The Year 2010 in Review
Author: Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
I gave 2007 a 4.5 out of 10; 2008 received a 7.5; 2009 got an 8.0... How did 2010 fare? Well, I'm going to give it a generous 8.5 – close to classic, but no cigar. Regardless of everything, this has been the most enjoyable year in hip hop since 2006. A slew of excellent albums, comebacks, debuts and interesting new twists. Yes, there were a lot of disappointments, but for once I didn't have to really think too deeply on the whole Top 10, or stretch it out with filler... That's not to say it was perfect, or lived up to the hype. In particular, it must be said, Young Money artists sold a lot but disappointed: Drake and Nicki Minaj both dropped average and somewhat half-assed albums; Lil Wayne was incarcerated for most of the year, but "Rebirth" was shocking and his latest effort was fun but rushed. If Weezy's latest tune, "Six Foot Seven," is anything to go by, though, "Tha Carter IV" could end up wiping all our fears away: it's a brilliant song.
Am I looking forward to 2011? Yes, without a doubt. The best thing that the internet has done is giving a whole bunch of lazy rappers a much-needed kick up the backside. Their work ethic has HAD to improve, or they will simply drown. Whilst that does create a large quantity, at least quality is back on the map: if your shit ain't hot, it will NOT sell. The game has changed, but at least the underground – which, let's face it, RapReviews supports like no other – has consistently improved. Let's put this shit in CAPS so you don't get it twisted: WITHOUT THE UNDERGROUND, HIP HOP WOULD BE DEAD. So in 2011, Dr Dre is FINALLY releasing "Detox" and Saigon is FINALLY releasing "The Greatest Story Never Told." Hopefully the Roc Nation duo of Jay Electronica and J.Cole will release timeless debuts. Lupe Fiasco's "LASERS" should finally make it into the atmosphere, not to mention "Tha Carter IV" and new Pharoahe Monch... As a final word of warning: "Look out world, in 2011, THE BRITISH ARE COMING!!"
So enjoy the list and have a great 2011... Peace!
Curren$y – "Pilot Talk/Pilot Talk II"
Curren$y put in a couple of overtime shifts in 2010, and Ski's beats were pretty dope. These weren't classic albums, but they has a warm and purely enjoyable feel to them.
Ghostface Killah – "Apollo Kids"
Ghost never drops wack albums, but sometimes he does too much. This is roughly his 9th album in 10 years. I sometimes wish he'd only released 6 LP's instead, but hey, who am I to question him? This was another strong effort, more like "Fishscale" than the last couple of ones. Better than "Wu Massacre" as well.
Lloyd Banks – "H.F.M.2"
Strong album, good beats, excellent lyrics. Simple as that, really.
Rick Ross – "Teflon Don"
Not a big fan of Rick Ross. But at least the guy is trying harder, year on year. He raps about nothing, but does it well, and the production is big budget. Keep improving, sir.
TOP 10 HIP HOP ALBUMS OF 2010
10) Royce Da 5'9" – "Street Hop"
This is just a good old-fashioned MC driven LP. Yes, it should have been better and more concise, but Royce right now is simply one of THE most compelling rappers on the planet, not to mention in a rich vein of form. He has absolutely no inferiority complex, and whilst that can lead to blinding arrogance, Royce always subtly keeps his ego in check.
9) Reflection Eternal – "Revolutions Per Minute"
Just a straight up dope album, with a lot of effort put into it. I'm not a massive Talib fan, yet this has managed to sneak into my Top 10. These guys have chemistry, and it never wanes from start to finish. Like many albums in 2010, I'm not sure this is a truly MEMORABLE classic album, but that doesn't mean it's not utterly wicked.
8) The Roots – "How I Got Over"
These guys have been doing the business for years now, yet I've remained strangely oblivious to them, for the most part. I have a feeling they will probably be more appreciated when curators put together suitable retrospectives of their huge body of work, but the formula – for me, at least – seems to improve with every album.
