The Year 2010 in Review
Author: Mike Baber
It wasn't until I actually sat down to contemplate my top ten albums of 2010
that I realized just how difficult the task was. Some albums get better
with each listen, as it often takes time to truly understand the lyrical
depth and immense production value that goes into a release, while some
albums fizzle out and lose their appeal after a few months. Thus, it is
difficult to tell not only which ten albums will stand the test of time, but
also how they will rank against each other. Simply put, I feel that it is
impossible to single out one album as the best album of 2010 just yet.
Instead, I have eschewed rankings and come up with a list of ten albums that
stand out in a year full of big name releases and equally big flops (*cough*
"Rebirth" *cough*). And no thanks, I'll pass on Drake's "Thank Me Later,"
arguably the most anticipated release of the year, and instead go with these
Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Big Boi's first solo album does not disappoint, as the unique production
style that characterizes previous Outkast releases is present in full force
with Organized Noise all over the production credits. In a year when
mainstream rap has seemingly fallen into a rut, Big Boi distinguishes
himself from the pack and keeps things fresh with his always witty,
southern-style lyrics. And if "Shutterbug" isn't the catchiest song of the
year, I don't know what is.
Bun B Trill OG
Don't let guest appearances from the likes of T-Pain and Gucci Mane fool
you, Bun B keeps it real and remains the trillest rapper alive on his latest
studio album. Highlights include "Let Em Know," which sees the Texas emcee
team up with Houston-born producer DJ Premier, a match that Bun calls "a
long time coming." And what's not to like about verses from Pimp C and
Tupac yes, Tupac on "Right Now."
Freeway and Jake One Stimulus Package
Freeway's gruff delivery shines through on "Stimulus Package" over
old-school beats from Jake One, which feature lots of chopped up soul
samples and hard-hitting drums. Songs range from the particularly catchy
and upbeat "She Makes Me Feel Alright," which samples Rick James's hit "Mary
Jane," to the mournful "One Thing," which sees Freeway go toe to toe with
Raekwon. The Philly native goes hard from beginning to end and Jake One's
production never falters, making "Stimulus Package" a deep and well-balanced
Fresh Cut Collective Fresh Cut Collective
A few months ago, I sat down at my desk ready to review Fresh Cut
Collective's self-titled debut album, knowing absolutely nothing about the
group aside from the one-page biography that came with the CD. After just
one listen through, I was blown away. The seven-man hip-hop band from
Milwaukee brings an energy and passion to their music that makes it hard not
to vibe to the group's funky melodies and impressive lyricism, and I was
hard pressed to find any flaw with the album. Fresh Cut Collective can flat
out jam, and their debut remains one of the most underrated releases of 2010.
Game Brake Lights
As someone who has followed Game from day one, I was frustrated by the
numerous delays for "The R.E.D. Album," which was supposed to drop in 2010.
My disappointment was eased, though, by the release of his "Brake Lights"
mixtape, which proved to the hip-hop world that Game isn't on the decline.
While "Brake Lights" has a slightly more mainstream feel to it than his
previous albums, Game still comes with his raw, aggressive flow on tracks
such as "Hustlin'" and "That's the Way the Game Goes." In a day and age
where legends such as Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg are nearing the end of their
careers, "Brake Lights" is a much-needed boost for West Coast hip-hop.
Inspectah Deck Manifesto
Ask any Wu-Tang fan who the group's most underrated member is, and nine
times out of ten the answer will be Inspectah Deck. After tearing up "36
Chambers" and "Wu-Tang Forever," Deck never achieved the same mainstream
success as some of his Wu-Tang counterparts. 17 years later, though, INS
the Rebel shows he can still "bring the ruckus," even without a single RZA
beat on "Manifesto," and longtime fans will love tracks such as the
Alchemist-produced "The Champion" and Deck's collaboration with underground
emcee Planet Asia, "Serious Rappin'"
J. Cole Friday Night Lights
Jay-Z's prodigy continues to build anticipation for his upcoming debut album
in 2011 with his third official mixtape, and once again he comes through
with a stellar performance. If you are still sleeping on J. Cole, then you
need to get out from the rock you are living under and check out hip-hop's
next big sensation. Simply put, J. Cole is one of the most lyrically gifted
rappers of his generation, and "Friday Night Lights" sounds better than most
albums in today's hip-hop game.
Nappy Roots - The Pursuit of Nappyness
Looking for music for a summer cookout or a cruise down the highway? Look
no further than "The Pursuit of Nappyness." The Nappy Roots may not be the
most lyrically talented group, but there is something about their
bluegrass-influenced beats and laid back style of rhyming on their latest CD
that simply exudes good vibes. And even if you are not a Nappy Roots fan,
or even a southern rap fan, it's hard not to dig the mellow feel of the
nostalgic "Back Home."
Nas & Damien Marley Distant Relatives
I'll admit, I was both excited and skeptical when I heard that Nas would be
teaming up with Damien Marley for an album that blended elements of reggae
and hip-hop. Could two of the biggest names in their respective genres
combine forces to create an album without sacrificing any of their talents?
The answer is yes, and while the social commentary on "Distant Relatives" is
a bit much at times, the bottom line is that the album brings a fresh and
unique sound to hip-hop that can't be overlooked. And really, would you
expect anything less from QB's finest?
The Roots How I Got Over
The Roots are back once again with the same mellow jazz and soul vibes that
resonate throughout their previous releases. While the group has never
shied away from socio-political issues, "How I Got Over" sees Black Thought
take a more somber, contemplative look at the problems of modern society.
The only shortcoming: "How I Got Over" clocks in at under 45 minutes.
Luckily, this doesn't take away from the fact that The Roots' latest album
is one of the best listens of the year.
Originally posted: January 4, 2011