By now it has already been well-documented which albums released over the past 12 months have received the warmest welcome from the finicky Hiphop masses, with the overwhelmingly, undeniable consensus being Kanye’s latest offering – by a long shot.
Ross, Banks, Roots -- they all had amazing albums. This much cannot be disputed as they are all mentioned on everybody's list of top Hiphop albums released this year.
But what’s been missing from these “best of” lists are some of the lesser-known rappers who have managed to quietly release quality music that is noteworthy in their own right, staying true to the main ideals that Hiphop music was originally based on – having fun and paying tribute to Hiphop culture through dope lyrics and fresh rhymes.
Here is the official BC-TW sanctioned list of the best of the rest; the so-called also-rans who deserve their own acknowledgment for their most recent contributions to Hiphop:
15. Big Remo – Entrapment – The North Carolina emcee can more than hold his own among the genre’s heavyweights, bringing his own brand of thug rap to Hiphop via the reliable 9th Wonder vehicle, complete with the requisite soul samples chopped up to perfection juxtaposed with Remo's tough talk.
Standout tracks: The Game (Tre 4); Go; Go Ladies
Grab muhfuckas by they throat that’s hating on Remo
And I ain’t D-Bo but I’m on that shit,
I used to hot wire, drive like I own that whip
And get it in in the kitchen, yeah, I’m on that whip.
14. Vic Mensa – Straight Up – This teenager from Chicago debuted a thorough EP, which includes some serious lyrical dexterity along with a nice, competent flow and quality production. The EP is only eight tracks long (including one interlude and one skit) and leaves the listener wanting more, which bodes well for his future.
Standout tracks: Like the Way; Lights Out; Too Hard
"I’m like a wrinkle in time
I would rather make a classic than drop a fuckin single and sign."
13. The Kid Daytona – The Interlude – This full length album deserves all the credit for having one of the most – if not the most – original approach to production for an album regardless of the date. Using interludes from random Hiphop albums for the musical backdrop, The Kid Daytona helps to transform the once short tracks found in between songs to bona fide songs with banging beats that is at once familiar and brand new at the same time. Daytona isn’t the greatest rapper but he is well above average but the beats knock and the listener finds his or her neck nodding knowingly even though it’s all new material. A very clever ploy for an album, and it works to perfection. Test your Hiphop acumen by trying to figure out from where the interludes first originated!
Standout tracks – Fly Lullaby; Padma (So Buttery); Contemplation;
“Gamin' since I came in it, no regrets
Now I chef the flavor shit, hankerchief, no sweat
Throw the stick out there, them bitches go fetch
Pick out gear and play GQ like O Epps”
12. Actual Proof – the Free EP – This 9th Wonder-affiliated duo from North Carolina brings their take on Hiphop to the masses with this feel-good album made up of carefree, refreshing rhymes reminiscent of the Native Tongues, with the majority of the production handled by 9th Wonder’s now-classic vocal sample-inflected head-nodding beats. A simple but foolproof recipe for success.
"You can’t step to him without a mortarboard
While I transform a metaphor, prime optimus
Einstein rockin’ in my rare form."
11. Kev Turner – Soul City Music – This album is boom bap to the fullest, with break beats galore, scratching, and a rapping approach reminiscent of the late 80s/early 90s – braggadocio lyrics, lashing out at fake rappers, employing varying flows throughout, professing his love for Hiphop, and repping this new artist's hometown (Philadelphia). Each track has a distinct swing and bounce to it, giving this album a nice, chill, house party feel to it. Kev Turner is a basic lyricist, but his rhymes are on point and, when combined with the music, make for a very complete, cohesive presentation.
Standout tracks: Ill State of Mind; The Breaks; If Its Cool
“Stopped smoking years ago but it’s hard to turn dro down
Floating on cloud 9, walking on no ground
In the 90s Bo knew it all but what Bo know now?
Bet if he heard this, Bo know that I throw down
Kev’s styles sharper than a samurai showdown”
10. 1982 (Statik Selektah & Termanology) – FreEP – Released on the heels of the 1982 LP, this EP a better, more concentrated version of its predecessor both lyrically and musically, eliminating all the filler tracks found on the other album with a shorter, more condensed format of straight beats and rhymes showcasing Termanology’s brilliant Big Pun-influenced rhyme schemes to no end. Statik Selektah’s DJ Premier-inspired beats and scratches are nothing short of dope.
Standout tracks: The Darkest Cloud; Put it Down; Word Up
“My heinous visions be painting pictures like ancient scriptures
I’m like Michael Corleone to you Fredo niggas.”
9. Mac Miller – K.I.D.S. – An acronym for Kicking Incredible Dope Shit, this accurately named mixtape features this relatively new Pittsburgh emcee rhyming over mostly all new music from a hodgepodge of unknown producers who rival the sound(s) of any of today’s top beatsmiths. The self-proclaimed “Justin Bieber-meets-Jadakiss” has a style all his own, and the mixtape has a distinctly mid-90s feel to it, ironic considering Miller was born in 1992.
“Had the whole regular life, I can tell you that I’m done with that
Trying to build a mill off a couple stacks
Own my own business, investing all I got into these fuckin raps
Willie Parker money, hand it off, then it’s running back.”
8. RapSody – Return of the B-Girl – Yet another 9th Wonder-fueled album, only this one showcases the considerable rhyming skills of a female emcee who can flex a number of lyrical styles with what comes off as the greatest of ease. A healthy dose of uninterrupted, unadulterated Hiphop.
Standout tracks: Young, Black With a Gift (with Big Daddy Kane); U Sparklin’; Cherry Red Hot;
“Little league of my own like pitching off the mound
With boobs, fallopian tubes
These dude gon’ know me now.”
7. DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records… Get Used to Us – The long awaited compilation showcasing DJ Premier’s record label Year Round Records and the artists affiliated with the label. Many of these songs have already been released unofficially on the Web, but to many people this will be all new material they are listening to.
Standout tracks: Temptation, Opportunity Knoccs, The Gang Starr Bus
“Can’t ball unless you handle the pill, or the rock
Or you drop dimes helping these fiends score at will
Somebody gets killed for not covering the spread
Ill-advised shots, instead of leather it’s lead
Funny how hustling is sort of like a sport
Starts out in the streets, ends up in the court
And then you’re in the press
With no time out just time in with a number on your chest” -- Nick Javas
6. KRS – Back to the L.A.B. (Lyrical Ass Beating) -- This EP is six tracks of pure fire, served up KRS-One style: a continuous flow of venom aimed at all the rappers who KRS feels are bringing down the artform while simultaneously attempting to restore it to its rightful place. And while KRS has been on some preachiness over the past few years, this EP is a happy return to his boom bap roots, waking up the doubters who have been sleeping on KRS, assuming his skills have deteriorated over the years when the exact opposite is the truth.
Standout tracks: Who Da Best; WOLF; TEK-NOLOGY
“We that orthodox Hiphop that all of you know
Man, I lived through the ballers, they ain’t ballin no more
The arenas and theaters ain’t callin no more
The budget from the labels ain’t fallin no more
Them big gold cables is pawned at the store
Them cats now thinking ‘yo, what was it all for?
20 platinum plaques, ya still can’t tour
Now listen back to your lyrics, what was that all for?
When you had the opportunity you coulda spit it raw
That’s when you see KRS is on tour
I do a two-hour show and be spitting one more!”
5. Capone-N-Noreage – War Report 2: Report the War – It’s hard to follow up a classic album with another one modeled after the first installation, but War Report 2: Report the War comes as close as anybody who has ever tried it. It is classic Queens music, with violent imagery that is a reflection of the duo's reality. Capone and NORE show they are still hungry to make quality music and dope rhymes, a welcome change from what they’ve been doing [together and separately] over the past few years.
Standout tracks: Pain, Obituary, Thug Planet
“I sent a wreath to my foe’s wake, condolences
Emotionless when I’m squeezing, easy to focus, kid. -- Capone
“Apologize, kiss the ring, or we will scrape you
We will face you, then replace you
Treat you like a number 2 pencil and erase you.” -- Noreaga
4. Roc Marciano – Marcberg – Former Flipmode Squad member Roc Marciano unleashed this beast of an album after years of paying dues in the shadows of Busta Rhymes and Pete Rock, respectively, and although it barely registered a blip on the mainstream radar, the underground was buzzing big time after one listen to this gem. Roc holds down the entire album -- save for one single guest appearance -- with a steady barrage of grimy street knowledge manifested in his trademark monotone, serious delivery.
Standout tracks: Snow, Panic, Don Shit
"Juggling jums, bubble gum, cum on her tongue
The color of rum, it's the return of the fly bum, hon
Maybe it's just my radiant flesh, or the baby tec that wet up the gray GS, yes
Place ya bets, till I get to taste success, rappers to me is just a waste of breath."
3. Vado – Slime Flu – This mixtape confirms what many suspected -- that Vado as a soloist is officially a force to be reckoned with in rap (albeit negative rap). Vado -- an acronym standing for Violence And Drugs Only -- doesn’t rap about his love for Hiphop, but his witty wordplay and choice of beats is more than enough proof that the love is there. It just seems to be lower on his totem pole of priorities, giving way to crack and guns and other all too familiar ghetto symbolism. What separates Vado from the average “crack rapper” is his obvious lyrical skills and penchant for hot rhyme schemes (and his signature adlib "Huuuuunh!"). After two years of being Cam’ron’s sidekick, Vado steps out and easily stands on his own.
Standout tracks – Council Music, Celebration, Wake Up.
2. Gangrene – Gutter Water – This album (created in the tradition and stylings of the Jaylib album) is a sonic masterpiece featuring producers The Alchemist and Oh No who have taken a sabbatical from their day jobs as prolific producers to concentrate on rhyming. Narcotics-inspired music and rhymes with beats as grimy as the album’s name suggests. A win-win situation to be sure.
“I ain’t the one you wanna walk up to
No dap, I just turn my back on you like a post-up move
Two gats, give you a close-up view.”
Standout tracks: Gutter Water; Get Into Some Gangster Shit; Ransom
Quotables: There are not really any significant quotables considering the mediocre level of rapping from these producers, but each member flows well on the tracks, making for a good listening experience. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Sometimes the music weighs heavier than the lyrics. See Dr. Dre for more on this topic.)
Standout tracks: Langston’s Pen, Frisbees, Speakers on Blast
"Never be a drought as long as I’m in the front
They lookin around, but couldn’t find it off the jump
I’m cooking it loud and got em poppin off of one
I’m hooking the town, you hear ‘em dropping with a thump
Little more on the edge, they was looking for less
Used to the tap, they was looking for steps
I don’t juice none of that, they mistook it for meds
The root is under that, just say I shook off the regs
When the bass get to beating with the 808 beneath it
Ain’t a lane they could be in that I ain’t already weave in
Take it how you need it but basically what it be is
I could break this into pieces and make me a few believers
Let ‘em know from the go, no they dealing with go-ups
As much as I can throw, everything’s for the lower
One after the other one, then I shake another one
Dish ‘em the opposite and watch how the devil come
Got ‘em sitting in pocket I provide ‘em that what I want
All of this is the obvious, I was just lining up
And now they wanna bring the 90s back
That’s OK, cuz that’s where they designed me at”
Big L – Return of the Devil’s Son
Von Pea – Pea’s Gotta Have It