Found On: Guru’s “Jazzmatazz Vol. 3: Street Soul (2000, Virgin)
From the last addition of “purchasable” Jazzmatazz albums, 2000′s “Street Soul”, Guru linked back up once again with partner, DJ Premier for a classic example of good chemistry on wax. R & B crooner Donell Jones also belts an exemplary hook, during a time when he was one of the more acceptable singers in Hip Hop. Preem’s production isn’t anything uncharacteristic or mind-blowing, yet it’s still one of the more overlooked gems from his production library. -Prodigy of Mobb Deep
-Prodigy of Mobb Deep
Found On: “H.N.I.C.” (2000, Loud)
Prodigy’s debut solo outing, 2000′s “H.N.I.C.”, was a a pretty respectable debut that maintained the flavor and feel of Mobb Deep’s “Murda Musik” and really did feel like an extension of that project to me. While the album could have had a little “fat trimmed off the edges”, tracks such as “Diamond” (which featured one of the earliest productions from Just Blaze), “Dealt With The Bulls*it and the Ric-Rude produced “You Can Never Feel My Pain” (which entailed Prodigy’s trials of dealing with Sickle Cell Anemia), were some of the highlights of the often-forgotten solo effort.
Found On: “The Last Shall Be First” (2000, Stimulated Records/Loud)
While the Dwellas debut (released under the moniker, Cella Dwellas), “Realms N’ Reality” is a slept-on gem from the mid-’90s, 2000′s “The Last Shall Be First” may be even more overlooked than it’s predecessor. The album (“Last..) boated production from the likes of Nick Wiz, Large Professor and believe it or not, Majesty from one of my favorite duos of all-time, Da King & I.
However, it was the Rockwilder produced (kind of crazy to believe that dude is laying beats for Christina Aguilera now!?), “Ill Callabo” (yes, that is the track’s spellling) which featured the likes of one Prince Po and one Pharoahe Monch (who’s verse is more than “rewind worthy”…ad naseaum) that remains the LP’s crowning moment.
Found On: “S.D.E.” (2000, EPIC)
Say what you want about Cameron Giles, but his 2000 release “S.D.E.” (acronym for Sports, Drugs, Entertainment) was that knock yo! While the LP had it’s share of unforgettable moments (namely, “What Means The World To You”), it was undoubtedly a better album than his debut, “Confessions Of Fire”. And while I still have a hard time believing that Cam had his pick of D1 schools for his hoop skills (I’ve seen dude play, I’m jus’ sayin…average), the title cut, which was also produced by the mixtape king, Ron G, features well placed vocal samples from Biggie and Jay over a unexpected, welcomed production from a man known more for his “blending” skills.
Found On: “Industry Shakedown” (2000, KJAC Music)
Shoot, Bumpy Knuckles’ (a.k.a. Freddie Foxxx) whole album of the same name could have made this list! Boating an all-star production line-up, to include: DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Alchemist and Diamond D (along with Freddie himself), “Industry Shakedown” finds Freddie goes for broke while loading each track with hunger and angst. His anger and harsh delivery is undeniable, rivaled only by his partners in rhyme, M.O.P. on “Bumpy Bring It Home”. However, the true gem of the album arrived thanks to a ROLLING bassline from the Soul Brother #1 Pete Rock on the title cut.
Found On: “Lyricist Lounge Vol. 2″ (2000, Rawkus)
While the first edition of the Lyricist Lounge series often gets mo’ props, “Vol. 2″ generated it’s fair share of heat as well, with slappin’ joints from the likes of Kool G Rap & M.O.P. (“Legendary Street Team”) along with Q-Tip and Wordsworth’s “Making It Blend”. However, amidst all the high-profile talent, there was an up and coming underground emcee whom was slowly but surely generating a solid following. Yep, Royce Da 5′ 9″, who’s changed up his delivery quite a bit since the release of “Let’s Grow”, found himself wrecking lyrical havoc atop the electro-bounce provided by non other than the legendary J Dilla. Damn, it’s amazing how Dilla Dawg useta’ piece joints together. Damn….sorely missed..
Found On: “A Breath Of Fresh Air” (2006, Wax Reform)
A perfect example of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, even though Raks looks like he’s in the middle stages of puberty…don’t be fooled. Hell, this album may have been released in the latter part of 2006 (actually I just googled it and it was…oh well, I’ve just started listening to it so be it!). Hailing from Rochester, NY Raks (a.k.a Emilio Rojas) is a beast on the mic. Now I’m not big on lyrics (as crazy as that may sound) but Raks delivered a deeply personal album. The beats on “A Breath..” are super, with Illmind, Muneshine and M Phazes all supplying Raks with an abundance of bangers. This album is definitely for folks who also may enjoy the likes of Kenn Starr, Oddisee and Kev Brown.
Found On: II (2007, P-Vine Records)
Canada is in the HOUSE!! Very seldom, do I listen to what some may categorize as “International Rap”…but boy, am I ever glad that I peeped the Specifics “II”. Talk about a dope hook! “My Tunes” came outta’ nowhere and proved to be a mainstay in the “Most Played” file on my Ipod for the better half of 2007. Upon first listen to the Specifics second effort, “My Tunes” was the only track that that left me in “Oh Shit” mode. I feel that “II” was a well rounded LP as the duo of Golden Child & Think Twice seem to compliment one another very well which in turn leads a very complete, almost effortless album. For the second go round’ the Specifics “II” came off more like a follow up from seasoned veterans rather than an album from a triumvirate who garnered very little attention nationally with their debut “Lonely City”.
Found On: “Tobacco Road” (2008, Hyena Records)
For those of you that have been under a rock for the last half decade or so, one half of Common Market is Blue Scholars’ producer extraordinaire Sabzi, while the microphone duties are more than aptly handled by the ecletic RA Scion. Criminally slept-on, Scion (whose beard makes Deshawn Stephenson’s look “weak” by comparison) in my opinion is one of the deepest, lyrically potent emcees on the “market” right now! Equally as potent, is Sabzi’s bass heavy, melodic production that is equally easy on the ears.
For a prime example of Sabzi’s continued production wizardry, peep the way that he flipped the Mic Geronimo classic “Masta I.C” (from Mic G’s ‘95 classic “The Natural”) which provides a thumping backdrop to “Slow Cure”. Don’t snooze, while RA’s lyrics may fly over your dome piece at times, this is a truly heart-felt track paired with production that is as far from the heart of Kentucky as you can get. But, you know what? It works! You can’t help but give yourself whiplash as RA preaches about unity within the community over what I feel is Sabzi’s best produced work ever, behind “Loyalty”….and maybe..just maybe, “Coffee & Cold”.
Found On: “Casualties Of War” (2007, Duck Down)
Although the B.C.C album of the same title is now somewhat of an afterthought by now (the same could also be said for Smif-N-Wessun’s “The Album” as well), this Marvel (another dope overseas cat) production is a crazy melodic track that finds members of the B.C.C. recalling their fallen comrades over a somber track….more or less their version of “T.R.O.Y.”. “Casualties….” kinda’ has the same feel as the Marco Polo produced “He Gave His Life” from their previous album “The Last Stand”.