Found On: “Black Dialogue” (2004, Def Jux)
A trio comprised of Mr. Lif, Acrobatik, and DJ Fakts One. An interesting bunch, for sure, but the results of the finalized product (“Black Dialogue”) were mixed at best. For instance, this definitely didn’t add up to what I loved about Acrobatik’s solo album, or some of Mr. Lif’s individual work. It overall came out as an above average LP, but nevertheless a mediocre listen. The highlights were pretty damn nice, no denying it, exhibit A, the potent and political anthem: “Memorial Day”. I always overlook the fact that “Black Dialogue” was also released on Def Jux. -The Away Team
-The Away Team
Found On: “National Anthem” (2005, 6 Hole Records)
Do you remember the Away Team’s debut, “National Anthem” being released and repackaged as “National Mayhem”, which was basically a dual release of “Anthem” along with L.E.G.A.C.Y.’s highly slept-on debut, “Project Mayhem”. Hell, as an added bonus with the purchase of “National Mayhem”, it also arrived with a third disc, 9th Wonder’s “Dream Merchant Vol. I”, all for the price of one release. Comprised of Sean Boog and Khrysis, you’d be hard-pressed to locate a camp that didn’t have the underground on lock the way that the Hall of Justus did back in 2004-2005. Even though, “National Anthem” was monotonous and bland on occasion, Boog’s rhymes weren’t necessarily thought-provoking by any stretch of the imagination and Khrysis was a dead-ringer for 9th Wonder, the album did contain some dope product. “The Shining”, boasting a breezy vocal sample, and hard drum stabs was the highlight of the LP that ran neck and neck with the H.O.J. posse cut, “On The Line”.
Found On: “None Shall Pass” (2007, Def Jux)
Who would’ve thought that I’d enjoy Aesop’s new LP “None Shall Pass”? Hell, I liked it enough to by it, twice (I’ll explain another time)! “Getaway Car” is just one of three extremely dope cuts (the title cut & “Catacomb Kids” being the other two) that pop up on the album. Cage brings his own unique style to the table and Aesop has always impressed me on the mic, leaps and bounds above his performance on “Bazooka Tooth”. Is it just me or is some of his production a little too “out there”? And Breezly Brewin?? The highly unappreciated lyricist has to have one of the dopest voices and flows in Hip Hop EVER. Aesop has never been short on style, however, deciphering his lyrics can be quite a task at certain times. Good to see that Aesop even became a bit of an “MTV darling” over the years, as I’ve heard “Coffee” occupying warm up slots for shows such as “The Real World”. Some real fly production on behalf of Aesop and Blockhead on this LP, “Getaway Car” being one of the finer examples.
“Sweetest Language”-The A.L.L.I.E.S.
Found On: “Still Hear” (2009, Jericho Lounge Music)
Just a random though, but how dope would a collabo between two of the fresher, most unique voices in Hip Hop, Thaione Davis and Breezly Brewin be? From, quite possibly the most slept-on album of the year, Thaione Davis’ “Still Hear”, “Face Of The Hood” was fueled by one of the finest productions that has ever emerged from Rashid Hadee (who produced ALL of “Still Hear”) lengthy catalog. Plus, how could you not like Thaione Davis? Dude, has one of the slickest voices and deliveries in Hip-Hop right now. If you’re still sleepin’, do yourself a favor, get yourself an early Christmas gift and cop this album yesterday!
Found On: “Pressure”: The Official Mix CD (2006, Fat Beats)
A track that can also be found on the “Broken Wax Instrumentals” disc that accompanied “Popular Demand”, “Home of The Greats” first popped up on the Fat Beats distributed mix CD of Milk’s work, “Pressure”. Damn, even glancing at the cover art of “Pressure” it’s amazing to see and hear just how far Black Milk has come since the “Sound Of The City” days. While “Home Of The Greats” may be a little premature when looking back at it, being that so much more dope has been cooked up courtesy of the “D” over the last half decade, the track features the oft-sampled “Substitution” break, which is usually nothing special, yet Milk injects the track with his signature bassline and a lyrical flair that was just an early indication of more “great” things on the horizon!
