If you’re a friend of mine on the Twitter, then you may have seen my tweet saying that I read and listened (podcast) to two top-10 lists recently and both had me download or purchase albums that I hadn’t heard yet. It was their glowing review of them that clicked and I thought to myself I should at least give these records a shot. Which is all artists usually ask of their music, formulate your own opinion despite what the pundits say. One of the 3 reasons why Chris and I run TECB is to put music we like out there for YOU to formulate your own opinion about it (the other 2 reasons? pulling mad chicks and making mad cakes.) If you disagree with either of us,
take a hike, that’s fine, but as long as you gave something a try to make your own decision on it, then that was incredibly hip-hop of you, and we thank you. Chris and I, for the most part, have vastly different tastes when it comes down to obscure artists. Mainstream and well-known Indie artists we tend to agree with one another about 75% of the time. Enough of a parody that it makes this shit house of a blog worth our time to create. Now before I get off on a soap-boxian tangent, here are my top-12 (12?!) hip-hop albums of 2011. This is my first go-round in the list department and if you missed Chris’, he took an alphabetical approach to 2011, here. My list isn’t in chronological order either, a further tactic to separate TECB from the copy-&-pasters you herbs call blogs. Bong!
(#5) Fortilive – I vs I
Back on January 16th I posted “Jim Kelly,” the lead single from Fortilive’s I vs I album. Both the group and DJbooth.net (where you can still download this project) consider this album a mixtape, but by conventional standards it’s an album. They put together tracks they had made over the years into one nice package and it certainly plays as such. If you’re not familiar with Fortilive, it’s a trio of two emcees, Slow-Mo and Mushmouf, and producer extraordinaire !llmind. Slo and Mush hail from Hawai’i originally and linked up with !llmind a few years ago on the UGHH.com forums. Fast forward to 2011, and they have an album together. The record touches on political issues, but they do it in a manner that doesn’t come off preachy, but comes off in a way that says; “this is what we have to live with, we need to make a fucking change.” !llmind’s production has a mainstream, almost club banger sound to it, but when it’s laced behind the hunger of Slo and Mush, it gives their music the same effect that converting your VHS collection to DVD does. It gives their message a new life, even if it didn’t need a new life in the first place. There are plenty of tracks that could be inspired by the Occupy Movements even though it came out 7 months prior. I vs I is well worth your time.
(#2) Blueprint – Adventures in Counter-Culture
Blueprint is criminally slept on. Not to say he has no following, he does, it’s quite big. But it should be a huge following. It should be bigger than most. He’s no short of a musical genius, and I don’t throw that claim around lightly. He’s the rare talent that is equally as nice on the mic as he is on the MPC. Your Black Milks, J. Dillas, Madlibs, Oh Nos, Alchemists, Dr. Dres, and countless other dual purpose artists always have one strength greater than another. Print, to me, is above everyone I just mentioned because he’s so good at both. He’s created two concept albums that are entire samples of classic rock and funk albums, using Parliment Funkadelic and The Who as inspiration. His 1988 album is timeless and is one of those records I wish more people would talk about as being great. Same goes for Adventures in Counter-Culture. This was the only album in 2011, to me, that lived up to and surpassed it’s lofty expectations, put on by myself. Random Axe, Smif-N-Wessun, and Pharoahe Monch were touted as the second, third, and fourth coming of Christ before they were released and all, have there good parts but overall disappointed me. In waves. Monumental, by Smif-N-Wessun and Pete Rock, is almost un-listenable. In any event, Adventures in Counter-Culture has Blueprint singing on multiple hooks and has Auto-tune in a couple songs, which normally would send me running for the hills. But, back to my genius comment, he does it in a way where not only does it work for the song/album, it shows his range as an artist, his abilities as a musician, his open mindedness towards fads in music that have been beaten to the ground, and shows he’s not scared to bend his genre a little. Us TECBers have been following Print since the days of ScribbleJam and it’s nice to watch someone work so hard and produce music that’s so good. Incredibly good. An album that you don’t necessarily need to be in any particular mood for, it’ll work where ever, whenever. Adventures in Counter-Culture has some social agendas and political connotations, but is still 100% hip-hop. Grab this. Grab this now.
