It’s the end of the year, my favorite time of the. Why? Because there are lots of lists. Yeah, I’m getting help for my list addiction, but that’s not going to help this time of the year. For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of my favorite albums, producers and emcees from the past year, leading up to the Top 100 tracks (good to see Eric actually waited until December this year for his), Top 50 albums and of course the fourth annual WYDU Awards.
Today, we have my Personal Favorite Five Producers of 2010. Some of this is my personal thoughts, and some of it is just straight up work being done, quality work that is. I’m a self-professed beat head, it’s what I hear first and it’s what I concentrate on for the first month or so (if the album is that lucky to get that far). These are five of the best producers that caught my ear the most often and made me nod my head until I caught a cramp…
1. Apollo Brown begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Noteworthy releases in 2010: Apollo Brown – The Reset, The Left – Gas Mask, Boog Brown & Apollo Brown – Brown Study (and Skilled Trade, kind of)…
Detroit remains my favorite city/region for hip hop. The D is straight killin’ it for about the fifth year in a row. Apollo Brown is leading the city’s charge to hip hop’s forefront. Apollo ruled the year with three of the most solid releases you are going to find on any producers yearly discography, hell a lot of producers would love to have a career that equaled Apollo’s year. Engaged in that ol’ boom bap, Apollo is quickly building a sound to be recognized and loved by fellow hip hop heads, because Apollo’s sound is based on what hip hop should be, straight up dopeness.
The year started with the re-release of his 2008 beat tape, Skilled Trade, to his producer album The Reset which featured some of the best of the best in the hip hop game. Then he teamed up with one of the best female emcees of the year in Boog Brown to released Brown Study. To cap things off, he joined up with Journalist 103 and DJ Soko to form The Left and dropped an album that is in the running for album of the year (you have to wait and see) with Gas Mask. It’s there that Apollo really sets things on fire with holy horn stabs, bass lines that could shake the foundation of a building and of course those signature Detroit drums that Apollo does so well.
Apollo is quickly building a signature sound that will start become recognizable and in my mind will rocket Apollo among the upper echelon of hip hop producers. His sound is best exemplified on songs like “Gas Mask” from The Left’s album with the same name. Apollo employs a combination of an ill vocal sample, a horn stab that works wonders and of course the drums, which I’ve said multiple times by now. On his album with Boog Brown, it’s “Shine” that shines the light on Apollo’s boom-bap sound (and that’s exactly what it is). Again, it’s the intricate weave of horns, keys and those damn drums again, OH THOSE DRUMS. It’ll be interesting to hear/see what Apollo does for an encore in the year 2011. It’s already confirmed that he will be dropping an album with Hassaan Mackey and anything beyond that will only be a prized bonus.
2. Statik Selektah
Noteworthy releases in 2010: Statik Selektah – 100 Proof: The Hangover (2010), Termanology & Statik Selektah – 1982, numerous RADIx tracks and mixtapes
I’ll be the first to say I was never a big Statik Selektah fan before this year. Maybe that’s wrong, I never really cared about his music. It wasn’t that it was bad, it just didn’t really do all that much for me. Last year’s Stick 2 the Script showed some promise, but it was his 100 Proof: The Hangover that made me say, “Damn, that shit isn’t too damn bad”.
Statik Selektah has been in the game for some time now, as a radio personality, DJ, and of course producer. On the production tip, he just seems to be getting better. This year it all seems to come together in top form as Statik dropped a flurry of releases. As mentioned, his producer album, 100 Proof: The Hangover, was full of some of the top hip hop talent from both coasts. My favorite track, “Critically Acclaimed,” featured some of the best NYC hip hop has to offer, with Saigon, Lil’ Fame, and Sean Price. True heavyweights in every sense of the word. “Drunken Nights” has the potential to be a last call anthem for many years to come. Statik didn’t stop there, as he blessed Termanology with an album full of hot tracks. Long seen by some as only a “mixtape rapper”, Statik helped Term squash that noise as 1982 is chocked full of goodness from both artists. There were also three hot joints from RADIx’s upcoming album that were all produced by Statik Selektah and a promise of an album from the group that is produced exclusively by Statik in the upcoming year. Also on the slate is Statik Selektah’s Population Control sometime in 2011 as well. If those two albums are as good as this year’s batch, expect to see Statik Selektah back at the same place at the same time.
