Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It
Any album that carries a lot of soul, while still sounding so polished & also contains my favourite Non Hip-Hop track of the year has to be on my list. Raphael Saadiq has created a modern classic that, years from now people will be going back to in the same way that we go back to Songs in the Key of Life. To any singer/songwriter, past, present or future, this is the benchmark.
Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make That Shit Gold
Stupid question of the year. Someone asked me ‘How can you claim Mobb Deep & The Wu-Tang among your all time favourites, then turn round & listen to Atmosphere?’ My answer: ‘Because it’s very easy to listen to one of the best Hip Hop releases of the year’. Seeing as WLGYLYMTSG also contains arguably my single favourite Hip Hop song this year (In Her music Box), you who had the audacity to ask me that in the 1st place, should be asking yourself why you aren’t listening to music of this quality? And on top of that, Ant has to be one of the most underused producers in Hip Hop.
People Under The Stairs – Fun DMC
Sometimes Hip-Hop should be exactly what it says on the tin. Thes & Double showed us what it was all about in the first place with Fun DMC. An album that doesn’t try to do anything other than be an enjoyable listen but is a whole lot more besides. Thes changed up his beat making game for this one & although all of the core PUTS elements are there, there’s also something extra that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s that something that put FD on my list.
Nicolay & Kay – Time:Line
The sublime greatness of Nicolay’s sound on here doesn’t need to be explained anymore. But conceptually & lyrically this album was overlooked by many (including myself at first). To chart life from start to finish is a feat in itself. Kay did it in a classy, understated way. He will have known that Nicolay would have got the immediate plaudits & that some of us would have questioned his half of the partnership. It took me about 4 listens realise just how good a job Kay did.
Elzhi – The Preface
When an MC that spits as much fire as El does, gets together with a producer with the gifted talent of Black Milk, Hip Hop really shows what it’s capable of. Rarely have I heard an MC spray such constant verbal bullets. But with that said, I still think Royce just about steals the whole show with his bomb proof bars on Motown 25. Damn!
The Knux - Remind Me In 3 Days
Talent such as this is always meant for big things. These guys came at me completely out of the blue with their brand of Hip Hop. Should Outkast's desire to pursue any new avenues together diminish, these guys are more than capable of taking their mantle to a new level. Remind me... easily carries the most original sound I've heard this year. Definite superstars in waiting.
Jazz T – All City Kings
His beats may carry a sense of organised (Jazz infused) chaos but such is the quality of said chaos that his mention here was inevitable. Conceptually there isn’t much to discuss but that in no way takes away from the overall execution. The MC’s in (Tim Dog, Kashmere, Percee P & Yeshua) on proceedings are all there to tell us how good they are & Jazz provided one of the illest/my favourite backdrops this year.
Lizzy Parks – Raise The Roof
The sexiest (both in looks & sound), this year. I dare any red blooded male to listen to this lady sing & not want to get to know her better. She has one of those voices that when i listen to it, life seems just that little bit better. Ben Lamdin (Nostalgia 77) & Riaan Vosloo (Nostalgia 77 Octet) should be scoring movies, such is the quality & depth of the sound here. If there is one artist I would love the chance to see live (for more reasons than one) it’s Lizzy Parks.
Ugly Duckling – Audacity
These guys just don’t know how to make anything other than great hip Hop. Once again, this is an album that doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is. There is a newly found sing-a-long element that Dizzy & co have added to their game. I was singing the hook to ‘I Won’t Let It die’ non-stop for days. This album also showcases just how much these guys love what they do & not unlike PUTS, this come across on every track.
Dyme Def – 3BADBROTHAAAS MIXTAPE
Even in ‘underground’ circles, these guys never seem to be on many folks lips. How Hip Hop of this quality keeps getting over looked I will never know. All the releases to date from these guys is a necessity in all self respecting, so called true Hip hop enthusiasts collections. Brilliant.
Jazzanova – Of All The Things
This is the most versatile of the artists on my list. Of All The Things shows that these folks can turn their hand to anything & make it work. There’s something on here for everybody with Funk, R’n’B, Deep Soul, Smooth Jazz, Straight Hip Hop & a lot in between making an appearance. And with a guest list that should wet many appetites (Ben Westbeech, Joe Dukie, Phonte, Dwele, Leon Ware etc), they covered all angles. The fact that they’re on point with all of them only make it all the more enjoyable.
Robin Thicke – Something Else
We know that this guy (in tandem with Pro J) is a supremely talented songwriter/producer. We, for the most part, agree that has about as soulful a voice as you’ll here for many a year. But it’s the way that all was bared for us to see (or in this case hear) that set this album apart amongst it’s counterparts. Feelings, emotions, views on life, political commentary, it was all on Something Else.
Funky DL – The Jazz That Was Forgotten
DL has been around for what seems like an eternity. Now, in that time although conceptually he has grown, technically he’s still the same MC. I’m not sure whether overall that is a good or a bad thing, but in the context of this album alone, it’s the right thing. The clue to the supreme niceness of this album is in the title. Jazz Hop is the way of the walk & DL knows the right steps to take. Jazz samples have always been a staple of the Funky DL diet but This album was when it all came together.