(#6) Chachi – In Dust Real Evolution
I’m never embarrassed when I tell people I co-own and operate a hip-hop blog. But hip-hop still has a stigma in some people’s minds that it’s nothing but crass, Uncle Luke booty shaking, bass crazy kicking smut. Clearly, if you dive into the hip-hop culture as deep as we have here at TECB, one can see the different layers and sub-genres we have to sift through. And it’s a good thing. I think these same laypersons would have a tough time believing there are rap albums that can resonate with a skinny, pale, white kid from an upper middle class home in the sticks, who had, and still has, both parents and opportunities a bundle. That’s where Chachi Carvahlo comes in. In Dust Real Evolution not only made my eyes water upon my first listen, but always makes me want to call my parents and say hi whenever any of the tracks come up on a shuffle mix. In Dust Real Evolution is a story told by Chach to his listeners about the last few memories he has of his pops, who passed away the previous year after a bout with cancer. Both a close uncle of mine and my own father had been diagnosed and subsequently surgically removed of cancer in 2011. So Chachi’s monologues after each track explaining what his father was like and the trials he was going through while getting chemo treatment are more than heart wrenching, they are truths that can hit home to most people in our modern world. I’ve had two very close friends lose their fathers in my short 27 years on this earth. And I have met two more people this past year who have recently lost their fathers or have come dangerously close to, and the pain is nothing anyone can console or say the right thing to help ease. The pain and anguish in Chachi’s voice in most of the songs in In Dust Real Evolution are all too familiar, but he comes out a stronger person after living through his fathers last days. “Never Say Never” and “Message Clear” are easily the best two tracks, but the album as whole plays perfectly top to bottom and it’s an amazing motivational tool for someone who is down and out. “Car Keys” is an eerily good track too, as it’s a story of someone who destroys themselves with booze and insists on driving home. Something Rhode Islanders do too much as a whole. I recommend it to anyone who likes music, likes hip-hop, has parents, or has a pulse. This is one of the best albums of 2011. Grab yours here.
(#11) Greneberg – Greneberg
Following up their 2010 release Gutter Water, the duo known as Gangrene enlisted Roc Marciano to do an EP entitled Greneberg. Greneberg starts off right where Gutter Water left off, and even though it’s just an EP, the 7-track album holds enough weight to be one of the best releases of 2011. Alchemist and Oh No don’t hit the mic as much as they did last year and leave most the word play to Roc. I slept on Roc for a while. He was the quintessential emcee’s emcee. He’s not too dissimilar from the Random Axe stalwarts, as he’s a gully, punchline wordsmith. The production on Greneberg is what makes it so great. I’d love to see how both ALC and Oh No get together to make one beat. Whatever their formula is, each track is similar enough that the dark, ominous sound is present all the way through but different enough where you think it’s a Kanye West album. This EP is what Random Axe was supposed to be, really good production and really good rhymes. Where Random Axe faltered for me, Greneberg excelled. And if it’s true that Roc Marciano is, in fact, the 4th official member of Random Axe going forward, that alone has garnered my purchase whenever their follow-up is out. Not to mention if a full length Greneberg album ever drops. Goodness.
(#8) Vast Aire – OX 2010: a street odyssey
Vast Aire’s highly anticipated debut with Man Bites Dog Records had been pushed back more than. It was initially supposed to be released in 2010, hence the name, and didn’t make it to fruition until June of 2011. After an extremely corny intro, OX 2010: a street odyssey gets down to business with “Nomad,” and doesn’t quit until the album finishes out. I was talking about Vast just the other day, about how he’s an acquired taste. Supposedly, some of his fans don’t like anything he’s done since Cannibal Ox. I find that preposterous. I think some of his best work was on his album with Might Mi, The Best Damn Rap Show. And not to mention his work with Mighty Joseph on Empire State, which I hold in almost as high regard as The Cold Vein. Does he need the back-up from another emcee to succeed? I don’t think so, but he isn’t shy about having guests on his albums and OX 2010 is no different. Vast employs Karniege, Cappadonna, Double A.B., Kenyata Black, Guilty Simpson, Raekwon, and Vordul Mega. The last two on a track together, “Thor’s Hammer,” which is as dope as it sounds. The production on the album as a whole is completely on point. Kount Fif is responsible for a few tracks and I dig what dude has to offer, this being the first of his work I’ve been able to hear. Here is the aforementioned Kount Fif’s work on “I Don’t Care” with Cappadonna. The track is dope, even though Cappuccino the Great kind of phones his verse in, the beat, the sample, and Vast more than save it. Vast makes albums that are fun to listen to, he’s got a knack of picking good production, makes references to comic books, video games, and Kung-Fu. I’m not seeing any negatives.
