24 December, 2010@7:40 am
If you like these artists, it’s important that you support them by BUYING their releases. The digital age has not hit anyone harder than the indie acts, so if you like music like this and want to see it continue, then vote with your dollar. There were a ton of great LP’s and it was hard to narrow it down, but here are our picks for the top 25 indie hip-hop LP’s of 2010. Major label and cross-genre lists coming later….
25. Copywrite – “The Life & Times of Peter Nelson” – Dog Eat Dog – Although it’s been years since Copy delivered a proper follow-up to The High Exhaulted, he finally did so in 2010. While it did not quite live up to the original – or perhaps it was just a different time – this LP still managed to breakthrough to the mainstream, copping a “XL” rating over at XXL Magazine.
24. Little Brother – “Left Back” – Hall of Justus Music – While a bit problematic, Little Brother still had a proper send off for a group that help define the 2000′s era indie hip-hop generation. While things got a little ugly publicly, we doubt this is the last time we’ll hear from Phonte, Big Pooh, and even 9th all together on one LP.
23. PackFM – “I Fucking Hate Rappers” – QN5 – As hip-hop continues to transform, it becomes less and less recognizable to those that witnessed its classic eras. Pack FM’s sentiment was exactly that, on this concept album that let a frustrated emcee boldly vent about the industry, most notably in an era when it’s unfashionable to do so.
22. Vinnie Paz – “Season of The Assassin” – Enemy Soil – Vinnie Paz finally ventured outside the Jedi Mind Tricks banner with Season…, but you’d hardly notice a difference as he delivered much of the same brand of rugged and raw rhymes and production. This time around though, he got more introspective, and also offered some mic time to some industry heavyweights, including Beanie Sigel, Clipse, Freeway, RA The Rugged Man, Paul Wall and more.
21. Zion I – Atomic Clock – Gold Dust / Live Up – We almost gave up on Zion I after Amp Live’s disappointing solo release, but that was a mere hiccup in the group’s long-standing legacy. Fusing many music styles and not afraid to experiment Zumbi and Amp prove that time is on their side.
20. Guilty Simpson + Madlib – “OJ Simpson” – Stones Throw – While Madlib released a shit-ton of albums this year, with only the truest fans digesting every single one. Standing above many of them was his collaborative LP with Guilty Simpson, humorously titled OJ Simpson (as Madlib, legally, is Otis Jackson Jr.). You know exactly what to expect when The D meets L.A., and the duo delivered on all fronts.
19. Kno – “Death Is Silent” – QN5 – Kno has always held his own as a producer, but with Death Is Silent, he showed off his dexterity behind a microphone as well. A lush musical statement, this LP suggests he may take on further mic duties alongside the Cunninlynguists on their Oneirology LP next year.
18. Capone-N-Noreaga – “The War Report 2: Report The War” – Ice H20 – By no means rocket science, CNN’s sequel LP managed to capture some of the QB goodness found on the duo’s first album, without sounding washed up or forced. N.O.R.E. will continue the sequel trend with this year’s S.U.P.E.R.T.H.U.G. album.
17. Gangrene (Alchemist + Oh No) – “Gutter Water” – Decon – Both “Gangrene” and “Gutter Water” both sum up this album perfectly as producers-on-the-mic Alchemist and Oh No compete for the grimiest styles on both lyrics and beats. Wallow in this.
16. Nottz – “You Need This Music” – Raw Koncept – Long overdue solo LP from Nottz showcased his skills as both an emcee and a producer, with a wide variety of sounds and styles. A longtime player in the game, he used this (as well as Rah Digga’s Classic LP), to really show and prove. Appearances from Royce, Snoop, Asher, and others didn’t hurt things.
15. AZ – “Doe Or Die: 15th Anniversary Edition” – Quiet Money – On paper, the idea of an album made up of “new versions” and “new songs” sounds terrible, but AZ nailed this. Largely in part due to the production of Statik Selektah (who will produce much of Doe Or Die 2 next year), among others, AZ sounds reinvigorated on this slept on rethinking of his debut.
14. The Left – “Gas Mask” – Mello Music Group – One of the most surprising debuts of the year, this made-in-Detroit collaboration between producer Apollo Brown and emcee Journalist 103 was an instant cult-classic in the underground set, showing equally yoked talent on both production and lyrics.
13. Black Milk – “Album of The Year” – Fat Beats – Perhaps the boldest title of the year (and their were some bold ones, such as Rah Digga’s Classic, but not undoing the boldest ever, Slim Thug’s Already Platinum), Black Milk could have obtained said status if he wasn’t competing with so many other great LP’s to be released this year. Granted, the Detroit phenom had no problem making this year end list and tons of others, with his usual brand of consistency in tact.
