Thursday, December 31, 2009

And the 'Album Of the Year' Goes To...

Times are getting tight when it comes to good, new rap albums - this may go down as the year of the unearthed treasures, what with so many labels digging up great unreleased music from the 80's and 90's - but don't sleep on the contemporary output of 2009. I mean, sure, some artists dropped duds this year (Eminem... again), and a lot of over-hyped new jacks proved themselves to be as bland (Wale, Gucci Mane, etc) or even worse (Asher Roth) than we assumed they were gonna be. But the genre still managed to turn out a nice variety of quality albums.

I wrote about many of these over the year, like Neila's aptly titled Better Late Than Never, Busdriver's impressive Jhelli Beam, Pace Won's under-the-radar Team Won album (all three of which were covered in Werner's 2009 New Music Seminar post). The Custodian of Records put out a nice album called The Burton Music, despite what looks like a criminal case of record label neglect (see my column in HHC here). And Sole put out a grip of stuff including a new LP with The Skyrider Band, a superior limited EP (which I covered here), and now his new mixCD, Nuclear Winter, where he revamps pop gangsta rap tunes.

Still other worthwhile albums didn't get a post from me, but that doesn't mean they were or should be slept on. Themselves' Crownsdown didn't quite live up to its preceding mixCD, but it was still good listening, Cormega came nice with Born and Raised earlier in the year, and of course Raekwon's OB4CL2... well, the vinyl doesn't drop 'till 2010, so we'll come back to that next year.

But only one album can be album of the year. I was tempted to give it to Buck 65's surprisingly good collaborative album More Heart Than Brains. You'd think any album with beats by someone named Greetings From Tuskan would be one to skip; but no, it's really tight. Even the superfluous "MC Space" remake has been growing on me.

But, no... Buck 65 has to settle for being Runner Up. The winner this year is an album that defied the painful message board axiom that, "well you can't expect them to sound like they did back then." And no, I'm not talking about Blaq Poet's The Blaqprint album, though it certainly made a lot of headway in that direction and certainly deserves a place in your collection. But the album of 2009, as far as I'm concerned, is Gryme Time by The Freestyle Professors.

First, to clear up any possible misconceptions about this album, this is not some of their previous releases on the same label, in that they're releasing music recorded in the 90's (which is ineligible for Album of the Year), and it's not limited (it's widely available on CD or double vinyl) or priced like a limited release. It's brand new material by The Professors, who have made hot, new music without abandoning the style that made their early 90's EP, Your Pocket's Been P;cked, such a collector's item. And considering the disappointing modern releases by some of their guest producers, it's all the more rewarding to hear guys like Diamond D, Showbiz, Lord Finesse (who also gets on the mic) and Buckwild dropping beats like they did in their prime. Most of the production, however, is handled by the Professors' own Branesparker, whose work is right on par with the contributions by those legends (credit also has to go to the excellent scratching by DJ Grand Wizard Shake). Hip-hop's most elusive mythological beast - the comeback album that lives up to the earlier releases - has finally been found.

Oh, and if you get the package deal when ordering Gryme Time direct from their own site,, you get a bonus 7" single with two more exclusive tracks (one totally new and one remix). Schweet!

So, this is Werner signing off for 2009. Catch you guys next year!

P.s. - Did anybody out there manage to find a hard-copy of that Chubb Rock and Wordsmith album anywhere at all?

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