Sunday, June 27, 2010

Quarterly Rap Up: Q2 2010

After hitting you up with my Q1 report three months ago, I figured I'd follow the trend throughout the year. Halfway into 2010, things are shaping up nicely thus far. If we can make it out of 2010 alive, the year may just prove its superiority over 2009, music-wise. Anyways, I hate making lists, but you love reading them - so here we go:

25. Jay Rock - The Big Payback

It's difficult not to gloat when you're the Yankees of basketball, especially when your victory relies on a Boston team's defeat. Yeah, we got smashed on a couple years back, but 2010 was our time for revenge. Going in over a loop of James Brown's "Payback", Watts-bred emcee Jay Rock big ups the home team for a pre-/post-victory anthem. On to the three-peat we go!

24. WC - Frontline

This treble-heavy beat is so west coast, only a staple vet like WC could do it justice. Produced by Terrace Martin, "Frontline" is the type of track you'd expect to hear on any given Sunday, humming out of a Chevy rolling down a wide Los Angeles boulevard.

23. Krondon - I Ain't Running (feat. Fashawn)

Beginning with an Al Pacino-delivered quotable from the 2008 film Righteous Kill, Krondon quickly grabs your attention with a ridiculous dart: "Fake foes flaunt frivolous fragments of realism/ I listen, but regret after/." The Strong Arm Steady member sounds comfortable on this threatening beat, but what about Fashawn? I'll tell you this: I used to raise an eyebrow at the comparisons people made, dubbing him to be the next Nas. I kinda hear it now.

22. Lil B - T-Shirts and Buddens (Joe Budden Diss)

Who'd of thought that Lil B would ever drop a diss record aimed at an emcee of Joe Budden's caliber? Okay, okay, now who'd of thought the shit would be... nice? I mean... this nice? Lil B claims that the track was written in jest. He ain't lyin'! Lil B clowns on Joey like he's a boy in a bubble. Sadly, the "beef" seemed to have died down as soon as it was tossed onto the grill.

21. Cam'ron - Like Sheeeeiit (feat. Vado)

While Cam will always find a special place in my heart - no homo - I'm not yet sold on Vado. But "this shit is refreshing right here." Cam's dropped a whole lotta bullshit since his departure from Roc-a-Fella, but this joint takes me back to the "Get Em Girls" days. It's Dipset, Byrd Gang. Swerve on you!

20. Jadakiss - Soldier Survivors (feat. Nas & Sheek Louch)

A trio of New Yitty's finest, Nas, Jada and Sheek have combined for roughly half a century's worth of hip hop expertise. It's funny that all three of these emcees are relatively recent signees to New York's storied hip hop label, Def Jam. The trio takes it back to Mardi Gras (word to Bob James), recalling glimpses of the great "Made You Look" remix (with Ludacris) to memory.

19. Black Sheep - Birds of a Feather (feat. Q-Tip, Dave & Mike Gee)

To a generation whose introduction to Black Sheep begins with a hamster-crazed Kia commercial, "Birds of a Feather" is a perfect reminder as to the prevalence of senior citizen rap. Over a Fiona Apple-sampled beat - yup! - Dres, Tip and Co. prove they've still got it.

18. Gil Scott-Heron - New York Is Killing Me (Smu Mix) (feat. Mos Def & Nas)

The version of "New York Is Killing Me" found on the Godfather of Rap's latest album I'm New Here was a solo joint. Somehow, someway, out popped up a pair of "remixes", one featuring Mos Def, the other with Nas. DJ Smu cleverly blended the contributions from these two hip hop poet laureates and the result is highly rewarding. I marvel at the thought of Gil Scott-Heron crafting an entire album with a roster of hip hop all-stars. If only...

17. B.o.B - Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore)

I've got my gripes with radio, but every once in a while a ridiculously pop-aimed record will slip past my radars and finds its way into my "songs I can't get out of my head" list. Boosted with a cherubic yet bubble-gum hook by Paramore's Hayley Williams, "Airplanes" is pop-rap at some of its finest.

