70. “Alleye Need”-Tanya Morgan f. Piakhan
When you account for the obvious chemistry that the triumvirate of Von Pea, Donwil & Ilyas showcased on “Brooklynati” (with all three being as equally charismatic and talented) along with outstanding production and well placed skits to boot, it’s hard not to get a smile on your face when Tanya Morgan is on the mic. However, it was extremely difficult to pick a sure-fire standout from “Brooklynati” as nearly all the tracks were just as equally impressive as “Alleye Need”…it was almost like picking a favorite from “Illmatic” or “Doggystyle” (oops, there I go again!?). Plus, the added guest appearances from Cincy’s Piakhan, (I TOLD you about this cat almost two years ago! Trust me, dude’s about to take off!) Blu, Kay from the Foundation, the Lessondary (Spec Boogie, Che Grand, Elucid & Jermiside..who made two pit stops on the album) and Kay from the foundation, didn’t hinder the overall fluidity of the album one bit and if anything it enhanced the joyride that was “Brooklynati”.
69. “Suspended Animation”-Novel f. Ced Hughes
Even though label politics may have left this ATLien feeling like he’s stuck in in a rut, these frustrations only seem to have strengthened his artistic vision. The title track (and first official leak) off his mixtape “Suspended Animation” (Click To DL) found Novel delivering poignant verses and a sung hook over his own densely-layered blend of finger picked guitar, synth arpeggios, and soulful backing vocals. Complete with an equally insightful guest verse by Virginia Beach rapper/producer Ced Hughes, this cut only upped the anticipation for Novel’s official debut. I’ve seen this cat mentioned as the male version of Lauryn Hill, and to be honest, it’s a pretty fair comparison.
68. “Never Come Down” (The Brownie Song)-Cunninlynguists
Taken from Cunnin’s LP, “Strange Journey Vol. I” (damn, to LPs in a year?!), “Never Come Down” aka “The Brownie Song” boasted Natti and Deacon’s recollections of being waaay too high for their own good. Kno’s production on “Never Come Down” was simply astounding, nearing it’s apex at the 2:37 mark…truly beautiful production. An odd trio, no doubt..but the combo of Kno along with vocals from Natti and Deacon The Villian (truth be told: I’ve been enjoing Cunnin for over four years and I have one helluva’ time differentiating the vocals between Natti and Deacon to this day!) has fared very well with nearly every release they’ve produced thus far, “A Piece Of Strange” and ’07’s “Dirty Acres” namely, remaining as some of the best music of the decade. Although, I’m not quite sold on “Strange Journey Volume Two” just yet…
67. “Bottom Line”-Skyzoo
Damn, just how good was Skyzoo’s official debut “The Salvation”? Truthfully, I was really surprised in regards to the turn-out of this album, as the finished product is stellar. What’s really weird is that I consider 9th Wonder’s contributions (”The Beautiful Decay”, “Easy To Fly”, “Like A Marathon” and “Under Pressure”), while certainly not wack, to have been some of the weaker productions on “The Salvation” especially when held in comparison with the like of Best Kept Secret’s “My Interpretation”, Cyrus Tha Great’s “The Opener”, Just Blaze’s “Return Of The Real” (even with the mid-nineties title) and most certainly Eric G’s bouncy production featured on “Bottom Line”. Fueled by a Jamaican-vibe, “Bottom Line” was somewhat reminiscent, at least on the production-tip, of the Sister Nancy classic “Bam Bam”.
Yes, the random tweet that you see above is from some jackass, namely me, who upon previewing Crown Nation’s (Denmark Vessey & Quelle) forthcoming LP, “Slutbag Edition” wasn’t too awestruck. You see, the problem (not really) that occurred, was that I bumped “Slutbag…” after three consecutive listens to Danny’s “Where Is Danny!”, and damnit that album was REALLY good. However, not quite up to snuff with the new Danny?, Crown Nation still had some sh*t for datazz (c) GangStarr. No need to keep rambling, peep Crown Nation listed as Dart’s number one act to look out for in 2010 HERE. Sh*t, I even “Dart Adam’sd” (see the new XXL “Top 100″ list to get the gist of that one..) Crown Nation’s moniker in the tweet, but don’t sleep on this duo, Dart really hipped us to some sh*t with these cats! The “D”(etroit) strikes once again, when is that talent pool gonna’ dry up?
