Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sach’s end of the year Hiphop list

I don’t really know what to make of Hiphop anymore. The New York purist in me wants to lament it as dead as a doorknob but the realist in me recognizes that the soul just left the Mecca and has been spreading itself in Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, LA and even…London. With that in mind, here’s a list of albums I liked. More to come.

1) GZA vs DJ Muggs - Grandmasters

The best pure NY Hiphop album of the year period point blank. Muggs delivers on the beats (many of which are several years old) and GZA delivers lyrics for days. What really sets the album apart however is how the skits and beat progressions tie the whole thing together as an album. In a year where too many cats through 22 tracks on a disc and called it a day, it’s nice to see that the vets can still craft full length statements. This statement? That the vets never left.

2) Kanye West – Late Registration

The antithesis of Muggs and GZA’s boom-bap, Kanye West delivered the pop album of the year in Hiphop form. This thing just sounds expensive: harpiscords, strings, keys, synths, choirs…it’s all there and thanks to co-producer Jon Brion and Kanye’s remarkable chemistry it all works. Even the lyrics were kicked up a notch and tracks like Drive Slow, My way home and addiction will satisfy even the stuffiest purists. Sure it’s over the top but it’s damn good.

3) Quasimoto – The Further adventures of Lord Quas

After delivering one of the best albums of the millennium as half of Madvillain, Madlib obviously felt he had carte blanche to go over the deep end and that’s just what he did on this weird piece of psych-rap. There’s maybe 50 different musical pieces in this stew combining loops, vintage keyboards, rapping, scratching and pretty much anything else you can think of. Critics will claim the Quas voice is annoying and that it’s unfocused but I’d still rather hear this than your average indie-ground rapper. THC based album of the year.

4) The Clipse (Re-Up gang) – We got it for cheap vol 2

A mixtape in my top albums list? Yeah, mostly because the Clipse jacked every hot mainstream beat out this year and made it their bitch. While NO ONE gives a fuck about the other two guys, Pusha and Malice are pretty much the best coke dealers-turned-rappers out there today and this tape is a testament to that fact. Skip Yayo, Game, Mobb Deep, Common, Cassidy and even Juelz’s album: get this and get what counts. Besides, if they actually go back to dealing coke they might get caught before Hell Hath No Fury

5) Edan – Beauty and the Beast

Edan is one of those outsider kids who don’t really play with anyone else in the greater realm of rap. Sure there’s a Percy P guest spot and a couple of his peeps but this thing really doesn’t sound like anything else in rap right now and it’s all the better for it. As perfect a blend of 60’s psychdelia and Hiphop as you’re likely to get, Edan gets high points for creativity, technique and execution even if he could use a haircut and his interviews are little on the pretentious side. NOT nerd rap.

6) Cunninlynguists – A Piece of Strange

Seemingly their last release under this name (and before they hope to blow up), A Piece of Strange does the concept album thing well even if it lacks some of the humor and laissez faire of their previous releases. Their secret was probably evolving naturally over the course of several albums rather than trying to deliver a single self-important piece of work (we’re looking at you Tonedeff) out of nowhere. Kno’s beats and Deacon’s singing are the high points here and hopefully we’ll be hearing more of that in the next year as their production team picks up steam.

7) Lil Wayne – The Carter II

I’ll write up a separate section for southern Hiphop (cuz I’m rapper racist) but Wayne transcended that on account of his focus on lyrics, flow and spitting rather than coke, gangsta tales and club anthems. With a bunch of absolutely A-level songs, Wayne jumped way ahead in the young-rapper-race and ain’t no one doubting him no more. The only question left is if he’ll build on the boundary breaking Shooter to become the next Outkast or if he’ll stay in more grounded rapper territory. Either way looks good to me.

8) Dangerdoom – The Mouse and the Mask

I never reviewed this album because I was pretty conflicted: on one hand my mind says this is the laziest Doom album yet but on the other my gut says to lay back and enjoy it. Sure Dangermouse delivers a few “wannabe Dr Dre” beats and Doom delivers a bunch of guest-spot quality verses, but there’s also the brilliant stuff like El Chupa Nibre, Sofa King, The Mask, Old School, ATHF, Basket Case, Cross Hairs, Mince Meat, Vats of Urine and Space Hoes. The fact that I just listed 2/3rds of the album as brilliant explains its place here: even when he’s lazy, Doom’s just ill.

9) Sean Price – Monkey Bars

Sean Peeeeeeeeeee! The most honest rap album of the year, Sean Price went for broke on this one calling out rich rappers, his wife, his kids, the listeners, himself and pretty much anyone responsible for Ruck being the brokest rapper. While Buckshot struck out due to his over-reliance on 9th Wonder, Ruck perfectly chooses his selection to make for one great album. Besides, it’s not like the rest of NYC was doing much…

10) The Game – The Documentary

Dr Dre put together a great album. That pretty much sums it up. Gangsta pop at its best.

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