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MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
Happy Spring. Let's begin.
Producer Git Beats actually released Say Cheeze way back in January, but it would be a shame not to mention it at all. His supporting cast of MC's is deep and impressive: Goretex, Raekwon, Prince Po, and Rock are just some of the names that show up to rhyme over his grimy Staten Island beats. It's not surprising that he was able to assemble such a cast, given that he's been working at it since the early '90s. But if he's remained off your radar until now, give Git a chance.
Another January release was producer J. Cardim's mixtape, Your Favorite Rapper's Favorite Producer (For Dice Music Group). Hosted by DJ Envy, the guest list is deep: Lil' Wayne, Jae Miilz, Sheek Louch, Paul Wall, and Termanology are just a few of the MCs who put in time. How's it all sound? Well, Cardim is definitely a producer working the mainstream sound of the streets. Heavy on skittering snares and big synths, there's a confident streak evident here, even if you've heard it all before. It wold nice to see him experiment with some samples, although that's basically a dead art these days.
Cypress Hill's B-Real is rich, he's nasal, he's famous, he's sold millions of records, and earned the respect of fans and fellow rappers alike… so sure, it's time for a solo album. But Smoke N Mirrors (Duck Down) isn't exactly what the fans were expecting. First of all, he has way too many guests that don't add much to the whole experience, including (and especially) the icky r'n'b vocals from someone named Bo Roc. I guess label head Buckshot and Snoop do what they do and do it well, but Damian Marley (on the B-Real-produced reggae throwaway "Fire") and Young De, who's all over the album, aren't necessary. Overall, Smoke N Mirrors just feels too conservative, like B-Real didn't creatively achieve what he surely hoped for, in terms of beats or rhymes.
Besides basically inventing the art of turntablism and pioneering rap music, Grandmaster Flash has remained a constant and respected force of the genre. His new album, The Bridge (Strut Records) is a remarkable achievement compared to the current crop of radio-ready bullshit. Guest rappers include Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Mr. Cheeks, Snoop, and Big Daddy Kane, all of who sound invigorated. Tracks like "Shine All Day" and "Bounce Back" are highlights, but so is the international cast: Spain's Kase-O, Japan's Maccho, Senegal's Abass, and Sweden's Afasi are all featured on "We Speak Hip Hop" alongside KRS-1. The old man's still got it.
Bru Lei's new EP, Shroom Crumbs (Public School Records), is worth every one of its 18 minutes. DJ Przm provides a solid background of beats - case in point, the opening ode to New Balance sneakers, "574," and "Bad Reviews," which uses the same sample as Method Man's "Bring the Pain." As for the rhymes? Lei spits personal and deft about crushes on Jean Grae, his life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, and watching people get knocked out. I'm looking forward to hearing more, or at least seeing him on tour this April with Coolzey.
DOOM seems to have undergone a name change, from MF Doom, and found a new label - Lex Records - for his latest, Born Like This. I only have a sampler to judge this one on - and that's annoying - but so far so good. "Ballskin," produced by Jake One, and "That's That," produced by DOOM himself, are as good as anything off the Madvillain album. And "Cellz" features some doom (yeah, I said it) and gloom ala Charles Bukowski. But apparently there's some rehashing going on as well. "Angelz," featuring Ghostface, is at least three or four years old, and "Lightworks" reuses a Dilla beat that is just as dated. Dilla is a sorely missed master, but maybe it's time to move on and not continue to reuse his catalogue… Anyway, can't wait to hear the whole album. And labels, if you want proper reviews, send the whole album, damn it!
Xrabit + DMG$'s new one for Big Dada, Hello World, is the bastard child of The Cool Kids and UGK. Xrabit's beats are bleeping and teched out, while MCs Trak Bully and Coool Dundee wax poetic about hipsters, loving cheeks (butt, not face, dummy), and Thundercats… sorry, Thunderkats. This is a culture clash that mostly works, and sometimes doesn't - the MCs are from Texas, Xrabit is a German living in London. Fans of anything on Ninja Tune will go for this one.
Keelay & Zaire, two producers hailing from the Bay Area and Virginia respectively, have teamed up with a bunch of MCs, known and unknown, to prove there are still beats worthy of making. On Ridin' High (MYX Music Label), these guys definitely come from the Dilla/Alchemist production school, using deep bass and crisp snares, but not afraid to add a little tension and vintage sounds to the mix. Rasco, Planet Asia, Slo Mo, and Hassaan Mackey enhance "Cali 2 NY," while the under-utilized Saafir fortifies "I Used to Ride," a marching track that makes a strong statement…. "Gay-ass cowboys get killed on Brokeback Mountain"? Really, Saafir? Again with the homophobia?
Raydar Ellis and Quite Nyce, also a member of RADIx, have teamed up for Champs Vs. The League (Brick Records), produced by Ellis. This is good underground hip-hop, and the best thing about it are Ellis' beats - sometimes hard, sometimes smooth, always on point.
OK, that's all for now, so until next month… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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