65. “Inside Your Mind”-Thaione Davis
This was truly a travesty!! Thaione Davis’ “Still Hear” was sooo overlooked this year, that when I’ve posed the question “have you heard the Thaione Davis joint yet?”, many people look at me as if I have a dick protruding from my forehead. Released on the little-known Jericho Lounge Music label and produced entirely by one of my favorite “under the radar” producers, Chi-Town’s Rashid Hadee (Little Brother, Chapter 13) , “Still Hear” offered us a vivid snapshot of the struggles that an independent may endure. Rashid handled complete production and provided an extremely soulful backdrop comprised of dense, sample-heavy melodies over sparse drumbeats. On the M-I-C, Thaione spit with the ease of a 10-year veteran in the game, who could give two shits about how many units he moves, as long as the album is looked upon as an “underground classic” one day. Quite honestly, Thaione’s “Still Hear” isn’t to far from “that one classic” you may have skipped over only to fall in love with a year later. “Still Hear” was packed to the rim with poignant content and relevant lyrics for these relevant times. A refreshing presentation of dope beats and rhymes full of integrity and conviction, this album was yet another page in Thaione’s catalog of quality music.
One listen to the elegantly produced-”Inside Your Mind” and you’ll be reaching for the “back” button on your Ipod. Crafted in the vein of the Dead Prez-classic “Mind Sex”, “…Inside” is one of those tracks that you can bump for your girl and soon she’ll fall in love with it too!
64. “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 always needed that extra little….umph…to get him over the hill, and with the release of “The Salvation” Skyzoo shut the mouths of all the leery doubters very promptly. Lyrically, Skyzoo has always been on point but something is missing and I just can’t quite seem to identify it, but the cohesive flow of the album found Skyzoo in a different mode than that which he showcased on prior mixtape releases. However, “Clearer Hearing” was a darn good starting point. Over a bare bones, simplistic production that was eerily reminiscent of the MC Lyte classic “Stop, Look, Listen” (courtesy of little know producer, Fatin “10″ Horton) Skyzoo delivered the extremely sharp, original metaphors that he’s become so well-known for.
63. “One Perfect Moment”-Ilyas aka i-EL f. Ink Floyd
Ilyas’ of Tanya Morgan fame, mixtape venture, “The Prelude” aimed to duplicate the success of last year’s free mixtape “Beat Thieves”. Being that i-EL’s “Telepathy” was one of my favorite tracks from ‘08, I was quick to check out “The Prelude”. One track in particular that has been in constant rotation is “One Perfect Moment” f. Ink Floyd. Featuring production on two tracks (”Let’s Kick It” and “Balance”) from one of my favorite artists in the game, Ill Poetic, “The Prelude” was a nice little branch off from Il’s work as a member of the heralded underground trio, Tanya Morgan. However, surprisingly it’s this Slimkat-produced (another DMV cat who handled a healthy portion of yU’s “Before Taxes”) track that really had me looking forward to Tanya Morgan’s “Brooklynati”. And while some folks consider the lyrical stylings of Von Pea to be the strongest of the trio, I’ve always leaned towards Ilyas’ smooth, almost conversational delivery and unmistakable voice.
62. “Definitely Special”-Sojourn
“Definitely Special” my favorite cut from the from Sojourn’s highly slept-on album “The Summer Articles”, featured neck-snapping production from Dert and is a must-hear for all those married folks out there as the track really hit home for me and I’m certain it will for you as well. Also, it didn’t hurt matters for Dert’s brilliance either, when you account for the De La vocal-slice from “Breakadawn” thrown into the mix for good measure.
Honestly, I’ve never been one to search out “Christian” Hip Hop whatsoever, but an album such as “The Summer Articles”, one that doesn’t drop f-bombs every other bar or gun-clapping on every break, was somewhat refreshing. Sojourn proved that “keepin’ it real” isn’t necessarily “keepin’ it real” in certain instances and it’s almost inevitable when album’s that feature the quality that “Soujournalism..” does..well, sometimes they just end up finding you.
61. “Automatic Writing”-Elucid
Man, Elucid’s “Automatic Writing” featured a great video for an even better track. Lessondary alum Elucid has got lyrics for days. While his recent leak “The Sub Bass Diet” may have went over the heads of some, you can’t deny that whenever Elucid spits, it’s your best bet to pay close attention or you’re gonna’ get lost in the sauce. Cuing inspiration from the personal musical trinity of Sun Ra, George Clinton, and Afrika Bambaataa, ‘Automatic Writing’ served as a statement to the building of a new world. A future world. A better world. The idea of midnight trains, chariots, and even spaceships carrying oppressed people away from their suffering are common themes in American Black music.