|me in front of the word 'burn' @Myrtle and Ryerson|
In a year that began with deadbirds literally falling from the sky and will end with our President signing a bill that yields the indefinite detention of ANYONE, I must once again adhere to the title of the first Jane’s Addiction record, Nothing’s Shocking. And while this line of thinking may seem distraught, manic, or downright nihilistic to some, it can more accurately be diagnosed as a dogmatic, spiritual journey into narcissistic fear-and-loathing, with the resulting, clamorous truth being that an END may very well be NEAR. I mean, the Earth-tipping disasters (outside of what the folks associated with HAARP may or may not have controlled) were beyond astonishing in 2011. Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, and forest fires historically exceeded prior levels of damage and death. In wake of the madness, I personally occupied plenty of Innervisions (puns over everything), while a respectable number of others across the nation and globe occupied the streets in protest. But mostly we occupied the internet and to those who accomplished something, whether it be in Egypt or Oakland or in the future of Artificial Intelligence (it seems that’s what the late Mr. Jobs has left us with) I commend your efforts, but am truly interested in this Anonymous-mess and don’t see why people are so taken aback by the actions of any governing body. It’s a wash. Better get it in your soul and cling to some integrity. And perhaps some faith. IT’s gonna get uglier folks, but as IT does, I sure do enjoy ITs soundtrack. "Now go start your own band!"
DJ Tara has been blessing SoCo with crate-digging gems every Thursday evening. I usually approach her at least twice during her set (in the most polite and non-interrupting way possible, of course) to ask about a track or version of a track that she’s just dropped. Tara has more than a few rarities in her back pocket and that’s just one dope part of her entire artistic landscape as a deejay. Don’t sleep on one of BK’s nicest turntablists. Read more about this talented woman and peep her mix here.
Speaking of Brooklyn, the Stuyvesants create hip hop music that captures the warmth and groove of 70s soul music and appropriate it into head-nods that you and I LOVE. The partnership of Algorythm and Flwrpt was created in Bed-Stuy and has recently churned out two volumes of The Finer Things which you can freely grab here. These cats get plenty of rotation at HQ and I look forward to pollyin’ with them some more in the future.
So, my best of 2011 list is without Thrones, Futures, Wolves, or Drakes and you shouldn’t be surprised. I am just one man with an opinion. Impressionable, yet picky, with a oversized pair of ears for what I think is dope. Unfortunately I haven’t been behind the decks much lately, but if I had, I would have been dropping tracks from these artists and WILL BE in 2012. I did spend waaaay too much time on this PC this year, but had I not, this list wouldn't exist. So read ‘em and weep...in no particular order...
Curren$y + Alchemist*Convert Coup*WMG
Peep my original review of Spitta's major label debut here. His prior tapes and his work with Alchemist was about the only thing I was bumping at the beginning of the year. The New Orleans pothead is one of my favorite dudes in the biz. He obviously doesn't take himself too seriously; but is a true talent on the mic. Reference his ability to spit over anything and do it with inherent comfort and genuine happiness. Self-made, honest and fly as fuck. _m/ life is a reminder to do you and if you are supposed to make a mark, you will. Smoke one and smile for your boy.
James Blake*James Blake*A&M/Atlas
At 22, this British dubstep producer/vocalist can truly sing the gospel. In place of church organs and Biblical hymns, Blakes' magnifying bellow (a la Luther Vandross) smothers his own minimal keys, clicks and fuzz with love songs for generation Y. The result is green and laced with the kind of electronic production that we as music lovers should grow accustomed to if we haven't already. This is not dubstep nor R&B, yet a polished, internet-love-child of the two.
J.Period+DJ Spinna*Man Or The Music 2*Independent
Two of Brooklyn's most admired producer/deejays paired up this past summer to create the second annual commemoration of MJ's legacy with another stellar mixtape highlighted by rare live versions, covers, interviews and an overall cohesiveness that is sure to make even the most devout fan appreciate the collection of tunes and/or say "oh shit, I've never heard that!" And although Irene ruined Spike Lee's annual MJ tribute party in BK where physical copies were to be handed out, they still gave it away free online. Get it here and cherish the GOAT.
Pharoahe Monch*W.A.R (We Are Renegades)*Duckdown
Big shout to the homie Jason Vaughn of Boycott Magazine. I think he posted a track from this album earlier this year and I loved it but forgot to cop the whole joint. Here Pharoahe discusses the future as every emcee/teacher should. On "Blackhand Side'' he complains...a generation overly obsessed with mobsters/ our revolutionaries want Grammys and Oscars/ imposters, fake auras and weak chakras/ making a mockery of music to be pop stars. Prophetic, grown, and revolutionary, indeed. This shit right here.Gary Clark Jr.*Bright Lights EP*WMG
South ATX, tried and true. The future is limitless for this dude as he continues turning the heads and ears of the entire industry as of late (he did Letterman last week). Besides the powerful title cut which producer Rob Cavallo appropriately beefed up from the original version Clark was shopping on his 2010 self-titled record, the self-produced closer, an acoustic version of "When My Train Pulls In" (from his very first recording in '01) is a true fan's treat, delving into an old blues medley Clark used to open his shows with back in Austin. The song brings a smile to my face daily. Hope to catch up soon, G. Godspeed.
