Archive for January, 2008

More “More Nostalgic Videos”

January 31, 2008

Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones Pt. II,” 1995

In addition to being one of my favorite songs since 1995, this video has several indicators of how sick this track/video is:

a) that car (although it looks like it could be a Mercedes)
b) Prodigy goes to make a call at a pay phone
c) that video could be made with a cell phone nowadays

Seriously, shortly after that album came out, up through the release of Hell On Earth (1999), I thought Prodigy was on his way to being one of the better known story tellers in hip hop. All his rhymes on The Infamous were on point, had depth, and were multisyllabic. You could really pick any track on that album and both he and Havoc (boards and lyrically) are tight. Randomly, I choose “Temperature’s Rising;” my mind drifts back to my Ford Escort, as I wait in a line of traffic leaving high school. “Right Back At You,” dope verses from Rae, Ghost, & Big Noyd; and who could forget Nas and Rae on “Eye for An Eye.”

In hindsight, it makes it even more difficult to listen to Prodigy’s rhymes these days. Multisyllabic they were, I swear – have a listen for yourself.


Appreciation Post: Blu & Exile “Below the Heavens”

January 31, 2008

photo.jpgSometimes this view gets me all sentimental, especially after a long walk around town. That walk gave me time to bump some albums on the iPod that I had put aside for a while. That’s why I want to bring it way back to 2007 and show some TT love to Blu and Exile’s LP “Below the Heavens”, my favorite album from 2007–and maybe the last 3 years or so.

It’s been a while since we’ve had an emcee with the package that Blu brings to the table. He mixes an accessible personality with excellent flow, clear delivery, and some clever rhymes. I ain’t crowning him the next Jigga, but he is an emcee that many should envy. More importantly, he has the “stamina”, if you will, to lace an entire 15-track album with solid rhymes. Stamina is perhaps an inexact word, because Blu also manages to avoid the fatal flaw of many emcees: over-extending one’s self. You gotta know your limits, and this guy does.

And Exile’s beats? I’ve struggled to describe his style to other beat heads, and why they should feel his shit. Without playing his music, it hasn’t worked well. I’ve tried a few metaphors that ultimately don’t work. Suffice it to say that he’s able take some of the production methods and elements that we appreciate, yet still sound authentic, instead of genre-driven.  Make no mistake, I’m cognizant of the fact that my tastes here can often fall into an identifiable market niche. My more mainstream-oriented friends are quick to remind me of this fact. But Exile is able to tweak his beats in a way that retains the elements I like, while keeping it interesting. For instance, I like the way he syncopates the high-hats on a lot of his beats. His snares have authentic sound to them. They don’t blow out your ear drums like Black Milk’s or Just Blaze’s perhaps; no matter how great of a snare it is, it just kind of plays along with all of the other elements, in a very egalitarian way. On top of all this, Exile isn’t afraid to let a beat ride out at the end of a track, or to incorporate some changes halfway into the beat. In short, Exile is an excellent producer.

Together, Blue & Exile gave us what had to be one of the most coherent LPs from 2007. No track stood out as the “single” track, or the “b-side” track, or anything like that. “Below the Heavens” was a throwback to an earlier time when an album didn’t have to be all things to all people. It wasn’t an iTunes a la carte, cocktail-hour hors devours platter. It was momma-style, home cooked meal with the veggies, meat and starch all working together; from start to finish.

Blu rhymes his ass off on some serious shit here. Whether it’s about insecurity (“Dancing in the Rain”), striving for morality (“Narrow Path”), love & fidelity (“Greater Love”), upward mobility (“Good Life”), and personal humility (“Blue Collar Worker”). But he ain’t preachy–a delicate balancing act for anyone in today’s hip-hop culture which generally frowns upon serious introspection (not to be confused with Kanye’s navel-gazing, and whining on Graduation, which I discuss here). This is no small feat.

And Exile chops up a beat in way that evokes Dilla’s Donuts stuff. It’s always unpredictable, and retains the soulfulness of the original track in a way that is satisfying to the trained ear of any fan of soul music (See: “Blu Collar Worker” and my favorite track “Below the Heavens Pt. I”).

I’d like to get into more tracks at a later date, I just needed to take some time out to express my appreciation for this album. Last year was a great year for hip-hop at many levels of the industry food chain. But “Below the Heavens” stands apart from even that distinguished pack as an album worthy of comparison to my mom’s home cooking–no small compliment.


