Fave Foreign Rap Albums of 2011 (REVIEW)

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Fave Foreign Rap Albums of 2011Thoughts on each tape are merely personal opinions. It validates nothing. Placement of an album on the list doesn’t matter. It’s the ratings.

JAY Z & KANYE WEST – WATCH THE THRONE

Imagine all those fire collabs over the years such as Never Let Me Down, Diamonds of Sierra Leone and Run This Town, and finally dropping a joint album together.

Coming off the heels of MBDTF the previous year, BP3 the penultimate year, it seemed these guys were not ready to relinquish the throne and were destined to sit atop it unless someone more ambitious and hungrier snatched the crown from them.

Once you press play and “No Church In The Wild” comes on, you know these guys were tearing down every rule in the system.

Frank Ocean’s vocals punctuated a dark, somber beat with an eerie hook that made you realize that really, the concept of a church in the wild was actually mundane.

Check out Jay’s lines: “Lies on the lips of the priest/ Thanksgiving disguised as a feast/I’m wondering if a thug’s prayers reach…/ Is Pius pious cause God loves pious?/Socrates asks, ‘Who’s bias do yall seek?’/….” The album is not just iconoclastic, it questions beliefs, truths, politics, the place of the black man in America, etc.

It is also a celebration of black excellence.

Production is helmed by heavyweights like RZA, The Neptunes, Swizz Beats, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, Don Jazzy, No ID, Lex Luger and West himself.

My fave track here is Murder To Excellence.

That beat switch from Murder to Excellence is genius.

A genre defining album which would constantly be in consideration when the 2010’s in rap music is considered.

Rating: 5/5

Essential Tracks: Otis, No Church In The Wild, Niggas In Paris, Murder To Excellence, Illest Motherfucker Alive, HAM, Lift Off, Why I Love You.

Fave Foreign Rap Albums of 2011

THE GAME – THE R.E.D ALBUM

One thing you cannot say against The Game is that he drops bad albums.

A cruise through his discog is sure to unearth gems and classic cuts.

This album is great, cohesive, banging, lyricism on point and the pilot himself sounding more focused and self-assured.

What’s a Game album without the name drops?

Even on the 26 second intro, he also name drops, lol.

“Red Nation” is my fave song on the album.

It highlights the various political, religious and criminal undertones of the color red, drawing parallels to gang relations in Compton.

Kendrick Lamar spazzed out on “The City”, a fitting opening track to the album, contrasting the blue vs. red criminal background of the city.

‘Pot of Gold’ has an infective hook from Chris Brown.

“Ricky” is a deep cut, “The Good The Bad The Ugly” details Game’s criminal past and paranoia; Rick Ross and Game trade bars on “Heavy Artillery” about their uhmmm, heavy artillery.

Once I heard ‘Born In The Trap’, I knew that was a Preemo beat even before I looked it up.

‘Martians and Goblins’ with Tyler The Creator and Lil Wayne is an excellent song.

Beyond the heavyweight features like Snoop, Dr. Dre, Kendrick, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Drake, Game is in complete control, and it is on tracks where he is alone, that he bares his honesty out and allows a peek into his soul without all the camaraderie we’ve got to associate with him.

These are tracks like ‘Born In The Trap’, ‘Mama Knows’ and ‘California Dream’. I’d give it a….

Rating: 4.5/5.

Essential Tracks: The City, Red Nation, Born In The Trap, Pot of Gold, Heavy Artillery, The Good The Bad The Ugly, Ricky.

DRAKE – TAKE CARE

This album solidified Drake as a mainstay in rap.

Yeah, argue all you want about his singing and melody and watering down hiphop.

We know where to find ‘real hiphop’ when we want – The Underground, lol.

While he made bogus claims that he’s the first rapper to sing, some were pointing fingers at Lauryn Hill who did it first and won 5 Grammy’s in a night; and when he clarified that he’s the first to meld melody and rap into such an intrinsic whole, niggas still asked if he had not heard about Bone Thugs n Harmony before or even Ceelo Green of Goodie Mob.

Nobody wanted to give him any credit for creating what was already in existence.

