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Eric’s Mid-Season Report: Top 10 Albums

by Eric on June 25, 2010

1. “How I Got Over”-The Roots

Purchase “H.I.G.O.” HERE

Too easy!!  Some may question the anointment of “H.I.G.O.” as the number one album released six months into 2010 (being that it officially dropped this past Tuesday) but as I said before, this album (minus the inclusion of a lackluster lyrical performance from STS) is damn near flawless.  Musically, the Roots start from scratch, no samples, straight originality.  And while some of the hooks that can be found on the album are very daring, they pass the test with flying colors.  I’ma go ‘head and say this right now:  Blu and Phonte oughta’ ride this train until it runs outta’ tracks, their inclusion on “H.I.G.O.” pushes the above over the top.

2. “The Reset”-Apollo Brown

Purchase “The Reset” HERE

The Intro joint (“Our Time”) to Apollo Brown’s “The Reset” repeatedly utters the statement: “The time for us is now..”, because that is EXACTLY what’s goin’ down right about now.  Apollo Brown’s “The Reset” is almost void of any fodder or wastage.  It’s a rarity when you can put an album in the Ipod on repeat for hours, and when it’s a producer album with emcee features (collaborative? instrumental lp? whatever..) most times the album isn’t a very cohesive blend of talents.  Yet, “The Reset” is just that, cats such as Oddisee, Buff 1, Finale, Kenn Starr and The Regiment (stop sleepin’) sound at home atop Apollo’s masterful soundscapes.  And after mini-hiatuses it was great to hear Magestik Legend (“Brag Language” and “Just Think”, one of my favorites from the LP) and M.E.D. (“Turn and Run”) back to their old habits.  Still, it’s the rolling drums (those DAMN drums!) of the “Brainwash” remix that has me reaching for the “rewind” button over and over again.

3. “Marcberg”-Roc Marciano

Purchase “Marcberg” HERE

Here’s just one more reason (aside from The Left’s “Gas Mask”, sorry…according to Apollo Brown,  ya’ll are gonna’ have to wait til’ the winter of 2010 for that one..) that I’m quite certain that all is gonna’ be well for underground Hip Hop for the remainder of 2010 and beyond, Roc Marciano’s long-awaited solo debut “Marcberg”.  Having already been blessed with  rave reviews, with some going as far as stating this album is a “game changer”, “Marcberg” takes a page outta’ Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” (or even Ghost’s debut, for sake of comparisons), with vivid lyricism and raw (with a particular emphasis on RAW), stripped-down, gritty production (handled by Marc, himself), it’s hard to find anything wrong with “Marcberg” as a whole.  To be extra picky though, the album could have been been mastered more precisely, but if it’s the cassette feel Roc is trying to achieve with “Marcberg”, dude got it!

4. “Mbodiment”-The Heart & Brain (Vis Major & TzaiZM)

Purchase “Mbodiment” HERE

I guarantee you, out of all the albums inclusive on this list, “Mbodiment” is one album you’ll look at and state:  “Oh shit, I’ve been meanin’ to peep that!” One of the benefits of being a semi-recognizable “blogger” is that we get a ton of free music. However, this is a true “tell all” as to just how highly I regard “Mbodiment”; After peeping the free single “Real Live Sh*t” I was instantly intrigued as to what I’d heard from the duo. So in typical, normal Eric fashion, I awaited the actual release date of “Mbodiment” (or maybe it was a week or two prior) and I figured I peruse your often reliable “sources” around the net as to where you can “preview” (yeah, right) a new album or two that hadn’t quite “hit” your local digital retailer as of yet. Not the case with this album, upon previewing the 30 second excerpts on Itunes, I heard enough to shell over twelve bones for a purchase of this 25-track longplay (22 album cuts and 3 “bonus” tracks). Nice of Domination to send me a press kit and copy for the album three days after I’d made my initial purchase (insert sarcasm), still good looks.

As for now, “Mbodiment” gets the definite BLOGGERHOUSE “stamp of approval”. A definite must cop, “Mbodiment” will find itself similar to where albums such as yU’s “Before Taxes” and Aarophat & Illastrate’s “Black Noise” did in 2009, as well as atop a few more “year end” lists.

5. “International Summers”-John Robinson & Lewis Parker

Purchase “International Summers” HERE

Simply put, John Robinson’s, one emcee/one producer effort with Lewis Parker “International Summers” just makes you feel good when you listen to it. Here, we have two cats, from opposite ends of the world, brought together by a label, combining to create an album that will likely go largely unnoticed this year.  There is no big “feature” on the LP, and no sure-fire radio smash, but this album is pure Hip-Hop.  Raw, gritty, jazzy, it may be sad but true:  “International Summers” would have been a classic had it been released between ’93-’96, but true Hip-Hop heads are lovin’  this album in the present day!! Trust me….

6. “The Stimulus Package”-Freeway & Jake One

Purchase “The Stimulus Package”-HERE

Lemme’ just say this: it’s not as if Philly ever left, but Freeway and Jake One’s “The Stimulus Package” pushed Philly to the forefront of Hip Hop as this album was hands-down the best piece of material that I’d  experienced the first quarter of the year. Again, you see how the simplistic formula of one emcee and one DJ works wonders, right? Freeway, whom I’m not quite sure if he topped the lyrical performance displayed on his debut “Philadelphia Freeway” (man, that album was ALL cats played while deployed in Iraq, as well as Young Gunz’ debut), does his best on the “Stimulus Package” to make you all but forget his 2009 mishap, “Philadelphia Freeway 2″. Free’s often-deemed “annoying” voice is unnoticeable on this extremely well crafted collaborative effort that pairs East Coast lyricism with one of the best producers from the West, Jake One.

