This time around, instead of my personal favorites, which are still listed, I tried to cover the general consensus of the hip hop nation. Or at least cats with similar tastes as mine as well as people who read Bloggerhouse and WYDU. Of course there are some albums I don’t listen to and even some I straight up don’t like, but that’s why I included my personal list as well. Next up, the best tracks of 06-08…
Although a some what inconsistent album, Black Moon’s “Total Eclipse” had enough solid tracks to really hammer it home. The leadoff track is classic Black Moon as “Stay Real” comes in with it’s hard edged sax sample and basically blows the lid off things. Although the album could have used some trimming up here and there, it keeps enough momentum to make a noteworthy release for the year 2003.
Immortal Technique is one of those cats that people either love or hate, but mostly love. He is a departure from the normal hip hop B.S. of bling, bitches and weed and his 2004 album, “Revolutionary Vol.2″ was no different. Filled of scathing and biting socially commentary, tracks like (my personal favorite) “Industrial Revolution”, came off with a lot of passion. The track is a perfect example of what Immortal Technique is all about, one you could play for the cat that had never heard him. The album itself is full of tracks that leaves no stone unturned as he comes after politicians, 9/11 and the New World Order (and all of that is one song, “Cause of Death”). Some might say I.T. comes off too preachy at times, but it’s music that makes you think. It’s still a snapshot of I.T. at his best, a true revolutionary in the hip hop game.
Love or hate Atmosphere, you can’t deny the impact Slug and Ant have had in hip hop. Coming with their fifth studio album (counting the Lucy Ford projects), it was on “Seven’s Travels,” that we see Ant really start to come in his own as a producer. Fans of their previous albums were mixed on the album, but for me, it was really a growth from their previous projects.
In my eyes, this some what slept on album is a near classic. Louis Logic combines some of his earlier work with some of his newer, more mature works to create a very cohesive and challenging album. Challenging? Yes, challenging, since we go from tracks about drinking (“Dos Factotum”),to sex (“Coochie”),to finicky hip hop fans (“Fair Weather Fan”),to back stabbing friends and slutty girlfriends (“Best Friends” and “Revenge”) to the brilliantly ingenious political track (“The Untold Truth”, fuck a Bush). Lou covers them all and covers them well. Armed with an assortment of producers, nothing lacks on “Sin-A-Matic”.
Despite what could be argued as the least popular Gang Starr albums, “The Ownerz” is still Guru and Primo, so just how bad can it be? One could say there are one too many questionable guest appearances, but in the end it’s more of the same of what you love from the man with the monotone voice and probably the greatest producer hip hop has ever known.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t get all these MF Doom aliases and projects. I don’t care for them and never have. But lots of other people do, and while I’ve probably only listened to the Viktor Vaughn project, “Vaundeville Villain,” it’s another popular album in the long list of MF Doom projects. Tell me, what is it that people like about this album? Maybe I should try again with it, see what the buzz was about…
Madlib and J Dilla? Sounds like a match made in heaven. While it was a good album, it probably could have been better. Don’t get me wrong, the production was near phenomenal in places, with thick bass lines and drums hard enough to dent a truck. Neither Madlib or Dilla would be confused with being among the greatest MCs, but c’mon, that’s not why you bought this album.
Coming out of basically nowhere (I had heard about them on Okayplayer three or four months before they dropped) Little Brother jumped on the scene in early 2003. Hailed as the Native Tongues revival, Phonte, Pooh and 9th Wonder come with soulful beats on the “lighter” side of hip hop on “The Listening”. The music was truthful and honest, something that isn’t always found in hip hop.
In what was supposed to be his swan song, Jay-Z mixed a nice collection of crossover tracks and straight up hip hop with “The Black Album”. Backed by a wide array of producers, the album still remarkably had a cohesive feel to it. Every track was dope (excluding the DJ Quik produced “When Thugs Cry”) featuring Jay’s increasingly more complex rhymes and ability to make an album as a whole. It was also “The Black Album” that spawned the whole remix album craze, for better or for worse.
In a first, OutKast released a two disc album, with one featuring Big Boi and the other Andre 3000. The result was two distinct sounds found on each offering. Big Boi came with some southern trunk music, a little rougher and “street” than a typical OutKast album. Dre brought an album full of singing and spacey type tracks, making one wonder if this is what Common was aiming for on the misguided “Electric Circus”. Which one is better? I flip flop back and forth, and ultimately it comes down to what kind of mood I’m in. Regardless, this ruled the charts and airwaves for 2003.
