Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2K11 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 12/31/11

No, this ain't a "10 Best Albums of 2011" list (I might try and scavenge one of those together in January), just a list of dope albums that dropped in the December-ish time frame. Easy to overlook ill releases when you're busy trying to come up with favorites for a span of 12 months, so here's some recent quality rap musics to check for:

1) Moka Only & Chief - "Crickets" (Feelin' Music)

Not 100% sure if this album officially dropped in December or if it was more like November (or earlier in Europe), but it definitely deserves a mention as one of 2011's sleeper albums and got more rotation than any other album I picked up during the holiday season. Moka Only puts out an awful lot of music and not much of it manages to grab my attention, but with the help of Chief he's delivered what is arguably the strongest album of his prolific career. Moka handles himself very well over the course of the album, with his relaxed stream-of-conscious flow and pop-driven hooks doing each song justice. But Chief is definitely the star of the show here. From the perfectly layered pianos of "For Always" and "If You Want It" to the mellow guitar loops of "Relief," Chief's intricate psychedelic jazz production makes this project sound downright amazing. I remember being a fan of some of Chief's past albums, but he's never quite impressed me to this degree and the pairing with Moka Only provides some good chemistry. The whole album has a really nice open jazz vibe to it, with both Moka's vocals and Chief's beats moving in interesting free-flowing directions. The little instrumental interludes between songs are a very nice touch and really add to the atmosphere as well. Unfortunately, the CD of "Crickets" is only available as an import and tends to run in the 18-plus dollar range regardless of who you buy it from, but it's well worth the extra money spent. Stream the album in full below, and see for yourself:

2) Thirsty Fish - "Watergate" (Mush)

How lucky are we to be blessed with two full-length Open Mike Eagle projects in one year? To be fair, Open Mike Eagle only represents one-third of the group Thirsty Fish, which also boasts the likes of new school Project Blowdians Dumbfoundead and Psychosiz. This album was released digitally back in May, but finally got the proper CD treatment in December... still counting it in this list since I waited on the CD before giving it a proper listen. The sounds of "Watergate" are quite crazy, and by crazy I mean off-the-deep-end insane. These dudes are going all-out on the bizarre styles tip, repping their Los Angeles heritage to the fullest with some truly weird flows and creative concepts. The beats are largely challenging electronic affairs provided by an assembly of ultra talented beat-makers, including Daedelus, Tokimonsta and Exile. Lots of great moments abound, but some stand-out songs include the style-by-the-dozen marathon of "Antique Blowed Show" and the drunken Busdriver cameo-laced "Grind It Out." My personal favorite track, "Ducks Fail," offers up a reinterpretation of the "Duck Tales" theme song along with some very clever mallard-intensive lyrics. Lots of points for originality with these three, peep the song "Working the Numbers" below:

Working The Numbers

3) K-Def "Nightshift" (Redefinition)

2011 saw the expansion of Damu the Fudgemunk's awesome Redefinition Records label, which reached beyond Damu's beats to tap into the catalogs of some very talented and underrated hip hop producers. While Kaimbr & Kev Brown's "Al Green Project" and Grap Luva's "Neva Done" got a decent amount of attention, it seems like K-Def's recent album quietly slipped under people's radars... appropriate given the night motif of the cover and the title I suppose. Sleeping should be highly discouraged, however, since this album is damn fine collection of jazzy mood-driven beats that blend live instrumentation seamlessly with sampling. The entire album sounds like music that could be played through the wee hours of the morning, and the nocturnal vibes blend together into a very cohesive body of work. Nice little instro joint with a few chill vocal contributions and an obscure old school LL Cool J number thrown in as a bonus cut. Check out the track "Supa Heath" below:

K-Def - Supa Heath (LP Version) by Redefinition Records

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