Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Long Players

13. DJ Mark Marcelo - Ignant Mix: Like Americas 2005 ‘Top 40’ if Casey Kasem was thizzin’ it. Proof that ‘hyphy’ thrives without the MTV-predicted breakthrough. The synthy g-funk and spacey blips let some of the most creative verbalists in the country act hella silly and still stay tough.
12. Rapid Ric - Whut It Dew 2: This mix (combined with the savvy of Matt Sonzola and Roxy Cottontail) is one of the few things that got me out to a club this year. ‘Nuff said.
11. Cuizinier – Pour Les Filles: Takes the lessons of contemporary mixtapes (pacing, variety, adlibs, jokey jacks, border-crossing-beats, wimpy with whup-ass…) and does them right! Losing the ‘real’ and keeping the fun, Cuizi goes on the ‘offensive’ one better by being a white French guy pushing American black ghetto signifiers into abstraction. Reinventing ‘chopped & screwed’ in a French kitchen is awfully good. I could only speculate on how TTC fit into the last wave of Parisian tensions but that would take away from the ridiculous fun. Offended yet?
10. MIA – Arular: She lost post-internet-momentum but deserves all the buzz… and criticism. This album, from the absolute present, brings all those spin-off genres back together and provides lots to talk about… but it’s better to listen to.
9. Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter II: Who knew the backpack album of the year would be from the Cash Money Millionaire(s?). He has been GREAT during the jumpy early years (don’t let haters tell you otherwise) but he steps up calmly and confidently to a new grown era “oddly” concerned with the ART (rather than the MART) of rhyme… and TC2 still opens big. The off-the-dome rhyme structure doesn’t hinder hits (right, Hov?) but Wayne’s delivery emphasizes the ‘off-the-dome’ rather than the ‘structure.’ That places it comfortably in nerd headphones but might not stop car systems from bumping it.
8. Juelz Santana – What the Games Been Missing!: The leaks threatened to steal the thunder from this rumbling young man but damn if it don’t surprise when his direct style works on simple hooks AND story-raps. He has studied phrasing more than internal intricacies but name another rapper that sits so comfortably next to Jeezy, Ghostface and Rakim the God himself. For all of his ego, Juelz doesn’t threaten them. He reminds them of… themselves.
7. Feist – Let It Die: Fiona-like, fitting no category, but fiercely Feist. She grabs and wears influences like slinky cocktail dresses and they all fit perfectly. The warmth emanating from this album is all in her voice but it runs from cabaret velvet to ‘70’s sunsets to round-sound Lanois-like tom-toms to the comfort of AM radio. And it’s perfectly cool too.
6. Slim Thug – Already Platinum: His voice embodies the Texas sound, yet the LP is NOT the Texas repper due to the Neptunes beats…. And it’s STILL amazing. If it was mostly the voice Slim would rule rap. If it was beats, then the Neptunes would rule. In some ways they compete against eachothers strengths but the result is something quite original and unexpected. The mirror image of ‘The People’s Champ’ and yet…
5. Paul Wall – The People’s Champ: Paul has always put down consistently entertaining collections of songs. Sans Cham, drug dealing history and melanin abundance Paul does extremely well representing a well defined world that was ‘discovered’ this year. Less talented than most of the dudes around him but producing respectable, arguably definitive, genre artworks. Limited content actually adds to the definitive nature of the work… the George Clooney of rap? No wonder they both smile a lot. And have lots of talented friends.
4. Keyshia Cole – The Way It Is: A whole album of break-up songs sets her up to be the next Mary J… throwing the hood on ladies shoulders. The cracked vocal believably a product of the environment (“if that’s the ca-a-ase…”) and she’s repping HARD. She serves up the around-the-way-girl strength, pain and sex-appeal like it wants to be with all the black-radio fixin’s. ‘I Changed My Mind’ got the proper context and ‘I Should Have Cheated’ gets classic status. How can she be so tough and so so vulnerable… tell me, Keyshia… tell me…
3. Young Jeezy – Let’s Get It:Thug Motivation 101: “Dramatic” is not a positive for most of my album listening but the slightly overdone tracks work well with the uncooked rasp by the cagey new superstar MC. These are not ‘cipher’ rhymes. These are VOCALS. Perfectly timed vocals… telling THE story and convincing the listener. The occasional swing or slight twist on a line or a word becomes a striking peak in a landscape laid bare of emotion (regardless of claims to being ‘so emotional’). The ABSENCE of trying to impress misguided “traditionalists” is of course the source of Jeezy’s awesome PRESENCE on almost every track he touches. Simplicity is what makes the rhymes fascinating. Too zen for you? C’mon, he even kinda LOOKS like Buddha?!? Jeezy is BEYOND clever.
2. Re-Up Gang – We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2: The way Cam now owns ‘The Dougie’ (invented and formerly owned by Doug E.) The Gang owns these tracks. That’s the way a mixtape is supposed to work. Track/jack choices hit me in the backpack AND the gully as Gang affiliates hug the rails on ‘Daytona’… and ‘Elevators’ even! Solid, dark and cold, but with grams and grams of unexpectedly funny references told in the non-dramatic Clipsean tone. I have a ‘netted copy that is one file with no song breaks… and that suits me just fine.
1. Boyz N Da Hood - Boyz N Da Hood: This is not making any year end lists but no album got heavier rotation for me this year. Call it an early-in-the-year release. Call it the Jeezy and Jody jones. Call it Duke on ‘Still Slizzard.’ Call it young’n trap-tales with Duke and Big Gee providing some old soul heft and balance. Call it ‘Happy Jamz.’ Call it the text book MC-lessons on ‘Trap Nig**z’ or ‘Pu**y MFs.’ The Jeezy / Weezy switch and ‘maker of the bands’ fronting dough, potentially creates the first hardcore-rap Menudo (So is dude ‘Ricky Martin’? Thaaas riiight!) and I look forward to the next iteration of young, hungry southern MCs making little Diddy dollars… and bigger solo deals. I love rap GROUPS (even if they are studio built) where the MCs are distinct and talented and show it on (almost) every album cut… is that too much to ask for?