Since we're 6 months into '09 (well, we're closer to 7 now but it was 6 when i first started compiling this in notepad) here's my pick of the year to date.
UGK - Da Game Been Good To Me
Pimp C was a true gang$ta-rap great because he was the South's answer to Eazy E (higher echelon ig'nant shittalking rapper) and Dr Dre (perfectionist super-producer) all rolled into one with a dose of Scarface's self loathing (not so much navel-gazing as small intestine examinations). Da Game Been Good To Me was the first track to leak from the posthumous UGK album and, despite the fact the album went on to give us classic UGK full of bluesy guitar, Superfly horns, falsetto crooning and lyrics covering topics as broad as marijuana use, the Reagan era, the futility of the war in Iraq and the anal hair of 20 year old strippers on tracks like Swishas & 'Erb, Purse Come First and the I Left It Wet For You redoot Hairy Asshole with Webbie and Boosie (let's all just forget the odious song with Akon, shall we?) this is still the one i jam the most.
The Jacka - Crown Me
As a caucazoid who likes some reggae but who can't really enjoy listening to it due to growing up in a place and era when UB40 were ubiquitous and the mental flashbacks of unwashed cracker cunts with dreadlocks and Rasta coloured jester hats encountered during my weed smoking days, it's the one genre of music which definately sounds more comfortable for me with someone rapping about their dick or blasting guns over it. Jacka's dropped a plethora of good stuff this year with the release of his The Street Album mixtape and his long awaited Tear Gas opus but it's due to the aforementioned reggae-rule that i'm gonna go for the highlight of the mixtape as his tune of '09.
Raekwon ft. Method Man & Ghostface - Wu Ohh
If Rae wakes up and stops doing that lame, barely comatose whisper-rap he's been inflicting on us the past couple of years then it's possible that OB4CL 2 might not suck and merely end up being a painfully average affair, but as long as it includes this banger then it's got at least classic Wu moment on there.
Curren$y - Scared Of Monsters
This shit gets me like Vince; Any one - Vaughn, McMahon :
Curren$y's digital album thingymebob turned out to be one of the better releases of the year thus far and while there are a handful of potential picks on there Scared Of Monsters still remains the highlight and his best song since Reagan Era a couple of years back. A better Clipse song than any of the actual Clipse songs released so far this year.
MF Doom - Cellz
As Doom's years in the rap game roll by like the booby trap released boulders during a tunnel scene in an Indiana Jones flick, he seems to have reached a comfortable plateau after the awkward post-Madvillain years by producing his best album since 2004. Never let it be said i'm not swayed by cheap gimmickry as, although, Gazillion Ear is blatantly the best song on Born Like This, i ride-or-die with Cellz due to the Bukowski sample which opens the song. His most creepy tune since Hey
Smitty - Real N*gga Shit
Janet Street Porter could rap over this Gil Scott Heron break and i'd proclaim the resulting song to be better than anything off Illmatic. This video follows the same recipe as Prodigy's Mac Ten Handle with Smitty mugging the camera as he sits alone in a room sippin' booze out of a plastic cup and pointing his pistol at us. I've never heard any of Smitty's albums but i've always liked the few tunes i've heard from him like Belts To Match with UGK, that joint with Scarface which KanYe produced, the Fuck Smitty track from earlier this year and this. Someone needs to recommend me some Smitty releases to check.
Royce Da 5'9 - Shake This
"Fresh outta jail feelin' like Christopher Walken/
the king of my city, swingin' my dick when i'm walkin'"
^ Every time i hear this i'm like :
Some would say Primo looping up some Axelrod is lazy sampling but better that than another dry clunker with the U Know My Steez snares, eh? Anyhoo, this is effective in the same way that Wayne and Swizz's Dr. Carter was effective with the crescendos suiting Royce's, for lack of a better term, Slint-rap steez just lovely. Can Royce finally make the LP he's capable of? It remains to be seen, but hanging out with tone-deaf battle rapper scrubs like Joe Budden - a man whose fanbase primarily consists of the people who type furious keystyles to one another in the comment sections of Just Blaze instrumentals on Youtube - surely isn't going to help.