16. Nas & Damian Marley - Nah Mean

On the boom-bapiest beat off Distant Relatives, God's son and Gong's son deliver head rocking bars to match the backdrop. "Genocide, it's a genocide" Nas remarks, but it's Damian who dominates the track, kicking rhymes like "We no like dem colonial regime, nah mean/ ... Jump on a big trampoline, nah mean/ And boost up our self-esteem, nah mean/."

15. The Roots - The Day (feat. Blu, Phonte & Patty Crash)

Solid from start to finish, How I Got Over is reminiscent of N*E*R*D's first two albums - both of which I aurally devoured (||) back in high school. Patty Crash's sunny vocals remind me of "Bobby James" and other great tracks from that Star Trak era. This right here is music tailor-made for the summertime. It doesn't hurt that Black Thought comes correct as always (his resume is legendary yet overlooked), Blu reminds us why he's the future, and Phonte proves that there's life after Little Brother.

14. Rick Ross - Knife Fight (feat. Kool G Rap)

Convoluted with greatness, "Knife Fight" features a James Brown sample, a surprise guest appearance from KGR, and a series of scratched-in rap vocals revolving around one word: "run." I've gotta give credit to Ross: he's managed to (help) resurrect authentic, mid-90s-ish mafia rap.

13. Nas & Damian Marley - In His Own Words (feat. Stephen Marley)

A great meshing of hip hop and reggae, the levity and spiritual vibe brought along by Stephen Marley proves the perfect balance for Nas as he spits with resoluteness: "Word to the curb that's under these chrome wheels."

12. Ice Cube - I Rep That West

When he's not gunning for Tyler Perry's spot, Ice Cube is still one of the rap game's most menacing emcees. Over a flamboyant west coast concoction, Cube reigns dominant, calling out L.A. radio for their shitty playlists and offering anything but open arms to New West emcees: "This is my town, I run it, you walk it/ You're just now learning the game, I talk it/."

11. The Roots - Right On (feat. Joanna Newsom & Sugar Tongue Slim)

What happens when you take Joanna Newsom, throw her into an echo chamber, and drop some mean-ass drums? "Right On" is what you get. Black Thought does his thing, dropping a bevy of double-entendres: "A lotta people countin' on me, kinda like a digit/ ... Y'all know, I'ma raise the bar though (Bardot) like Brigitte/." Props to The Roots for originality... again.

10. Brother Ali - Breakin' Dawn Boys (feat. Fashawn)

Fash' and Ali tag team this joint as a lyrical wrecking crew, absolutely demolishing the frenetic, horn-heavy heat rock laced by BK-One.

9. OutKast - Lookin' for Ya (feat. Sleepy Brown)

This isn't a single (though it should be). In fact, it won't even find a spot on Big Boi's upcoming solo LP. But who cares? Whether you can find their new music in record stores, NMC websites, or the bottom of cereal boxes, fresh OutKast joints are always a good thing. This originally leaked a year ago on one of the Purple Codeine tapes (if memory serves me correct), but it was just Dre on his solo dolo shit. Bringing along Mr. Patton for the show is like seeing Voltron in action.

8. Cypress Hill - Carry Me Away (feat. Mike Shinoda)

Though DJ Muggs didn't have too much to contribute on Cypress Hill's new Rise Up album, that didn't stop the rap/rock superstars from cranking out bangers. Enlisting a roster of like-minded artists like System of a Down's Daron Malakian and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello proved to be a comfortable fit, as did the help of Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. Production on the track is as grim as its reflective lyrical content.

7. Raekwon - Alphabet Soup

It's crazy to think that half a decade ago, Papoose had cats shitting bricks over tracks like "Alphabetical Slaughter." Flash forward to 2010 where Raekwon takes a page outta Pap's book; and apparently that book is a dictionary. Rae's attempt is not nearly as feverishy-paced as Pap's original, let alone intricate in deftness, but it's a solid joint regardless. And as the Chef says, "that shit was fucking hard, man!"

