10: Vents – Hard To Kill
It’s a great pleasure to be able to start my worldwide top 10 hip hop list with somebody from my own city, Adelaide, and I’m talking about Vents and his debut album ‘Hard To Kill’ that dropped earlier this year on Obese Records. Vents brings forth a raw and relentless rhyme style that I can't compare to anything I've ever heard, to me it seems unconventional but the thing is - it works. With the subject matter of his lyrics ranging from anti snitch raps, social and political commentary and general life rhymes it's the type of album that anyone can listen to and get something out of. Another thing I've got to mention about this album is that the hard hitting production care of The Funkoars' Trials is top notch all the way through, with dope beats and a nice amount of sampling that add's to the overall quality album. Although all but 1 or 2 tracks on this album made it straight to my iPod, the stand outs were the title track, 'Flatline' with Queensland's Robbie Balboa, 'Fuck Em Up' with Vents and 'Full Metal' with Mortar and Trials, the latter who spits what I rate as one of the dopest verses on the whole album. Seeing as alot of the people who suss this site are from outside Australia you probably wont ever hear this album, but the best way to describe it is staunch militant raps over instrumentals that you could listen to all day, I read an article that compared Vents to Paris and that although there's alot of obvious differences, he brings that saw raw energy to his music and that's what makes me love this album so much.
9: Menacide – Street Symphony
Hailing from Gun Rule, Michigan comes the murder mitten menace, Menacide, and this past September 11th he unleashed onto the underground scene his CD/DVD combo ‘Street Symphony’. I first learnt of Menacide on the forums over at Horrorcore.com but he’s a lot more than just a horror rapper, he provides a mix of real life raps, violent rhymes for violent times and drug songs, along with a whole lot more. Stand out tracks on this album for me are the anti-backstabber ballad ‘Sammy Gravano’, ‘Shoot First’ featuring Flint’s finest the Dayton Family, his dedication to his little daughter ‘Ballad Of Sara’ and also his dedication to his dearly departed little brother ‘See U Soon’, the latter two showing his ability to pull off emotional tracks to perfection. Aside from the stand out songs, his spoken word ‘Alumni’ outro also has to be mentioned, a fictitious but poignant address to his former peers, one that breaks down the bullshit and allows him to vent in regards to his views in life. If it weren’t for a couple of seemingly needless skits and 1 or 2 tracks that just didn’t do it for me, this album would have been higher in my list, but it’s still an excellent example of the supreme quality underground hip hop has to offer, and I definitely recommend it to anyone.
8: Haystak - B.O.S.S. Mixtape (Vol. 1)
While titled a mixtape, I’m not too sure why, as it was the follow up release to his ‘Crackavelli’ double disc that dropped earlier in the year I assume these are tracks that might not of made the cut or just didn’t fit into the structure he was looking for. No matter what the case, this ‘mixtape’ still burnt most albums I heard in the past twelve months and further addicted me to the music of a man who always releases the realness time and time again. This underground Tennessee titan has lyrics that anyone who has faced adversity can relate to, no matter your race or religion and irrespective of location and circumstance. This album starts with an introduction not only to the mixtape at hand, but one that also gives everyone an insight into where he has come from and what he is all about. No matter whether it’s a slower paced track to ride to such as the laid back ‘Rolling’ or a fast paced banger such as his anti police anthem ‘They Can’t Stop Us’, it can be said that Stak never puts out any music that is half hearted or lacks passion and meaning, and this has drawn me to his music above almost any other artist I’ve ever been introduced to.
7: WC - Guilty By Affiliation
West coast veteran William ‘WC’ Calhoun returned in 2007 to drop yet another impressive release, this time on Ice Cube’s Lench Mob Records, and with Ice Cube handling production on the album. WC is renowned for his bellowing delivery and poignant rhymes about the west coast street life, and that’s exactly what he delivered once more in 2007. With hard-hitting Cube beats and the quality cuts care of WC’s younger brother Crazy Toones (who even gets a track of his own in the form of the dope ‘Crazy Toones 4 President’), this album is one that you can put on and enjoy from start to finish. Gangsta rap may be languishing in comparison to years gone by, and a lot of modern releases from the west coast seem to offer nothing exceptional that makes you want to listen to them over and over, but WC (along with a lot of other legends) can still drop heat in this day and age, this album being proof of that. Also worth mentioning is that features on this album are kept to a minimum with only Ice Cube and The Game springing to mind, and this helps to uphold the album’s overall cohesion, allowing listeners who pay for a WC album to get exactly that as opposed to a release resembling a compilation like a lot of other releases in this day and age.
6: Army Of The Pharaohs – Ritual Of Battle
2007 saw the release of the 2nd album from the super group Army Of The Pharaohs, this time around consisting of Vinnie Paz, Jus Allah, Outerspace, Chief Kamachi, Reef the Lost Cauze, Esoteric, Celph Titled, King Syze, Des Devious, Doap Nixon, Demoz and King Magnetic. As you would expect with any Jedi Mind Tricks affiliated release this album offers a lot of sinister sounding sample based production and nothing but raw rhymes, no bullshit. While this album falls just short in comparison to the first effort, I still pumped this album non stop when I first got it and continue to do so. One of the things that stands out on this album is the incredible production from the likes of Ill Bill, Celph Titled, Esoteric and DJ Kwestion. There are so many sick beats and choruses on this album that I wont even bother mentioning them individually, but each of them fit each of the rappers styles perfectly, and therefore forges a sound that you can automatically identify as that of AOTP. Out of the impressive cast of rappers on the roster, I’d have to say that Celph Titled and Vinnie Paz were the 2 standouts; Celph for incredible lyrics and Vinnie for the sheer ruggedness he always brings to the mic. It took me a while to stop sleeping on the music coming out of the JMT camp, but nowadays I’m wide awake and eagerly anticipating what they’ve got cooking up.
