Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Hip Hop of 2011

Happy 'End of 2011' everyone. It's been a long, trying year for me. Things are always better than they could be though. This is a list of the music (released this year) that served as my life's soundtrack.

Because the line between albums, EPs, and mixtapes has been further blurred in Hip Hop, I just put together a list of my top 25 favorite projects of the year, an honorable mention list for other projects I recommend, and a list of some of my favorite songs (which I have conveniently included a link for, if you're interested). I try not to be too negative on here anymore, as it's much more productive to talk about the things I like. But, there are a few disappointments that I felt I had to mention as well.

Try not to take the order too seriously. Good is good. But, please feel free to agree or disagree (if you dare. Ha!). And, do what you can to support the artists you like. See ya in 2012.

Top 25 Projects
The Roots - Undun
Talib Kweli - Gutter Rainbows
9th Wonder - The Wonder Years
Money Making Jam Boys mixtape
Mohammad Dangerfield
Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4Eva mixtape
Atmosphere - The Family Sign
Pharoahe Monch - W.A.R.
Zion I & The Grouch - Heroes in the Healing of a Nation
Skyzoo - The Great Debater
Jean Grae - Cookies or Comas mixtape
Jermiside - Live & Let Live
Kendrick Lamar - Section 80
eLZhi - Elmatic
Cunninlynguists - Oneirology
Fresh Daily - The Quiet Life
Random Axe
DJ JS-1 - No One Cares
Focus - Music of the Misinterpreted
Pete Rock & Smif N Wessun - Monumental
Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown - Daily Bread
Evidence - Cats & Dogs
Phonte - Charity Starts at Home
Tanya Morgan - You & What Army EP
J-Live - S.P.T.A.

Other Notables (25 More Ha!)
Consequence - MOD 2
MC Esoteric - Boston Pharaoh
Fashawn - Higher Learning 2
Malcolm & Martin - Life Doesn't Frighten Me
80 Blocks From Tiffany's mixtape
Edo G. - A Face in the Crowd
Fly Union - TGTC
One Be Lo - Laborhood 1
Outasight - Figure 8 EP
Astronote - Weapon of the Future
The Doppelgangaz - Lone Sharks
Bad Meets Evil
STS - The Illustrious (STS is GOLD)
Casual - The Hierophant
Apathy - Honkey Kong
Rapper Big Pooh - Dirty Pretty Things/Fat Boy Fresh Vol. 1 mixtape
yU - The Earn
A-Plus - Pepper Spray
The Away Team - Scars & Stripes
Torae - For The Record
Strange Fruit Project - A Dreamer's Journey
The Black Keys - El Camino
Self Scientific - Songs of the Blackhearted EP
Murs & Ski Beatz - Love & Rockets Vol. 1
M.O.P & Snowgoons - Sparta 

Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told - This album got a love, but I think it's bullshit. You'd think after how ever many years it took to get this out he would've come with an undeniable classic. But, I'm denying it. The whole thing sounded thrown together to me, and was overall boring.

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers - Give me a fucking break.

Watch The Throne - No doubt this album was a defining one of 2011. There is some good material on it, but lyrically I think it fell way short of expectations. Plus, "Lift Off" and "Made in America" are two of the worst songs I've heard all year by any artist.

Some Favorite Songs
"25th Hour" - Reks (prod. by DJ Premier)
"AfriKingStyle" - Spec Boogie
"Back to Back" - Fresh Daily
"Beautifully Bad" - Idle Warship
"Black Hand Side" - Pharoahe Monch f/ Styles P. & Phonte
"Chewbacca" - Random Axe f/ Roc Marciano
"Dance Pants" - Recess f/ Donwill
"Daydreams" - Green Street f/ Donwill
"Designer Drugs" - Skyzoo
"Distractions" - Talib Kweli
"Dreamin' - Big K.R.I.T.
"Epic Salutations" - Murs & Ski Beatz
"Fake I.D." - Consequence f. Q-Tip, Large Professor, & Havoc
"Fast Lane" - Edo G. (prod. by DJ Premier)
"For Certain" - Oddisee f/ Diamond District
"I Used to be Vegan" - Zion I & The Grouch
"Kidnap Your Boyfriend" - George Watsky
"Make Some Noise" - Beastie Boys
"I-10" - Murs & Whole Wheat Bread
"One Time" - Rapsody f/ Tab One, Charlie Smarts & Phonte
"Palin/Vick" - MC Esoteric
"Put Some Money On It Remix" - Slaughterhouse f/ The Lox
"R.I.P." - Jean Grae f/ Style P. & Talib Kweli
"Shady 2.0 BET Cypher" - Yelawolf, Slaughterhouse, & Eminem
"The Times" - Apollo Brown f/ Oddisee
"Whatever That's Mine" - Tanya Morgan
"You Don't Like It (So What)" - Jean Grae

Link: Favorite Songs of 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hasan Salaam - Music Is My Weapon EP

After the greatness that was the Mohammad Dangerfield project earlier this year (read about it HERE), I think it's safe to say that my ears are open to anything Hasan Salaam &/or Rugged N Raw are a part of. This especially goes to a philanthropic project aimed at helping the world through music

Salaam recently put out an EP titled Music Is My Weapon which you can purchase on his website Though the title is much more than a metaphor in this case. Instead of explaining the project here, click the video below and hear it from Salaam himself.