12. Devin The Dude – “Suite #420″ – E1 Music – Devin didn’t need to break the mold with Suite #420, which is part of the reason that it’s so good. Perhaps his best LP since The Dude, Houston’s highest authority keeps his cult status above the clouds once again.
11. Slum Village – “Villa Manifesto” - Barack – The prospect of a new, final Slum Village album seemed like a terrible idea, until it was good. With two members passed, this LP not only featured vaulted rhymes from Baatin and Dilla (and beats too), but was sewn together with help from the rest of the Dirty District family, resulting in perhaps their best record since Fantastic Vol. 2. R.I.P. S.V.
10. Sage Francis – “Li(f)e” – Strange Famous – Sage Francis veers further and further away from the boom-bap styles he was birthed upon with each release, but that’s okay when you’ve got a sharp tongue and rich musical ear like he does. A heavy, conceptual record, Li(f)e ponders religion, existence, and other weighty topical matters, while hiring some of indie rock’s finest to help express it. Don’t be afraid to like this, you can go right back to Ghostface after.
9. Get Busy Committee – “Uzi Does It” – Tokyo Sex Whale – Apathy, Ryu, and producer Scoop DeVille reinvented themselves this year with the GBC, and certainly made a lot of noise doing so. Trying on new styles of production and venturing a bit outside the box, they kicked 2010 of right. Truth be told, Lady Gaga is a fan. We’re not shitting you.
8. DJ Muggs & Ill Bill – “Kill Devil Hills” – Fat Beats – Another record that helped send off Fat Beats with class, DJ Muggs and Ill Bill teamed for this wild collaborative album packed with no apologies. Ridiculously rugged production and razor raw rhymes made this album the music equivalent of a home invasion.
7. Rakaa (of Dilated Peoples) – “Crown of Thorns” – Decon - The Dilated Peoples family has always delivered consistency, which was perhaps the reason why it took so long for Rakka to drop his solo record. It was well worth the wait, as man once known as Iriscience delivered one of the most introspective albums of the year, helping him further carve out his identity as both a solo and group artist. There’s no need for playing favorites after this.
6. Statik Selektah – “100 Proof” – Showoff – Compilations usually don’t deliver, unless they are albums. Statik’s brilliant LP not only showed off his talented roster of home-team artists, but also managed to pull in an impressive guest list of emcees to shine on his classically styled production. He definitely kept it 100.
5. Freeway + Jake One – “The Stimulus Package” – Rhymesayers – Who would have thought Free had it in him? Jake One was able to get the best out of the Philly emcee, crafting easily Freeway’s best LP yet, and without a doubt one of the strongest full-lengths of the year.
4. Skyzoo + !llmind – “Live From The Tape Deck” – Duck Down – It’s not hard to guess the result when you put an incredibly dope lyricist and an equally dope producer together and have them record an album. This Duck Down duo delivered an amazing LP that defied expectations, setting the stage for long careers for both of them.
3. Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek) – “Revolutions Per Minute” – Blacksmith/Rawkus – The long-awaited, highly anticipated Reflection Eternal reunion delivered on all fronts, as Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek effortlessly slid back into their groove like it was 1997 all over again. They even predicted the future with “Ballad Of The Black Gold”. Way to go, B.P.
2. Celph Titled & Buckwild – “Nineteen Ninety Now” – No Sleep - The concept here was, Celph Titled dug up a bunch of vintage Buckwild beats from the mid-90′s, and created a whole album from them. Not only did this album remind listeners of how good hip-hop was back then, it did so with all new, original material. Not to mention, we got to see more of Celph Titled, beyond his usual brand of wicked punch-rhymes (and there was even some of that in there, too.)
Statik Selektah + Termanology – “1982″ – Showoff - Statik Selektah really proved himself this year as a producer, easily acting as one of the best hip-hop has to offer. His collaborative LP with super-lyricist, Termanology, was no different, paying homage to classic acts like Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Gang Starr. Is it any coincidence most of the albums in our top ten feature one producer and one emcee? 1982 perfected this idea. Congrats, gentlemen.
Also notable, but not included as they weren’t “albums”: El-P “Wereallgonnaburninhellmegamixxx3″ (Mix / Compilation), Atmosphere “To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy” (Double EP), DJ Premier Presents Year Round Records “Get Used To Us” (Compilation)
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