Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Best Albums Of 2009 According To Me

So now there is no confusion:

10. The Bronx - Marachi El Bronx
Not just a cute idea. It's actually good.

9. Blakroc - Blakroc
In college one time, I went to see a lecture all about this crazy new thing that was happening, white people, doing hip-hop, but with rock elements involved. The discussion went on and on and on and someone said, wait, doesn't it make sense, these white kids grew up listening to rap and rock, so why wouldn't the music they make sound like some type of combination between to the two. And everyone in the audience was like, "yeah, but WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO SHITTY?"
At that point, a professor said, "what we're getting now is the output created by kids who grew up listening to Metallica* and Slayer with N.W.A. being their only true hip-hop reference point, one day we will hopefully hear music from kids who listen to the Kinks, the Stones, and Gangstarr and Mos Def."
This is the start of that new regime, it's not rap rock, cause that means it sucks, it's kinda exactly what you would expect from a band like The Black Keys making a hip-hop and the sound is mainly gritty and focused. I read somewhere Dan Auerbach rapped a verse on one song and removed it cause he thought it made it sound too Fred Dursty. And that's not just cool, it's a defining point to the sound of this album, that every song they approached repeating their mantra, "let's not make a shitty rap/rock joint."

8. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
There's a lot of people in this band. Do you like percussion?

7. Cam'ron - Crime Pays
At first I was not feeling it, but classic case of how when you wait forever for something, it's never as good as you want it to be. Going back, this is a great album. Cam'ron's flow is still top notch. And he uses his top notch flow, doesn't let it sit on the bench. He spits the way he did when people first started to take notice. The beef with 50, the three year disappearing act, it's all in the past. Cookies-N-Apple Juice, Get it In Ohio are both bangers. Cooking Up has one of Cam'ron's greatest verses of all time. It's probably the best verse showcasing equally all three aspects of Cam'ron's swagger, his playfull threats(Sledgehammers, Smash his melon, and I'm the black Gallagher), insane boasts(Telescopes, Binoculars, the Feds hate my vernacular, From selling coke, I'm poppa doc, Yeah that means I'm spectacularr), and general weirdness (Red slippers, Red robe, Red kitchen, Red stove, Red pots, One in the head cocked, When the Feds probe, Red stools, Red emph, Red floors, Y'all fakers, Red couch, Red crystal, Red pepper and salt shakers, The red room, Red curtains, and some are switched, Show some respect, What you expect - that's a hundred inch,)

6. 50 Cent - War Angel
This summer, to promote a block party, 50 dropped this mixtape and called it his "greatest body of work" yet. it is. On it, 50 returns to his pre-Get Rich or Die Trying days, and gets back to his Ghetto Quran, How to Rob days. 50 sounds like he cares for the first time in a long time, he sounds like he's out to prove he still can be a damn good rapper if and when he wants to, and this mixtape is the first time he's wanted to in a log time. Pause. Also, it sports the best twitter reference heard so far in rap "aint nothing to it cock shoot it and get rid of that, leave you bleeding from your fitted cap It's nuttin to it, cock it, bang it and get rid of that Hit his fitted cap, he won't get a chance to Twitter that." Also, at the end, when he implores all those coming to his BBQ to get their "outfit money up," classic.
6b. Gucci Mane - Writing On Da Wall
Gucci released a shitton of mixtapes this year, including three on the same damn day. This one is by far the best and most filler-free. I've wrote about it on this site sometime around when it came out.

5. Raewkon - Only Built For Cuban Linx II
Oh man, to be young when the Wu was on top of it all. To be in high school and actually await the release of Wu Tang Forever. It makes you fell.......old. Old as hell. But it also meant in between 36 Chambers and Forever, if you were a fan, you copped ever single solo release the day it dropped. And it meant you had better be ready to defend your favorite emcee. Who was the dopest? What was the best solo release in the first round? These by the way are two very different questions. I remember a passionate argument outside of D-Wing in favor of Liquid Swords as the best but I was willing to concede Meth kinda kills it on Shadowboxing going head to toe with Gza. But the biggest, longest running debate of all time concerning the Wu-Tang Clan still is whether Only Built For Cuban Linx vs. Liquid Swords. What's better. I always went with Liquid Swords. For some reason, Cuban Linx, as great as it was, was a bit tough for me to get into and really absorb. Whatever. I still loved it. It still was the second best (or third if we wanna throw Tical in the mix) solo album making it very fucking great.
Since high school, Wu Tang kept keeping on for a while before imploding and slipping into a near nostalgia act. Method Man has made some very consistent and consistently under-promoted albums, Ghostface became the second favorite rapper of all those whose first favorite rap group is the Clipse, and Raewkon, in the words of Noz, "became the dude that released Only Built For Cuban Linx 15 years ago."
Which is a great assessment of Rae's solo work. You gotta hand it to dude, he could have called Immobilairty or Lex Diamond Only Built II and sold a shit load more copies, but he didn't, he didn't tarnish his own reputation, or the reputation of his classic first album. He stuck with his guns, made us wait for rap's Chinese Democracy and it turned out to be more than worthwhile. It holds up to it's own legend, and it's 15 year in the making status. It's a little long and bloated, but the fact remains, if I want to listen to Only Built, I'm just as likely to pull out I or II, and that is the mark of a quality sequel.

4. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
If this were a decade end list, there could be a discussion of the fall and rise of Mos Def. How he left the last millennium with a certifiable classic and then lost it through a combination of wack experimentation, coasting, and general not trying. I was psyched when The New Danger came out, and I'll bet it deserves a second change, but with the exception of his version of The Takeover, there's very little that remains memorable. And there's even less I'm going to listen to when I want to listen to Mos Def. His next album which he released with no linear notes, no cover arts, and minus a few songs, should have contained no music. Granted, it was a contractual obligation fulfillment record, but still, a little respect for the fans please?
He seemed more into acting and even if his performances were good, his role choices seemed lazy and uninspired. But his turn in Be Kind Rewind showed Mos Def returning to an older, younger version of himself unafraid to reach out and take artistic risks, but the kind on Black on Both Sides, not New Danger type risks. Risks that made sense. Risky choices, but ones he knew he could pull off. After all, no matter how good his Big Black Johnson rock band (or whatever they were called) was ever going to be, would it ever have been good enough to actually listen to? To actually enjoy?
This takes us to 2009. Mos releases his Ecstatic, and I'm sure a lot of people were skeptical. I read a few good things about it, and it wasn't that I didn't believe it, I just didn't care. Mos Def did something to me (pause) with his debut. I was young, impressionable, naive as to just how much impact hip-hop, and good hip-hop could sway over me (dare I say "change my life") and the failure of Mos Def's sophomore and junior efforts to captivate me in the way his debut had done actually steered me away from his brand of hip-hop, but this is a much deeper conversation, and a much longer post. So enough.
Point is, The Ecstatic isn't just great as a return to form, nor just a benchmark of an artistic turnaround, it's stands on it's own as a remarkable album with some truly great and timeless music. For any genre. Musically, the sound is all over the map, although there are a few beats with a more Middle-Eastern theme. But it's not a Mos-raps-over-world-mus album. The music is really, really good, I'd say everything is at least on par with Umi Says as far as the non-rap songs go. But, Mos combines it a lot, raps and sings later on the same songs. And his verses are spectacular. There's a few downsides, a joint he does in Spanish that I don't see any point of unless to say , "yo I bought a Rosetta stone at the mall and now I can sing in Spanish and it sounds kinda cool."
There's also an album stealing guest verse from Slick Rick may be the most entertaining thing I've heard all year, this fact should not get lost in the overall Mos Def conversation. Rick the Ruler kills it.

Order ends here, these all tie:

3. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemyjavascript:void(0)
Man, oh man. Way too fucking good. it's like it's 1999 and indie rock is cool, so you really need to go to your one friend's house who has a cd burner and copy this one asap. Liking this album is as simple as liking an album with great lyrics and quality musicianship. Also, did I mention there are some guitar solos that are neither indulgent nor meanderin

2. UGK - UGK 4 Life
Everything about this made me worried. I mean, just thinking about the final album from a legendary group released after their more infamous and outspoken member dies from syrup overdose, it's heavy shit. It had all the markings of too much hype, too little effort, and too much big label involvement/cash-in. But apparently, Bun-B saw the whole thing over from start to finish. He intended it to be a UGK album, not a Bun-B solo album with occasional verses from Pimp C. And he managed to pull it off. The beats throughout the whole album sound like vintage Pimp C productions, soulful churning organs, funk guitar riffs, a real down home, organic sound runs through the whole project.
Pimp C's verses never loose their nasal quality nor their outlandish sexual boasts. Bun's bass heavy booming, multi-syllable rapping is on point too, and it's a real united effort. In many ways, it's heartbreaking to hear how good these two were when they were together at their best. Neither Bun or Pimp's solo efforts ever matched up to anything they did as a group. Bun tends to get lost while Pimp gets way to angry, or sounds like he's trying too hard. But together, these guys were the greatest rap duo of all time. A perfect endnote to an amazing career discography.

1. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night
I think I've said all I need to say about this in an earlier post. In short, it's more about emotions than physical desire (pause), the music is extremely tight, and the production doesn't stand in the way. What would normally plague an R&B album does not, and Maxwell has made one of those rare pieces of art which transcends his own genre.


Blogger D-Tents said...

you left out fool's gold.

2/27/10, 10:30 PM  
Blogger D-Tents said...

You left out Fool's Gold.

2/27/10, 10:30 PM  

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