Trav’s Personal Favorites
1. Jay-Z – The Black Album
2. Little Brother – The Listening
3. Atmosphere – Seven’s Travels
4. Cunninlynguists – Southernunderground
5. Louis Logic – Sin-A-Matic
6. J-Zone – Sick of Being Rich
7. OutKast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
8. Jaylib – The Champion Sound
9. Vakill – The Darkest Cloud
10. Cunninlynguists – Sloppy Seconds Vol. 1
It’s no lie that I think Detroit is the city of the decade when it comes to hip hop and Royce is one of the main reasons. He would probably get my vote for MC of the decade, as he possesses the very essence of what an MC should be in my book. His album, “Death Is Certain”, was a dark and personal album. We saw that Royce was more than the braggadocio, punchline MC that we had see before. His most complete and consistent work of his discography, this got many a spin while riding the light rail to school during my days in Denver.
Never being one of the biggest Murs fan before this collaboration with 9th Wonder, the duo’s “Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition,” did get me to pay more attention to his music, both past and present. It seems like working together brought out the best in both artists. Murs seems more on a direction and concentrated on making an album that would reach a wider audience, while 9th got out of a rut of sorts and switched things up on the production tip just a bit more after sounding a bit stale on a few of the projects before this.
What do you get when you take Nas’ ability to make an album half full of great songs and half full of crap then turn it into a double album? Almost a full album of great songs, which is what we find on “Street’s Disciple”. As with any double album, it would be better as a single album. There are some great songs on here and Nas proves why he should be considered as one of the top 10 (even top 5) MCs to ever bless the mic.
While “The Pretty Toney Album”, was a nice album, with some great tracks, from what I hear of the tracks that didn’t pass sample clearance, it could have been better. That said, this is still probably my favorite Ghost album out of all of his (narrowly beating out “Fishscale”; Yeah, I know, where is “Ironman” or “Supreme Clientele”? Still, its sad not to see “The Sun” or “My Guitar” on here, imagine what it could have been?
Whoever said De La fell off forgets about “The Grind Date”. One of my favorite albums of the decade, the updated version of De La brought some new blood in as far as production with Dilla, Madlib and Jake One all dropping near classic beats and tracks that give the trio an updated sound. De La proved that they are still more relevant to the hip hop world than your favorite southern radio rapper any day.
I can’t even begin to guess how many times I listed to the Phonte and Nicolay effort, “Connected,” in the year 2004. At this time, Phonte could do no wrong in my book and Nicolay brought a new sound to hip hop production. Combined to form Foreign Exchange, this was some creative music, both lyrically and on the beats and is an album that will forever be one of my favorites.
One of the last albums I can really remember fiendin’ for, “A Long Hot Summer” was exactly that for me, and this album helped me get through it. Masta Ace is like fine wine, just gets better the older he gets. The album brought the story together that was a prequel to his “Disposable Arts” release. Armed with some known producers (DJ Spinna, 9th Wonder, Khrysis) mixed with some unknown producers (Koolade, Xplicit) Ace delivers his brand of no nonsense lyrics with straight up funky loops and soothing keys. Ace keeps going, hopefully this won’t be his last solo release.
After being somewhat disappointed in “The Tipping Point” originally, I’ve grown to appreciate the album. Coming in at a mere ten tracks, The Roots wasted no time in coming with the business as Black Thought shows why he should be viewed as one of the best emcees on “Star/Pointro”. It took some time, but “Tipping Point” is worthy of being in The Roots catalog.
The album that started it all, “College Dropout”, from Kanye West. I remember hearing some leaked stuff, a lot of which didn’t show up on this album and being rather excited for the release. While I was somewhat disappointed that a lot of that stuff didn’t show up on the final release, the album still is solid although there is some hit and miss stuff. In someways, Kanye was more concerned about making a good hip hop album than appealing to the mainstream. Don’t get me wrong, there are still those “made for mainstream” songs, but they still held onto the hip hop building blocks. It wouldn’t be my number two album of the year, but I can appreciate it being looked upon as high as it is.
I’ve often been chastised for not liking Madvillain’s “Madvillainy,” and I still don’t. But this album is hailed a classic by bunches of people who’s opinions I respect and I realize that just because I don’t “get it”, doesn’t mean it’s not a good album. You have to appreciate that this album gets as much love as it does, thanks the the cult following that MF Doom gets and the fact that Madlib is one of the greatest hip hop producers of this decade.
