What a week. If you missed it, below is the recap of our annual lists.
What a week. If you missed it, below is the recap of our annual lists.
Kendrick Lamar’s story was untold until the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city. Opening with a prayer, his tale unravels with a series of events. From getting double crossed by a local hood rat (“Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinters Daughter”) to nearly arrested (“The Art Of Peer Pressure”) Kendrick geniusly chronicles life growing up in California (“Compton”). Still the meat and potatoes of good kid, m.A.A.d city lies within the album’s sub-plots. There’s alcoholism (“Swimming Pools”), hustler ambition (“Money Trees”) and community (“good kid”, “m.a.a.d city”). Kendrick turned his ghetto story into a compelling narrative that couldn’t be ignored. The good kid won, ya bish.
Previously: #10 Slaughterhouse welcome to:Our House l #9 MMG Self Made 2 l #8 2 Chainz Based On A T.R.U. Story l #7 Meek Mill Dreams & Nightmares l #6 G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer l #5 Big Boi Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors l #4 Rick Ross God Forgives, I Don’t l #3 T.I. Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head l #2 Nas Life Is Good
Prior to 2012, life wasn’t always so good for Nasir. After the lackluster work on his previous release, Nas shocked the world with his formidable tenth album. As if one is needed, Esco re-introduces himself on the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-assisted “No Introduction”. Nas can’t pick good beats? On this go-round, the quality behind the boards took a giant leap forward. Nas’ go-to producer Salaam Remi provides the foundation behind the boards on the well-narrated tale of his borough (“Queens Story“), the farewell bid to the ex-wife (“Bye Baby”) and the street buzzer (“Nasty”). No ID tries his hand on the reminiscing track (“Back When”), his parental misstep guide (“Daughters”) and the hard-driven “Loco-Motive” with Large Pro. To “Reach Out” on this joyous ride, Mary J. Blige lends her soulful voice on the DJ Hot Day-inspired track and Rozay vigorously empties his clip on the menacing “Accident Murderers”. From obsessions (“World’s An Addiction”) to lustful fantasies (“Cherry Wine”), and the struggles one goes through (“You Wouldn’t Understand”), Nas eloquently tells his stories and receives redemption in the end. If his life is truly as good as this album, he’s winning.
The MMG general is the epitome of a hustler. After dropping an acclaimed mixtape at the top of the year, Rick Ross kept the grind going into the summer before finally delivering his fifth album, God Forgives, I Don’t. William’s rags-to-riches story rings off with the riveting”Pirates” and grows more sinister on the Cool & Dre-produced “Ashamed”. The J.U.S.T.I.C.E League returns to spearhead “Maybach Music IV” while the soulful bed provided by Cardiak brought Miami’s street life to “Amsterdam”. Rozay remained in his comfort zone to serve his fellow bosses (“Hold Me Back”, “911″, “So Sophisticated”), but he also catered to the ladies with Usher and Omarion (“Touch N’ You”, “Ice Cold”). “Diced Pineapples” was succulent and sweet with Wale’s poetic thoughts and Drake’s sultry hook. Lest we forget, Rick commissions the game’s top veterans with 5 star verses from the likes of Andre 3000 (“Sixteen”) and Jay-Z (“3 Kings”). But don’t get it twisted, the man himself proves he deserves the lead role on the cinematic “10 Jesus Pieces”. Amen.
Off the heels of Sir Lucious Left Foot, one half of OutKast released another solo album, Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors. However, on this go-round, Antwan took a different approach musically by bridging the gap with his signature sound and other genres of music. Indie pop group Phantogram joins him on the hard-knocking “Objectum Sexuality”. Meanwhile the Swedish electro band Little Dragon provides the soothing tempo grooves on “Descending” and “Thom Pettie” with Dungeon Family member Killer Mike. Still General Patton stays true to the hometown on anthemic “In The A” with his fellow ATLiens T.I. and Ludacris. Longtime collaborator Sleepy Brown tiptoes his vocals over a Jodeci-sample on “The Thickets” while Big’s delivery between the “Lines” with A$AP Rocky is equally stellar. Lies and rumors never sounded so sweet.