G. Mane ft. G-Side - No One Duz It Betta
Already posted about this one a while back and G. Mane has dropped a grip of great tracks like Memoirs Of A Geisha and Hard since then but this is still the one. Not only does G. Mane sound like Bun B, he even goes as far as making the music Bun SHOULD be making sans UGK.
Tha Dogg Pound ft. Turf Talk - Y'All Know What I'm Doin'
Tha Dogg Pound's late career renaissance continues with an excellent single which is propelled to classic status by a guest appearance by the mighty Turf Talk playing the middleman and a video which alternates between scenes of men in Dickies gear drinking booze from bottles in brown paper bags outside a 7/11 and pole dancers with their arses cocked up in the air jiglling their wares in a strip club. That said, Turf Talk's Princess Leia style afro puffs are the highlight of the video.
DJ Quik & Kurupt - Nine Times Outta Ten
I know everyone always goes on about Nas and Canibus when they talk about rappers who killed shit on guest spots/freestyles/singles before releasing an album but Kurupt trumps 'em all for me. Who'd a thought that when Quik and Kurupt combined they'd end up making this year's PSK/Do The James/Come Clean/Grindin', though? Tuffest tune of '09 thus far.
De La Soul - Excursions '09
It's kinda sad that one of the greatest avant-garde rap groups ever can now only sound inspired cranking out a remake of an old Tribe tune for a tribute mixtape but beggars can't be choosers and i'll take this over pretty much anything they've done since the first A.O.I album , bar the underrated Impossible Mission mixtape.
Q. Tip ft. Busta, Raekwon & Lil' Wayne - Renaissance Rap remix
One of the highlights of Tip's suprisingly pleasant new LP gets remixed with guest verses from 3 currently washed-up rappers who somehow managed to sound reinvigorated on here and Tip himself sounding awfully like The R. Wayne's verse sounds like it was recorded on a dictophone placed inbetween Lady Gaga's tits but at least he's rapping again.
Curtains - Black Folks
See - he can make tracks about real issues and not just rap about gear 'n' kicks. However, it's his ability to do both which make him the closest we've got to a modern day incarnation of Grand Puba because, lord knows, we don't need the old one any more judging from the snippets i heard from his latest LP.
Young Dro - Dro Rock Diamonds
All i need in this life of sin is me and Dro rhyming 70, Cherokee, Heavenly plus Aunty named Beverley over Love And Happiness with a Biggie cut-up as the hook. It's baffling to me that there are people with similar taste to me who, for reasons i could never begin to fathom or empathise with, rate Gucci Mane over Young Dro since Gucci is a less fancy Dro X the most boring bits of Jeezy + a billion Zshare mixtape links a month. Getcha ATLanta rapper with penchants for comparing jewellery and gear to food weight up, cuzzes.
Gucci Mane - Hurry
So, yeah, he's the most overrated rapper out there at the moment and i'd rather share a portaloo with Phil "The Power" Taylor than hear another Gucci track with a mid-tempo Shawty Redd knock-off beat bought for $10 off some Myspace producer but he's capable of greatness when he raps over something a tad more animated like this crazy carnival type shit here. Best thing i've heard by him since I Move Chickens.
Cam'Ron - I Hate My Job
Crime Pays didn't quite live up to expectations after the Youtube trifecta of dopeness that was I Hate My Job, Cookin' Up and I Used To Get It In Ohio but they remain 3 of the best songs this year has seen, particularly the former with Cam', who, you'd imagine, has never had a proper job in his life, perfectly capturing the mundane horror of office life and feeling the pain of those of us stumbling our way through the rat-race.
Project Pat - Choppa To Ya Dome
What with every Southern rapper rhyming over nineties dance schlock by Robert Miles, Josh Wink and Ian Van Dahl at the moment it's comforting that you can always rely on Hypnotize Minds to lace Pat with some dark Memphis shit built on a bedrock of trademark Carpenter-meets-Colors -esque synths, church bells, machine gun fx and nails-on-a-chalkboard scratching.
