2009 saw hip hop music make incredible progress into mainstream culture. From paleo old-school, through the gangsta era and onto larger-than-life aughts superstars.
In 2017 there was no shortage of impressive releases that will stand the test of time. From hard or smooth boom-bap beats; to complex lyrics; these albums will surely satisfy your musical cravings.
Rick Ross & Justice L.E.A.G.U.E.
Back when Aubrey Drake was still reigning as October’s Very Own and Rick Ross was still serving as Maybach Music Group capo, they collaborated on a joint mixtape project titled YOLO that ultimately never saw its completion as they parted ways as rappers. Today however, one song from that project called “Empire” made public online, produced by Justice League — known for creating superhero hood anthems like this track – produced by them all while featuring both Drake and Rozay over soulful productions produced by Justice League produced by Justice League will also appear on Justice League’s forthcoming album J.U.S.T.I.C.E. For All release as well.
T3 & Elzhi
During the mid 90s, hip hop saw an exciting surge of artists such as Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr emerge. These groups used intricate lyrics fused with diverse musical themes for an expansive sound that earned critical acclaim – also marking an East Coast-West Coast rivalry that proliferated gangster rap’s popularity at this time.
T3 was part of Detroit-based trio Slum Village alongside Baatin and J Dilla (aka Jay Dee). They first gained notice for their open mic performances and later went on to release several albums with Barak Records; their first being Fantastic Vol. 2, released in 1996. By 2004, however, J Dilla had left and focused solely on his solo career; by that point Baatin had passed due to bipolar disorder related issues in 2009.
By the time T3 and Elzhi released their 2002 album Trinity (Past, Present & Future) on Barak/Capital Records in 2002, they had become a duo with Elzhi taking an increasingly prominent role as both producer (having earned major label production credits on multiple tracks) and MC (who could deliver his flows with ease via nasal delivery).
“Rapper’s Delight” remains an iconic track among hip hop fans worldwide, beloved by generations of listeners for decades. It features the group reciting everyday situations young people face living in urban settings and how they attempt to cope. Additionally, its lyrics and beat are highly catchy – still part of every emcee’s repertoire today.
Alchemist & Twista
After the release of his debut album in 2000, The Alchemist continued producing for other artists. He provided Ras Kass with a track for Van Gogh while Jadakiss used him on “We Gonna Make It”, both released that same year. Additionally, The Alchemist provided beats for video games like Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars as well as providing them to Tim Westwood TV freestyle sessions featuring Eminem, Royce Da 5’9″ and Mr Porter.
The Alchemist’s production style is an artful balance of creativity, craft and atmosphere. He conjures images of darkness, future street noir and unsettling sounds reminiscent of classic horror flicks with the use of distorted vocal samples and scratches less as an indicator of tradition than as disquieting effects; his beats feature complex arrangements with deep basslines and stuttered snares for maximum suspense.
Alchemist excels at giving listeners a sense of place with his productions, which often feature layers upon layers of sounds and textures that create an immersive audio landscape. However, Alchemist can take a more straightforward approach when needed as evidenced by Maxwell-assisted “Smile”, in which Twista’s verse underscores this choice-driven song about hiding behind false facades for survival in the music industry.
In December 2014, The Alchemist revealed he would collaborate on an EP with rapper Fashawn. It was released later that year on November and includes seven tracks; 3 new to Rare Chandeliers with remixes by The Alchemist; two recorded for Rare Chandeliers before and remixed by him; plus “Just the Way It Is” was included on Diagnosis mix for Coca-Cola by 2013. Additionally, limited edition vinyl copies were made available.
At 30 years after their debut with Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Wu-Tang Forever, Staten Island group the Wu-Tang still sound hungry for battle. Not relying on long buildups or flashy production to prove their relevance; rather they simply unleash all their energy onto “Bring Da Ruckus”. Aggression, edgeiness and humor that define their sound can be heard immediately upon listening to “Bring Da Ruckus.”
Mathematic’s deft production skills come into their own on tracks like “Why Why Why,” where RZA and Mathematics combine smooth R&B with hard street rap for an irresistibly catchy combination that leaves listeners wanting more. While they make some attempts at modernizing their sound with this album, RZA and Mathematics stay true to what made Wu-Tang so special while maintaining their unique sound.
Redman, Masta Killah and Inspectah Deck all contribute guest rappers to this project, adding depth through their diverse styles. Deck’s signature smokey tone amplifies “Pearl Harbor.” Likewise, Masta Killah’s outlandish claims on “One Blood Under W” demonstrate that even after various guest rappers contribute, this album remains his.
However, the second half of New Wu is marred by some significant issues. RZA demands more effort from a few members; Ghostface usually dominates any Wu-Tang project but seems disengaged here; U-God seems discontent and fails to give his best performances; nevertheless, New Wu remains enjoyable listening with some great moments and is an invaluable addition to Wu-Tang’s catalog; I give this record three out of five stars because it could have been greater.
Freddie Gibbs & Pill
After finding success through mixtapes and Interscope contracts, Freddie Gibbs sought to transform his street persona into something more approachable for mainstream audiences. Enlisting producers such as Just Blaze and Alchemist as beat providers for his productions, Freddie created a sound which is distinct yet familiar among the numerous mixtapes containing similar production at this time.
“Mowestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik,” where he discusses drug trade and murder, showcases his infectious personality to deliver lines that are humorous, relatable, and entertaining. Additionally, elements from his MC/singer side make an appearance here with smooth croons coming straight at you on “I’m Still Livin.”
By the time this project was released, Gibbs had begun to establish himself as an accomplished gangster rapper who could navigate sampler-driven analog beats with ease. His partnership with Madlib on 2014’s Pinata and subsequent collaborative endeavors proved that his skill set had reached full development.
At a time in rap music when many of the genre’s biggest stars were punished for crossing over, both Freddie Gibbs and Curren$y understood long ago that creating their own sound and building an audience on their terms would allow for careers independent of any system or hierarchy.
Fetti is a short, hook-free album composed solely of Curren$y and Gibbs that boasts no guests beyond them, yet still manages to provide an enthralling listening experience. Their mutual respect shines through and “Flat Tummy Tea” shows what could have been; Gibbs takes an entirely unique approach in his past style while Curren$y stands firm on his vision – two qualities which combine for one of this year’s underrated projects.