What is there to say about the impact of rap music in 2009? Not much. A few adjectives to describe my attitude towards the releases that came out would be “uninspired,” “unimpressed,” or maybe just “indifferent.” It’s a terrible word. It gives the impression that I just don’t care anymore but I promise you that’s not the case.
Life scares me when the Black Eyed Peas, in their current mutated form, is one of the highest selling albums of the rap classification. But I guess Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift sold boatloads too so sales have never meant much. Kanye West publicly made an ass of himself AGAIN. Gucci Mane broke through to the mainstream, which boggles me though I originally thought the same of Young Jeezy and have since altered my negative opinion. Most albums were good enough to keep my head nodding, but not good enough for multiple listens. Then, as in years past, there were numerous albums that I was hoping for that never saw the light of day (Saigon, Lupe, Dr. Dre???). This is a constant reality in the industry that saddens me every time these year in reviews come down the pipeline.
As always, there were a few bright moments in rap music this year. Without further ado, here are the lists:
Top 10 Rap Albums
Trife Diesel “Better Late Than Never”
Ghostface’s protégé finally gets a proper debut. The title suggests exactly my sentiment after hearing the Staten Island emcee’s banging album. This album is full of gritty street-wise tracks and has been extremely overlooked.
Chali 2na “Fish Outta Water”
Chali 2na was never my favorite emcee in Jurassic 5 but his deep baritone voice is certainly the most identifiable. I wasn’t expecting much of this solo joint, especially since J5 relies heavily on harmonies when they’re at their best but 2na definitely comes correct with the accompaniment of a couple good guests and a slew of laid back vibes. Best songs: “Don’t Stop” and “Graff Time”
Sene & Blu “A Day Late & a Dollar Short”
Blu already came in under the radar with last year’s release along with Exile. This marriage is so sweet people are going to start thinking he’s a polygamist. The melodic backdrops and effortlessly cool rhymes make this feel like this era’s Blackstar. Best songs: “QuarterWaterSupporter” and “Whybother?”
Slim Thug “Boss of All Bosses”
Yeah, THAT Slim Thug. Those backpackers out there who have been grooving to Sene & Blu’s album (mentioned above) are probably laughing at the thought of actually ranking Slim ahead of such lyricists, but the game also comes down to entertainment value and Thug delivers in spades. This, I believe, is the Slim Thug reaching his highest potential and releasing an album that does what it intends to…bangs from start to finish. Best tracks: “I’m Back” and “Thug”
KRS-One & Buckshot “Survival Skills”
This is another CD that I had no interest in until Rapreviews.com’s very own Flash gave it a coveted 10 out of 10 perfect rating. While I wouldn’t go that far, it is a hot album without a doubt. KRS-One had gone too far with his Professor image at times and had me feeling like I was being lectured. It is back to business with “Survival Skills” and I will never again dismiss a release from him again. Best songs: “Survival Skills” and “Oh Really”
Souls of Mischief “Montezuma’s Revenge”
What year is it again? Souls of Mischief reemerges with their best album since the classic “’93 ‘Til Infinity.” You gotta expect the best when you have Domino and Prince Paul on the boards. Best songs “Tour Stories” and “Dead Man Walking”
Wale “Attention Deficit”
The DC emcee was brewing this release for some time before it finally was released. That is better than most up and comers that simply disappear. Rapreviews editorial on this album was lukewarm at best. I can understand the concern. The LP did not immediately astound me but it lingered around in the background as I was cruising around and before I knew it I was smitten. Best Songs: “Mirrors” and “Pretty Girls”
Raekwon “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II”