5: Chamillionaire – Ultimate Victory
I’m well aware that many cannot get into the music that Chamillionaire releases, but to me he’s one of the best rappers to ever get love in the mainstream, and more importantly he hasn’t changed his style for the masses, instead allowing for the masses to adapt their tastes to what he has to offer. With singles such as ‘Hip Hop Police’ with the legendary Slick Rick and the socially conscious ‘Evening News’, you’ve got to congratulate Chamillionaire on cracking the mainstream market with ‘Ridin’ and then following up his success by using the spotlight to release meaningful music, and not by spitting diluted bubble-gum bullshit, as this is the path so many others have chosen. When it comes to flow, Cham is one of the best in the game, and his ability to sing his own hooks so impeccably adds a great deal to his overall quality. Aside from the flow and hooks, it has to be said that Chamillionaire is often falsely labeled as a pop rapper with no lyrical ability, but anyone who takes the time to actually listen to ‘Ultimate Victory’ will know that he has a lot to say on a wide range of topics, he just does so with a unique rhyme scheme in a harmonious fashion and over the top of some extremely polished sounding production.
4: Damo – D-Classified Files
Australian hip hop continues to unearth some exceedingly talented artists, hence why this top 10 post features 2 Australian releases, both being debut albums and both being releases from Adelaide rappers. With this album Damo earned himself the title of Australia’s punch line master, and after one listen and you’ll understand exactly why. People outside of Australia would not ‘get’ or appreciate a large portion of Damo’s lines, nor would they probably be able to get used to his accent, but as an Australian listener this album grabbed me from the moment I first listened to it. If there was ever a release I could quote punch lines from all day long, this would be it – with the line share of tracks being a barrage of genius wordplay similar to what Chino XL and Celph Titled are notorious for, but with a more localized Australian attraction, and all rapped over top stellar Simplex production. In addition to the mind-blowing punch line tracks, there is also the autobiographical ‘Psych Profile’, a track that gives listeners an understanding of the man behind the mic, the socially observant ‘A Tear In The Ocean’ and ‘A Love Story’, a track in which hip hop is personified. All in all this is one of the most impressive debut album’s I’ve heard in recent memory, and yet another indication that Adelaide can produce emcees of a crazy caliber.
3: Insane Poetry – Fallen From Grace
The name Insane Poetry is synonymous with hardcore hip hop, from the late 80’s until the present day Los Angeles’ Andrew ‘Cyco’ Holiman has destroyed microphones with his violent mix of vicious street raps, brazen battle rhymes and gruesome horror tracks, and in 2007 the world was treated with the newest installment in the form of ‘Fallen From Grace’. Rapping over the refined production work of Jason ‘JP Tha Hustla’ Pearl, Cyco delivers to the listener a broad array of tracks that showcase both his ability to bring forth his staunch side but also tracks such as ‘Jot My Life’ and ‘Can You Feel My Pain’ that delve into his personal struggles, dilemmas and aspirations both in regards to the music business and in life in general. Lyrically Cyco reached a higher plateau than on his previous albums, and this further demonstrates his ambitions to move away from the one-dimensional ‘horrorcore’ tag that many may place on him due to the cult classic ‘Grim Reality’ from back in ‘92. As a long time Insane Poetry fan this album didn’t disappoint as it followed the same formula as the other albums, just changing it up just enough to add a new element to the legacy that Cyco has created.
2: Haystak – Crackavelli
Not many artists constantly drop releases that are of an incredible standard, but 2007 was a big year for Stak as not only did he release the ‘B.O.S.S. Mixtape’ but he also came out with the double-disc dopeness that is ‘Crackavelli’. On this 30 track monster Haystak takes his listeners on a roller coaster ride, delivering both hard hitting bangers such as ‘Paleface’ and ‘Track 7’ combined with more mellow slow jams such as ‘Pray For Me’ and ‘Sail On’. I expected a lot from this release due to his recent efforts being of such a high quality, and I was more than impressed with what he came up with as he delivered an array of tracks the listener can appreciate when going through different moods. Rappers always talk about ‘keeping it real’, so much so that the saying has become a mere cliché that all but lacks meaning. However, if there were one rapper the phrase could adequately describe it would be this proud white overweight Nashville native. Haystak epitomizes the art of using music as a medium for expression of self, and as also can be said for his prior releases, on ‘Crackavelli’ he offers his fans an intimate insight into every aspect of the life lead by Jason ‘Haystak’ Winfrey.
1: K Rino - Book Number 7
It would come as no surprise to people who know my musical tastes that a K Rino release stands as my benchmark for the year that has just passed us by in hip hop. The word lyricist is much overused, but it is a word that perfectly describes what K Rino is all about, he defines what it is to be a pure lyrical genius. As with many of his previous releases this Houston native brings to the table a concoction of well told stories, tracks jam packed with word-play wizardry as well as deep, meaningful tracks that leave an everlasting impression upon the listener. One fault that many found in K Rino’s music prior to this release was a lack of creativity in terms of production, but this time round nobody can doubt the quality of the beats that K laces, thanks a great deal to the skills of German beatsmith Keyza Soze whose skills go a long way in making this album as incredible as it is. Although ‘Fear No Evil’ still holds down the title of my favourite K Rino album to date, this album’s quality is not far short and it would probably be the album I’d use to introduce people to K Rino, owing a great deal to the aforementioned elevation in production standards.
To close this post I'd like to give my condolences to all those in the hip hop world who lost their lives in the past 12 months- artists who's music will live on for years to come despite the musicians themselves passing on.
Now onto 2008!...