As the end of the year draws closer it’s time for everyone to start moaning about, how this wasn’t a good year for hip-hop and how it used to be better ten or fifteen years ago. It would seem that this year has been one of consistency for hip-hop. No one personality seems to have stood out above others as several big names released decent, if not spectacular albums. However this reviewer hasn’t been in one place longer than a week, for the past eight months and travelling dusty pot holed roads makes it rather difficult to keep my fingers on the pulse. So instead of the usual 10 to 1 countdown, here’s a series of top fives.
TOP 5 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
5. Vents – “Hard to Kill.” There’s just something infectious about this record which means you can listen to it over and over. It has production that will have you nodding from start to finish, a flow which is constantly on point and rhymes that fling up quotes from nowhere. It’s not without flaws but this is a great debut and the sense of potential is enough to put it in the top five this year.
4. Hilltop Hoods – “The Hard Road Restrung.” For pulling off what Metallica couldn’t, this deserves a shed load praise. Having a symphony orchestra remix your last album is a pretty brave move. There were so many ways in which it could have gone wrong. While not every track is necessarily better than the original, never does it fall flat on its face and at its best it adds a wonderful new dimension of lushness to the listening.
3. Common – “Finding Forever.” This really is Common at his best. Revisiting the same formula (keeping Kanye behind the boards most of the time) as “Be,” could have resulted in a tiresome rerun of past glories. Instead everything is elevated to another level as Com tunes his concepts and quoteables even tighter.
2. Joe Buddah presents Klashnekoff – “Tussle with the Beast.” Keeping hip-hop fans waiting is a dangerous game, the next hot thing may well overtake you and steel the limelight (Papoose take note, before it’s too late). That however is exactly what this East London emcee did, but it all works out to a happy ending. Joe Buddah showcased himself as one of the best in the British Isles giving a polish which is rare on domestic budgets. While Klashnekoff rose to the occasion delivering all the aspects that fans had come to love, wordplay, flows, political and personal lyrics. All bound up with the consistency that withstands multiple start to finish listens.
1. Jay-Z – “American Gangster.” It’s difficult to measure the joy of one of the all time greats returning to form. This is easily the best thing Jay has produced since “The Blueprint.” We all know “Blueprint 2” was bloated” and sure “The Black Album” had it’s moments, “Kingdom Come” had, well, “Kingdom Come,” but this time Jay rarely misses the mark (I’m holding Lil Wayne responsible for that anyway.) An even bigger coup was to see Diddy’s name in much of the production credits, although how much of it was his handiwork and how much was his co-producers, may well remain a closely guarded secret. Once again Jigga has earned the right to brag for the next five years.
Top 5 albums I’ve yet to hear
Cunninlynguists – “Dirty Acres”
Lupe Fiasco – “The Cool”
Wu-Tang Clan – “8 Diagrams”
Ghostface Killah – “The Big Doe Rehab”
Joell Ortiz – “The Brick”
Top 5 albums that should be out already!
Raekwon – “Only Built for Cuban Linx 2”
Papoose – “Nacirema Dream”
Guns and Roses – “Chinese Democracy”
Ghostface Killah and MF Doom – “Swift and Changable”
Dr. Dre – “Detox”