Here we have the Top 10 projects that were only available for some dough. Again, we don’t know how to follow what everyone wants their project to be called so we divide our lists into those available for free and the ones for sale. We are trying to promote the purchasing of music in any form. Hit the jump to find out which artists made our list and leave a comment if you think we forgot something or even if you agree!
10. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
The most out-there album on the list. Years after first achieving fame as part of the Digable Planets, Shabazz Palaces makes what can most loosely be defined as an experimental album. Despite the risks being taken, everything on here works, paying off in a big way. Meanwhile, the common thread throughout are dope raps from Shabazz. This album doesn’t sound like anything else released this year and is most definitely worth a listen.
9.MMG – Self-Made Vol. 1
The mainstream’s introduction to blog locals, Rick Ross was able to gather Wale, Pill & Meek Mill into one sound and still let them what they do best. With strong signs of Rick Ross’ influence on every track, he takes a back seat and lets the younger guys shine like they know how. It may be on a bass heavy Lex Luger beat instead of drum infused Go-Go but Wale brings the same witty lyrics we have grown accustomed to. Meek Mill fits in perfectly with Rick Ross’ developed sound and has no problem keeping up with the fast paced beats. Pill brings his street stories and party anthems to bigger stages. Wale was able to turn this new deal and exposure into a #2 spot on Billboard and we are curious to see if Meek Mill and Pill will be able to benefit in a similar way.
8.TiRon & Ayomari – A Sucker For Pumps
The Cafeteria Line continues to take their time and produce the highest quality product they can. A Sucker For Pumps is worth the wait with 14 individual tracks that need not be skipped making one complete project that entertains and impresses from beginning to end. TiRon & Ayomari themselves describe it as “an album about boys and girls, dedicated to men and women”. It has an older sound that certainly can make you feel nostalgic. These guys always deliver projects that can be listened to for months no problem so it is always acceptable for them to take so long finishing a product. This one will be in rotation for the foreseeable future.
7.9th Wonder – The Wonder Years
If there is a 9th Wonder stamp on it, that pretty much means it will be good. 9th gets the majority of the underground and a bunch of his camp to help him with the long-awaited The Wonder Years. Soul on every track, flows for days and a dope beat. Features include but not limited to Phonte, Median, Warren G, Murs, Kendrick Lamar, Masta Killa, Blu, Raekwon, Mac Miller and many more. 9th Wonder has never worried about what other people think and continues to work with the artists that he chooses – remember that track with Lil’ B? – and for that, we can’t be mad at the selections that aren’t our favorites. Overall, a real dope LP.
6.Luck-One – True Theory
This is Luck-One’s best and most fulfilling work to date. The rhymes are on point as usual and the subject matter broaches more topics and gives more insight than any hip hop project in a long time. Topics range from religion in America to hometown anthems and even a “double-time track from both perspectives of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with a tri-lingual chorus”. This album was years in the making and is a huge statement for someone so young in the rap game who literally began post-prison just a couple of years ago. This is one that people are going to be looking back on and revisiting once more people catch wind of Luck-One’s talent.
5.Pusha T – Fear of God II: Let Us Pray
“Who else can put the felons with hipsters and thugs/ and paint a perfect picture of what sellin it does” raps Pusha T on “Trouble on My Mind”. And that is exactly right; no one has been able to translate their experiences of selling cocaine to the general masses quite like Pusha and Malice as the Clipse. They have been doing it for years and now Pusha continues his drug raps with the new background of G.O.O.D. Music. “Trouble on My Mind” is one of the best tracks as Pusha already has great chemistry and a history with The Neptunes. Each track hits hard and Pusha ensures that we will be waiting for the GOOD Music compilation and his debut very impatiently.
4.Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
The unanimous pick for leader of the new West, Kendrick Lamar, released one of the best projects of the year yet again. Kendrick’s flow is crazy and has me wondering all the time when he actually finds the spot to breath. He makes meaningful hip hop that sounds good. Section.80 holds it place as the next solid release in a string of good Black Hippy projects. Haling from well-known Compton, his music sounds nothing like his predecessors but he is making sure the country knows that the West Coast and he, himself, have a lot to say.
3.Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
Pharoahe Monch is one of the most underrated emcees in the game. His verses are so technically sound that he rattles off bars of multi-syllabic rhymes so rapidly you can’t catch most of them. He does not disappoint on the latest offering as he outshines dope guests like Royce Da 5’9”, Jean Grae, Styles P and Immortal Technique. If you are a fan of pure lyricism, as I am, this is a cd you do not want to miss. This is rapping at its finest.
2.Saigon – Greatest Story Never Told
The sign of a good album is its longevity and ability to stay relevant years after it is made. This album immediately begins to address the question of longevity as it holds relevance within the hip-hop community despite it being fully finished and shelved years ago. Some thought that this story may never actually get told but it has finally seen the light of day and the hip-hop community is lucky to hear it. Real stories of growing up and facing challenges big and small, relationships and how they change, and optimistic looks to the future. This album, produced mostly by Just Blaze, still applies today just like it would have in 2007 and will probably be talked about for years to come.
1.Phonte – Charity Starts at Home
Phonte is one of the more consistent emcees and is almost guaranteed to bring a nice verse to any song he blesses. On his long-awaited solo debut, that consistency is put to the test as he is expected to do more than any guest verse or song with his old group Little Brother and he passes this test easily. This album is a dope look at the ups and downs of finding success in hip hop but being unable to break through to a mainstream level of popularity. It addresses everyday problems in a refreshing way that allows Phonte to touch all of his listeners no matter how they are living. He doesn’t shy away from tough topics and stays honest, refusing to project something as it is not. “Baby boy wrote me say it feel like he lost me/ I’m like ‘dude, I’m tryin, back the fuck up off me’/ my single friends say ‘Te, your family’s beautiful/ I’m like ‘if y’all n****s only knew what it cost me’”. Even years after their dispute, 9th Wonder and Phonte still have something special and in addition, Phonte has made some pretty meaningful music with new producers as well. This is the type of album that you can listen to over and over again right in a row.
All of these should be on iTunes, some links to bandcamps are available. I will also throw a few other artists out who had great releases this year but didn’t make it on this list. Kids These Days – Hard Times EP, Sha Stimuli – Unsung Vol. 1, Pete Rock & Smith-N-Wesson – Monumental, ScHoolboy Q – Setbacks & Drake – Take Care.