Top 5 Albums Of 2017

5.  Jay-z 4:44

4:44 sits as the most honest Hip-Hop record this year. Jay Z opens up about infidelity, speaks on the importance of financial independence, challenges race relations in every segment of the social ladder. All uniquely done over the first one-producer album of his career, masterfully crafting songs over No-ID sample chopped beats in an era of 808s, library snares, synths and vocal mumbles.

Rating 9.0/10

 

4. Xxxtentacion- 17

Possibly the most original Hip-Hop album to be released in years controversial rapper xxxtentacion releases the indie-alt-rock-boom-bap depressive catharsis classic. A purging of deep emotions from an artist troubled by inner and outer demons all released in top speed fashion clocking under 25min in it’s entirety. Production is as unique as it is top notch, lyrically X sings and flows over tracks expressing his pain in efforts to reach some sort of solace.

Rating 9.1/10

3. Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 3

Hip-Hop heavy weights EL-P and Killer Mike have found their sweet spot with hardcore duo Run The Jewels. Both virtuosos in their own right the third installment of their releases is just as raw as their previous LPs. A beautiful mix of angst, humor, anarchy, disorder and hope. RTJ3, technically released at the very end of 2016, but officially released in physical form in January 2017,  is obviously not confided to the current soundscape. Anachronistic in sound, but instead of missing a golden era Mike and EL sound decades ahead of present day Hip-Hop.

Rating 9.1/10

2. Steve Lacy- Steve Lacy’s Demo

Production prodigy and musical mastermind Steve Lacy, the 19 year old Grammy award winning iPhone music producer, steps out as a solo artist. Not only producing for Kendrick, Goldlink, and other major artists with tracks crafted solely on his iPhone, this The Internet guitarist is ready to step into the spotlight. Steve Lacy’s Demo is a genre bending soul, indie-rock, funk classic. At such a young age Steve Lacy sounds like a combination of soul heavy weights and indie rockers well before his time.

Rating 9.3/10

 

1. NERD- No_One Ever Really Dies

A deconstruction of sound and formula ‘No_One Ever Really Dies’ is a chaotic spiritual masterpiece. The ‘Dangerous’ (Michael Jackson) of this Funk-Punk-Soul-Rock band plays simultaneously as an evolution and devolution of the beloved melodic chords and signature sound of musics reigning super producer team. Political and spiritual themes all sprinkled in with pure genius throughout a project that blends almost every genre the Neptunes and NERD ever touched into a sound almost completely unheard.  Both minimalist and maximalist  NERD manage to pull together polar opposite seamlessly, ‘Rollinem 7’s’ has a distinct groove and rhythm but once deconstructed it is only 808s percussion and sampled screams as a musical bed for the MCs to flow. A far off evolution from ‘Fly Or Die’ but just as potent and genius in a time submersed in simplicity.

Run The Jewels 3 Album Review.

It’s hard to believe that Killer Mike’s ‘R.A.P. Music’ LP is basically 5 years old, the album that first brought forth the audacious pair that is now Run The Jewels. Those in the know knew that El Producto producing an entire album for Dungeon Family’s Grammy award winning slept on heavy weight would bring forth something special.  Those that knew didn’t know it would lead to Hip-Hop’s most sought after new duo, in an era where groups are virtually nonexistent and album’s production being entirely overseen by one producer is seen as even less of a commodity, Run The Jewels manage to bring these two iconic staples back from the foundation and into present-day and furthermore the future with shocking ease and much needed acceptance.

El-P’s soundscapes always exceeded the integral polarizing noise-like aesthetic that Hip-Hop sonically set out with as a means of separation and ironically acknowledgment. A student of the ‘golden-era’ El-P has described his sound as Boogie Down Productions on acid, this adherence to the roots of Hip-Hop coupled with progression and growth has lead to El’s beats being the one true sonic descendant of the original East Coast sound, a rightful evolution in a genre where many claim farce in the direction the sound has gone toward since the mid-90s. ‘R.A.P. Music’ and even RTJ2 deviated off the path and even stumbled upon melody on some tracks, especially on Killer Mike’s solo record, El specifically catering to Mike’s southern flow-driven roots, RTJ3 completely strips that down to a skeletal scarcity. Almost to a fault Run The Jewels 3 plays as pure minimalist angst, synths, distorted basslines, thumping 808s, and not much more create a haunting dystopian background. Tracks almost blend together in their scarcity only to be lifted into distinction through choruses, sung hooks, and features. Danny Brown stops by on a indistinguishable muddled bassline on ‘Hey Kids’ and  Tunde Adebimpe chimes in to bring “Thieves” up from obscurity and drill home the message of a much needed lyrical analysis of societal problems. ‘2100’ ft. BOOTS shines some sonic lights as the distorted abstraction of sound materializes as melody and guitar chords string out of the gutter and combine to bring beauty to the listener. Immediately we are plunged back into oblivion on the Trina assisted ‘Panther Like A Panther’, war drums bang and a constant percussion loop reverberates in the background.

