10. The Cool Kids – When Fish Ride Bicycles
Rush Hour Traffic: 3.75/5
Boomin (feat Tennille): 4.5/5 (I love Tennille on this hook)
Sour Apples (feat Travis Barker): 3.75/5
Penny Hardaway (feat Ghostface Killah): 5/5
Bundle Up: 4/5
Gas Station (feat Bun B): 4.75/5
Get Right: 4/5
Swimsuits (feat Mayer Hawthorne): 4.25/5
Roll Call (feat Asher Roth, Chip Tha Ripper, & Boldy James): 4.5/5 (THIS is how you do a posse cut)
Summer Jam (feat Maxine Ashley): 5/5
Chuck Inglish absolutely outdid himself with the production here. Early on in my Cool Kids ventures (around 2008), I worried that Chuck’s beats may be too simplistic too expand upon – I happily stand corrected. It’s amazing how Chuck and Mikey work so well as a team, and can still get the job done without each other as well (see Gift Raps by Chip Tha Ripper produced by Chuck and The Rocks Report 2 by Mikey Rocks). The progression by these two artists has been a joy to watch. The fact that these guys aren’t mainstream-type popular baffles me.
Note: The hooks on this album are outstanding. All of them.
9. J. Cole – Cole World: Sideline Story
Dollar And A Dream III: 4.5/5
Can’t Get Enough (feat Trey Songz): 4.75/5
Lights Please: 4.5/5
Sideline Story: 4.5/5
Mr. Nice Watch (feat Jay-Z): 4.25/5 (Jay-Z’s verse is showstopping)
Cole World: 3/5
In The Morning (feat Drake): 4/5
Lost Ones: 5/5
Nobody’s Perfect (feat Missy Elliot): 4/5
Never Told: 3.5/5
Rise And Shine: 5/5
God’s Gift: 4.75/5
Work Out: 4.5/5
Leading into this debut effort, J. Cole had huge amounts of pressure behind him. He had his underground fans not wanting him to turn pop, and his label wanting him to churn out hits after flopping with “Who Dat”. J. Cole was forced with the task of maintaining his musical integrity while still charting on Billboard. What came of this effort was his freshman effort, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Produced virtually wholly by J. Cole himself, this album has varying sounds, from “Mr. Nice Watch” to “Can’t Get Enough” to “God’s Gift” – J. Cole shows his progression as a producer all while spitting the lyrically sound rhymes we know him for.
Good enough for underground fans and trendy enough to chart musically, Cole World: The Sideline Story is an extremely solid effort and is one of rap’s best releases of the year.
8. Curren$y – Covert Coup
This is one of the better mixtapes Curren$y has released. Coming into this project I was interested in seeing if Curren$y could rap over Alan’s grimy production, seeing as Spitta’s last two albums consisted of jazzy Ski Beatz beats. Needless to say, Spitta hasn’t lost a step. From the transition from Smokee Robinson to Pilot Talk to Pilot Talk 2 to Return To The Winner’s Circle to Covert Coup we’ve seen Curren$y evolve greatly as a lyricist. Lyrically, Covert Coup Curren$y is the most lyrical Curren$y I’ve heard – his delivery is more menacing, he’s varying his flows, and his rapping as a whole as improved a great deal. Though he gets outdone by a much more seasoned lyricist in Freddie Gibbs on Scottie Pippen, Curren$y is still holding his own on tracks by himself as seen on Ventilation and Smoke Break. Though Curren$y himself doesn’t make this project great, Alan The Alchemist provides some solid production throughout and is another great name on the list of outstanding producers on Curren$y’s project. Though Covert Coup is only a little over 30 minutes – every minute is worthwhile. The only complaint one can make is that it’s too short, which in essence isn’t a bad thing. When the music is this good, it’s natural to yearn for more.
The Type: 5/5
Blood Sweat And Gears: 3.75/5
Life Instructions (feat Smoke DZA): 4.25/5
Smoke Break: 4.5/5
Scottie Pippen (feat Freddie Gibbs): 4.75/5
Double 07: 4/5
Success Is My Cologne: 4.5/5
Full Metal: 4.75/5
4.45/5 Jets foo.
7. Chip Tha Ripper – Gift Raps
The Entrance: 4.5/5
Light One Up: 4.25/5
The Big Bang: 4.5/5
Everyday Chillin: 4.5/5
The Coldest: 4.25/5
Hang Out: 4/5
The Bio: 4.25/5
Chuck Inglish is amazing on this piece.
