smokin’ Mirrors” and “The Great Depression” weren’t anything to write home about. Sadly enough, I copped em’ both but was left dreaming of the days when dude was with Interscope and we were all anticipating a Dr. Dre-produced full-length album…Damn.
With lyrics for days, an unmistakable mic presence, high caliber raps and surprisingly dense, neck-snapping production (mostly handled by Apathy, himself), Apathy loaded “Wanna’ Snuggle?” with three years worth of material to truly give the fan their money’s worth. You know how both Jay-Z and Nas have stated that both “Reasonable Doubt” and “Illmatic” respectively where both artists’ best albums to date simply because they had “so much to say”. Both being debuts “Reasonable Doubt” and “Illmatic” encapsulated YEARS of material for both Jay and Nas. Don’t get it twisted though, in no way, shape or form am I even heading down that road where the comparisons between “Wanna Snuggle?” and the aforementioned classics begin. Yet, clocking in at 21 (!) tracks deep, it’s scary to have imagined “Wanna’ Snuggle?” had Ap trimmed some of the fat off, particularly near the album’s end.
Some of the more obvious highlights of the album included the AZ-sampled, Emilio Lopez-assisted (his classic line from Nas’ “Life’s A Bitch” fueled the track) “Money Orientated”. Utilizing a pulsating, neck-snapping backdrop that would bring a kool-aid smile to Lil’ Fame’s grill, “Money Orientated” made reviewing “Wanna’ Snuggle?” somewhat of a chore, due to the fact that I couldn’t get it off of repeat for weeks.