From the opening moments of the Beanie Sigel-assisted “Stimulus Intro” (damn, that was a good look to get Beans on the track) to the album’s finale “Free People” this sh*t…well…I could have done without the lyrical musings (insert sarcasm) of one Birdman on “Follow My Moves”, but aside from that obvious misstep, “The Stimulus Package” is the first album that I laid down some hard-earned loot for this year. It was a damn good feeling to go back home to PA last week and bump “The Stimulus Package”, knowing that Free is holding the Keystone State down. Rhymesayers for the win!

7. “The Jungle”-Dumhi

Purchase “The Jungle” HERE

Did someone mention the Keystone State?  Dumhi’s “The Jungle” along with the production and emcee features that can be found on this album is underground Hip Hop at it’s finest.  It’s especially sweet, when this type of album emerges from my home state.  Yet, even if I was from Alaska, “The Jungle” would still be on repeat in my headphones.  Fast-forward five years from now, “The Jungle” won’t astound anyone with units moved, but it will be respected in a manner that us old-headz hold in high regard, albums such as “Contemporary Jeep Music”, “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing”, “Da Dirty 30″ seem to come to mind.

Apollo Brown held it down for Detroit with “The Reset” (another producer themed album) and just as effectively, Dumhi has duplicated those same glaring results with “The Jungle”.  However, in this instance, Dumhi has blessed Philly with it’s own well-deserved shine.  Taking it back to early ’60s gang life in Philly, Dumhi has proved that in the “city of brotherly love”, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Word to Schooly D!  Put up your 10 bones, cop this ‘ish and “Thank Me Later”, Dumhi is Dum-Good….

8. “12 Step Program”-Panacea

Purchase “12 Step Program” HERE

For those readers who’ve remained loyal to When They Reminisce over the last 3 years, you already know just how “big” I am on Panacea.  Truly one of a kind, the production styling of K-Murdock and lyrical musings of one Raw Poetic don’t really “grab you” per se upon first listen to the duo.  Yet, they are both so damn unique and original that it’s almost impossible not to revert back to albums like “The Scenic Route” and “A Mind On A Ship Through Time” for a refresher on just how talented this oft-overlooked duo truly are.  With “12 Step Program” Panacea has compiled their finest piece of work to date.  While K-Murdock’s production on the LP features his signature melodic style, it’s tracks such as the nearly 120-BPM “Sync In City” that venture off the usual path of what you can expect from Panacea.  And while Raw Poetic has remained as consistent and potent on the mic as ever, Panacea’s forward-thinking on this LP elevates this album to an instant classic in the minds of Panacea’s die-hard following.

9. “OJ Simpson”-Guilty Simpson & Madlib

Purchase “OJ Simpson” HERE

So, is this a Guilty Simpson “features” Madlib album or vice versa, Stones Throw?  Whatever the case, “OJ Simpson”, while somewhat lengthy and long-winded (Madlib placed one too many quirky skits in between the tracks), was blessed with Madlib’s “one of a kind” production and Guilty’s “in your face”, no-holds barred lyricism and delivery.  Quite the opposite of “Ode To The Ghetto”, “OJ Simpson” was no “Madvilliany”, or even “In Search Of Stoney Jackson” for that matter, but fortunately for Guilty it worked.  But again, I’m not sure if the focus of this album was to highlight Guilty or Madlib, because to me when I think of “OJ Simpson” I think of Madlib, even if OJ & Guilty share the same surname.

10. “The Exxecution”-Ruste Juxx & Marco Polo

Purchase “The Exxecution” HERE

On the heels of last year’s collaborative LP with Torae, “Double Barrell”, Marco Polo won me over yet again withe the Ruste Juxx-assisted “The Exxecution”.  One listen to the Marco Polo produced album “The Exxecution” and there is one word that generally comes to mind….RAW!!  On this collaborative effort, Ruste Juxx is just flat-out “goin’ in”, blatantly this album comes off as just one big freestyle session.  The album captures the raw essence of one emcee/one producer and the results are very polished, even if the album was pieced together in just a few choice meetings.  By the way, is there any doubt, judging from the drum kicks and just overall song structure that Polo’s biggest production influence has to be Preemo??

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gasface June 25, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Speaking of Apollo Brown’s “Our Time’….I cannot think for the life of me what other artist sampled that!!!! Anyone able to help would be appreciated.

jrrider June 26, 2010 at 3:38 am

Totally agree with the Stimulus and Rustee Juxx picks. I gotta say Jake One might be my favorite producer out now. And you are 100% correct on the OBFCL comparisons with Marcberg. I haven’t heard an album that uncut raw in a long time (No fast forward). Roc might have to be # 1 on this list.

jrrider June 26, 2010 at 3:44 am

Oh yeah I got the big wallet Shit is tremendous I had to cop.

hugh June 27, 2010 at 6:25 am

Homeboy Sandman – The Good Sun
Danny Brown – The Hybrid
Donwill – Don Cusack in High Fidelity

Vrho June 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm

My top ten:
The Roots – How I Got Over
Dumhi – The Jungle
Homeboy Sandman – The Good Son
Guilty Simpson & Madlib – OJ Simpson
Freeway & Jake One – The Stimulus Package
John Robinson & Lewis Parker – International Summer
Ruste Juxx & Marco Polo – The Exxecution
Dillon & Paten Locke – Studies in Hunger
Sage Francis – Life
Ron Coutur – Saffron

Vincent June 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Thanks for recommending “Mbodiment” and “International Summers”. Those and Leonard Dstroy’s “Higher Vibrations” stay in the car at all times. Also, why wasn’t Jermiside and Danny Diggs “Middle Classic” not included here? That’s definitely in my top 10 this year.

Eric June 29, 2010 at 11:29 pm

@Vincent, the production on “Middle Classic” was kinda’ bland, but I did like the LP.

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