How about a year end roundup I’m almost sure my editor-in-chief isn’t going to publish? 2004 was the year that I fell off for good. Unemployed became my middle name. As I result, I purchased approximately fifteen rap albums, about half of them secondhand, only five of them of American origin. Some RapReviewer, huh? I made some illegal downloads, but since I can’t really get with that MP3 stuff, most of the files got dumped into the trash bin. I barely copped a hip-hop magazine, and the one I subscribe to somehow decided to take a timeout. Radio helped me get my fix, but it just ain’t the same when you’re a junkie for albums. Combine that with an increasingly shorter attention span, and what you end up with is probably the most illegitimate year end summary possible.

From what little information I was able to gather, hip-hop was still on the rise, especially its commercial branch. The City of Compton was on the map again with The Game and Guerilla Black, although the latter got badly exposed when folks found out he had a Dirty South past as Big Cizzle. The corporate conglomerate known as G-Unit showed everybody the meaning of diversification by expanding south (Young Buck) and west (The Game). Marshall’s anti-Bush tirade “Mosh” came literally too fucking late. Neither could Diddy’s ‘Vote Or Die’ sloganeering prevent the disaster. Britney remade Bobby’s “My Prerogative.” Lil’ Jon’s minimal crunk was the soundtrack to ’04. M-a-dollar sign-e attempted one of the most ill-advised comebacks in history. Nas was trying to be “a rebel to America” and a faithful fiancé to Kelis. Eminem was the latest to perform posthumous production on Pac’s body of work, and the Outlawz willingly accepted it. There were award shows and nominations, one confirmed that where there’s rap there’s violence (Vibe Awards), another confirmed Kanye West’s superstar status (Grammy nominations). We lost Mac Dre and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, two highly original artists who will be missed for years to come.

Best album of the year? I really have no idea. But I suppose Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” would be a good guess. Favorite album of the year? Probably a tie between Masta Ace’s “A Long Hot Summer” and some local record you don’t wanna hear about. But here are ten I’d really like to hear:


1. Beastie Boys: To the 5 Boroughs

How can I not be interested in an album dedicated to hip-hop’s stomping grounds? The artwork looks hella nice, too. Plus me and the Beasties go back together longer than any of these other fools on this list.

2. Jadakiss: Kiss of Death

I heard the mixtape, I heard the singles, now I just need to peep the album to see if Jay To The finally lives up to my expectations.

3. Fabolous: Real Talk

I’ve always had a soft spot for Fabo, and from what I heard “Real Talk” is another step in his ongoing maturation process. Plus “Breathe” stayed in heavy rotation ever since I first taped it.

4. Lil Wayne: Tha Carter

For some reason folks got worked up over the line “the best rapper alive since the best rapper retired.” What, do you actually expect rappers to be accurate and honest? Are you out to ruin the remaining originality left in rap music? What’s next, lie detectors in studio sessions? Get outta here.

5. 213: The Hard Way

Yeah I know, most of us didn’t know 213 when they were a local Long Beach crew. We probably wouldn’t have heard of any of its members if Dre hadn’t left Ruthless and was looking to build a new team. But for Snoop, Nate and Warren to get together years later and record an album must have been a one-of-a-kind experience I’d like to take part in.

6. Lloyd Banks: The Hunger for More

I admit I was getting kinda worried when rumors started to surface Lloyd Banks had done gay porn. While Banks was cleared shortly after, it certainly gave gullible folks something to chew on. I mean gay rappers are one thing, but a revelation like that would deflate rap’s macho man image in one fell swoop. Thankfully, image is still not everything in hip-hop, and even though in the case of G-Unit the image is of utmost importance, they still manage to make highly enjoyable music.

7. The Maroons: Ambush

Quannum? Lateef? The Chief? Sounds like quality.

8. The Roots: The Tipping Point

Heard good things about it, heard bad things about it. Think it’s about time I make up my own mind.

9. Tony Touch: The Piece Maker II

I heard this one track, I don’t even know what it’s called, but if the rest of this album is anything like this track, I consider it a priority.

10. Dilated Peoples: Neighborhood Watch

I’m tempted to say that Dilated stand what I stand for. You know, on some same-wavelength type shit. Despite that – or because of that – they’re not among my favorite groups, but whenever I need a validation of my own – far from spectacular – views on hip-hop and life in general, then Ev, Rakaa and Babu are a fixture on my firmament of guiding stars.