Trav’s Top 10 for 2004
1. Masta Ace – A Long Hot Summer
2. Foreign Exchange – Connected
3. DangerMouse & Jay-Z – The Grey Album
4. De La Soul – The Grind Date
5. Wordsworth – Mirror Music
6. J-Zone – A Job Ain’t Nuthin’ But Work
7. The Roots – The Tipping Point
8. Ghostface – The Pretty Toney Album
9. Kanye West – College Dropout
10. Murs & 9th Wonder – Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition
(Tie) 10. Royce Da 5’9 – Death Is Certain
Other Note Worthy Albums
MF Doom – Mm…Food
Mos Def – The New Danger
Jean Grae – This Week
Blockhead – Music By Cavelight
Edo.G – My Own Worst Enemy
Slum Village – Detroit Deli
RA The Rugged Man – Die Rugged Man Die
Time Machine – Slow Your Roll
Q-Unique – Vengeance is Mine
The Odd Couple – Alcohol/Ism
Chris Lowe – Black Life
Blueprint – Chamber Music
Leak Bros – Waterworld
Talib Kweli – The Beautiful Struggle
Prozack Turner – Death, Taxes and Prozack
“A Piece of Strange” is easily one of my favorite albums of the year. The concept, the production, even the lyrics, they are all here in one hellva an album. The growth between APOS and “Southernunderground” is remarkable in all aspects for Cunninlynguists. One of my favorite albums of the year.
Despite my tendency to find “Chemistry” rather bland, it was a major player in the 2005 hip hop landscape. The somewhat new producer from North Carolina in 9th Wonder hooked up with a legendary Brooklyn MC in Buckshot and you can’t argue that the duo had a certain “Chemistry”.
Everything came together for perfect harmony on the second Felt album. Both Murs & Slug bring their a-game to the project with many a dope cut to be found. The album, “A Tribute To Lisa Bonet”, also features some of the best production from Ant in his illustrious career. You may not like Slug, or you may not like Murs, but together, this is one of the better albums of the decade.
I’ve always felt Beanie Sigel could come out with better albums than he has. Not sure if Roc-A-Fella just couldn’t get that mix of mainstream glitz and glamor and hardcore street mentality right with him, but they never seem to work on an album. Until the “B.Coming”. Beanie brings everything together for a solid album that still stands as his landmark LP.
To me, “Monkey Barz” was the start of the Sean P craze. Sean Price has been one of the most consistent and most respect MCs this decade and this was the start of it. Part funk, part funny, and part hardcore, “Monkey Barz” has a buffet of styles and lyrics going for it and one of the better albums of the 2005 year.
Again, I can’t past the voice, it drives me nuts. I will say this though, the beats on Quasimoto’s (aka Madlib) “The Further Adventures of Lord Quas” are near amazing.
Common’s “Be” is another album that has gotten better over the years. Originally, I liked it the first week, got bored with it quickly, then the past year or so after revisiting it, I can appreciate it for what it is. Heavily influenced by Kanye this time around, one can’t argue with the production from Kanye and Dilla. “Be” has aged well.
If you are guessing I never understood the hype behind “The Mouse & the Mask”, you would be guessing right. This was the time when Doom could do no wrong, he was king of the underground scene. Dangermouse was riding the wave of his fame he got from his remix of Jay-Z’s “Black Album”, called the “Grey Album”. None the less, I just wasn’t feeling this, but I was in the minority.
The Game came into the scene dissing everyone, which eventually kind of bit him in the ass after the G-Unit disowned him. But before that happened, The Game had help from Dr. Dre, Em, 50 and the whole Interscope team. While the album isn’t something that I feel the need to listen to very often, it did possess a certain quality of “realness” (as overplayed as that word is). Everything just worked out for “The Documentary”, and it worked well.
People either love or hate this album, put me in the later. To me it was an in-cohesive mess, but it got a lot of love from people, and not just the mainstream. I know a lot of people who say this is the their favorite Kanye album and it’s probably the most successful. What do I know? Apparently not as much as I think I do….
Trav’s Top 10 For 2005
1. Cunninlynguists – A Piece of Strange
2. Felt 2 – A Tribute to Lisa Bonet
3. Junk Science – Feeding Einstein
4. Fatlip – The Loneliest Punk
5. Atmosphere – You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having
6. Storm Davis – Kegstand Poetry
7. One Be Lo – S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.
8. Little Brother – The Minstrel Show
9. Big Pooh – Sleepers
10. Tonedeff – Archetype
Edan – Beauty and the Beat
Cage – Hell’s Winter
Asamov – And Now….
Ugly Duckling – More Bang for the Buck
Zion I – True & Livin’
Blueprint – 1988
Geto Boys – The Foundation
Dooley O – I Gotcha
AZ – A.W.O.L.
Cool Calm Pete – Lost
Perceptionists – Black Dialogue
Sleep – Christopher
DJ Muggs & GZA – Grandmasters
Lone Catalysts – Good Music
The Away Team – National Anthem
Emanon – The Waiting Room
Kev Brown – Do What I Got To Do
Kice – The New Experience
Supastition – Chain Letters
(Tie) Slum Village – Slum Village