More on album covers (courtesy of Erykah’s “Honey”)

January 30, 2008

That Eric B. & Rakim album cover (Paid in Full) is awesome; of course, one of the better known album covers (right up there with Nas’s Illmatic & BDP’s By All Means Necessary…which itself is a nod to a notable Malcom X image). However dated it may be, it’s not nearly as much as 1988’s Follow the Leader & 1992’s Don’t Sweat the Technique (I don’t remember what the first single was, but “Causalities of War” and “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” watch out now!) Look at those jackets on FTL – looks like some Milli Vanilli type wardrobe faux paux; And Don’t Sweat the Technique…I think I’ve seen somebody align that with C+C Music Factory.

Just for my own curiosity, that bass on “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” did Gangstarr use that somewhere along the line? Sure sounds it, but I can’t put my finger on it.

More Nostalgic Videos

January 30, 2008

Whenever I watch Consequence’s new video for “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”…

…Fat Joe’s “Shit is Real” video is the first one that comes to mind for some reason:

Joey Cottage Cheese! If Consequence just added a slow-mo beat down renactment scene it would have been perfect.

Group Home’s “Superstar” is another golden era video that immediately came to mind:

Snarkier persons than I might call this 90’s fetishism, but I’m not taking that bait. Call me a nostalgia-monger. I like what Consequence did with this video, and I’m sucker for any chance to relive the unsupervised moments of my childhood in which Yo! MTV Raps was that shit.

Any other suggestions Pete?

Kyle beats me to it…

January 29, 2008

Pete and I have talked about this 9th Wonder track being a bit bland; but this video made me forget all that, and just enjoy the music. Couldn’t have said in any better, unless you substitute “Kyle” for “Pete.”

I saw this video last night, but the quality was poor, so I gave up half way through it. I finally saw it in its entirety not more than an hour ago. The throwback ambiance certainly adds to the track – and all of a sudden this 9th Wonder beat is alive and well. Originally, when I was moved to post after seeing this video, it was in response to her rendering of the Ohio Players’ Honey cover (1975)…Erykah looks great. I know Ohio Players were renowned for their “racy” album covers, but Honey is my favorite of theirs. However, I’ve discovered tonight that the full cover has been hidden. To the right, you see the Honey cover we’ve all known and respected. However, here is a fuller image; I assume this is the pull out cover unfolded. In the words of Inspector Gadget, “Wowzer!”

I also love the De La cover rendition; and the nod to Andre’s “Hey Ya” is pretty slick. As per, that song featured in that interlude is NOT expected to appear on Amerykah. Harumph.

Video for Erykah’s “Honey”

January 29, 2008

…a video that helps you remember that music can be fun (which isn’t necessarily obvious to the Guilty Simpson’s of the world); see if you recognize all of the album covers, and feel free to drop some artist – album title info in the comments. Some are painfully obvious, while others are not.

Hat tip to Kanye on this one… I’ve certainly moved on from the record store scene (and think digital delivery–done properly–is superior), but this video still leaves me nostalgic for the old days.

Pete and I have talked about this 9th Wonder track being a bit bland; but this video made me forget all that, and just enjoy the music.

Review: Guilty Simpson – “Ode to the Ghetto”

January 28, 2008

Guilty Simpson – “Ode to the Ghetto”
Stones Throw Records 2008

In a word: boring…

I’ve listened to the album about 10 times or so now, and I remain unconvinced that Guilty can hold down an album on his own–even one with an all-star production lineup like this. I won’t mince words because I like Stones Throw or Madlib or Dilla or Detroit: Guilty got exposed on Ode to the Ghetto.

I initially thought that this LP had the potential to bring us back to the golden era where an album featuring sub-par emcees could still be a banger because of a ridiculous production lineup. I was wrong. I don’t know if it was an attempt to match Guilty’s lazy delivery, but even some of the producers come weak on Ode.

First, the good part.

“American Dream” is indeed dope. Pete makes the proper reference to Madlib’s Beat Konducta in India project, and that Bollywood/Near Eastern influence he’s been getting out of his system. This beat is vivid, multi-layered, and it changes frequently–necessary busy-ness when Guilty Simpson is involved. Guilty’s deadpan, baritone delivery works well here, if only as an additional layer to an otherwise stellar Madlib beat (in other words, a rapper like Phonte or Blu might not sound as great on this beat). Then again, this is a familiar formula for many of my other favorable Guilty Simpson experiences. Though I’d ultimately be disappointed, this track got me excited for the rest of the album. It was well placed.