But didn’t we all enjoy the songs? I sure did. Criticize Drake all you want, he sounded fresh. “Headlines” was my jam that year.

“Marvin’s Room” was a portrayal of a drunk dial call to that ex who’s contact is still on speed dial on your phone; “Lord Knows” is a bona fide rap record, Rick Ross was outstanding on it and Just Blaze produced a banger.

Andre 3000’s verse on “The Real Her” is all shades of amazing.

“Practice” is a slow burner. And there are hits like ‘HYFR’ and ‘The Motto’. This is his career defining album.

Rating: 4.0/5

Essential Tracks: Lord Knows, Headlines, The Motto, HYFR, The Real Her, Marvin’s Room, Take Care.

THE ROOTS – UNDUN

There’s a reason The Roots have been here for this long.

They are gosh damn good at being the best hiphop band ever.

Undun (Pronounced as ‘undone’) is a concept album with an existential subject matter.

The concept is simple. It tells the story of a young black man – Redford Stevens, who grew up in the ghetto with prospects, but got trapped and caught up in the game, lived his life in the streets, and eventually had to pay for it with death at a very young age.

In a way this is a parallel to Lupe’s concept on “The Cool” but different.

The story is typical of black lives in ghetto America but what makes it outstanding is in the manner of its telling and presentation – instead of an ascending order of birth to death, it is told from death to birth.

A backward storytelling approach with a first-person narrative in which we witness Redford Stevens die (‘Sleep’), Black Thought’s verse paints a somber picture of the last thoughts on his mind, whether he would be remembered by his family or forgotten as another dead black man; we also witness the manner of his killing in the streets on (‘Make My’).

‘One Time’ shows him as a conflicted, philosophical young man who occasionally wonders about the course of his life and consequence of his criminal actions.

“The Other Side” shows him living the good life of a drug dealer who made it.

On “Lighthouse” he wonders which path to take, whether to follow good or bad, right or wrong; ‘I Remember’ sees him reflecting on his life before the streets, “Tip The Scale” sees him as a young’n with the odds stacked against him in the ghetto even before he is born.

This album is heavy stuff. But what makes it resonate is the manner of its presentation, production and storytelling.

Black Thought is accompanied by the usual suspects: Dice Raw, Greg Porn, Truck North and Phonte; Big Krit is also here, with harmonizing provided by Bilal.

However, it is Questlove who is the captain of this ship. He and the band members composed original pieces, eerie, solemn and picturesque with fine details of every aspect of the story told.

There are no vocals on some pieces composed, just soundscapes which leaves one imagining the potential and horrific proportions of a young life undun, which makes it the more scary.

Rating: 5/5

Essential Tracks: The Other Side, I Remember, Tip The Scale, Sleep, Make My, Lighthouse.

LIL WAYNE – THA CARTER IV

This album catches a lot of flack.

It is usually compared to Carter 3 either as a letdown, too poppy or mainstream; while others argue that it is better than its predecessor.

I love Carter 3, it remains my best Wayne album but it doesn’t mean this one was bad either.

I think its in a class of its own.

There are classic wayne couplets here and he’s really rapping on some crazy weezy level (6 Foot, 7 Foot); “John” with Rick Ross had such a damn good beat, which was also tweaked for Rick Ross on “I’m Not A Star” off of his Teflon Don album.

“President Carter”, “Blunt Blowin” and “Abortion” are classic cuts.

The Drake feature on “She Will” is memorable.

Maybe its because of his singing and harmonizing on tracks like “How To Love” and “Nightmares of The Bottom” that comes as a surprise, but the singing is not so bad either.

The Deluxe version contains more tracks like “Mirrors” with Bruno Mars, probably the biggest hit from this album.

My fave cuts on this album are the “Intro”, “Interlude” and “Outro” where Wayne assembles a posse cut consisting of Tech N9ne, Andre 3000, Nas, Shyne, Bun B and Busta Rhymes to deliver the best verses they can muster over an ill beat.

And boy, did they do justice to it.

Nas delivers a stellar verse that is full of quotables, Tech N9ne’s chopper flow is out of this world as he turns the track into a warzone, but it is Busta Rhymes who runs away with it.

