12 Albums, 12 more additions to your collection from the team.
Preach’s 3 Picks for 2011
This was a difficult process only because 2011 was chock full of albums
that caught the eye and made residence in your gut. These three albums
aren’t my top 3, but they made the year that much more vivid.
Oddisee - Rock Creek Park
The album as travelogue is a classic element of music. That
said, it can be hit-or-miss. Oddisee, the extraordinary MC
and producer out of Washington DC and part of Mello Music
Group strikes gold with Rock Creek Park. Listening to this
album envelops you in sultry sounds that have all the heft of
hip-hop’s drums and enough soul to make Afro-Sheen entertain
a comeback. Each track on this EP has immediate replay value.
Oddisee displays a true gift of interpreting scenes and sight
through sound; “Closed After Dark” conveys the electricity
of U Street at night, and ‘Scenic Route To You’ has all the flavor
of a summer BBQ over by Shaw Ave. Rock Creek Park is indeed
a can’t miss part of your soundtrack while stepping through the
Theivery Corporation - Culture of Fear
It seems that this new album from Thievery Corporation was made to
be a rallying cry for 2011, a year that saw the Middle East forever
changed by revolution and the rise of dissent against corruption and
economic hardship in the form of Occupy Wall Street here in the States.
The sixth album from Eric Hilton and Rob Garza doesn’t disappoint at
all, with their ambient sound that truly reflects a global voice within. It’s
thought-provoking yet soothing. Culture of Fear is at it’s best with tracks
like ‘Tower Seven’, an insistent melody that speaks to its dub roots and
carries a powerful message without words getting in the way. “Take My
Soul” is another standout, with the gentle vocals of LouLou Ghelichkhani
making this track a perfect backdrop for a lounge, hookah bar or a rally.
Culture of Fear is one of those albums that has the possibility to be the
framework for moments of the soul one is just allowing themselves to
Action Bronson & Statik Selektah - Well Done
Action Bronson broke into the hip-hop world and threw everyone for a
loop. Doubters called him everything from a Ghostface clone to a mockery
and all he’s done in response is make himself one of the top MC’s to watch
as 2011 closed. Nothing brought that point home more than his collaboration
with Statik Selektah for his follow-up to Dr. Lecter, Well Done. The album is
a powerhouse, taking you back to the days of New York hip hop when they
used to pump full albums on college radio stations late nights. Action doesn’t
make the contemporary move of overloading his album with guest features;
in fact the guest artists complement the entire EP greatly. ‘Cocoa Butter’
Nina Sky is a slice of smooth, and ‘Terror Death Camp’ with his ace Mayhem
Lauren and BK up-and-comer Maffew Ragazino is a neck-snapper. And “Not
Enough Words” should be on anyone’s motivational playlist. Statik Selektah
contributes impeccable production, helping Bronsonlini to craft a winning
Levar FM’s 3 Picks of 2011
My reply to @Combat_Jack regarding 2011 being an outstanding year for hip-hop was based in the notion that there must be a tremendous shift in where you search for quality music, and terrestrial radio and bullshit singles-only mixtapes ain’t those places.
Pharoahe Monch. Phonte. Random Axe. Danny Brown - and Danny Brown and Black Milk. The Roots. Roc Marciano. TiRon x Ayomari. Pac Div. Action Bronson. Countless others. There were so many out-the-gate certified smashes this year, it’s made this an incredibly difficult task; how do I whittle down my favorites to a list of THREE?
M.E.D. - Classic
One of the deciding factors for me to deem an album “great” is how many
fast-forward-worthy tracks it has. MED’s “Classic” has none. Stellar production
by Georgia Anne Muldrow, Alchemist, Karriem Riggins, and the dynamic sibling
duo of Madlib and Oh No (the former providing the majority of the album’s sound)
serve as a proper complement to MED’s off-kilter delivery. This disc may be one
that only the die-hard Stones Throw set can appreciate, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t
head and shoulders above most other rappers’ ‘11 efforts.
Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
There’s a reason - several, actually - why it was a poignant moment
when Snoop Dogg crowned Kendrick Lamar the leader of the revived
West Coast hip-hop movement. “Section 80” is proof positive. The LP
plays like a concept album, built on the premise of a congregation gathered
around a bonfire moderated by an O.G. (think Furious Styles in “Boyz N The Hood”).
Whether he accepts it or not, Kendrick speaks on behalf of a generation, the 80’s
crack babies - issues like self-esteem, substance abuse, politics, and even
prostitution are prominently featured. The late GURU said, “It’s mostly the voice,”
and Kendrick’s voice breaks through with urgency. Heavy is the head that wears
the crown, but just don’t give him any handouts - he will break your wrist.
Common - The Dreamer/The Believer
Full disclosure - I waited all year for Common’s LP to drop. When you root
for an artist whose legacy is pretty much secure, but whose next move is always
scrutinized, you hope that artist knocks it out the park. Com did that. “Be” is
a certified classic and “Finding Forever” was solid, but “Universal Mind Control”
was … “Electric Circus” revisited. Consider “The Dreamer/The Believer” his return
to form. The album isn’t as well-rounded as “Be” but Common sounds comfortable
returning to work with No I.D. Relishing in his success (“Blue Sky”), reminding
October’s Very Own what happened to Ice Cube (“Sweet”) or taking shit back
to the Chi-Town hustler mentality (“Raw”), Rashid made sure the cipher was
complete for 2011.
Stress’ Top 3 Albums of 2011
My picks are based on the time each has stayed in my iPhone. And I
change Playlists every month.
Phonte-Charity Starts At Home
What can I say? Dope rhymes, Dope beats, real singing and rap hybrids,
dope all around outing from Phonte who seems to get better and better
after each outing.
2) Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne
When I first heard this freaking thing I was hit from all sides. The
vintage beat selection, ping pong verbal sparring, and underlying
“theme” of this album gets my vote for one of the best of the year.
Radioactive - Yelawolf / The Roots Undun
These two came late in the year, but made it to my playlists for more
than two weeks. Solid production with unique beats and instrumentation
qualifies these into a toss up #3 for 2011. I was especially surprised
at the raw artistry of Yelawulf’s solid first outing.
Murs & Ski Beatz - Love & Rockets Vol.1: The Transformation
This album is FIRE. Full of West Coast flavor and expert lyricism we’ve
come to expect from Mr. Murs.
Adele - 21
It’s hard to put out an amazing album on your first try, even harder to follow
it up with another one. Adele does just that with this gem.