Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As always, I don't claim this to be definitive list of the best albums of the year, just a list of my top 10 favorites*. A few observations on it though:
I know the list looks like the picks of a stodgy East Coast, old school/classic hip hop flag-waver which I am far from, but I have to admit: the artists who make that kind of music made the best albums to my ears this year. Q-tip SMASHED it with an amazing sounding, near-flawless album that felt not only fresh and made all the wannabe nu-skool Native Tongues adherents sound like amateurs. 88 Keys was a total suprise in that he made an East Coast sounding concept album that was actually enjoyable to listen to on a repeat-play basis. Who knew??
That being said, I had a tough time picking between Q-tip and Santogold for my most favorite album but the fact that I played Tip's album more er... tipped it in his favor. Props to Santi White though for defying the critical & hipster hype that's surrounded her for the past couple years and actually delivering a really good album. A small cadre of cynics dismissed it as an M.I.A. knock-off but listen to it: the music, the production and the songs are actually incredible - thoroughly modern pop music that indie kids, hip hoppers and electronic/dance fans alike could all appreciate.
Speaking of hipsters, Cool Kids might be on-trick ponies (or not?) but as far as their Bake Sale EP went, I was f-ckin' with that one trick. Let's see if they can outlast the 'hipster rap' brush they've been painted with too and deliver when they drop their first real album.
As for the 'King of the South', I thought T.I.'s album had a grip of really good singles (2 of which made my favorite singles lists, overall and hip hop), but yet again, I didn't love-love his album as a whole. I still await the day when this way-talented kid makes his Blueprint album.
Conversely, I kind of hated the singles Kardinal released individually but really liked the album they came from overall. Weird, right? The singles somehow made sense in context and it was really a good body of work overall though: the perfect distillation of pop, hip hop & dancehall. In other words, another thoroughly modern album for 2008. I have to say: signing with Akon, who trawls similar ground with his own music, and his Konvict record label was the prefect move for him. First T-Pain and now Kardi, Lady GaGa (and Rock City in 2009?), Akon might be the most underrated label mogul in the game right now.
Does Beyonce know her kid sister made a better album than her?
* So I wanted to keep this list to my 10 favorite albums but I'd be GROSSLY remiss if I didn't acknowledge the elephant in the room, Tha Carter III. I don't know if the album delivered on the hype around it and despite debating with many my friends several times over the past few years on the point, I'm actually not 100% convinced Wayne is as good as he & his millions of fans, think he is as an MC but I will concede two points: the album was good and had some amazing moments on it and, regardless of where you fall on the Wayne debate scale he is an incredibly fresh & compelling figure, not just in hip hop but for music in general. He's not gangster, pop, underground or even merely just a rapper and say what you want, you really can't guess what he's gonna do next. Who can honestly say they saw "A Milli' or "Lollipop" coming and if you say you did, fill me in on what he's gonna do next because I really do wanna know. Dude keeps things exciting and unexpected and there's not a lot of that going around in music nowadays which, quiet as its kept, is the main reason people stopped buying music, not the internet. By contrast, as much as I loved the Q-tip album, he pretty much made the album you hoped/expected him to make. The wildcard was always whether it was actually gonna be any good (and thank God, it was!).
I guess I'd also be remiss if i didn't acknowledge why I didn't put Kanye or Common's album on this list either since both are favorite artists of mine and feature frequently on this site. Like I've already said before I thought 808's was pretty half-assed and second rate version of stuff other artists out there do far better than Ye. What can I say: homeboy was never that great a rapper to begin with but he took what talent he had, mixed it with considerable musical vision & ambition and came up with some incredible music. But now he's decided to sing, using autotune, when he can't really sing, at all??? GTFOH! As for Common, the jury's still out as to what I really think of his album but let me put it like this: I played it through about one and half times a couple weeks back and have had no urge to listen to it since then and that's generally not a good sign.)
Anyway, comments, flames or any other kind of feedback are always welcome. If you're inspired to actually, you know... buy any of these album, feel free to use the handy Amazon click-through links below. And if you're curious what my favorite hip hop music from this year was, click here.
Labels: YEAR END WRAP-UP: Albums