He does what Busta usually does.

Since he can’t win against Nas or Andre 3000 for lyrical verses, he brings a thunderous mic presence and energy to the track and causes such a ruckus to the vocal booth that you wonder how come he isn’t out of breath by the end.

This album is solid no matter what people say.

Rating: 4.0/5

Essential Tracks: John, 6 Foot 7 Foot, Mirrors, She Will, How To Love, Outro, President Carter, Blunt Blowin.

WALE – AMBITION

Way back in ’09 when Wale’s debut, ‘Attention Deficit’ dropped, Pretty Girls, World Tour, Chillin’ and Beautiful Bliss where J.Cole delivered an otherworldly verse, were radio mainstays.

A new kid on the block who married radio play with his own brand of lyricism and storytelling, see ‘Shades’ Ft. Chrisette Michele.

Attention Deficit was so good I wondered if he could be able to top it.

Could he make that transition from kid wave to mainstay?

And then Ambition dropped two years later, and it was sonically better.

The maturity and hunger he showcased on this album, he’s attempted to top it with subsequent projects but with varied success.

Don’t get me wrong, he has released outstanding projects after this, such as The Album About Nothing and The Gifted, but, this is not just his best album to date, it remains his albatross.

This album exposed him as one of the leading lights of his generation, and I’m talking pretty much everyone Kendrick mentioned on that infamous track, plus some.

On the title track “Ambition” which ought to have been Wale’s manifesto to his peers, it is rather Meek Mill who has a showstealing performance, however, ‘Lotus Flower Bomb’ embodies Wale at his most emotional, vulnerable, sexy and loving peak, on record, all thanks to Miguel. Guests here include Jeremih, Neyo, Big Sean, Lloyd, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi and Meek Mill.

On the down side, the album leans a bit on the R&B side but it is well complimented by Wale’s raps.

He plays it safe, nothing adventurous, like Attention Deficit and sticking too much to the model cut of what a MMG album ought to sound like.

He showed ambition, the album just wasn’t ambitious enough to attain near classic status.

Rating: 4.0/5

Essential Tracks: Miami Nights, Legendary, Lotus Flower Bomb, Ambition, White Linen, Double M Genius.

J COLE – COLE WORLD: THE SIDELINE STORY

The Heir-apparent to the Roc Nation dynasty.

After that head-turning appearance on “A Star Is Born”, from the Blueprint 3 album where Jay name-dropped his contemporaries and their inability to snatch the crown from him, young Cole used his verse to show he was a potential contender.

Coming off of the success of his three mixtape run with Friday Night Lights being the highlight, and being heralded as the next best thing in hiphop.

He therefore adopted the young Simba persona and crafted what I now look back on with less awe as I felt at first.

I think the pressure got to him.

My criticism of it is, he played it too safe.

There were no risks and adventurous freewheeling as seen in the mixtapes.

He wanted to fit into the major label construct and I won’t begrudge him much for the choices.

Just like he said on “Let Nas Down”, Jay was asking where’s the radio single, and he had to deliver.

This doesn’t mean the album isn’t good, in fact, it had potential. I had “Can’t Get Enough” on repeat, along with Drake’s “Headlines” and would compare both songs, wondering who made the better music. “Sideline Story” is an emotional story, the production on that song is tight.

But my favorite song from this album is “Lost Ones”, a storytelling track about teenage pregnancy, abortion, and the fate of an unborn fetus plus the emotional trauma young women (and even guys) go through when confronted with the consequences of premarital sex.

It is a deep cut. Song made a J.Cole fan out of me. Album is a solid debut. Features include Jay Z, Drake, Missy Elliot and Trey Songz. 9

0% of the album is produced by Cole himself which says a thing about creative control of his own sound, notwithstanding being Jay’s poster child signing.

Rating: 4.0/5

Essential Tracks: In The Morning, Lights Please, Sideline Story, Headlines, Lost Ones, Mr. Nice Watch, Work Out.

KENDRICK LAMAR – SECTION.80

Is this Kendrick’s debut studio album or a mixtape? The fine line between is still blurry.

Give Kendrick Lamar a concept to make a project with, and watch him run away with it.