Marco Polo & Torae ft. Masta Ace & Sean Price - Hold Up
The Marco Polo & Torae album serves the same purpose that The U.N album served in '04 : a fix of uncomplicated NY boom-bap which treads the fine line between backpack and street without falling into the pitfalls that come with either sub-genre. Masta Ace is drafted in to fill the obligatory veteran verse duties and has rediscovered his mojo after that painfully dull EMC record, while Sean Price adds an always welcome dose of ignorance. Not quite the '09 Crooklyn but, truthfully, it ain't that far off.
Big Mike ft. Rick Ross - Animals
Rawwwwwsse is a hack who doesn't deserve to be on a song with the guy who made No Nuts No Glory, Playa Playa and Havin' Thangs but this is one of the occasions when the moob bearing blob is just about tolerable. I still have to pinch myself to make sure i'm not dreaming when i see a Chops credit on a Big Mike or Bun B tune. From producing a happy-go-lucky Canadian backpacker group who made Jurassic 5 look like old Three 6 Mafia to lacing Houston heavyweights : how the fuck did that happen again?
Cunnilynguists ft. Killer Mike & Khujo - Georgia remix
In my world, the train carrying the Cunnilynguists doesn't usually stop at the station named great rap music so who'd a thought they'd would ever make anything dope, let alone anything dope which features Killer Mike and Khujo from Goodie Mob?
Witchdoctor - Rich And Poor
Some new Witchdoctor is always welcome, particularly if the tune itself is a well executed concept song and it's accompanied by a low-budget Youtube video of him and his mates jigging around in a variety of car-parks. Big Boi could do a lot worse than taking a leaf out of Witchdoctor's book and going the independent route with a bunch of cheap Youtube videos since his label are never going to release his Lucious Left Foot.. album.
Slim Thug ft. UGK - Leanin'
Nobody really wants to hear Paul Wall, at least minus Chamillionaire, in 2009 but i'll always check for Slim Thugga despite the fact, like Paul, he rarely deviates beyond recylcing all the old Swisha House motifs in the cliched way imaginable. The reasons for this, of course, are because of Slim's splendid beat selection, his choice in guests (you can never go wrong with UGK and Z-Ro guest appearances) and his possesion of one of the most unfuckwithably awesome voices in the history of rap. Dude could just say Baaawwwwwwssssss for 4 minutes over a beat made from the flatulence of chiuauas and it'd still be in this list.
E-40 - On Oil
E-40's last album was little more a less consistent variation on his My Ghetto Report Card blueprint of 50% Bay shit/50% joints for da ladeez, with Earl being the only track which still gets regular burn around these parts but, worry not, as he's already leaking incredible solo tracks with Droop-E behind the boards from the next Sick Wid It compilation album to make up for it.
The Dream - Rocking That Thang
The token r&b joint. The Dream's album is the only non-rap album i've listened to this year, which is somewhat of an accomplishment since rap is all i've listened to since two years back in 2007 when Hilary Duff put out Stranger and The Dream released his debut (i tried with the latest Mastodon album but they peaked with Remission for me and have been on a downward spiral ever since). I am not quite a Dream stan of the Breezy calibre - who is to The Dream what Peter Bogdanovich is to John Ford - but when he's good he's the closest we've currently got to Prince in his heyday.
Saigon - Pushin' Buddens freestyle
"Now can you name 5 people that felt Touch And Go?
don't worry i'll wait..HELL FUCKING NO!"
^ That line gets a genuine L-O-L every time and if this track were a scene from Saved By The Bell then it'd be somethin' like this :
As annoying as Saigon can be (you're not the messiah - you're just a decent miscegenation of F.T and Tragedy circa the Intelligent Hoodlum days) when compared to the insufferable mumbling faggotry of the highly delusional Joe Budden, he's as lovable as Biz and hearing him evicerate Budden so thoroughly ("what kinda grown-ass man be sayin' OWWWWWWN?") on his 2nd dis track to him was as enchanting as witnessing the likes of Kevin Nolan and Richard Dunne go in studs-first on Ashley Cole.
Boosie - I'm Tired
I remain wholly convinced that Boosie is better as one half of Boosie & Webbie than as a solo artist and he's a tad too prolific for my paleolithic ass (sifting through 20 track mixtapes every other month looking for gems can be such a chore) but when Boosie feels blue and comes off as Pimp C channeled by Z-Ro then he's one of the top 3 currently active exponents of sad-rap.