Black Milk – Tronic
This guy has been busy as hell this last year & a bit. Yet he still saved his best beats for himself with his 3rd superb solo release. The albums vibe is exactly as the title describes. Futuristic electronic samples & sounds coupled with the kind of snares & kicks that Primo would be proud to claim as his own. Black Milk sooner or later will surely be the next go to guy in Hip hop.... Right???
The Foreign Exchange – Leave It all Behind
It’s that man again. Personally Nicolay is my beatsmith of the year. To have been the sole producer for 2 of the years best albums is something Dre & Tim would have trouble with. Yes we all wanted Phonte to spit. But now the smoke has cleared it’s obvious Kanye isn’t in the same league vocally as Phonte or sonically as Nicolay. Yet we all know who’s gonna push more units. I can only imagine what’s possible on the next one. Beautiful.
Q-Tip – The Renaissance
All those false dawns have been worth the wait & then some a Q-Tip comes back with a big bang. This was the album I had hoped for. It seems that unlike some, time hasn’t dulled his craft. Q is his usual charismatic self on the mic, while the soundscape is worthy of any future ATCQ reunion (come on you know you want to). An upbeat bounce from start to finish, I’d forgotten just how good a producer the man is. Now if only....
Algebra – Purpose
Erykah has it, Jill has it, Alicia has it & Algebra has it. That special something, that distinguishes them from the rest. Kedar’s still got it too & he is perfect person to oversee such a talent. Neo-Soul has been operating in its more conventional cousin’s shadow for the last few years & it’s a damn shame that more of the good people don’t know anything about Algebra. This is the songstress that can put music of this type back on the radar.
Sonny Jim – Trading Standards
Sonny must be a popular MC judging by the guest list on this album/mixtape. Soweto Kinch, Orifice Vulgatron, Verbal Kent, The IRS, Skrein, Cappo, Jehst, Verb T, Stig & more help means this cannot be overlooked. One neck snapper is followed by another without a single press of the skip button in sight. Such a naturally gifted MC who releases material of this quality should really be pushing this as an album. But hey, when Hip Hop is this good who am I to judge.
Solange – Sol Angel & the Hadley Street Dreams
Be honest. How many of us actually thought that this album would be any good. When I heard the 1st single my initial expression was, eh?. But once that had grown on me I bought the album & was more than pleasantly surprised. As vocally superior as big sis is & as polished as ‘I am’ may sound SAATHSD, carries a better vibe throughout & has a lot more variety. Solange has definitely proven she has a lot more balls (metaphorically speaking) than her, rather more established, sibling.
Green Tea – Dosage II: Choices
Neo-Soul with a major dose of headnodability, Dosage II is one of those albums that, as I was flicking through the rack something just told me to grab it. Luckily that spare tenner is money well spent as I have wiled away many a recent afternoon with this lady crooning in the background. And to think I had never even heard so much as a murmur of her name before. Don’t you just love a new discovery.
Dela – Changes Of Atmosphere
Frances great new hope strikes back even better second time around. He’s found a happy medium between his last album & his Soul Village period. In case you haven’t noticed I’m a major Jazz Hop head & this is Jazz Hop of the highest order. With a guest list of immense quality (J. Sands, Naledge, Blu, Dynas, Supastition, J-Live...), Dela should be a very busy man from now on.
Wax & EOM – Liquid Courage
The 2nd album on this list that came at me from leftfield, I wasn’t expecting much from Liquid Courage. Let’s be honest we all know where the term liquid courage comes from (But apparently these guys took the title from movie ‘The Dark Knight’). I won’t make that same mistake the next time I see a project with either of these guys involved. There is a generic Hip Hop spine but it’s been twisted & contorted to great effect. Wax can change tact at the flick of a mic switch & EOM’s sample usage is as superb as it is quirky.
Jack Flash – The Union Jack Album
Superbly polished, soul inspired beats are coupled with a easy on the ear conversational rhyme style. Jack flash is in his element when telling a story, which matches the laid back samples. Yet what pushes this album to the fore is that as chilled as the samples themselves may be, they are coupled with some fearsome fearsome (think Buckwild). I said earlier but I repeat, those who think that UK Hip Hop standards are slipping should be using albums such as this as a marker.
and don’t forget these...
Giant Panda – Electric Laser / What I like to call B-Boy niceness
Murs & 9th Wonder / Sweet Lord
The Antidotes – L.A. Lights / Like PUTS, like Ug Duck, get this album
Million Dan – Spektrum / Ragga tinged Hip Hop at its best
Belleruche – The Express / Tru Thoughts are like P. Diddy, they can’t stop
M9 – 144,000 / East coast USA, eat your heart out
Evil Ed & conspicuous – The Get Together / Brit head nodding niceness
Oddisee – 101 & 102 / Not all new but all top notch