Run The Jewels not only push the envelope sonically, bringing early 80s electro-funk 100 years into the future on ‘Call Ticketron’, they push the envelope lyrically and topically. ‘Thursday In The Danger Room ‘ has Hip-Hop’s new dynamic duo dealing with the reality of death and how it effects the psyche of more than those just physically going through it. The album’s finale hosts a bonus track where the crew brings back Zach DeLa Rocha on ‘Kill Your Masters’ a call to arms after an introspective look on the proceeding ‘A Report To The Shareholders’ a message to their aware fans while noticing their stock rise which doubles as a pledge to ‘remain hostile’. ‘Strike while the iron is hot’ seems to be the maxim this crew is going for so we still expect more following the conclusion-filled final statement on the last track, in under 5 years Mike and El have already put out 3 stellar albums and 2 joint effort solo albums so it’s a safe bet to say that Run The Jewels aren’t quite done with their heist yet.

 

Rating 8.3/10

Run The Jewels ‘Run The Jewels 2’ Album Review

Contrary to what is mostly believed about the genre of rap, the older you get the more refined your skills become. Turns out Hip-Hop is just like every other genre. Yes it, like all art forms, emerged from youth culture but true skill and artistry can only truly be attained through countless hours, days and years of dedication and work. Killer Mike and El-p both put their ten thousand hours in and more. These vets have been at it for close two decades each, and where most veterans fall off or lose touch the pure chemistry between El and Mike has sparked the beginning of some sort of creative reincarnation. Both emcee’s seem to really be restarting their careers, as if their first artistic life wasn’t fruitful enough, Jamie and Mike seem to have found the secret to reinventing yourself and reappearing fresh. The audience Run The Jewels reaches has more than likely surprised both emcees, not only are die hard fans of the Def Jux era El and the ‘Akshon’ era Mike still along for the ride the duo has picked up a whole new generation of supporters as well. The break through success of this sophomore LP has gone so far as to being the music in the unveiling of NBA star Steph Curry’s new sneaker in a commercial playing during Allstar weekend, and we commend the NBA, Under Armour, and any other associated generally responsible corporation for including the instrumental of a song in a prime time commercial which in it’s entirety includes the lyrics “when you niggas gon’unite and kill the police motherfuckers?”. Such anti-establishment themes are prevalent throughout the entire album which makes the success and acceptance of this record that much more sweet. As a duo Mike and El-p ‘compromise’, for lack of a better word because the content surely is not a step down for either, in a beautiful way managing to make digestible hardcore avant-garde Hip-Hop hit in an era where straight forward hardcore Hip-Hop is nonexistent in this form. The album starts off at a low tempo, and this tag-team slowly raises hell one track at a time leading up to the track “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”, one of the hardest Hip-Hop records to come out in years, the track literally has guest artist Zach De La Rocha (of Rage Against The Machine)’s vocals weaved into the instrumental giving the listener no time to catch up to the mayhem this three heavy hitters are unleashing. Slowing down momentarily the album picks right back up with “Lie, Cheat, Steal” then dips back down for a detailed story of a day in a dystopian present with “Early” featuring BOOTS, a track with two strangers going about their days and the life changing events that follow. This is followed by possibly the second hardest Hip-Hop song to come out in years with “All Due Respect” which features Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker pummeling the percussion. The album is littered with punch lines, political statements, ‘Pulp Fiction’ references, and with the following track “Love Again”, pussy references. A throw back to the underground classic by Akinyele this track features Gangsta Boo and has Run The Jewels showing their soft side, or lack thereof. The album comes to a close with “Crown” and Angel Duster” both much needed mellow tracks in comparison to the majority of the album. All and all this project is a giant step ahead of Run The Jewels (1) and a good candidate for the best Hip-Hop album of 2014.

Rating 9.2/10

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