Big K.R.I.T.*Return of 4Eva*Independent
"Refrain from being lame, say it like you mean it/ get up off yo feet like it's the first time you seen it..." Well it wasn't the first time I'd seen or heard a country boy spit about country living (you can hear 'Kast, UGK, and MJG in his voice) but to produce the entire record dolo and have a sincere, true to soil, cocaine-less flow AND garnish the attention of everybody from down bottom and a few others (he's featured on the Roots' new record), Justin Scott will indeed be a King Remembered In Time if he keeps this up. The Brothers of Soul-sampling "Dreamin'" was one of my favorite tracks of the year, while "The Vent" should be a lament for us all. Mississippi stand up.
Action Bronson*Dr. Lecter*Independent
Fuck a hater. Bronsolino's voice is strikingly similar to one Ghostface. But shit, that doesn't make him a shark. He's a talented chef that can rap and his passion and bars are some of the illest to emerge from NYC over the past decade. AB is also fucking hilarious, sifting between WWF metaphors and vagina/culinary comparisons in one fail swoop. The 3bills+ emcee isn't all jokes though--his Flushing, Queens street tales pop with neck-snap precision . Production here is 90s-superb from Tommy Mas, while he also dropped Well Done this year with NYC standout Statik Selektah. This Albanian monster serves up platters of heat. Don't sleep.
Kendrick Lamar*Section.80*Top Dawg
Upon digesting this record amongst a slue of others in the same week I'll admit that "...if I can fuck her in front of all of these passengers/ they'll probably think I'm a terrorist/ eat my asparagus..." caused me to press stop. I then met Chris Wade on an airplane because we liked each others Jordans and he told me this dude had released the record of the year. As I gave it a re-listen (most of the gems are at the end) I realized that this twenty-nothing from Compton was the voice of the thinking, emotionally charged, yet self-aware, internet-toting generation Y. Plus he can spit Bone Thugs-fast ("Rigamortis") and may have song of the year with "HiiiPower".
Shouts to Bavu Blakes for turning me on to this record from one of the game's most dynamic artists. Phonte's first solo joint (but don't forget Little Brother and his Grammy nominated Foreign Exchange) captures the essence of hip hop independence. Produced by LB extraordinaire 9th Wonder, Charity glides out of the speakers with honesty and whit. On "The Good Fight" fam in my ear all day and they yellin'/ keep it real 'Te and don't ever sell out, but how the fuck you sell out when ain't nobody sellin'? Lines like that along with "I made a new lane for myself and said fuck it/ why rage against the machine when you can just unplug it..." still have me grinning about the true definition of hustle.
The Roots*Undun*Def Jam
Dark, shimmering, hopeful, and hopeless, Illidelph's finest took on the task of conceptually casting a record about a man's life of crime and eventual death and the orchestration plays out with marvelous candor. Undun came just weeks ago and it hasn't left iPod rotation yet. Black Thought is top five, dead or alive, and always has been to me. Phonte and Big K.R.I.T. join in delivering the dramatic scenes within the backwards death of our main character Redford Stevens. ?uestlove goes completely Animal (Jim Henson) on "Will To Power" before the record collects itself with thematic strings only to be #undun upon next listen. Play it again, Sam. Instant classic.
Thundercat*The Golden Age of Apocalypse*Brainfeeder
Stephen Bruner is a bass player and his eclectic debut plays like a jazz/funk fusion monster whose Dr. Frankenstein just happens to be west coast taste-maker Flying Lotus. Between fits of broken garage and muddled confusion only similar to something formatted by Herbie Hancock, Bruner's compositions and playing style allow each track to dance to it's own complexities. Unique, fresh and virtuous in his tastes, Bruner sings, too. I see many collabs in the future. Here, have a sample.
WU LYF*Go Tell Fire To The Mountain*L Y F
This is ONLY the third time I've mentioned these young fellas from across the pond this year. They are the band of the year for me hands down. Start with their website. The music can be safely described as indie-pop, complete with an Afro-rhythmic bounce and single note chords of jubilation and darkness that get delivered in the same song, however, what deviates the sound of these youngsters from Manchester away from so many similar outfits are the vocal stylings of Ellery Roberts, whose grunts recall a schizophrenic Waits that can't fully pronounce words, and whose tortured wails resurrect a once hungry Isaac Brock. World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation has a posse. I promise.
Oddisee*Rock Creek Park*Mellow Music
DMV's finest producer and soul aficionado goes by the moniker Oddisee and I only know this thanks again to Bavu Blakes. Named after one of his favorite get-away spots outside of DC, Oddisee's 2011 release reveals a brand of crisp hip hop production that incorporates both live instrumentation and a knack for percussive perfection and delightful samples. The first track I heard was "The Carter Baron" and I never looked back. In fact, I've nearly soaked up the kid's entire catalog (see both collectives Diamond District and Low Budget) and am looking forward to anything he touches in 2012.