Noteworthy releases in 2010: Everything Changed Nothing w/ Trek Life, Oddisee West Coast Beats, From The Top EP w/ Stik Figa, Traveling Man, Odd Spring, Odd Winter, and numerous production credits on individual tracks.
Has there been a harder working artist in hip-hop over the past two years? Not only is the D.C. resident Oddisee one of the top producers in the game, he’s also an emcee. To see the growth of Oddisee since the the early part of the decade when he was doing stuff with Halftooth is reason to appreciate even more what he has become. Starting last year with his involvement with Diamond District and multiple other producing jobs, Oddisee came into this year as a sought after producer and he has lived up to that hype.
Starting off with his Odd Winter release at the start of the year, which features bits and pieces from here and there, and for a project that is used just to keep his name out there, it’s just as good as most cats legit albums. The same can be said for the Odd Spring release as well. From there Oddisee dropped one of the best instrumental project of the year in the form of Traveling Man, which uses the creative concept of different cities and sounds for each song. It’s an album that got a lot of play in Trav-land during the late winter/spring seasons. From there, Oddisee drop some one prodcuer/one emcee type of albums, which (thankfully) seem to be coming back in vogue lately. The album with Trek Life was solid and while I’m still getting my bearings with the Stik Figa EP, it’s nothing to be glossing over as well.
It’ll be interesting to see what Oddisee does for the year 2011. The cat has already had “career” years the past two years, will he be able to top them the upcoming year? Something tells me that if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Oddisee to make it on this same list next year at this time.
Noteworthy releases in 2010: The Daylight EP w/Butta Verses, The Nightlight EP w/MidaZ The Beast, a good portion of the Doxside Project, Dare Iz A Darkside (including the Scrunchface theme song) Produced numerous hot tracks by the likes of Butta Verses, Hezekiah, Midaz The Beast, and others.
I must admit, before the start of this year, my knowledge of IMAKEMADBEATS was limited to his project with the westcoast emcee Roc C, which I was impressed by. Then my fellow B-House member E started telling me about this cat. Now Eric and I always don’t like the same things, actually more often than not we don’t like the same things, but after hearing some more stuff from him, I couldn’t deny he was more than just a cool logo and audio tag (I MAKE MAD BEATS!).
NeMo, as he is otherwise known as, is making the Doxside name an underground hip hop household name with his other brethren, such as TzariZM, J Freedome, MidaZ The Beast,and others. He has shown up on the pages of Urb.com and of course is a mainstream on this hip hop blog as well as other spots. He came on strong at the end of the year, dropping two EPs with MidaZ The Beast (who IS a beast on the mic) and Buttaverses that not only showcases the emcees skills, but NeMo’s versatility on the boards. Expect much more from the man behind the mask in this upcoming year, because I expect it to only get better.
5. Damu The Fudgemunk
Noteworthy Releases in 2010: How It Should Sound Vol 1&2, Supply For Demand
Nothing gets my head nodding quicker than someone who keeps that authentic, dusty, raw hip hop sound and still adds their own flavor and twist to it. That’s exactly what Damu The Fudgemunk does with his beats. While his catalog might not be as deep as others listed on this list for the past year, what Damu did was equally as impressive.
The year started off with the instrumental opus, How It Should Sound, with volumes one and two for the offering. I guess Damu has some vaults of beats, because almost all of the beats were older, but they all sound timeless when thrown onto the turntable, discman, or iPod. Damu is a master at his sound and it’s found all over the release. We got an release from him just last month, in the form of Supply For Demand, which finds Damu actually spitting rhymes, as well as some of his signature dusty instrumentals. He even hooks up with fellow Y Society member, Insight and drops one of the best singles of the year in “Don’t Do It”.
I’m dying to hear more artists rhyme over Damu’s beats, whether or not that will happen or not more often in the year 2011 remains to be seen or heard. Regardless though, Damu is keeping the real hip-hop goodness going. Don’t expect any less for next year.
Who To Watch For In 2011 (Both New and Old)
As we jump into the upcoming year, there are a list of cats I’m hoping to hear a lot from in the upcoming year. Some are old names that have a buzz going for the upcoming year, others are up and coming names that I expect to have a “break-out” year of sorts.