(#3) PremRock & Willie Green – PremRock & Willie Green
Willie Green is easily one of my most important finds of the last two years or so. He’s been making music much longer than that, but ever since Chris and I trimmed the fat on TECB and focused solely on hip-hop (we used to post about some nonsense) there hasn’t been a producer that I immediately found everything they did to be 100% right up my musical alley. PremRock strikes me as a guy who is just like any of us, admittedly most artists are just regular people, but Prem rhymes about real things in his real life and comes off as … well, real. This album is of the throw back mold, one emcee, one producer, making tracks together to pander to the real hip-hop fans. Guests were kept to a relative minimum, C-Rayz Walz and Soul Kahn appear on the same track, “It Had to Be Me,” and Has-Lo and Open Mike Eagle each are on a track. DJ Addikt comes in and makes some filthy scratches on a couple of tracks, but other than that, it’s Prem and Willie Green as a duo, making music as one. There is a vast range of tracks on this self titled album, “The Sound” gets deep about drug use and watching your youth disappear, “Move” is on some real deep shit, battling with the decisions of abortion and the effect on anyone involved,”Kill Your Idols,” which is a way of life PremRock recommends we all live by, which is do better than the people you look up to rather than just look up to them, and then there’s “Johnny Rotten,” a fast paced, anger infused banger aimed at the dick riders, haters, and all around wack human beings. “Johnny Rotten” has the crispiest beat on the whole album, and as PremRock says, it’s his Ma Dukes favorite track. I’m going to have to concur with Ma Premonition. Cop your own version at iTunes and tell them TECB sent ya.
(#4) IV the Polymath – New Vs Old
It took a few years before I would appreciate the craft of purely instrumental albums. Chris had been telling me about how nice certain cats were, and I agreed, but I thought I needed lyrical content to help stimulate my medulla oblongata. I feel like a dult that I never dived into albums of this hip-hop sub genre sooner, because I’m crazy late to a lot of real good albums. That didn’t happen in 2011 however, as I had the opportunity to download and purchase a few really dope projects. And far and away the best instrumental album and one of the best albums period of 2011, is IV the Polymath’s New Vs Old. I’ve talked at length about the kid’s production skills. He uses a plethora of live instrumentation with the right touch of samples. This 18-track album is the perfect meld of hip-hop meets jazz meets funk meets fuck you and your multi-genre comparisons. Just take the title track for example :
A little Persian, a little jazzy, a little boom-bap, and 100% fresh and original. Grab yourself a copy post-haste, and bask in some tunes. Get it here.
(#9) Meta P – Edison’ Ink
Edison’s Ink surpassed my expectations and is easily one of the best albums to come out this past year. The entire project from lyrics, concepts, production, and even skits (“Yo Bro-hondo!”), is done better than albums put out by the supposed mainstream. After the two intro tracks the album get’s into it fast with a hunger filled track called “Don’t Come Round Here No More” that more-or-less sets the tone for the rest of the album. I said on Twitter not too long ago that Meta P has angry raps and I have angry tweets, and even though I said that with a hint of tongue-in-cheek, there certainly a level of truth. Meta has a chip on his shoulder, seemingly from seeing less talented cats making a name for themselves with mediocrity, that he harnessed into Edison’s Ink in a “fuck-you” fashion, but instead of coming out whiny and irritable, like my tweet game, it comes off as Meta P isn’t to be taken lightly. Run-on sentences aside, Edison’s Ink has everything from a concept song “Dead Man’s Party” that has the listener in a horror movie, “People Fall” where Meta talks about some deep-rooted shit that he grew up with and had to battle, “RI Reds” which we’ve promoted heavily here at TECB, a posse slash of epic proportions, and the title track which is quintessential Meta P where he flexes his story telling ability mixed with a warning label of lyrics, recommending to all he’s not stable. The production on the album is done by 8th (8th Wundah) and cuts throughout are done by Baltimore’s DJ Remedy. Grab your copy here. Now.
