Found On: “Neva’ Done” EP (Redefinition Records)
With over 15 years in the game, Grap Luva a.k.a. “the younger soul brother”, finally released the long-awaited “Neva’ Done” EP, just prior to Thanksgiving on Damu The Fudgemunk’s (serving as a co-owner), Redefinition Records. With solid production from Joc Max, who produced the selected cut, “Work It Out” (also, the LPs first “leak”), Kev Brown (who produced the title track) and the aforementioned Damu, “Neva Done” is a solid EP. However, “Work It Out” coupled with “Neva Done” are the only two vocal cuts that appear on the EP. I honestly would have loved to hear Grap on the mic throughout the remainder of the EP. Even so, a solid pick-up that plays nicely “back to back” with K-Def’s “Night Shift”.
Found On: “The Great Debater” (Duck Down Records)
You can expect a few “givens” when it comes to Skyzoo. One thing, regardless of what some may think, Skyzoo is a great emcee. Secondly, there’s no denying that ‘Zoo also has a great ear for production. As witnessed, the majority of “The Great Debater”, which features production from well-known heavyweights such as !llmind, Oh No, 9th Wonder and the Best Kept Secret, when paired with Skyzoo’s slick one-liners and effortless delivery equal a potent formula. Yet it’s one of the LP’s least known producers, Swiff D that delivered the LP’s crowning moment, “Written In The Drums”.
Found On: “Red Dot Plot” (Digi Crates)
Produced by M. Pardon, SmooVth’s “Natural Element” is one of the funkiest productions of the year. The whole Digi Crates roster is known for uncovering a whole slew of production talent across the waters (Vans Cal, anyone?) and this performance by M. Pardon is no different. Strangely enough, as I was browsing the UGHH.com forums (which I do for about the last month of each year to catch up on what I’ve been missing) there’s a thread titled “Most Slept on LPs of 2011″ and SmooVth’s solid 3rd release “Red Dot Plot” pops up on more than a few occasions withing the thread. Yet, another banger from one of my favorite underground labels.
Found On: “Let It Be/Survive” 12″
Although “Let It Be” is a little lengthy, the track clocks in at just under 6 minutes, and the hook is quite repetitive, it’s extremely refreshing to hear Masta Ace deliver a timeless performance which only emphasizes his longevity in the game. While this vinyl was only pressed up and limited to 300 copies, it’s definitely worth a purchase as the B-Side, “Survive” also boasts a feature from yet another lyrical legend, Sadat X. And while not quite up to par with “Let It Be”, it goes without saying that “Survive” nearly found itself on this list as well.
Found On: “Still On The Hustle” (Fat Beats)
Featuring one of the best Large Pro-produced cuts in recent memory, it’s safe to say that Fat Beats made a good selection when they elected to make the title cut from Pro’s collobo with Neek The Exotic, the album’s first single and video release. Honestly, it was a toss-up between “Still On The Hustle” and Large Pro’s recently released 12″, “Key To The City”, which also dropped on Fat Beats and it’s remix for a spot on my “Top 100″. Still, just listening to this cut in the car on the way home from the gym this A.M. solidified my decision as Pro laced “Still On The Hustle” with some rib-cage rattling bass.
Found On: “Cats & Dogs” (Rhymesayers)
Damn yo! If this jawn doesn’t make you scrunch ya’ face up like Craig Mack, I don’t know what does!? With production from the ever-consistent Alchemist, “Where You From” is eerily reminiscent of Ev’s “Mr. Slow Flow” from his “Weatherman LP”. With a slick hook delivered from one of the finest “ruckus bringin’ muhfuc*as” in the biz, Lil’ Fame, “Where You From” is one of the hardest cuts that I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in this year. Also, the lyrical snippet from Jay Electronica’s classic cut “Exhibit C” (“You either build or destroy”) is just icing on the cake and a clever selection from the A-L-C.
Found On: “Before I Awoke” (Tres Records)
Now this record was fronted on, BIG TIME! Myself included, even though “Before I Awoke” dropped mid-summer, I really didn’t listen to the record until early this Fall. With production from Paten Locke, Exile, Thes One, Ta’ Raach, Chief, Cook Classics, Knxledge and many more, it’s safe to stay that there was more than a handful of potent bangers to be found on “Before I Awoke”. But yet again, the album’s highlight comes from a producer whom I’d never heard before as the Shawn Jackson-featured, “When I Feel” proved to be a sure shot thanks to the bass-heavy, synth-infused production of J83. Also, this album, which clocks in just short of an hour and twenty minutes is a lot of bang for the buck.
Found On: Nas’ forthcoming “Life Is Good” LP
All this talk about “who’s the best producer” Nas has worked with, I don’t know about you, but Preem aside, I’ll take Nas and Salaam Remi any day of the week! ”Nasty” which seemingly appeared outta’ nowhere proved that Nas has still got it, indeed! ”Nasty” stands tall alongside and just as equally impressive as Nasir’s collabo with Common “Ghetto Dreams”. It’s amazing how dope Nas is when paired with production that is just as formidable as his lyrics. While they may be neck and neck, who do you think has the better ear for production, Jay or Nas? They’ve both selected their fair share of wackness over the course of their respective careers. I can only hope for more flavor in the form of “Nasty” from Nas.
Found On: “Black and Brown” (Fat Beats)
Quite honestly, the album that I played more than any other record in 2011, wasn’t even released this year. That’s right, Black Milk’s “Album Of The Year” from 2010, grew on like no other album in recent memory. I gotta’ tell you, the drums, courtesy of Daru, on that LP make for some damn good gym music. With his link-up with Danny Brown, Black continued where he left off with “Black and Brown” from his “Album Of The Year” release to drop a 9-track heater on Fat Beats. While most of the EP is solid, “Zap” stands out as one of Black’s top 10 beats from his storied production catalog. However, I gotta’ admit, Danny Brown is the most over-hyped, overrated “rapper” in Hip Hop…period.