Guess it’s safe to say, Cruel Summer is the most polarizing release of the year. Ha! Shit, I enjoyed it especially the final iTunes mastered version. Yeah Kanye made us wait til the fall for this compilation and released most of the best records first (“Mercy”, “New God Flow”, “Don’t Like”, “Clique”) but there was still new tunes to enjoy. Who can resist Ye charmingly boasting alongside fellow Chi-town Hall Of Famer, R. Kelly on “To The World”? But the heart of the album contains effective but bizarre collabo combinations. Raekwon, Common, Pusha T, 2 Chainz, and CyHi The Prynce shine on “The Morning” and The-Dream, Pusha T, and Mase zone out on “Higher”. Marsha Ambrosius’ hook on “The One” sounds like it belongs on a DJ Khaled album but Mr. West makes the tune his own (“You think you’re me?/But you ain’t me/What you done lately?). It’s a bummer if you don’t dig Cruel Summer.
With his critically-acclaimed Dreamchasers mixtapes under his belt, Meek Mill carried over the success to his much-anticipated album, Dreams & Nightmares. We’ve all heard the prison walls to the hall of fame storyline repeatedly, but no one this year told it quite like Meek Mill. The title track rolls out his journey from the gutters of the Philly to the exotic penthouse suites. Meek continues his murderous tale (“Tony Story Pt. 2″), watches jealousy turn friends to strangers (“Who You Around”, “Polo & Shell Tops”) and even ponders sweet revenge on his father’s murder (“Traumatized”). Keeping that MMG signature sound, Ross joins him on the flashy “Believe It” and returns with Nas and John Legend on the luxurious “Maybach Curtains”. Despite the dark and street-driving records, radio praised the Drake-assisted “Amen” and even the auto-tune infested “Young & Gettin’ It”. For those who’ve been inspired, this is what dreams are truly made of.
Make no mistake, 2 Chainz gets by with a lil help from his friends on his Def Jam debut. Most notably Kanye West (“Birthday Song”) and the YMCMB familia (Lil Wayne on “Yuck”, Drake on “No Lie”, Nicki Minaj “I Luv Dem Strippers”). But although Tity Boi is well connected, my favorite moments on Based On A T.R.U. Story are when he elected to go for self. “Crack” is an essential head-nodder. “Dope Peddler” is punchy and playful and “I’m Different” is the album’s most infectious moment. His approach to rap music is unorthodox but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rock. Avoiding any pre-release full album leaks, 2 Chainz did it his way and won. Where’s the “Money Machine”?
Since the release of the first installment, Self Made, the Bawse added a few new recruits to his untouchable empire. Stalley brings his A game to the table. The Ohio rhyme slinger purifies hustling tales with Nipsey Hussle on “Fountain of Youth” and his opening verse reaches the highest point on “The Zenith”. The latest addition, Omarion woos the ladies on “Let’s Talk” and juggles them on “M.I.A.” In addition to Rozay’s superb ear for production, he also knows how to bring those outside the family in to help produce a cohesive compilation. Kendrick Lamar closes out “Power Circle” with force. Nas coasts with ease of a don on “This Thing Of Ours” and T.I. comes out swinging on “Bury Me A G”. The Teflon Don and his platoon prove for the second time around why MMG is at the forefront of the rap game. Until next time.
You wanna be one of the illest MCs? Well go out there and prove it. On your own. Then get with 3 other ill MCs and prove it. On y’all own. Then maybe you’ll get signed by one of the greatest MCs. Eminem is all over Slaughterhouse’s Shady debut and he ain’t got no worries. After spitting alongside the crew on the title track, Marshall gets raunchy on “Throw That” and goes crazy on “Asylum”. But it’s Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9″, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I that are still the true stars here. They stomp in on the exciting “Hammer Dance”, shake the woofers on “Get Up” and pour out their souls on the album’s best moment, “Goodbye”. You wanna shine on the mic device? Well there’s strength in numbers, muthafuckas.