Black Milk’s 5th studio album, “Album Of The Year” detailed Black Milk’s emotional roller coaster of 2009. One of the more capable dual threats in Hip Hop, Black Milk’s production for this 0uting incorporated elements of Electronica and Go-Go with live instrumentation to equate for one helluva’ neck-snapping experience. Lyrically, have I heard this Black Milk on record before? Well, yes, but the progression from “Sound Of The City” to this most recent effort is commendable if not awe-inspiring. I can’t front, I wasn’t too impressed upon my first few listens, yet “Album Of The Year” has remained in rotation as one of 2010′s more cohesive albums.
2. “Brown Study”- Boog Brown/ Apollo Brown
“Let’s start from the beginning/At the top of the list”, Mello Music Group did it again. Apollo Brown did it again, and for those of you whom were wise enough to peep “Grind Season Vol. I”, Boog Brown did it again. Released on Sept. 28th,the “dirty drums” of Apollo Brown met the poignant, effortless delivery of Boog Brown for the perfect marriage of nearly flawless production and elegant lyricism (but, Boog can battle with the best of ‘em, when provoked, don’t sleep). So bring on the cheesy lines, just what can Brown do for you?
For their 3rd full-length LP, Qwel & Maker’s creative partnership has gone from sometime collaborators to a full-fledged partnership and the result is their finest work to date with “Owl”. The duo is most at home on tracks like “El Camino” where Qwel’s lyrics scrape vibrant, and often harsh, realities across Maker’s soundscape of hard hitting drums and a dense sonic arrangement. “Name looking strange in the limelight / Chamber what you trying to change / Sitting here soaking in hindsight / It’s the road / Its the life I chose” concludes Qwel on “El Camino.” Newly committed to the ‘life they chose’ and resolved to defeat stagnation in an industry in transition, if “Owl” is any indication, Qwel & Maker have only just begun.
f/ Oliver Daysoul
f/ Oliver Daysoul
I gotta’ tell ya’, prior to the release of “Everything Changed Nothing” I wasn’t Trek Life’s biggest fan. Not that dude was a sub-par lyricist or artist, but his “New Money” (w/Oddisee) LP and “The Price I’ve Paid” just didn’t possess that “wow” factor for me. Solid, no doubt, if not very consistent, but nothing too mind-blowing. However, with the release of “Everything Changed Nothing”, also solely produced by Oddisee, Trek Life injected Oddisee’s potent soundscapes with insight to the West Coast lifestyle. While the production was astounding on this effort, Trek Life’s personality and flair really shined through on this go ’round.
f. R.A. The Rugged Man
f. R.A. The Rugged Man
Wow…just..wow! Hell Razah came back with a vengeance on “Heaven Razah”, namely on the collaborative cut with underground stronghold R.A. The Rugged Man, “Return Of The Renaissance Mane”. Score this LP a win for Nature Sounds, as dope as “Renaissance Child” (which is revered most for “Project Jazz”), “Heaven Razah” would have been even higher on this list had I not been bumping the hell outta’ the Brown Study and Black Milk joints for the last month and a half. Also, be sure to cop this jawn as after many delays caused by the a coma after a Brain Aneurysm, Razah is still recovering.
Even though “International Summers” leaked waaay before it’s actual release stateside, John Robinson & Lewis Parker’s pairing has remained in steady rotation through0ut the later portion of 2010. Two cats, from opposite ends of the world, brought together by a label, combined to create an album that will unfairly 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 gonna’ love this album for years to come!
Really, do you ever believe that DJ Muggs’ production will ever sound tired and weary? Simply put, dude is timeless! One of hip hop’s biggest production influences to date, DJ Muggs linked up with Ill Bill to create an eerie, apocalyptic album that is filled with conviction and years of blood, sweat and tears that have poured into the art-form. With more than a few good years under their respective belts, Muggs and Ill Bill crafted a seasoned LP that’s as solid as the day is long. And with well selected and placed guest spots from the likes of fellow rhyme veterans Raekwon, O.C., Sick Jacken and Sean Price, “Kill Devil Hills” takes it’s place as one of the quarter’s/year’s most well-constructing outings.
Grey Matter’s impressive debut LP can be extremely lengthy (24 cuts with a few dope “instrumental interludes” thrown into the mix), but it still manages to be completely fulfilling and cohesive. Admittedly, some tracks are pretty damn depressing, but the subject matter is very relative to what takes place in the average working man’s day. Even though it can be considered “mood” music, the vivid and descriptive writing reels you in. Illustrate is a skilled penman, and equally potent is TEMP with his crafty productions. “Grey Matter” will stake it’s claim in underground Hip Hop, an album that will take you on an emotional roller-coaster, yet it definitely shouldn’t overlooked or forgotten. One of the more surprising and fulfilling records of the year.
f/ Pos, Phife & Dilla
f/ Pos, Phife & Dilla
Yo, is there really something wrong with me that I didn’t consider “Villa Manifesto” to be an instant classic, or even remotely flawless? Truth be told, after I first heard the LP I placed it in the stash, only to pull it out for just a few more listens during the later weeks of September, when it really started to catch my ear. Aside from the Native Tongue-assisted “Scheming” I had a difficult time selecting a stand-out track from the LP, in most instances that’s only because all of the tracks are soo dope on an album that you can’t just select one lone star. However, that’s not the case with “Villa Manifesto”. Yes, it was great to hear Baatin and Dilla on record again. Even so, not enough Dilla and DEFINITELY not enough Elzhi for this listener!
As solid as LMNO has been ‘year ’round lyrically, it’s definitely a positive when you have a musical canvas courtesy of Astronote to rock over for 12 tracks. I can’t even front, this may very well be an LMNO “album” per se, as well as being released (as have all of LMNO’s LPs this year) on the Up Above imprint, yet Astronote’s star shines brighest on “Tripping..”. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not speaking in DJ Premier/Group Home terms, but rather Pete Rock/CL Smooth terms, if you feel me?