(#12) Juan Deuce & Falside – The Mechanics EP
It seemed like once a month we were hearing from some combination of Juan and Fal. Either tracks or videos, or in Falside’s case, beat tapes, and it wasn’t a bad thing as these two work well together and are seemingly in the lab 24/7. The highly anticipated Mechanics EP finally dropped, and even though it’s just 7-tracks deep, it’s easily an original sound that you’d be hard pressed to hear ever again. Juan’s style melds well with Falside’s esoteric production and this EP gives us a look into their minds while it primes us as listeners for their full length album. “Hey DJ” is a fun-loving track and “Guts” is one of the duo’s best work, but my favorite track is the title track, “Mechanics,” which shows off Juan’s depth as an emcee as he switches up his style a few times in the song and but also, and to me more importantly, shows off his fierce, heated side. Sprinkle in some M.O.P. samples and Jaysonic from Time Machine and you have “Forecast” another dope track that keeps Falside’s moniker as The Creative Capital Beatsmith alive. This project is still available for free and by all means scoop it up (here) before it’s too late.
(#10) Dead Hand – Contemplations of Aborting Damien
The duo of Carl Kavorkian and Rummage are known as Dead Hand. Their album Contemplations of Aborting Damien had an immediate impression on me upon my first listen. I had a quick review of it when it initially dropped where I said it wasn’t a rock-rap hybrid but there are plenty of guitar samples and a real heavy metal mentality but the overall sound is just, dark hip-hop that makes you want to turn the lights on and have “9-1″ already pressed on your phone with your fingering hovering over the second “1.” The 9-track album is available for free over at Carl Kavorkian’s Bandcamp page and is one of a few absolutely free albums that have made my list. And that has 100% no bearing on my rankings, but goes to show that good music is readily available for your listening pleasure. Hip-hop ain’t dead and fuck you if you think so. The folks that keep saying that are sadistic and in denial and shouldn’t be listening to music anyway, they should be in a rubber room, tied up and fed lunch through a slot under their door.
(#7) DCK VNNGT – MRDR DTH KLL
DCK VNNGT is a late entry as they just dropped MRDR DTH KLL in December. My review of the album had described the duo’s sound as organized madness. I should have emphasized the organized part, as the album is put together perfectly and is along the same dark, stormy, lines as releases from Eyes and Teeth, Dead Hand and Aeon Grey from this year. DCK VNNGT is part of the progressive hip-hop label Uncommon Records out of New York, but they hail from the cold, wet, hipster infused Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon. Their 8-track EP is just a sampling into the minds of YunSloth and Bloodmoney and I’m impatiently waiting their full length follow-up which presumably will be on my 2012 list. ”Bombs not rations … yeah that just happened…” :
Another EP that made my list and another free project, make dope music regardless of price and much like ghost-baseball-players-in-middle-American-cornfields, they will come.
(#1) Aeon Grey/Sabicas – Paper Cranes
I need to first apologize to Aeon Grey, as I had an extreme late pass on this album, and I was never able to get to posting about it. It dropped this past summer and is easily one of the dopest releases of this past year. Aeon Grey, originally from the middle states that have right angles for borders (Iowa to be exact,)and Sabicas have the best description of an album I’ve ever read and after multiple listens it certainly is one of the most accurate descriptions as well:
Paper Cranes was conceived by Sabicas and Aeon Grey while sitting in a half empty apartment in July of 2010. The idea was to create an album somewhat spontaneously using beats crafted of just simple loops and drums, and stream of conscious lyrics. Sometimes letting the pieces fall randomly actually creates the most honest representation of intention. Nothing is forced, nothing is touched up and nothing is held back. Nothing just… Is.