The year was 2011 and rumors of an apocalyptic 2012 were rife in hiphop.

There was even an apocalyptic movie called 2012.

One of my fave apocalyptic movies, the Denzel Washington starring “Book Of Eli” had dropped the previous year so you can imagine what it was like.

It was in the midst of all this that Kendrick’s “HiiPower” single dropped, adding fuel to the flame.

The intro to that song, with an almost eerie beat and a cold calculated, confident voice created an instant image in the mind of every listener.

How could he? How dare this kid combine the infamous economic politics of what has come to be known in hiphop circles as Reaganomics (Ronald Reagan Era) and its antecedent crack epidemic of the 70’s and 80’s (A.D.H.D), with moralizing and social justice (Kush and Corinthians); while highlighting prostitution (Keisha’s Song), relationship struggles of African American women (Tammy’s Song) and bodily-image confidence issues among girls (No Make Up).

In fact, all facets of the ills in society are presented on this album (Poe Man’s Dreams) with such clear-eyed poignancy unexpected of someone so young.

There are interludes where the narrator’s voice provides parallels for the young people gathered round to understand the racial implications of the system they’ve been born into, a kill or be killed world.

But despite all the heavy stuff and commentary, Kendrick is having fun here (Rigamortus) with his TDE labelmates Schoolboy Q (The Spiteful Chant) and Ab-Soul (Ab-Soul’s Outro).

I also need to mention that Alori Joh, the TDE affiliated singer who passed away in 2011 before this album dropped heavily contributed uncredited vocals to classic cuts like the J.Cole produced “HiiPower” and “The Spiteful Chant”, ‘No Make Up’, ‘Ab-Soul’s Outro’ and other songs on the album.

When I look at how huge SZA is now, I wonder if Alori Joh could have also blown, but for her suicide.

In a way, her story embodies some of the things Kendrick was rapping about on this project.

Rating: 4.0

Essential Tracks: All the tracks are essential.

PHONTE – CHARITY STARTS AT HOME; EVIDENCE – CATS & DOG

I apologize for placing these two albums in the same position.

It’s because of my inability to decide which among both albums is better than the other.

Both albums dropped in the same month and on the same day, both starts with the letter C, both artistes are members of respected hiphop groups Little Brother and Dilated Peoples, respectively; one artiste featured the other, and no doubt, these two albums have aged well and considered underground almost-classics.

If I place one above the other, it would seem that I prefer one to the other.

Phontgallo and The Weatherman are respected lyricists and this album has bars with mouthwatering features.

While Phonte has guest verses from Elzhi, Pharoahe Monch, Big K.R.I.T and Evidence himself; Ev has featured verses from Ras Kass, Raekwon, Prodigy and Aesop Rock, all certified spitters.

These albums are so damn good it makes me want to cry, lol. The soul infused production and boom bap from the likes of 9th Wonder, Preemo, Statik Selekt and The Alchemist… Chai. Hiphop is for life.

Rating: 4.7/5

Phonte Essential Tracks: The Life Of Kings, Not Here Anymore, Dance In The Reign, Everything Is Falling Down, We Go Off.

Evidence Essential Tracks: The Liner Notes, The Red Carpet, You, Late For The Sky, Good Times.

RAEKWON – SHAOLIN VS. WU-TANG

Ever heard an album and you tell yourself this is a classic?

I felt that way with this one.

I’m I reaching? Probably.

But I was literally blown at such a well crafted, masterful all-round perfection from Raekwon.

This album is almost peerless.

I lack adjectives to describe how this album made me feel.

One thing the Wu-Tang doesn’t lack for are classic albums. Raekown’s OB4CL ranks near the top of Wu classic records and to imagine that this could also be placed in that conversation when discussing his discography.

From the album title, this is a Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang inspired album and Rae is at his lyrical best.

What I’ve always liked about Rae is his lingo and the way he weaves NY street ebonics in his rhymes.

Three songs whose production and arrangement one after the other most aligns with the theme of the album are “Butter Knives”, “Snake Pond” and “Crane Style”.

These three tracks are like a cut from a Chinese Kung fu movie with martial art folk sounds playing in the background.

