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The Year 2010 in Review
Author: Eric Sirota

The most interesting thing about hip-hop in 2010 is that the best of it isn't hip hop at all. It's music that shows an explicit appreciation for hip-hop but also a stark willingness to, perhaps accidentally, break all the rules and go in any number of directions:

1. A Sufi and a Killer - Gonjasufi - a strange blend of acid rock and rap lends this album an effortless uniqueness that truly sets it apart.

2. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae - again, not really a hip hop album, but no less a hip hop album than one of any other specific genre. Spoken word, heavy metal, folk and psychedelia are all present for this music lover's dream.

3. Thank Me Later - Drake - somehow Drake's bitching about fame for this album's duration is humanizing and vulnerable, not obnoxious and self-pitying; that is a true feet and another success for stripped down autotuning.

4. I'm New Here - Gil Scott-Heron - futuristic blues and spoken word dominate on this humble, down-and-out, snapshot of its remarkably talented poet-author.

5. Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty - Big Boi - man, is this guy a good rapper - precise, charismatic, and as smart as they come.

6. Of Light - Shabazz Palaces - Digable Planets' frontman returns after what must have been some rough years; this is not your father's black power.

7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West - unfortunately, Kanye's overwhelming ego gets in the way even on an album about how Kanye's overwhelming ego gets in the way. Fortunately, his production and knack for risk-taking make the record a keeper.

8. Li(f)e - Sage Francis - perhaps as flawed as it is innovative, but, regardless, this rare synthesis of folk and rap is too natural to resist.

9. King of Hearts - Camu Tao - that this record was left tragically incomplete makes the syrupy pop about death and sex that much more bone-chilling.

10. Recovery - Eminem - haters be damned; he'll never be as good as he once was, but that doesn't mean he's not growing.

Originally posted: January 4, 2011

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