The title track “Ode to the Ghetto” also works well, with Madlib’s kid brother Oh No lacing an old-schoolish drum loop over some more Near Eastern vocal samples. There are also some significant changes here, and Guilty probably writes his best hook on the album. Again, the verdict is that Guilty Simpson is only tolerable on a well-crafted, complex sort of beat. Anything less exposes his weakness as an emcee, as I’ll get into below.

“Getting B*****” is one of the last highlights from this offering. I must admit that Denaun Porter has become one of my favorite producers in the last six months or so. His beats are so crisp and loud, yet manage retain the critical amount of grime that keeps them street-worthy. His works also possess a soulful quality that is hard to describe–though it is undoubtedly aided by Mr. Porter’s unique, falsetto singing voice that finds its way onto his tracks. Guilty is dope here. This beat provides the busy, noisy, and dirty playground that Guilty Simpson needs. All of the above might as well apply to “Pigs” as well.

But that’s the extent of it…

Guilty Simpson is too often reliant on his image as a product of the streets, and lacks the lyrical skills to repackage that image into something more novel. Like many commercial rappers, he is peddling swagger, and not much else. That swagger works here and there (see tracks listed above; also see entries in my music library from Yo Gotti, Lil’ Wayne, T.I. and others), but ulitmately, the popcicle-stick-and-bubble-gum foundation of pure swag is far too weak to sustain a full-length album worthy of any critcal praise. I could see some of these tracks turning into a solid 12″, and maybe an EP, but not much else.

“Kinda Live” is a track that I think Mr. Porter should have saved for a more versatile artist (it reminds one of Jay Electronica’s “Hard to Get”); Guilty just sounds uncomfortable switching up his flow for this unorthodox arrangement. I wanted to like this track, and I’ve probably listened to it more than any other on the album, but in the end I was left with the same feeling that one gets when watching George W. Bush squirm when he’s answering a question that his aides didn’t prepare him for. This is dope track but it was not cut out for Guilty. This is not to mention the subject matter, which, now that I have mentioned it, doesn’t work here either.

“Kill Em” and “Almighty Dreadnaughtz” are the two single worst beats I’ve heard from a Stones Throw offering in a while. This wouldn’t make some myspace artist’s mixtapes. That shit was just lazy. If Mark Jackson was writing this, I’m confident he would add a, “Come on, Peanut Butter Wolf, ya better than that!

“Several of the other Madlib and Dilla beats take on that wackier tone reminiscent of some of the Jaylib material, with a more stripped down construction, which has the effect of exposing Guilty for the sub-par emcee he really is. Simple “cat, bat, hat” rhymes proliferate, and with a subtle beat, you have no choice but to focus on the lyrics. Songs like “Robbery”, “Yikes”, and “I Must Love You” take special emcees to make them work. Frankly, sometimes I think these tracks might only work with Lord Quas on the track.

“My Moment” is an interesting, synthy direction for its producer, Black Milk; yet the result is the same, Guilty’s lyrics are in the forefront, and they just put you to sleep. He ain’t talking about anything, and this truth is painfully clear when you’re forced to listen, and not distracted by a loud, multi-layer Madlib or Oh No concoction.

“Footwork” and “My Moment” kinda knock, but they’re not really my style. I’ll give Guilty the benefit of the doubt on these, but I’m not sure that this is anywhere near enough to tilt the scales for the album as a hole. Oh No did lace “Footwork” on that long outro (but you’ll note that the best part of the track is the part where Guilty ain’t rapping).

Given the high regard that many of us hold for Guilty Simpson’s friend and mentor J Dilla, Dilla’s infamous blessing upon Guilty as his “favorite emcee” made all of us stop and take notice of this guy’s career. I’ve often wondered what it was that Dilla saw in Guilty, and I listened intently for it. I guess I’ll have to keep listening–it just won’t be Ode to the Ghetto.

RATING: 2 of 5 tapes.