Overall, I like the EP.  It's 9 tracks deep, and most are pretty good. My favorite would probably have to be "Shining" which features Salaam alongside Steele (of Smif 'N' Wessun), Reef The Lost Cause, and Chace Infinite (the lyrical half of Self Scientific). My least favorite may have to be a track most others seem to like, "AK-47", if for nothing else than its all-too-familiar subject matter. The personification of a gun is about as original in Hip Hop as the personification of Hip Hop itself (as a female), and I'm fucking tired of it.

Listen to a preview on his website or YouTube and support his cause for under $10. Also, since 100% of proceeds from this album go to the village in Africa, consider picking up the MoDanger album as well, and put some well-deserved money in Salaam's pocket. Good Hip Hop needs to be supported.

Murs - "'67 Cutlass"

Have you heard Murs' joint project with Ski Beatz, Love & Rockets Vol. 1, yet? If not, I suggest you check it out (as well as Murs' back catalog if you're not familiar - Ski's too, for that matter).

Since becoming aware of him through his first collaboration with 9th Wonder, Murs has quickly climbed into my favorite MCs list. Here is a video he put online recently for one of the tracks off of Love & Rockets.

"'67 Cutlass" was descriptive enough to paint a clear picture without visuals, but this video, with animated additions, really succeeds at adding some humor to the song.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jingle Fucking Bells

Well, would you check these two fucking weirdos out?

For the xmas season, Jean Grae & Mela Machinko team up as the Hellpit Faeries to spread some holiday cheer with a FreEp. And, to top it off they shot this video "It's the Most Fucking Wonderful Time of the Year" with an iPhone. Merry Muthaphuckin' Xmas to all!!!

It's The Most Fucking Wonderful Time - Hellpit Faeries from W.A.R. Media on Vimeo.

Jingle Fucking Bells FreEp

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Common Premiers Video On AMC

After about two listens, I can say that I like the new Common album, The Dreamer, The Believer. It's definitely an improvement over the last two he put out. I wouldn't say he's going back to his roots or anything like that. The Common of old seems to be gone. Well, maybe just with the overall sound, not so much the lyrical content or approach.

That's okay with me though. He had classics, sure. But, if I want that I can listen to those albums. There's no need to repeat it. I like when artists grow and try new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But, the risk is worth it. The risk is what can end producing something new that works.

I finally watched this past week's episode of Hell on Wheels on AMC, which Common has a major role in. I like the show. Though I thought it was a big mistake for Common to premier (a sneak peak of) his new music video for "Celebrate" right after it ended. To me, it kind of hurt the integrity of the show, and of Common as an actor.

Hell on Wheels after all is not The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (remember when they premiered the video for "Summertime" after that show?). It is a period piece taking place in the mid 19th Century just after the Civil War. The audience spends an hour sinking into that reality only to be jolted out of it, out of the realness of the characters, when Common presents himself in a tuxedo at a present day party scene.

If he wants to be taken seriously as an actor, on AMC, he should just act. There's no need to push the music on people. I think his people probably thought it would be good for him to reach out to the audience of the show who may not know his music. But, this is forced. Just branching out with the acting gets Common's name and image out to these new audiences. After putting himself out there though, it would have been wiser to sit back and let the audience come to him.

All that said, "Celebrate" is a nice song and video, and a good choice for a single. Drop me a line here or on Twitter and let me know what you think.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Undun - Short Film

Directed by Clifton Bell, this video offers us a visual interpretation of 4 songs from The Roots' new album Undun. While the story is told backwards on the album, this film depicts the events chronologically. I'm looking forward to the possibility of a full movie for the entire album eventually...this is a good teaser though.

The more I listen to Undun the more I enjoy it. The story, at first, wasn't completely clear to me. But, it wasn't needed. The songs really have the ability to stand on their own without their larger concept attached. This makes it all the more impressive that The Roots were able to weave in a story. And, it's not just the verses from Black Thought and co. The band's music is thematic in and of itself, and adds to the richness of the story as it plays out.

Definitely take a listen to Undun if you haven't yet. The Roots seem to get better as time goes on, and this album is no exception. They're trying new things and challenging themselves with their approach to music, and are continually producing the kind of work that sets them apart from the rest as the premier band and torch carrier for hip hop music.

The Roots - UNDUN from The Ghettonerd Company, LLC on Vimeo.