One of the many benefits of RR’s new look is that it is easy to look at reviews by author. I’ve been rereading some of the reviews I wrote in the last decade, and it has been a learning experience. While for the most part my reviews hold up, there is stuff in there that doesn’t reflect how I currently engage with hip-hop. I came to hip-hop through punk rock, and for a long time I felt rappers should be rapping about the stuff I thought was important, not what was meaningful to them. There were times when my attitude towards the people making and consuming the art was patronizing and paternalistic. I wasted too much virtual ink criticizing artists for being materialistic and rapping about having fun vs. Serious Topics. I didn’t always appreciate that incredibly vital, important music doesn’t always have vital, important subject matter. I am more aware now about how I hold and take up space in communities, and I hope that is reflected in my more recent writing. I’m not apologizing for being a hip-hop fan or for writing about music I love, but I do wish I had gone about doing so with a little more humility and awareness at times. To be clear, I am only commenting on my own writing and approach. I think this site has done and continues to do an excellent job of championing hip-hop music with the passion and sincerity that only comes from being true heads. 

One final decade-end thought: in 2010, I still got packages with promo CDs and press releases. That gradually transitioned to zip files with MP3s, and now it is almost 100% streaming. I’m even considering getting rid of 80% of my CD collection to make space, since I just stream everything anyways. The downside of all this is that artists have been mostly left out of the monetization of streaming. When I bought a CD, the artist would at least get a couple dollars. My Spotify subscriptions helps make a bunch of tech workers six figure paychecks and their investors seven or eight figure paychecks. The artists, on the other hand, are sometimes making single digit paychecks, and very few are able to make money in the digital age. I don’t know the path forward, but I do know that the current situation isn’t working.

Now on to my favorite albums of rap and rap-adjacent albums of 2019.

Honorable Mention:

Anderson.Paak, “Ventura”
billy woods, “Terror Management”
Chris Orrick “Out to Sea”
E-40, “Practice Makes Paper”
Flying Lotus, “Flamagra”
Goldlink, “Diaspora”
Haviah Mighty “13th Floor”
Quelle Chris “Guns”
Sankofa, “$5,000 Flashlights/102 Magnets”
Solange, “When I Get Home”

Patrick’s Top Ten of 2019 (in order of how much I listened to them)

  1. YBN Cordae,¬† “The Lost Boy” – This Maryland rapper offers frank, soulful raps. Favorite song: “Bad Idea”
  2. Danny Brown, “uknowhatimsaying?” – Danny ditches the party drugs and party beats to team up with Q-Tip for some Grown Man Rap. Favorite song: “Best Life”
  3. Jamila Woods, “Legacy! Legacy!” – One of two albums on this list whose song titles are entirely comprised of the names of important black women. Anytime the news cycle got extra wretched, I’d put this on and imagine I lived in a less fucked up world. Favorite song: “ZORA”
  4. Rapsody, “Eve” – The other album on this list whose song titles are all names of important black women. Rapsody has skills for days. Favorite song: “Ibtihaj”
  5. Pivot Gang, “You Can’t Sit With Us” – 13 tracks of skillful posse rap over smooth beats. Favorite song: “Colbert”
  6. Denzel Curry, “ZUU” – The Carol City rapper manages to walk the line between melodic and hard, which makes “ZUU” a great listen. Favorite song: “Ricky”
  7. Homeboy Sandman, “Dusty” – This is one of Homeboy Sandman’s strongest releases in recent memory, and that includes last year’s excellent collaboration with Edan. Favorite song” Yes Iyah”
  8. Little Simz, “GREY Area” – While I definitely appreciate the new spin on hip-hop that a lot of younger artists bring, I also appreciate Little Simz bringing that fierce lyrical fire as if mumble rap never happened. Favorite song: “Boss”
  9. Ariana Grande, “thank u, next” – Look, I’m just as surprised as you are. I don’t like pop music, Ariana Grande as a brand kind of annoys me, but I listened to this nonstop. It is pure pop/R&B perfection and I love it.¬†¬†Favorite song: “fake smile”
  10. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, “Bandana” – One of the things that made my year was Madlib co-conspirator Egon’s instagram feed, where he would post pictures of the three of them drinking French wine all over the world. I wasn’t a big Freddie Gibbs fan going into this, but he won me over. Favorite song: “Gat Damn”

Being the parent of a small child, rap music isn’t the primary soundtrack of my life anymore. I spent most of my time listening to a combination of Disney songs, old reggae, folk, and extreme metal. My favorite non-rap albums of the year were:

Angel Olsen, “Mirrors”
Darkthrone, “Old Star”
Earth, “Full Upon Her Burning Lips”
Elena Setien, “Another Kind of Revolution”
Here Lies Man, “No Ground to Walk Upon”
Inter Arma, “Sulfur English”
Julia Jacklin, “Crushing”
Khruangbin, “Hasta El Cielo”
Murg, “Stravan”
Shannon Lay, “August”