Preview: Guilty Simpson’s “Ode to the Ghetto”

January 28, 2008

Guilty Simpson
“Ode to the Ghetto” – Stonesthrow, 2008

Not due out until March, this is setting up to be the first big splash of 2008 (unless Amerykah actually sees a Feb. release). Over at Stonesthrow, the production credits have all the makings of an amazing album. Guilty has the full support of Detroit’s best – Black Milk, Mr. Porter, and 1 Dilla track; throw in the Stonesthrow dynamic duo, Oh No & Madlib, and Ode to the Ghetto is looking like an ode to beatphiles. My listens have been limited to Guilty’s mix, Stray Bullets, which substantiates rumors that Dilla pressed Guilty as the real deal…however, it didn’t have a lot of material to preview from Ode, but I guess that’s what the advance copy is for. Production is as advertised. Madlib’s “American Dream” is a sonic trip that features a military-paced bass and drums, infused with a sung chant that may have been left over from his Beat Konducta in India. Madlib also did up “She Won’t Stay At Home,” a short commentary on Guilty’s “restless” girl. It starts with a great doo-op-esque sample, then takes off when Madlib drops the drums. Lately, it seems to me that Madlib’s beats are becoming a bit more formulaic, particularly his hip-hop beats (those for his emcee buddies, that is). I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to him for a while now and the subtle, and not so subtle, sounds he uses are less of a surprise. A common thread between tracks regardless of the producer is hard hitting drums (this seems to be the Dilla effect, and is becoming more evident on Stonesthrow releases…see Perseverance). I’m not complaining, just making an observation.

From what I’ve heard thus far, Black Milk does up my favorite beat on, “My Moment.” Snyth, claps, rattles – this sounds a bit dirtier than some of the Black Milk we had in 2007 – and this should bang in your nearest jeep (or associated hybrid) when the weather is warmer. I’m kind of feelin’ “Kinda Live” too (prod. Mr. Porter), a rare moment on the album for Guilty; sure it’s for the ladies, so I guess he had to dull his edge a bit. “I Must Love You,” the lone Dilla beat, also slows Guilty up – in this instance, it’s the token relationship track, you know how that goes – oh girl, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we good for one another – e.g. “the other night we went to dinner to chill/so we can talk about our problems and the way we feel/perfect therapy over a red lobster meal.”

The bits and pieces I’ve gotten have me pretty amped for this album. Production-wise, I have high expectations, and have no reason to think those expectations won’t be met. Lyrically, I think a Guilty album is what I need to get into his style. Thus far, he’s been a cameo guy who has impressed me at times, e.g. “Strapped” (from Jaylib’s Champion Sound, 2003), “Watch Your Step” (from Perseverance, 2007). I can’t forget his part on Skyzoo’s mix, Cornerstore Classic, on “Play Your Position” (prod. by Black Milk) & his appearance on the Waajeed produced “Supreme” from Buff1’s Pure, 2007…now that is a CRAZY beat! (For what it’s worth, his solo contribution to Peanut Butter Wolf’s 2K8 B-Ball Zombie War comp was fire, or fiyah, depending on your local pronunciation).

It’s tough to think how Guilty will be on an entire album after mainly knowing him from verse to verse. It was very similar to Percee P – the guy went 20 or so years with random tracks and a number of cameos, and then boom, has entire album. I think it worked, although I think his potency waned as the album progressed. Guilty certainly has Percee’s grit; does he have anything else? I’m interested to see if Guilty’s rhymes/style have LP endurance.

UPDATE: I just listened to “The Hand That Leads You” & “Watch Your Step” from Perseverance…damn!! That’s fiyah no matter where your at!

Browsing the blogs…

January 21, 2008

Piggy-backing on the inclusion of Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” on my Morning Cuppa Go, I came upon this write up on “Grazing in the Grass” over at …And It’s Still All Good. Add in Stevie Wonder’s cover, and we’re starting to get a fuller picture here.

Also, check this interview with Damu the Fudgemunk from FROM DA BRICKS; if you haven’t checked Y Society’s Travel at Your Own Pace (alternatively, here) yet, make sure you do that – some really excellent beats on there, e.g. “Hole in Your Pocket” (great bassline), and the classic sounding, “This is an Introduction.” I also learned that Damu has done some work with Panacea (mainly as DJ), and I guess is kind of like the Jerobi White of the group. I actually found this interview at the perfect time: I’ve been listening to Damu’s instrumental, Spare Time.