The album is on the darker sounding sound, and I’m not sure if it was the life changes that I have been going through myself or not, but some of my favorite albums this year have an eerie, dark, Dexter’s dark passenger-esque feel to it. Listen to this track and try not to reflect on some deep shit. Go ahead, I’ll wait. . .
That’s “Cessation.” Not only does it have the truest hook I’ve heard in this past calendar year, but Aeon speaks on some things that I’ve thought and spoke on and does it in a way that doesn’t come off as “hippie bullshit liberal propaganda” as some fat bureaucratic folk might initially assume. There’s been word that Aeon is sitting on some Black Tokyo tracks which means he might be another repeat offender for next years list. Download this release as soon as possible, it’s part of the “name your price” price bracket so dig deep in your couch cushions and support the dude with as much as you can. If you’re still on the fence, there’s another track that I need you to hear, and not only is it the dustiest drum loop on the album, it has the dopest name “Echo Chamber” :
Seriously. Go grab this album. Right now.
It was a real good year for rap music. This top-12 wasn’t done by any scientific algorithm and any number of these albums could be flip-flopped for one another. I want to shout out some honorable mentions, Eyes & Teeth, his albums this year were extremely dope and an interesting change-up, the compilations from Maxx Reebo and Backwoodz Studioz were hard to leave off, MC Eleven’s mix-tape is dope, the two pop-up albums from Uncommon Records this year, Adam Warlock’s angry, The Mars Volta inspired Dark Weapons, Praverb The Wyse’s Professional Hobbyist should be had by everyone, IV the Polymath’s work as Nu1ce and I.Deals both easily could be added to this list, and not to mention Black-Tokyo who released more EPs this year then some cats produce their whole careers. He even went as far as asking for his fans/friends ideas on what they wanted to hear chopped up and sampled on his Good Clean Filth series. Dirt E. Dutch had a dope year, being part of three releases, Dr. Khil’s beat tape could make the most talent-less emcee sound dope and I cannot wait for his album with North Carolina emcee Mallz. LMNO, Random Axe, Pharoahe Monch, the aforementioned Mallz, Big K.R.I.T., Quelle Chris, Danny Brown, and Sacramento’s Noah all put out real dope music this year. If it’s any indication of where hip-hop, mainly indie and progressive hip-hop, is heading, we should have an equally as good, if not better 2012. We wish you health and happiness this year and we appreciate every reader, every re-tweeter, every commenter, every subscriber, and every believer. Omitting corny, rhyming-last lines will be on next year’s resolutions, I promise.
Filed under: 401 Gettin' It Done, Album Talk/Review, CA All Day, Events, For All The Broke Willies, Hip-Hop, Instrumental, Music | Tagged: !LLMIND, "RI Reds", 1988, 2011, 2011 Best of, 2012, 8th, 8th Wundah, Adventures in Counter-Culture, Aeon Grey, Alchemist, Blueprint, Cannibal Ox, Carl Kavorkian, Central Standard, Chachi, Chachi Carvalho, Contemplations of Aborting Damien, DCK VNNGT, Dead Hand, DJ Remedy, Edison's Ink, Falside, Falside and Juan Deuce, Fortilive, Gangrene, Greneberg, Gutter Water, Hawaii Hip Hop, Hip-Hop, I vs I, Illmind, In Dust Real Revolution, Instrumentals, Isolated Wax Records, IV the Polymath, Jim Kelly, Juan Deuce, Kount Fif, Meta P, Meta Physics, MRDR DTH KLL, Mushmouf, New Vs Old, OH NO, Ohio Hip Hop, Ox 2010: A Street Odyssey, Paper Cranes, Polymath Records, PremRock, PremRock & Willie Green, Printmatic, rap, Rappity Rap Rap, Rhode Island Hip-Hop, Roc Marciano, Rummage, Sabicas, Slo-Mo, The Mechanics EP, top-10 Albums of 2011, Uncommon Records, Vast Aire, Willie Green | 3 Comments »