Found On: “The Cold Corner 2″ Mixtape
W.T.F.? Lloyd Banks? Yes ‘sa, I can’t quite recall whom it was that put me on to his mixtape (which, undoubtedly takes the crown as the year’s best cover art), “The Cold Corner 2″, but I can’t front. This mixtape is actually half way decent, straight up.
My favorite cut from the mixtape arrives from the most “credible” (at least, by underground standards) producer Nick Speed, with his grainy production found on “Love Shots”.
Found On: “LiveLoveA$AP” (self released)
Whew, I know a few of my die-hard readers are scratching their heads sayin “Damn E, did you go mainstream on us, or what?”. Nah B, you GOTTA’ think outside the box sometimes, lol. Regardless, if I didn’t state that A$AP’s critically acclaimed “LiveLoveA$AP” wasn’t an enjoyable listen, I’d be lying through my teeth. Or maybe I should say, at least all the tracks on which Clams Casino handles production are enjoyable, with “Demons” showcasing his best Blue Sky Black Death impression.
Found On: “3ILLER” (Neastra Music Group)
Sooooo, ummmm…who else overlooked T3′s “3ILLER” EP that dropped near the close of June? Guilty, as charged! However, as short as it may be (I guess a 9-track EP is sorta’ the standard nowadays, huh?) “3ILLER” is equally corny as it is fresh. Some instances of vintage Slum on here, namely the Young RJ-freaked “Hello World” (BTW, RJ handles all of the production on the EP), but also a few head scratchers as well. However, “Hello World” gave me the goosebumps, straight up!
Found On: “IMAKEMADBEATS” (Doxside Music Group)
IMAKEMADBEATS? Dude is a production genius, and what’s most scary, he’s only scratching the surface, in my opinion. With an on-point selection of features, well placed interludes and most importantly, flawless sequencing, you won’t want “IMAKEMADBEATS” to end! I’ve been throwing the term “classic” around loosely the last few years (most recently, “Gas Mask” and “Nineteen Ninety Now”), but you tell me what’s up after a few listens to this LP. I assure you, my assumptions are pretty damn accurate and “IMAKEMADBEATS” is one physical album you won’t regret scooping up!
Not included on the physical, the Dirty Socks remix of “Heard Of Me” is a stomp through the ghetto as Nemo laces the cut with some of the most neck-snapping, feet-stomping drums you’ll witness this year. The rest of the Doxside camp kills it along with my favorite double threat, Black Milk.
Found On: Trials Of The Blackhearted (FreEP)
“Trials Of The Blackhearted” is filled to the rim with “Stadium Music” as DJ Khalil’s bass-heavy, sonically reliant production possesses that extra skip that you’ve become accustomed to hearing from only a select few in the production areana (i.e, Pete Rock, Preem, Dilla, etc.). Serving as an appetizer for the forthcoming (I HOPE) full-length effort from the underrated duo “Come In Peace, Prepare For War”, “Trials…” with it’s Schooly D-ish’ “Am I Black Enough For You” cover take, is void of any wastage. At only 8 tracks deep, “Trials..” will leave you salivating for more as Chace’s thought provoking lyricism and social commentary go together like PB & J atop Khalil’s production wizardry.
Found On: “Daily Bread” (Mello Music Group)
Very similar to Kendrick Lamar’s “Section.80″ for the fact that it took me a minute to really appreciate the collaborative outing between the likes of one highly under appreciated MC, Hassaan Mackey and one highly overlooked producer, Apollo Brown. I’ll be like Jeru and “come clean”, I spoke with fellow Mello Music Group label-mate, Has-Lo on the afternoon of Daily Bread’s release and explained to Has why I was initially underwhelmed by this release. However, after a few “flawless” spins to accompany my taxing workouts, “Daily Bread” along with Black Milk’s 2010 release “Album Of The Year” have become my mainstays to pick me up on those somewhat overcast days. Nearly flawless from start to finish, “Daily Bread” actually has a chance to surpass my favorite album from 2010, another Apollo Brown working, The Left’s “Gas Mask”.
Found On: “undun” (Def Jam)
Isn’t it always crazy when you first listen to any “new” Roots album that the first word that comes to mind after finishing the LP is “Classic”? Indeed, that was my thought process when I completed the Roots’ last LP, “How I Got Over”, yet when “undun” reached it’s finale, I honestly thought the leak that I downloaded was incomplete, with the last few cuts being individually sliced, instead of one complete instrumental. I mean, don’t get me wrong I love the album, but is it just me or does “undun” feel more like an EP. Really, I waited this long for 39 minutes with the Roots? Damn “undun” is not “Illmatic”.
Regardless, the tracks that bang on this LP are SUPERB. Initially, “Lighthouse” with it’s stellar Dice Raw feature quickly became my favorite track from the album, but over time has taken a backseat to “Kool On” and more importantly, one of my Top 10 cuts of the year, “One Time”.
Found On: “The Rocks Report” (Self Released)
Ask me anything about Sir Michael Rocks’ (1/2 of the Cool Kids) mixtape “The Rocks Report” and I honestly can’t recall one song other than one of my most played tracks of the year, “Deal Went Sour”. A project that actually featured some heavy-hitting production from the likes of Ski, Tall Black Guy and Madlib, “Deal Went Sour” is simply irresistible as Rocks’ offers a clever narrative of a cell-phone scheme/scam gone bad atop a trunk-rattling production from a relative unknown, PX.
Found On: “Darling Lure” (All Natural Inc.)
Straight up, Primeridian & Tall Black Guy’s “Love Hurts” was the closest thing to my “Electric Relaxation” of 2011. An underrated producer as it is, Tall Black Guy laced “Love Hurts” and the majority of Darling Lure with slick samples, rumbling bass-lines and crisp hi-hats to make the LP one of the most pleasant, enjoyable and precise listens of the year.
Found On: “Section.80″ (Top Dawg Ent.)
Never, in a million years could you have told me that Kendrick Lamar’s first official LP, “Section.80″ would become my favorite ‘ish of 2011. I mean, yeah (O)verly (D)edicated was iight. Yet, this album right here, B? On point like a ginsu. Lyrically, dude is out there at moments, however, there’s not too many heads out there messing with dude’s wordplay, delivery and just overall lyrical structure today. While tracks like “Tammy’s Song” nor “The Spiteful Chant” definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, even admittedly, they weren’t mine at first. Simply put, “Section.80″ never grows tiresome. One of the most original, unexpected outings in recent memory. Compton’s in the house!
Found On: “The Sender” (Foreign Exchange Music)
It’s hard to believe that Median’s “Median’s Relief” is nearly four years old already, it feels as if that album just dropped last year! Regardless, Median’s most recent effort is just as potent and solid as “..Relief”. However, what “Median’s Relief” lacked, a true smash, it definitely has on “The Sender” with the Khyris-laced heat rock, “Bright Individual”. Some sultry vocals sprinkled throughout the bare bones hook and a nice Busta Rhymes vocal slice make “Bright Individual” and “The Sender” a definite must hear (also, the LP was overseen by both Phonte and 9th).