Morning cuppa Go…

January 17, 2008

Been meaning to compile a list of morning tracks that get me going on my 5 mile commute to work. Kyle and I have traded tracks for years now, when our sleep cycle is stoked by a particular “morning” track – I think I’d be doing a good service to share them, you know, in case anyone is looking for a musical pick-me-up in the morning. Please feel free to post your own in the comments, I’m always looking for a new morning cuppa go…(these aren’t presented in any particular order) “Okra” by Olu Dara (from 1998’s In the World: From Natchez to New York) – Olu does is damn thing here, with this sense-sational track that awakens more than the eyes. This laidback, breezy track reminds me summer days sitting in my uncle’s apple orchard, eating fresh strawberries and plums; and that cornet…like coffee teasing the olfactory sense. “Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela (from Still Grazing) – probably one of the more recognizable trumpet melodies, Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” is one of the most invigorating tracks in my music collection and man, you have to love the cowbell. If I were a producer, I’d make the cowbell my signature piece. I would say this could be considered a standard, as it’s been covered by several artists, since it was first written in the mid-1960’s; if you prefer the harmonica, check out Eivets Rednow’s version from 1968’s “Alfie.” (yeah, that Stevie Wonder). I can’t think of anything off-hand that has sampled this, other than this from Nice & Smooth’s Ain’t a Damned Thing Changed. “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield (from Curtis) – Kanye did us all a service by bringing a much-deserved light to this gem. Mayfield actually has a few candidates for the A.M., but the horns on this certainly move it up the list. “Work to Do” – Kidz in the Hall – ill soul-sample; empowering message; beat that instills optimism. This is a great track to pump when you know you’ve got a contentious meeting waiting for you. “I Was Made to Love Her” – Stevie Wonder (from I Was Made to Love Her) – What can I say? I love Stevie and I love how Stevie seemed like he was always singing for the last time ever. This is a great example of why soul of the 60’s and 70’s trumps the majority of “soul” or “R&B” today – you can’t help but believe Stevie loves Susie; most contemporary cats don’t get this aspect of singing. Thank God for cats like Dwele. “Starlite” by Panacea (from Ink is My Drink) – love the pace of the beat and the effervescence of the melody. “Jaimerais” by Hocus Pocus (from 73 Touches) – it’s in French, I have no idea what he’s rhymin’ about (or if he’s even rhymin’), but I reckon it’s some tale of lost love (?). The melody and chorus create a care-free sound, and the horns put the nail in the coffin for this being a morning classic. I swear, that singer sounds like Vinia Mojica…but I have nothing to back it up. “Me, Myself, & I” by De La Soul (from 3 Feet High and Rising) – if you don’t know, you better ask somebody “Won’t Do” by J Dilla (from The Shining) – there are a slew of Dilla-produced tracks that make their way into the A.M. playlist, e.g. SV’s “Raise it Up,” but this is one of my favorites. Great sample! And Dilla, on the hook! “Whatever You Say” by Little Brother (from The Listening) – if this beat doesn’t conjure buds, bees, and birds, and all things related to the seeds of amorous feelings, the good old vernal equinox, then I’m through. Phonte’s non-rhyming verse is classic in my book, and 9th killed this…as with the majority of tracks on that album.That list is not exhaustive of course, but it’s a good start to any morning. Throw them on a playlist, and enjoy better days in 30 days or less…Peace

The Little Hater Inside Us All…

January 15, 2008

While I’m reticent about comparing my work here to that of Jay Smooth over at Ill Doctrine, I must admit that this vlog struck a nerve… just watch. [podtech content=]Jay captured the essence of the little hater in my head so well, I don’t feel the need to add anything.

I’ll reiterate: Illdoctrine is one of the best blogs on the internet… don’t sleep my friends; and the life lesson is especially poignant to me, because Jay Smooth played a big part in shaping my taste in music on those late Saturday nights I spent studying and listening to the radio while a freshman in college. So I listen to whenever the kid is offering wisdom.

I’m sorry for the delay, I’m rejuventated after a battle with the little hater, and I’m ready to return.


Way back when…in 2007…

January 3, 2008

Aight, it’s January 3 and neither myself nor Kyle have shared any thoughts on the year in music that was 2007 (looking at our last post, looks like we’ve been hibernating). But, I’ve been listening to music incessantly, and been reading some fine wrap ups on some of the blogs I frequent however, and don’t feel it necessary to cut and paste some of the great albums and tracks that others have recollected, e.g. Ohmega Watts’ Watts Happening over at WTR. (“Model Citizen” still sits atop as my favorite, along with “Dedicated” & “Eyes & Ears.”) Sure, I really dug (or digged) Pharoah’s Desire, Hov’s American Gangster, Kweli’s Ear Drum (Madlib dressed “Everything Man” & “Eat to Live” smartly), and other top choices for top 5-10 albums of the year. There are a few albums that I felt didn’t get represented as well as they should have in others’ top 10 lists.

