SMOKE & MIRRORS’
best albums of 2010
This honorary list is compiled beyond the qualifications of merely good singles (see those that made the best tracks of ’10 next week) and is based heavily on the artist’s cohesive vision. Where have all the LP’s gone? Ask iTunes. These are the select few that made start-to-finish, definitive listens …
Under OddFuture’s FADER-blog-underground-rap reign, Earl sits as the ultimate free EP savior. In a year that found Eminem “return to reverence” and M.I.A. piss off The New York Times and fans of her original sound, Earl made disgusting, offense-spewing misogynist rhymes with ugly, disoriented backgrounds sound better than anything since “Stan” or “Galang.” Gross.
How embarrassing is it to put a Diddy album on a year-end list? To be honest, kinda embarrassing. But, not as much, this year. Not because there was nothing better, but because his album (which took approximately 5 years to develop, produce, and then delay off-and-on) was actually mad good, especially if it’s listened to as a pop album. The sound is all over the place: from Bossa Nostra jazz and Hotel Costes lounge to Grace Jones’ percussive screams and Danja-Tron-ic bravados. Did I mention the babes? Diddy enlisted two R&B beauties to take the edge off the fact that he can’t rap for the life of him, but no worries, ’cause it kind of worked.
Neo-soul’s golden girl came heavy for her sequel to 08’s Nu Amerykah with softcore productions by Salaam Remi and beau, Jay Electronica, to become the unofficial sound to my summer. “Window Seat” took the best video of the year category, by far, but it also may just be the year’s smoothest R&B joint too.
What does the Dirty South do when half its roster’s locked up (T.I., Lil’ Wayne, Gucci Mane) and G-Side hasn’t released anything since last year? Producers become rappers, of course! See Big K.R.I.T., for example… he took up the rap game after realizing no one knew/gave a fuck who he was. And thank goodness ’cause he’s done the unthinkable, deading the old South and birthing the new one with only one album! Mississippi stand UP. Your day has come.
Underground lyricist, Big Remo makes hip-hop sound like there’s nothing to it while producer, 9th Wonder, picks up where Kanye left off with lushly layered soul samples on Entrapment. Call it grown man bizness or just good ass music – Remo’s debut release is as raw as it is serene. Show and prove!
How is it possible that in the year that Sade chooses to release her first album in what felt like a decade, E-40’s son comes out with a free concept mixtape that undermines Sade‘s ambiance altogether — and with the bitch’s original music as sample tracks? Um-azing. [Q: Why hadn’t this been done years ago? How did hip-hop just find Sade?]
So, The-Dream‘s ’10 release wasn’t as good as his first two, yet it was still incredible (um, obviously — it made the list at #4). But, considering he hasn’t released an album that hasn’t made my top spot since his debut… LoveKing isn’t his best effort. Why? Has his mastered formula worn itself out yet? It’s the best excuse I can provide.
Kanye‘s latest work isn’t fun, nor is his pretentious demeanor. It’s a carefully plotted, self-loathing madman’s campaign for the world to hate him while loving him at the same exact time. And with this LP, he got it all and more (including the hardest verse by a female MC ever — “Monster,” anyone?).
The most major debut of the year, Thank Me Later, is also one of the year’s greatest. Track by track, Drake becomes increasingly solidified as the voice of a generation – moody, confused, yet incredibly aware.
It took exactly ten years to commemorate the unflinchingly eclectic, hip-to-be-strange sound of the Oughts a.k.a. Outkast’s 2000 release, Stankonia. [Even Pitchfork agrees with me on that.] And here it is… as beautiful and magical as ever, the lesser regarded Outkast member saves the day with a funky ode to…well…his sound that wraps up the decade in an exquisitely big bow.