Sinitus Tempo – Ladies and Gentleman, meet my “Rookie of the Year” for producer, Sinitus Tempo. The Washington D.C. producer burst on to the scene with the excellent Vinyl Proxy 1965 with emcee Obii Say, dropped two excellent instrumental projects and had another EP with Obii Say in Cowboy BiiBop. This cat was simply freaking amazing and probably should be included on the above list. He definitely gets an honorable mention for the year. I can’t even wait to hear what Sinitus comes up with in the upcoming year, emcees need to get on board while this cat is still affordable.
SlimKat78 - The Washington D.C. native has been heard on yU’s and Finale’s work in the past and dropped one of my favorite instrumental albums last year (Soundfreakers Vol. 1), so regardless of the fact that I haven’t heard much from him or about him lately, I’m holding out hope that he brings some fire for the upcoming year.
Batsauce – Of course I’m always looking for big things from the WYDU/Bloggerhouse favorite. He had a stellar 2010, with his Summertime release, production for Baje One, Willie Evans and Dillon. Bat is rumored to have a dope produced album with Chicago emcee, Qwaazar (from Typical Cats) that is dropping this year as well a volume two of his Gypsy Diaries instrumental joint. There is also stories of full album from Dillon that is produced fully by Bat as well and one could hope for another Smile Rays project before the end of the year, can’t he? 2011 could be HUGE for the Bat.
Illastrate - If I had made a list last year of my five favorite for ’09, Illastrate would have been on it for sure. I’ve been hearing a lot of rumbling from his direction lately and am expecting a firestorm of hot music to make it’s way to our eardrums in the upcoming year.
Kid Hum – Kid Hum straight out of the Mile High city, dropped one of my favorite instrumental joints for ’09 (although it was released very late ’08) with Fossil Fuels. After some remix projects and some joints with fellow Denver emcees, Whygee and Sunken State, he’s been rather quiet. I expect him to make some noise in the upcoming year. Hopefully emcees don’t sleep on this cat, because he’s just as good as 98% of the so-called producers out there.
J57 – The resident producer for the Brown Bag Allstars has set up permanent residence on Bloggerhouse the past couple months, and with good reason. I expect J57 to continue his Joe DiMaggio like streak well into the upcoming year.
Diego Bernal - Diego has had two of my favorite instrumental projects the last two years and since I get special treatment of hearing some of the stuff he is working on before it’s dropped (I had heard a good chunk of Besides… before it dropped), I can only say 2011 could be very good to Diego Bernal. Just wait and see.
SciFi Stu – The Scot beatmaker SciFi Stu has been getting love in Bloggerhouse all year as well, with his Tha Connection produced jams, Vast Aire, and John Robinson joints, Stu is getting set to release his From the Heaviest Heart to the Coldest Soul album. Since I’ve already heard it and I’m putting his name on this list, you know it’s fire. I expect big things from Stu in the 2-oh-one-one.
Small Professor - When he’s not sending me Rick Ross tracks tagged has his latest and greatest beat, Small Pro is working on his upcoming album, which has all the makings of something special. We didn’t hear much from Small Pro this past year, but only because he’s been hard at work in the lab. His time is coming.
DJ Manipulator – Manipulator was responsible for the production on my favorite joints of 2009, Arablak’s “The Deed, so you know the cat has the skills. The Kinda Dusty member has some bullets up in the chamber as he is working on his solo project for the upcoming year. After hearing some potential beats, sounds like it could be nasty, as in a good nasty. You heard it here first.
Falside - Part of the heavily WYDU pushed Poorly Drawn People collective, Falside could be in the running for producer I expect the most from in 2011. Dude had a busy 2010, with beats on both Dirty Hank EPs (one of my favorite “newcomers”), joints with RADIx and fellow PDP member, Reason and dropped at least three instrumental/remix type projects. I don’t expect it to slow down in the upcoming and I expect even bigger and better things from Falside.
Mr. Green – Already one of my favorites due to his beat tapes and past work with Pacewon, Mr. Green has two upcoming albums with both Pacewon and my favorite Outsidaz emcee, Young Zee. Anyonethat can get the return of Young Zee deserves to be checked for.