As with Chali 2na with Jurassic 5, Raekwon has never been my favorite member of Wu-Tang. Save for his classic debut solo, I’ve always found Raekwon a bit boring compared to some of the others. This is one of the very few times that a “sequel” album actually deserves to bare the name of its predecessor. At 21 tracks deep, there are a few fillers but nothing that kills the mood or detracts from the album as a whole. Best songs: “House of Flying Daggers” and “New Wu”
Kid Cudi “Man on the Moon: The End of Day”
One music reviewer referred to this album as hip-hop’s “Dark Side of the Moon” which is a very intriguing comparison. It does have that kind of trippy and experimental ambiance that Pink Floyd’s classic did. Strange that I don’t think that Kudi is that great of a lyricist nor do I think he has that great of a flow, but somehow this album is completely engulfing. There are a few spotty moments but the moments of brilliance are bliss indeed. Best Songs “Make Her Say” and “Pursuit of Happiness”
This is the supergroup to end all supergroups. All four emcees that assemble Slaughterhouse are stellar on their own but when you combine them it’s a perfect concoction. The best part about this album is that they stay true to their craft of making raw hip-hop music. Royce da 5’9, Joell Ortiz, Crooked I, and Joe Budden have created a movement that has rap fans and internet fan boys buzzing…for good reason. Best songs: “Sound Off” and “The One”
Snowgoons “Trojan Horse”, Z-Ro “Cocaine”, Brother Ali “US”, Sapient “Much More”, Bekay “Hunger Pains”, BK-One “Radio Do Canibal”, East Flatbush Project “First Born Overdue”, D.Black “Ali’Yah”, Cormega “Born and Raised”, M.O.P. “Foundation”, Royce Da 5’9 “Street Hop”, Finale “A Pipe Dream and a Promise”, Toki Wright “A Different Mirror” Tanya Morgan “Brooklynati”, Rick Ross “Deeper Than Rap” and Jadakiss “Tha Last Kiss”
When this was first released people immediately started saying that it is Eminem back to form. Not so fast. Eminem still raps in his high-pitched cartoon voice that has made him annoying over more recent years. It’s a helluva lot better than “Encore” but it still pales to his first two major studio albums.
50 Cent “Before I Self Destruct”
We have the same problem with 50’s album as we did with Eminem’s. It has a couple of bangers but sadly falls short of the impossibly high bar he set with “GRODT.” Moreover, the chipmunk-mouthed emcee still pines for radio friendly tracks as opposed to the raw street cuts that the real fans want.
Jay-Z “The Blueprint 3”
Aside from the singles that have already raped the airwaves there isn’t much else to listen to on the Blueprint 3. It’s closer to “Kingdom Come” status, or worse.
Drake “So Far Gone EP”
It’s an EP and to be quite honest the songs on there aren’t so bad, but they’re not so great either. So many people hyped this Canadian emcee to the point that I was exuberant over this disc. I found out that he is just decent and gets more annoying over time. T-Pain does Auto-Tune better. Kanye might do Auto-Tune better. And I don’t like Auto-Tune.
Mos Def “The Ecstatic”
I’ve seen “Ecstatic” on the top of some top of 2009 lists. There are a few moments that suggest that Mos can reaffirm his status in the hip-hop game but as a whole this album falls on deaf ears.
Rakim “The Seventh Seal”
It’s been a long time since Rakim has released a really stellar album so I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps the rumors of the songs from the scrapped Aftermath project hyped me up too much. It’s another alright album that will not withstand the test of time.
Clipse “Til the Casket Drops”
Clipse have lost a step with this one. That’s what happens when you have two classics, or at least near classics.
Most Underrated Album of the Year:
Busta Rhymes “Back On My B.S.”
Busta created a paint-by-numbers rap album that aims purely for commercial appeal. Ironically this album did quite poorly in terms of spins and by most reviewers. The thing is the beats are knocking and Busta is still better than your favorite rapper. Typical of a Busta album there are throwaways but he really hits the nail on the head on a couple of joints. Definitely worth peeping.
There you have it. My year in review for rap in 2009. The issue I had with 2009 was that it was not the year it could have been. Major releases seemed like they had just enough quality control to get by. Here’s to 2010!