6. B.o.B - Nothin' on You (Smu Mix) (feat. Warren G, Big Boi & Bruno Mars)

That's right, I'm guilty of liking both of B.o.B's smash singles. I've also gotta give props once again to DJ Smu for putting the jigsaw pieces together and throwing Warren G and Big Boi into the mix. This track version bodes far better on my ear drums 'cause believe me, the album/single mix wouldn't have found its way onto my Top 25 of Q2 list.

5. Freddie Gibbs - Rock Bottom (feat. Bun B)

I've mentioned in the past that Freddie Gibbs reminds me of a young Bun B. It's nice to finally hear the two sharing a track together. Both sonically and content-wise, "Rock Bottom" reminds me of "Slap", my favorite song off of Ludacris' Grammy-award winning Release Therapy. The topic is "frustration", and these two do an excellent job of venting. I'm sure we can all relate to this one.

4. Kanye West - Power (feat. Dwele)

I'm not the type of person to fawn over anything that Kanye West decides to drop on us. After all, I was fairly critical of his "meh" - albeit honest - 808s & Heartbreak. But this right here? Wow. The King Crimson sample is absolutely novel, and that's one of the reasons why you've gotta give Yeezy some credit. Nobody else could or would do it like this. Just as catchy as "Stronger", "Power" got me amped up on more than one occasion during the Lakers-Celtics series.

3. Dom Kennedy - Me Again

In my book, this Leimert Park native is one of the front runners of the New West movement. Dom Kennedy's got the music to rival anything that Drake can put out, he just needs to amass as big of an audience. (His self-released From the Westside with Love is the west coast doppelganger of Drizzy's So Far Gone.) "Me Again" is by far the highlight of the malbum (mixtape + album), as Dom waxes nostalgic on his coming of age in the city of angels. The lyrics are potent, as is the heartfelt delivery. The exceptional Drew Byrd-produced beat doesn't hurt either!

2. Big Boi - Shutterbugg (feat. Cutty)

Laced with a talk box, some knocking 808s, and a dazzling series of icy, 80s synths reminiscent of "Promiscuous Girl", Scott Storch delivers an alley-oop of a slam dunk, summertime club single to Sir Lucious Left Foot. Though "Shutterbug" hardly rivals the brilliance of "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)", it's plain to see that Big Boi's electro-rap pimp hand is still way strong.

1. Reflection Eternal - Ballad of the Black Gold

In light of the awful oil spill caused by BP, the prescience of this song can't be understated. It's not often that a soundtrack precedes its visual counterpart, in this case being the graphic images of precious animals sometimes appearing indistinguishable from the very oil they're covered in. Much like the flooding that devastated New Orleans a few years ago, this latest disaster facing Gulf Coast residents is and was anything but "natural." Imagine if we, the human race, never discovered that oil could be used as a fuel? What would we be using in its place?
You never see happy-hungry people that ain’t rational/
They blasting through the gates and they attack you at the capital/
Run up in your palace, find the heads of the state and crack a few/
Get a taste of power then they become fascists too/
The fiscal conservatives don’t know what they purpose is/
Spend money on the war then they cut your goods and services/
Murderous, corporate monsters is breaking records/
Exxon is at 40 billion a year, they raking in record profits, stop it/
How they banking while the other industries is tanking?/
Leadership is sinking, the pollution in the water's stanking/
Loyalty to petroleum, royalty spoiled the economy/
We won’t get it poppin' 'til we're oil-free/
If you’re oil-rich, then we invadin'/
They call it occupation but we’re losing jobs across the nation/
Drill, baby, drill, while they make our soldiers kill/
Baby still, the desert where the blood and oil spill/
Ten More:

26. Royce Da 5'9" - Real Hip Hop (feat. Black Milk & Elzhi)
27. Meth, Ghost & Rae - It's That Wu Shit
28. Ron Artest - Champions
29. Eminem - Despicable
30. Apollo Brown - Hungry (feat. Rapper Big Pooh & Black Milk)
31. Raekwon - Jolly Ranchers
32. Eminem - Won't Back Down (feat. Pink)
33. Prodigy - The Phone Tap (Welcome to State Prison)
34. Freddie Gibbs - Personal OG
35. Big Boi - General Patton