With that being said, Chip isn’t bad either. He flows incredibly well over Chuck’s beats, moreso better than Mikey Rocks – mainly because I feel Chip’s aggressive voice dominates the beat better, so the vocals and instrumental mesh more freshly than Mikey’s low pitched, swagged-out flow.
Speaking of fresh, that very word can be used to describe this tape. Aside from Chip spitting about his swagger, he also touches up on more stern topics, seen on The Big Bang and The Bio (did Chuck make this beat out of a clock’s tick? Crazy). Those type of tracks are limited on this tape though. The better songs are about swagger, chilling, smoking, and just overall being dope and doing dope activities: Everyday Chillin, Light One Up, and the ever hilariousU.A.F (whose acronym will not be revealed in the Rated-G review) for example. I couldn’t pick any other rapper right now that would fit these beats better than Chip (other than Mikey, of course). Chuck’s instrumentals on this tape demand swagger and confidence since the beats themselves are unique and demanding (with the aggressive and loud instruments). Overall, the two are a match made in rap utopia.
This, as a whole, plays extremely well. There is no noticeable (if any) filler, the production is outstanding, and the rapping is good. Can’t ask for much more. I like the trippy/acid production Chip starts to get into during the last few tracks of this, an instrumental mixtape consisting of that would be very interesting. Ed.Note: how coincidental, the day that I write this, Chuck Inglish releases his instrumental mixtape titled “Working”.
6. Dela – Translation Lost
Translation Lost (Intro) (feat Aliya): skit
Go On (Video Mix) (feat Reach): 3.5/5
Mars Part III: 5/5
Lucy’s&LooseLeafs (feat Blu): 5/5
1 Second Time Machine: 5/5
West Side Story: 4.5/5
Jay Electropietricus: 4.5/5
Chunky Monkeying (feat Sowlie): 4/5
I Will (feat Kemitz): 4.75/5
Translation Lost: 3.25/5
Translation Lost (Outro)(feat Alyia): skit
What U Wanna (remix): 5/5
Dela has become one of my favorite producers based on this and his Atmosphere Airlines series. Translation Lost is more of the quality I’ve come to expect from Dela. The infamous underground rhymer Blu re-appears in Dela’s work and raps some of the best verses released this year, “Lucys&Looseleafs” is evidence of this. All in all, Translation Lost is a great piece with great instrumentation by a great producer. Good beats, good vision, and good rhymes, what more could you ask for?
5. The Roots – undun
Undun shares a lot of parallels to Jay-Z’s American Gangster – such as revealing as to why criminals are forced to do what they do to using samples of other audio (or in American Gangster’s case, movies) to help tell a story. Both stories also unravel very well.
This album is telling the story of how a man is driven towards crime…the twist is, it’s telling the story BACKWARDS. The thing is, the story unravels perfectly either way you listen to it. Then you listen to the last 4 tracks (the instrumentals) and it basically tells the story through instruments. You can play those back to front and get the same story too. Hence the album name “undun” (if you flip that word around and read it backwards, it reads the same.
Undun is successful in what it does as a concept album, and the music itself is up to par with the standard The Roots have set for themselves over the years. Black Thought brings the heat on the mic, the band provides great production, and every single feature on this album, from the hookmen to the rapping features play their part well. Enough can’t be said about this album, it plays extremely well from front to back (and from back to front). Go buy it, support good artists and one of the best groups in rap history.
4. Stalley – Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music)
In one of the best produced albums of the year, Ohio’s own Stalley puts on for his city big time with the release that eventually got him signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group label. Produced entirely by Rashad, this album fulfills it’s titles name – it’s trunk music. You can play this while going to the club, as a matter of fact, songs like Slapp sound like your proverbial “club banger”. Even the Pimp C sampled “Monkey Ish” is a trunk rattler. What makes this album great though, is even though the production on here is great enough to carry any rapper, Stalley holds his own lyrically, spitting a sound message on each and every track. My favorite is the pro-Black “Chimes of Freedumb“, where Stalley pens straight out of the 1960s Civil Rights movement perspective all while delivering a message that is still relevant to those today. Lincoln Way Nights is Stalley’s crowning achievement thus far, and with the help of rap, maybe we’ll start to see “intelligent trunk music” at a premium in mainstream rap.
Elevate the game.
See The Milq In My Chevy: 4.5/5
Chimes of Freedumb: 5/5
The Night (feat Rashad): 4.75/5
The Sound of Silence: 4/5
She Hates The Bass: 5/5
Assassin (feat John Mayer): 4/5
Go On: 3.75/5
Milq ‘n Honey: 4.5/5
Monkey Ish (R.I.P Pimp C): 4.5/5 (interesting flip on the Pimp C sample)
Tell Montez I Love Her: 5/5
Lincoln Way Nights (Shop): 4.5/5
4.53/5 Outstanding production, inspiring raps, there’s not many flaws here. A lot better than I expected out of Stalley, I hold high standards for him from now on.
