Christmas is over (or whatever festival you did/didn't celebrate last December), you've celebrated the New Year (or not if you live in a place where it's not 2010), and you've started back at work (or not if you're homeless or something). With that equal opportunity preamble out of the way, it can only mean that it's time once more to look back over the year just gone, and figure out just what happened. What was good? What was bad? What did we miss? What do we want more of? The answers to all of these, plus more, can be found below.
1. Blakroc - Blakroc (Blakroc Project)
The Black Keys prove that they're even more talented than originally thought with their hip-hop project Blakroc. The rock duo teamed up with Damon Dash and collaborated with members of Wu-Tang Clan (GZA, Raewkon, Ol' Dirty Bastard), Mos Def, Q-Tip, and Ludacris among others as they mash the world's of experimental blues-rock and hip-hop. Nine times out of ten, mixing rock and hip-hop is a bad idea, but occasionally it works. Blakroc is one of those times.
2. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II (Ice H2O)
The Chef returns with his fourth solo effort outside of the Wu universe. And while some of his fellow cohorts in the Wu world have faltered a bit as of late, Raekwon is at the top of his game. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II recalls the early works from the Wu-Tang Clan with genius cuts like "House of Flying Daggers" and "New Wu." You'll be hard pressed to find a better hip-hop record this year.
3. P.O.S. - Never Better (Rhymesayers)
I got the chance to see P.O.S. perform twice this Summer on Warped Tour. While his take on hip-hop was lost on the majority of the crowd, there were also those that flocked to see him perform. You may never hear P.O.S. on mainstream radio or see him performing in arenas, and that's okay. The Minneapolis-born MC is extremely talented and his skills are on full display with Never Better.
4. Mos Def - The Ecstatic (Downtown)
Hip-hop music, like every other genre, often gets labeled as one-dimensional. And while, yes, there are certain characteristics that limit the genre, there are artists that take steps to push the envelope and create something fresh. Mos Def accomplished just that with his fourth LP, The Ecstatic. Socially conscious lyrics dominate as typical hip-hop songs are interspersed with others that highlight jazz, folk, afro beat, percussive heavy tribal, and blues.
5. N.A.S.A. - The Spirit of Apollo (Anti)
I knew absolutely nothing about this collaborative effort prior to getting an email about it's impending release. I looked over the guest list of contributors (Ghostface Killah, M.I.A., Chuck D, Tom Waits, Method Man, Karen O, The Cool Kids, KRS-One) and thought to myself, "This is either going to be great or a complete flop." And flop it is not. It's such an eclectic listen; I couldn't help but be fascinated with it.