Here's my last post of 2009 - the much-awaited Top 10 Albums of 2009 list. I love doing this every year - mostly because I feel so passionate about these ten projects. Was 2009 a good year for hip hop? Yes and no - autotune is on its *official* way out, but Young Money is running things across the country. A quick disclaimer: I've noticed Raekwon's OB4CLII on several year-end lists, yet I never really gave it on a full listen. Therefore, I can't put it on this list (sorry Wu heads). Let's get right to it; introducing my favorite projects of the year:
10. Che Grand - Everything's Good Ugly: The Brooklyn resident's long-awaited LP finally arrived in 2009, and it's safe to say I was far from disappointed. Out of all the albums on this list, I recommend you go back and revisit this one. Strong production from Von Pea, ill mind, & Colin Munroe.
9. Kev Brown - Random Joints: Kev is honestly one of the most slept-on producers in hip hop. His latest project features a DC all-star team of yU, Kenn Starr, Wayna, Raheem DeVaughn, Eric Roberson, Zo!, Sean Born, and more.
8. Brother Ali - Us: Although I expected a bit more from the Minneapolis emcee (after the epic Truth Is Here EP), Us was another tag-team effort by Ali and the Atmosphere producer Ant. "Best@it," featuring Joell Ortiz & Freeway, is one of the strongest lyrical efforts of the year.
7. Shafiq Husayn - Shafiq En A-Free-Ka: Again, I must thank Andres for hipping me to the SA-RA member Shafiq Husayn. If you happen to enjoy things that are green, you'll LOVE this album. Look out for more strong releases (including Bilal!) from Shafiq's record label Plug Research in 2010.
6. Mos Def - The Ecstatic: A hopeful release from Black Dante, as The Ecstatic proved to be his best full-length effort since Black on Both Sides. While his focus sometimes strayed on this album, songs like "Auditorium," "History," and "Roses" proved to be honest and simply put, real rap.
5. Blakroc - Blakroc: Dame Dash, who most thought would succumb to bankruptcy (actually, don't rule that out just yet), assembled an all-star hip hop crew to team with the alt rock heroes The Black Keys for a surprisingly-good album. Features from Mos Def, Nicole Wray, and Jim Jones (!) easily pushes this one into my top five. One of the best rock-hip hop combos of the decade!
4. Tanya Morgan - Brooklynati: This spring, three emcees from Cincinnati and Brooklyn created an imagined hybrid city and pushed a successful marketing campaign on an indie budget. If that wasn't enough, the 2009 album itself was an incredible step-up from their last one - with features from Phonte, Che Grand, Carlitta Durand, and more. I don't have anything else to say other than: congratulations, fellas.
3. Wale - Attention: Deficit: Yes, I have a sincere bias with this one (just check the archive - all the way back to December 2007). Regardless, too many critics are overlooking the DC native's debut album on their own year-end lists. Even if it could have been better assembled (missing tracks from Travis Barker and the Dap Kings, notably), Attention: Deficit got the message across: we're so involved with television and computers that we don't even know ourselves and can't be honest with who's REALLY talented in hip hop. Go ahead, run this one back one more time and I promise you'll learn something new.
2. Fashawn - Boy Meets World: While some may claim the Fresno emcee's debut album is a clear-cut clone of Blu's Below The Heavens (perhaps because they share the same producer - Exile), Boy Meets World is so unique that it put me into a state of shock. I dissected every word and proudly passed it on to all my peers.
1. Diamond District - In The Ruff: Here's why the debut album from the DC emcees Oddisee, X.O., and yU is my favorite LP of 2009: I liked it so much that I wrote a critical essay on its message for my American Studies course at GWU. It's hard to reject the notion that Oddisee brought back 90's boom-bap hip hop with his top-notch production and that lyrically, each emcee tore every song apart. In The Ruff is truly a modern classic, 'nuff said.