7) Black Milk – "Album of the Year"
I've always felt that Black Milk gets a bit too much leeway from critics, just because of vague Dilla comparisons. Whilst this is a very different album from him, it is his most consistent one, from start to finish, not to mention EASILY his best mic performance. Next album, he needs to put everything he has learnt so far together into one LP. That would be even doper.
6) Eminem – "Recovery"
Not everyone loved "Recovery" but for me, it is the only Eminem album – apart from "The Marshall Mathers LP" – that I actually play from start to finish, and with great frequency. That's not to say that Em is as good at rapping as he was a decade ago – he clearly isn't, with his recent "I'm going to explain the punchline first" thing getting really stupid. But working with outside producers really helped, since Dr Dre has barely produced anything decent for 5 years now. A welcome comeback.
5) Kid Cudi – "Man on the Moon II"
I really GET Kid Cudi. Whilst this sophomore doesn't have the big anthems that the first LP had, it is tighter, more focussed, purer musically and his (admittedly awful) delivery is improving. When Kanye says the Cudi is his "favourite living artist on the planet" he's not just bullshitting – Cudi has a visceral thrill to him, and this album is incredibly strong. Also wisely chosen guests/producers help to create his vision of darkness. Less cheesy, more meaty than the first MOTM.
4) The Left – "Gas Mask"
One of these albums that snuck up on me, and I might have missed it were it not for a fellow staff member. I'm glad I got my late pass... An incredibly consistent and STRONG album, from start to finish. The production gives it a classic feel, the lyrics are dope (if a touch preachy) and the subject matter is compelling. This is a real old school hip hop album that feels much more real, more relevant, when compared to similarly feted albums like "Nineteen Ninety Now."
3) Kanye West – "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"
Absolute musical treat. From front to back, his "best" album, though this is nowhere near my favourite Kanye LP – it definitely ranks bronze medal behind "The College Dropout" and "Late Registration." What I appreciate about West is that, like Rick Ross, he tends to learn from his errors, and keeps moving forward, and improving. He has lost a bit of charm and affability over the years, but everything he does is an event, and he certainly commands attention. The lyrics are what prevent MBDTF from being a traditional all-time classic, though – something few reviews appear to have paid attention to.
2) Nas & Damien Marley – "Distant Relatives"
Absolute stone-wall classic that will, unfortunately, continue to be underappreciated in the USA. Why? Because Caribbean culture is so much stronger in the UK, pockets of Europe and most of Africa. Most American hip hop fans seemed unable or unwilling to listen to Marley, thus literally couldn't understand large parts of the album. That's not a criticism, just an observation – hey, in London you can't help but grow up surrounded by Jamaican culture, therefore we just get it a bit better. Aside from all that, Nas and Marley dovetail beautifully; the music is exquisite; Jones' lyrics are fire; there is only one slightly weaker song ("My Generation"); Marley conducts the whole thing with such aplomb that, for once, I wouldn't mind a second album from this dynamic duo. Every summer, I'm sure that vast swathes of hip hop fans across the world will continue to vibe out to "Distant Relatives" – and rightly so.
1) Big Boi – "Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty"
This is, without any shadow of a doubt, the best hip hop album of 2010. Hands down. Yes, you can pick holes in it, like any LP, but making futuristic ORIGINAL music that doesn't rely on a million soul samples ain't so easy. Whilst albums like MBDTF and OB4CL2 have those crutches to support them, they could be said to lack genuine innovation. SLLF is to hip hop in 2010, what "Avatar" is to special effects – it practically invents new shit. Aside from that, Big Boi destroys the theory that he is nothing without Andre 3K – he reckons he has improved with age like a Jedi, and you can't argue with that viewpoint. His rhymes, the way his adapts his voice and flow to mesh with the music, the choruses, and beats themselves... It's all top notch stuff that, I fear, will go unappreciated by many this year, and, in numerous ways, countless artists will be playing catch up to "Sir Lucious Left Foot" for years to come. I mean, it's been six months and I'm still bumping this album weekly. This is, for me, better than ANY Outkast album, EVER – now that's really saying something.
Originally posted: January 4, 2011