The short version: Los Angeles via New Orleans college-dropout ghostwrites several hit pop songs. Signs to Def Jam. Gets shelved by said label. Says fuck Def Jam and releases album free. Associates with Odd Future. Releases record of the year about hitting some weed laced with Novocaine at Coachella with a porn star. Covers Fader Magazine... in all honesty though, dude can sing AND write (see "We All Try'' and his youthful, yet accurate story-telling and commentary on marriage over an Eagles' classic on "American Wedding"). Frank Ocean: household name.
Gangsta Gibbs is most certainly that. There isn't much going on economically in Gary, Indiana and Gibbs lyrically brings that to fruition the same way gangster rap was accurately brought to wax in the early 90's. I can't think of another gangster rapper the spits as nice as Gibbs and obviously still has one foot in the trap. You can hear it in his voice. The hunger and honesty make Freddie Gibbs appealing to me. I've never sold rocks, robbed a man or did a bid, but Gibbs paints a movie on the mic and each tale is compelling. While titles like "Rob Me A N****" and "My Homeboy's Girlfriend" may seem absurd, Gibbs hits narrative home-runs with production from an army of lesser-knowns. And he just cut a record with Madlib. Get to know Freddie.
East Cameron Folkcore*Sound & Fury: Songs In The Key Of Love And Death*Independent
This is a personal and emotional record for me. In short, the sound is classic Americana, constructed in movements that are dedicated to the life and death of a fallen friend. I am honored to be featured on the record. Much of it is a tough listen unless you are unbeknownst to the players and people involved. Strings of every kind, brass and keys, along with the earnest pipes of Jesse Moore and our East Cameron Road family deliver an album that has been mostly slept on. You should give it a listen.
Shabazz Palaces' Black Up, Evidence's Cats & Dogs, Bavu Blakes' SANCT EP, Blu's No York, Death Grips' ExMilitary (dubby electronic punk-hop with screaming rapper and Zach Hill on drums....yes, please) Jay-Z+Kanye West's Watch The Throne, Talib Kweli's Gutter Rainbows, Elzhi's El-matic (Detroit emcee does QB classic proper justice) Skyzoo's The Great Debater, Adele's 21, Aloe Blacc's Good Things (a year late), Chuuwee's Hot'N'Ready (kid from Sac-town is about to make waves...TRUST), Girls's Broken Dreams Club AND Father, Son, Holy Ghost (I absolutely love the SF trio), Cults's Self Titled debut, the Weeknd's House of Balloons, Washed Out's Within and Without (about the only 'chill-wave' I can stomach), Iceage's New Brigade (punk fucking rawk!), and Smith Westerns' Dye It Blonde.
Shit I can't get into and am still scratching my head on:
|Kids these days...|
Odd Future (I do respect the manner in which they have taken over with cult status through doing shit completely independent, but substance?? anyone??? I already loved their heroes. I guess they're reinventing them for those too young to know), A$AP Rocky (ummm really? WOW. Harlem kid in love with Houston's syrupy sound and OFWGKTA's 'swag' for 3 milli?!?! Sure thing 'Rakim' smfh), Danny Brown (love the sound of his voice, but his gross-out humor doesn't make me laugh nor gross me out...had great production on XXX though), Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire (ummmm, really??? no comment) and Das Racist (only annoy me a little bit and I actually bumped Sit Down, Man for about a week), and Drake. And Wale :'(
The song of the year actually comes from an album that was never released and may never see the light of day. The mysteriousness of Jay Electronica partially haunts my yearning for quality hip hop, as his pen and vision (to me) have yielded some of the best music to emerge over the last five years. Although he signed to Roc Nation in the later part of last year and followed that with the release of what I will dub 'song of the year' in 2011, there has still been no word from the enlightened sooth-Sayer from NOLA's Magnolia Projects. Not only does "Shiny Suit Theory" feature Jay-Z (his bars on the track are nicer than anything he spit on WTT), but in his own verse, Jay Electronica speaks as Sean Combs, reenacting the courting that took place between Bad Boy and himself just years ago. The story has legs. There is no percussion on the track, yet a looped piano with inserted applause and a beautiful singing voice the appears at the conclusion of Hov's verse. Come home Mr. Thedford. The game needs your record.
In closing, I'd like to say FUCK YOU to Penn St., David Stern and Rick Perry in particular (for marring my name when I tell people I'm from Texas). I'd like to congratulate my boy Chippy on taking over his new pizza spot in Georgetown, Texas called Manhattan Pie Company and my boys Nathan and Dennis for opening The White Horse in East Austin last week. I'll see you guys next week for New Year's Eve! Another thank you goes out to Ferrari Sheppard and Chuck D for using Twitter to enlighten. I enjoy what you gentlemen have to say everyday. Farewell to Troy Davis, Gil Scott-Heron, Elizabeth Taylor, Nick Ashford, Joe Frasier, Betty Ford, Al Davis, Heavy D, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Andy Rooney, Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs and the millions who lost their life this year due to hunger and war. Hello to the future, however bright and/or terrifying it may be.
Thanks for reading...see you next year.
|Favorite wall in LES|