But this isn’t an all out martial arts affair.

There are drug tales, gang and feud related subject matters here.

Typical Mafioso shit. The sample chops are done by excellent producers like DJ Mathematics, DJ Khalil, Alchemist and Bronze Nazareth.

The guests are worth every penny of their appearance fees. Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck and Method Man are joined by Nas, Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross and others.

Fave track here is “Masters Of Our Fate”.

It has a stellar Black Thought verse over a soul sample chop with a religious connotation in the background.

I play it a lot at home and my sister would think it’s a gospel song, especially the recorded audio sample of a preacher’s voice saying “Salvation will not be denied us”. Great album.

Rating: 4.7/5

Essential Tracks: Rich and Black, Masters of Our Fate, Molasses, From The Hills, Butter Knives, Snake Pond, Crane Style.

ELZHI “ELMATIC”

This album is ambitious.

Imagine an attempt to create a project which not only pays homage to arguably the greatest hiphop album ever – Nas’ Illmatic; but also meets with the lyrical highs, benchmark and standard set by that magnus opus and actually pull it off by about 90%.

Elzhi is a Detroit lyricist, but its not just his lyricism that shoulders the weight of this album.

Producer Will Sessions tweaked and recreated re-interpretations of all the beats on Illmatic for El to rap on and it sounds 100% fresh while not losing the 90’s appeal of the original.

He weaves street tales steeped in the Detroit underground and his own come-up story is a new perspective.

On nights in Uni when I’d be on my way for all night sessions, I would be bumping to ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ through my headphones.

That shit almost sounded better than Nas version.

Royce Da 5’9 rides shotgun as AZ on Life’s A Bitch. This was a daunting project, but both parties made it look effortless.

Rating: 4.5/5

Essential Tracks: It Ain’t Hard To Tell, The World Is Yours, Represent, Life’s A Bitch, Detroit State Of Mind.

COMMON – THE DREAMER, THE BELIEVER

My favorite memory of this album was the Common/Drake beef. Who won? Common of course.

But Drake came hard. So Common felt some type of way with all the sing-song melody raps that creeped into hiphop at the start of the decade and he addressed it in “Sweet”.

Drake took offence with Common calling him ‘Sweet” and the guy who said diss me you’ll never hear a reply for it had to respond on Rick Ross’ ‘Stay Schemin’ from the Rich Forever tape.

He really threw some wild jabs there at Com – “It bothers me when the gods be actin’ like the broads… don’t be duckin like you never wanted nothing/its feelin like rap changed, it was a time it was rugged/back when if a nigga reached it was for the weapon/nowadays niggas reach just to sell they record/…” damn, that shit was below the belt.

But did you hear Common’s clapback?

He jumped on the Stay Schemin record and ended it before it even started.

It is alleged the whole beef was ignited because of a dame they were both seeing – Serena Williams.

Common was on peak form here. Not ‘Be’ kind of peak but very close.

The late great Maya Angelou does a spoken word performance on ‘The Dreamer’.

Nas has a stellar verse on ‘Ghetto Dreams’ that makes you question why Com and him don’t collaborate often.

John Legend’s vocals gives a halleluyah tinge to “The Believer”.

Frequent collaborator No.ID handled all the production and is really in sync with Com who is in return to form, reminiscent of their Resurrection days.

Com is a lyrical giant and this album is a brilliant addition to his legacy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Essential Tracks: The Believer, Ghetto Dreams, Blue Sky, Celebrate, Raw, The Dreamer, Lovin I Lost.

PHAROAHE MONCH “W.A.R” (We Are Renegades)

The sheer force of Monch’s eloquence pervades the corridors of hiphop.

A man gifted with the pen is here dictating his worldview and calling for a revolution, a rise to arms to rage against the machine.

The album’s strengths do not lie only in its cohesiveness, but the complex lyricism and technicality in Pharoahe Monch’s writing, his ability to invoke the Arab revolution at the start of the decade as a political building block for his revolution on record (‘Calculated Amalgamation’, ‘W.A.R’).