Found On: “Decepticons” 12″ (2005, Fat Beats)
If you were scratching your head trying to recall exactly who One Be Lo was back in ’05, there’s two reasons for that. One, he will best be remembered as being one half of the duo Binary Star. Two, he went by OneManArmy back then, rather then One Be Lo. He had changed up his moniker from what he was up to as a member of Binary Star. Yet, unlike Binary Star, One Be Lo’s debut solo outing didn’t revel in a sort of anti-jiggy rebel mind-state, rather Be Lo aimed for more traditional conscious topics, which ended up working far better. He was already the better emcee of Binary Star, but the change in topic fits his style far better.
Prior, to the release of S.o.n.o.g.r.a.m., One had a more sobering delivery and likewise with his beat selection. Things are cold and frank with this sound and approach, which actually comes off a little silly and melodramatic when the topic is being meta about hip-hop. Yet, when One addresses the state of the black community it fits perfectly instead. It’s great production as well, with close Binary Star friend Decompoze giving out some of his best beats. This LP was a great addition to the collection of anyone into that bleaker side of the backpack. But the true treat of the LP, was the Pete Rock remix of the album’s opening single, “Decepticons”. While the track isn’t one of the best we’ve ever heard from Peter Phillips this mash-up just works and makes you wonder what a full LP from the two would sound like.
Found On: “True Magic” (2006, Geffen)
Mos Def’s 2006 dud “True Magic” was a freakin’ disaster…seriously. There’s plenty albums worse then, but this was the biggest flop of 2006. The album’s cover art and packaging? That’s perfectly symbolic of the laziness involved on this “project’. The CD is literally sold in stores as a jewel case with a CD sittin’ inside for the whole world to see. Yet, Geffen has the nerve to charge you full price for the release, craziness I tell you. Most of the music is much the same, an incredibly bored sounding Mos Def rapping over lousy mixtape quality beats, and even the instrumental of, get this, “Liquid Swords” of all the tracks in the world. I know he was tired of rapping and had label issues, but goddamn Mos. However, I’d be a boldface liar if I said I didn’t bump the hell outta’ lifetime, a Preservation-produced track that attempts to capitalize on the vibe delivered via “Umi Says”
Found On: “American Me” (2006, Shaman Works)
It’s no secret that Pete Rock was a considered a good 80 percent of the power of the original duo, CL was/is my favorite emcee of all time (prior to his solo work,LOL), but it’s a valid argument that he was not the equal of the production he profited from. Yet, for an album released over ten years past the fact album (“The Main Ingredient” being CL’s last “album”) with no Pete Rock beats, I’d have to say this (“American Me”) and the album’s debut single, the Mike Loe-Produced “Smoke In The Air” wasn’t so bad after all. And you know what? CL was the best part of this, but again nothing to really write home about, and shame on you Corey Penn for the HORRID cover art as well. Still, I’d give a limb to hear another Pete Rock & Cl Smooth album though, not really, maybe just a hangnail.
Found On: “Closer” (2006, Big Dada)
The british emcee’s album of the same name, “Closer” was another round of pretty good stuff, that many cats in the states, seemingly overlooked. The most striking development on “Closer” was the amount of pretty amazing guests he has managed to get on the LP. I mean, Ty had Zion I, Bahamadia, Speech of Arrested Development, and motherfuckin’ De La Soul on this thing. Those are some pretty established artists, I’d say. The LP was also fairly short and sweet, which is a treat in this day and age, it’s just…. there’s too many forgettable tracks among the good ones on “Closer”, and that includes some of those guest spots. But overall, it was a good effort worth digging up on the strength of the debut single, “Closer” alone.
Found On: “Port Authority” (2007, Rawkus)
Marco’s album “Port Authority” has gotta’ be one of the dopest compilation albums ever released, if not the best. Featuring a slew of “proven” emcees, “Port Authority” showcased not only the individual talents of it’s guest but also Marco’s penchant for churning out dope, innovative beats. Propers go out to Marco and Ace for also releasing one of the dopest videos of the last decade with “Nostalgia”. A true “B-Boy anthem” this cut was yet another victim of the “overplayment factor”. In my “2007 Mid-Year” special I’d stated that “Nostalgia” was my single of the year to date and in one blog I stated that it was quite possibly the “best single released in the last three years”. Lord knows, I’ve been know to jump the gun a little bit. Nonetheless, another goose-bump inducing track, there’s just something that gives me the chills after Erick Sermon’s “This might be my last one”……