For example, one of my early favorites of the year was Black Milk’s Popular Demand, shown some love early in ’07. “Sound the Alarm” with Guilty Simpson has to be in the top five for gully of 2007. Through 2007, Black Milk lent some really dope production to a range of artists (not including how he laced up his own work, e.g. “So Gone” & “Take It There,” both from Popular Demand). If you haven’t, be sure to check his work on Wildchild’s Jack of All Trades. “Love at 1st Mic” is so Detroit, so Dilla, you have to love it, featuring the classic cut and stuttering soul sample. This beat could have easily been on Popular Demand. I really like the drums on “Ox to tha D,” but Frank-N-Dank don’t really do it for me, nor does the chorus…but the beat is still pretty hot. Black Milk also killed “Danger,” (shown love at WYDU, #81) from Phat Kat’s Carte Blanche; this track was also featured on BM’s EP, Broken Wax, but in my opinion, the highlight of that project was “U’s a Freak”: Classic tale of dude calling out a girl who’s a lady in the street but freak behind doors (very Slum Village-esque theme), but that beat is ridiculous.

Jneiro Jarel also put out, what I consider, and excellent album in 2007, in the form of his Shape of Broad Minds project, which is to Jneiro Jarel what Yesterday’s New Quintet is to Madlib: includes Jneiro Jarel, Jawwaad, Rocque Won, Dr. Who Dat?, and the only non-Jneiro creation, Panama Black. Craft of the Lost Art (digital version here) features the rare soul/funk samples of Madlib, drum arrangements of Dilla, non-self-absorbed lyrics of Ohmega Watts, and the free wheelin’ style of a Count Bass D release. Four elements that make for a great album. Led by the single “Let’s Go” featuring MF Doom working as a tribute to Dilla (whom I would guess Jarel was a student), Craft of the Lost Art is packed front to back with diversity, but manages to sound coherent in one listen. While tracks like “Let’s Go” & “Light Years Away” back the bangers, I really like when Jarel sculpts some more surreal backgrounds, as heard in “Changes,” which features a rolling sample that makes the track float, “Electric Blue,” one of my faves on the album, and “Lullabanger,” the latter very Madlib-esque in the use of rising tones, and, what sounds like a maraca. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the jazz tribute, “It Ain’t Dead!!” reminding us all that jazz still contributes greatly to hip hop music. Unfortunately, when I was in Philly and tried to check out Zanzibar Blue, I found it to be closed.

Other honorable mentions include:
100dbs & Ryan O’neal’s The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard – a long-winded title, sure, but it’s certainly worth checking out for 100dbs’s production. Sample-heavy it is, but as I always say, the ability to find an ill sample nearly precludes sculpting the sample into a track. 100dbs digs some good ones. Highlights include “She Got a Body,” “Get Down!” & “One Hand Bandit.”

Waajeed’s Waajeed Presents: The War LP – Again, here we go with Detroit. Waajeed’s production is on point throughout this “compilation,” which is comprised of both vocal and instrumental tracks. The instrumentals are worth it, but you throw in some excellent tracks from Ta’Raach, a few Dilla instrumentals, and 3 solid Tiombe Lockhart songs, and this album gets better and better, culminating with its final two tracks: “Escape from Stinktown” and the instrumental, “Tron.”

I first learned of Uncut Raw’s First Toke over at When They Reminisce. This was certainly a surprise banger for me, and due to this element of surprise, probably is in my top 5 for the year. Both Selfish & Fluent are capable emcees but for me, the production is definitely the selling point – the samples could hardly be more perfect, including so-soulful and funk, and it sounds like it was recorded in a dark basement; it’s got that dusty sound that made (or, makes) Wu-Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers so appealing. “The Flying” may be in my top 10 tracks for the year, and is quite Dilla-esque if you ask me.

Sa-Ra’s Hollywood Recordings continues the Detroit ambiance and restores some contemporary Prince vibes to the ’07.

And last, but surely not least is Panacea’s The Scenic Route, which you can (or may have already) read about right here. I still maintain that Raw P is one of the premier story tellers out right now.

Here’s to 2007 – an excellent year, imo, for music. Both the underground and not-so underground came with some really solid albums; while I will occasionally get into a funk when I hear an awful hip hop song on the radio, or see some sloppy video on television, I cannot really complain about what came out in 2007. I’m optimistic enough to be quite interested in 2008’s releases.

Hip Hop, rock, rock on and…