He recruits Immortal Technique who is a revered vet in revolutionary subject matters for the title track, while on “Assassins’ Jean Grae and Royce Da 5’9 join him as three P.O.W’s who have escaped and come back to perform a lyrical onslaught of the highest proportions on their captors. Styles P and Phonte have guest appearances.

The album closer “Still Standing” is as soulful and gorgeous as Jill Scott who’s vocals raises this track to the highest heavens. Marco Polo, M-Phazes and Diamond D assist in crafting this sonic beauty. A fulfilling listening experience.

Rating: 4.5/5

Essential Tracks: W.A.R, Calculated Amalgamation, Evolve, Let My People Go, Still Standing, The Grand Illusion, Clap, Back Hand Side.

REKS – RHYTHMATIC ETERNAL KING SUPREME

Fans of purist hiphop would love this.

An album steeped in the underground, with golden age, boom bap sounds, DJ scratching and good ‘ol emceeing.

Production anchored by heavyweights such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, The Alchemist, Hi-Tek, Statik Selektah, Nottz and Sha Money XL. Lyrics come at you at a rapid fire pace.

Vets like Styles P, Termanology and Freeway have guest spots here.

One of my fave tracks is ‘This Or That’ because it samples the ‘Am I A Good Man’ song which Ghostface Killah used on ‘Purified Thoughts’ off the Apollo Kids album.

DJ Khaled also used it on ‘Good Man’ which featured.

Pusha and Jada off the Grateful album, while Being also used the sample on ‘Am I Good Enough’ from the Okwerd Logic of Being album.

Reks is solid and was coasting.

Album is worth every cent of the mb spent on it.

Rating: 4.3/5

Essential Tracks: 25th Hour, Kill ‘em, Thin Line, This or That, The Wonder Years, Like A Star, Cigarettes, Why Cry.

BIG SEAN – FINALLY FAMOUS

Big Sean’s debut on GOOD Music.

The Detroit rapper is an entertaining guy.

A lot of radio-friendly tracks here.

Lyrics are bland but he has a virtuosic, sing/rap melody voice.

He runs around and plays with words in an unserious way that makes one rewind and be like, did he really just say that?

A lot of guests here, who assist to carry the album, including Chris Brown, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Pusha T, Nicki Minaj, The Dream, John Legend, Pharell.

No ID handles a lot of the production. I should give him an E for effort, right?

Rating: 2.5/5

Essential Tracks: Marvin & Chardonnay, Dance (A$$), My Last, I Do It, Wait For Me.

LUPE FIASCO – LASERS

This album caught a lot of flack when it came out.

Besides the label issues, public protests for its release, and the threat by a hacker group to attack Atlantic Records and leak all their material; over time, I’ve come to like and appreciate it.

The music is great.

Lyrics are on point.

The production was different with its use of electro beats, however it gives the album an experimental sound. Critics were just being critics.

The Show Goes On is a fitting single.

Lupe’s political stand is posited on Words I Never Said while he rails against the music industry on ‘Letting Go’.

All Black Everything explores the possibilities if black people were never enslaved.

John Legend’s vocals really carry “Never Forget You” while Lupe plays with words and metaphors; he continues with the metaphors on “Out of My Head” a chick/girly song with Trey Songz; ‘State Run Radio’ is a Big Brother Is Watching you type of song, a la George Orwell’s 1984 seminal novel.

‘I’m Beamin’ is all positivity.

Lupe’s lyrics go beyond the surfaced.

He triple stacks every possible meaning with multiple interpretations. Album is nice.

Rating: 4.0

Essential Tracks: Words I Never Said, All Black Everything, The Show Goes On, State Run Radio, Break The Chain, I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now.

TECH N9NE – ALL 6’S & 7’S

Tech N9Ne is sick. One of the sickest rappers out there.

And by sick I mean the way he intentionally knits flow, fast raps, dark subject matters, misogyny, mic skills and sometimes positivity into a package and sells it to his fans.

He’s darn good. Even when his stock in trade is fast raps, he doesn’t do it in such a way that you can’t hear him.

He melds it with musicality which gives fans a profound listening experience.

This album is maad tight and made a fan out of me.

At 28 tracks, it is long, however, every song is well positioned and sequenced. It is a journey into strangeland.