3. Elzhi – Elmatic
How do I rate this? Do I disregard the fact that these are revised beats, though re-composed over live instrumentation and give every track 5 stars because every track is that good – rhyming and beats combined? Do I just mainly observe his rhyming? Do I take both into account and tweak the rating because the flows and beats aren’t entirely his? Decisions, decisions. But Elmatic is worth the thought.
Detroit State Of Mind: 5/5
Memory Lane: 4.75/5
The World Is Yours: 5/5
Life’s A Bitch (feat Royce Da 5’9 & Stokely Williams): 5/5
One Love: 5/5 (can I give this song 6 stars? GOOD GOSH)
It Ain’t Hard To Tell: 4.75/5
Pete Rock Shout (song 1): 4.5/5
Pete Rock Shout (song 2): 4.5/5
There isn’t much to say. This is good. Extremely good.
2. Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
It’s been a while since I’ve heard a rap album with structure and song content, and songs with structure and song content. There’s a story behind Section.80. That story reflects the cold streets of Compton, Los Angeles, California. Though instead of painting a picture of Los Angeles through a gang viewpoint, he did it by way of struggle. Hence the album’s name.
Fuck Your Ethnicity: 4/5
Hol’ Up: 5/5
No Make Up (Her Vice) (feat Colin Munroe): 4.25/5
Tammy’s Song (Her Evils): 4.25/5
Chapter Six: 5/5
Ronald Reagan Era (feat RZA): 5/5
Poe Man’s Dream (His Vice): 4.75/5
The Spiteful Chant: 5/5
Chapter Ten: 3.5/5
Keisha’s Song (Her Pain): 5/5
Kush & Corinthians: 4.75/5
Blow My High (Members Only): 5/5
Ab-Souls Intro: 5/5
It’s been a while since I’ve heard a rap album with structure and song content, and songs with structure and song content. There’s a story behind Section.80. That story reflects the cold streets of Compton, Los Angeles, California. Though instead of painting a picture of Los Angeles through a gang viewpoint, he did it by way of struggle. Hence the album’s name. Not much to say here. I usually never have much to say about the elite albums that I review, usually because there’s really nothing to nitpick at. I will say that Kendrick eerily reminds me of Tech N9ne early in the album. Also, I love the drums on this album – especially on “Poe Man’s Dreams”. To elongate this review, I’ll point out the strengths in this album.
The production, the production as a whole isn’t outstanding, but Kendrick sounds at home on these beats, which is most important.
Structure, the story and storytelling that takes place within the story and theme of this album. It’s not something you usually see in a rap album because it’s so hard to effectively accomplish.
Lyrics/Subject Matter. This is pretty self-explanatory, Kendrick maintains a strong subject matter (matching the theme of the album) and remains lyrical throughout. That’s a feat in and of itself.
All in all, this is a great album. Recommended to rap fans of any subgenre.
1. Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4eva
With all the slander Southern rap has taken over the years, it’s amazing that their artists all aren’t spiteful. Stupid, slow, dense….all words that have been used to describe Southern rappers, and while some Southern rappers have shot back such as J. Cole and Jay Electronica recently, Big K.R.I.T. seems to remain humble. Return of 4eva is the follow-up to 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which was arguably the best rap album released that year (with all due respect to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Low and behold, K.R.I.T. has another Album of the Year with R4.
What makes this album so special, is the outstanding production (produced entirely by K.R.I.T. himself) and the varying subject matter – from running a train on a female on “Amtrak” to repenting on “Free My Soul“. This album is full of soon-to-be classics and is arguably better than K.R.I.T. Wuz Here – which I didn’t think he’d be able to top. Aside from releasing an amazing album as well as a mixtape full of collaborations (Last Kings 2), K.R.I.T. has been producing for other rappers and has been slinging amazing beats that have turned into amazing songs (see: Money On The Floor featuring 2Chainz and southern legend Bun B and Rob Me A Nigga featuring top 5 rapper, Freddie Gibbs and DTE’s Alley Boy). The best part about K.R.I.T.’s amazing freshman/sophomore combo? They’re both free. K.R.I.T. has managed to land the best rap album two years in a row and is the best rap artist currently in the game. A true double threat, K.R.I.T. has aligned himself with the rap’s best and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Return of 4eva is testament to that, and is the best rap album of the year 2011. Rise and shine.
4.7/5 A classic.