2005 MUSICAL REWIND
10. Fill in the Blank * Not to cop-out, but there' s a few albums that could all vie for this spot but I honestly don't feel strongly enough about any of them to pencil them in. Contenders would include:
•Atmosphere's You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having.
•Lil Wayne's The Carter II.
•Missy Elliot's The Cook
9. Naturally - Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings * A welcome departure from anyone who thinks today's R&B sounds too much like yesterday's hip-hop. How can you be mad at a group that cribs their musical notes from Atlantic, Stax, Motown and Hi? This is like the best Lyn Collins + The Meters + Al Green album they never made together. Songs: "How Long Do I Have To Wait," "All Over Again."
8. True and Livin' - Zion I * Hey, someone in the Yay has to bridge the hyphy horde with the backpackers (though I suppose that Keak + DJ Shadow song falls into that camp too). It's not often that you find hip-hop artists coming into their own by their third album but Zion I jump way ahead lyrically, musically, etc. on this effort. Songs: "The Bay," "Temperature."
6 (tie). What the Game's Been Missing - Juelz Santana
Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 - Young Jeezy * Bragging about crack 2005 = winning freestyle battles 1995. Santana gets points for actually including instructions for how to cook crack in his art work though Jeezy did come up with the snowman t-shirt logo. In both cases, neither rapper is coming with stories you haven't already heard from Scarface or Jay-Z but what they may lack in originality, they make up for in moxy and mic presence. Even more simply, they make "Hot Shi™" and indeed, Hot Shi™ is what the game's been missing. Songs: (Santana) "Mic Check," "Oh Yes." (Jeezy) "Go Crazy (Remix), "And Then What."
5. The Documentary - The Game * He's like one part thug rapper, one part hip-hop nerd. Say what you will about his endless name-dropping but The Game still managed to put out a string of Hot Shi™, including "Hate It Or Love It.," "Put You On the Game," "No More Fun and Games," etc. His public scuffling with 50 Cent is either inspired or insipid (think: a little of both) but it makes for entertaining moments; just peep his latest mix-CD and the song, "Testify." Songs: "Hate It Or Love It," "Put You On the Game."
4. The Further Adventures of Lord Quas - Quasimoto * Eclectic and eccentric in all the right ways; creative without trying to be clever. You can't really listen to it as a collection of songs; it's more like a fun ride at the amusement park that you can ride as many times as you want. (It's also a welcome break to Madlib's prolific but often tepid production everywhere else.) Songs: It doesn't really matter. Just jump to any track and press "play."
3. The B. Coming - Beanie Siegel * I'm surprised this album isn't on more lists: unlike other faux-motional albums, Beanie doesn't have to pen emo-rap ballads bemoaning his (then) upcoming incarceration or be annoyingly defiant on every song (see Lil Kim's Naked Truth). Instead, his dark and contemplative mindset infuses the entire album's sound and feel. When people describe a hip-hop album as "mature," it always seemed tagged to the audience rather than the artist but this is one example where the inverse is true. Songs: "Purple Rain," "Change."
2. The Beauty and the Beat - Edan * If you want a short and concise rap album with compelling music and an iconoclastic vision, forget Common's overrated Be. This is the album that you should be listening to. It's cohesive, coherent, and never lets up in energy from the first moment to the last. It's also one of the very few albums I could listen to from end to end without reaching for the FF button. Songs: "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme," "Making Planets."
1. Late Registration - Kanye West * Go ahead, hate on it, hate on him. It's not a perfect album; hell, even I wouldn't listen to half the songs on this if I had the choice. But amongst mainstream albums, it is, by far, the most musically ambitious of the whole lot and more importantly, the songs where everything comes together: "Heard 'Em Say," "Gone," "Late," etc. aren't simply some of my favorite of the year, but are songs that I know I'll listen to in three years and still be geeked off of (thus separating the Hot Shi™ from the Good Shi™). Songs: "Heard 'Em Say," "Late."
What I'm waiting for in 2006:
1. Ghostface: Fish Scale
2. OutKast: Idlewild
3. Pharrell Williams: In My Mind
4. Rhymefest: Blue Collar
5. The Clipse: Hell Hath No Fury
6. The Coup: Pick a Bigger Weapon
7. M.O.P.: Ghetto Warfare
8. Q-Tip: Live At the Renaissance
I'll be posting up my favorite songs of the year on Soul Sides later this week.