“He’s A Mental Giant” is an eyehole into the kind of artiste he is. ‘Worldwide Choppers’ is a posse cut of all the choppers (fastest rappers) on the planet.

I wonder why Krayzie or Bizzy Bone wasn’t included, aren’t they all from the Midwest?

Twisted Insane was the fastest here. But I got Busta Rhymes for the best flow.

There is a sequel with Eminem on it.

The album makes a decent use of rap/rock. Guests include Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Hopsin, B.o.B, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Krizz Kaliko, etc.

Rating: 4.5/5

Essential Tracks: Delusional, He’s A Mental Giant, Worldwide Coppers, Fuck Food, Pornographic, Strangeland, Am I A Psycho?

SAIGON – GREATEST STORY NEVER TOLD

Saigon embodies the New York Sound.

He’s brash, lyrical and confident. Listen to him and you hear a lot of NY rappers – Jay Z, Jadakiss, 50 Cent.

But its not entirely an all-out New York affair here.

The Midwest is represented by Layzie Bone, Philly’s own Black Thought, and the South’s Bun B have guest appearances.

‘Come On Baby’ is braggadocious. Saigon trade bars with Jay Z while Swizz Beatz does his thing on the hook.

This song enjoyed a reasonable amount of radio play back around ’11 and ’12.

Every track on this album is a dope back to back. Just Blaze handles a bulk of the production which is why it has such an NY-centric sound.

A rare album without skips with the potential to bang in car speakers.

Rating: 4.7/5

Essential Tracks: Clap, Come On Baby, Believe It, Too Long, Give It To Me, Bring Me Down Pt. 1&2

BIG K.R.I.T – RETURN OF 4EVA

The honesty of K.R.I.T’s music is what gives him so much appeal from his loyal fanbase.

He doesn’t pander to expectations but makes music which speaks to him first, before considering the industry.

Of the members of his 2011 freshmen class (Meek Mill, Yelawolf, Mac Miller, YG, Kendrick Lamar, Cyhi The Prince etc), he was one of the first to be snatched by a major labal (Def Jam), but he kept them waiting before dropping a debut because he valued quality over quantity.

Return of 4eva built on the legacy of 2010’s KRIT WUZ HERE; till this day, I wonder which project is better.

There are songs with deeper meanings here (Free My Soul, Lions & Lambs, King’s Blues), emotional and touching cuts (The Vent), social commentary (Another Naïve Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism), positivity and following one’s dream (Rise & Shine, Dreamin’, R4 Theme Song), even as there are booming (My Sub, Sookie Now), car ride (Rotation, Time Machine), and ladies songs (Shake It, Player’s Ballad).

Guests include Ludacris, Bun B, Chamilionaire, David Banner, Big Sant, Raheem Devaughn and Joi.

Listening to K.R.I.T, one is tempted to compare him to other southern rap legends, but he’s carved his own lane.

Rating: 4.2/5

Essential Tracks: Rise & Shine, The Vent, Rotation, My Sub, Free My Soul, King’s Blues.

ACTION BRONSON – DR. LECTER

It’s funny that an overweight rapper would name his debut album, Dr. Lecter as a reference to the psychological serial killer in the horror novel: the Silence Of The Lambs who kidnapped overweight women, starved and skinned them before dumping their bodies in the river.

It seems a sick joke to Action Bronson but knowing him to be a man with a twisted sense of humor, one cannot but take him less seriously.

The album is hilarious, as he throws jabs and makes fun of himself, women, his weight issues, and a raps a lot about his addiction to food, which is responsible for his obesity. Oh how he loves food.

He raps about food like Pusha T raps about powder or Lil Wayne raps about…. Errrr lol.

He does it with a humor-ffilled effortless lyricism. He’s got a pinched voice that sounds uncannily like Ghostface Killah, it is not intentional.

However, what separates them is that while his flow is relaxed, Ghostface has a rushed, emotional tinge to it. Bronsolino can brag, and he does it with a style that is solely his.

Rating: 4.0/5

Essential Tracks: Ronnie Coleman, Jerk Chicken, Forbidden Fruit.

Written by Epsi Gabriel

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