1. Fashawn – Life as a Shorty
Flipping the Inspectah Deck line from C.R.E.A.M, Fashawn gets his autobiographical on in this swinging beat from Exile. I love this tune and this whole album (Boy Meets World), it’s half science and half west coast swaggering street talk – enough so that you can’t peg him into any one scene. I grew up on political rap; NYC bragging rap; gangsta rap; Native Tongues cool shit – so I love hip hop that represents a cross section of these styles. I highly recommend this record (it’s one Stones Throw).
2. Brother Ali – Fresh Air
It’s all about the vibe in this uptempo nugget, and even a bit of slap bass can’t bring this banger down. Ali delivered bigtime on this record ‘Us’ – good times and struggle rarely get communicated with such perfect pitch and flavour. I defy you to hear this tune and not crack a smile. I say all this from the perspective of someone who never really dug Ant’s production (his snares have always grated me). Dope.
3. Mos Def feat. Slick Rick – The Auditorium
In a 2 year period when a lot of formerly great rappers made big comebacks (Raekwon, Q-Tip, Pharoahe) Slick Rick has quietly ushered himself in the backdoor – and this cameo took the cake. Mighty Mos holds it down as per usual (one of the best ever imo) and the Arabic strings courtesy of a weird re-hash of an instrumental Madlib tune let the semi-surreal lyricism of Slick Rick win the day.
4. Raekwon – About Me
He stunned everyone with this album – a big return to form after his last shoddy record. There are numerous ill tunes here but About Me wins simply cos of a monster Dre beat (imagine Wu Tang with Dre production – owww!) so even if Busta ain’t in his sharpest form the tune still makes little people want to make big noise out of their car stereos (like me)!
5. Beirut – Nantes
My brother put me onto Beirut ages ago but I never really went there – he said Beirut was sorta Unkle Ho but done indie. This is a fantastic album, melancholy east indie – horns splashing in a sea of instruments. I dig the living shit outta this song.
6. Horrorshow – Walk You Home
When I originally got excited about Horrorshow I often wondered how their thoughtful and gentle lyrics would go down in the hip hop scene. Oddly enough, they’ve been one of the revelations of the last 18 months in a scene that is often dominated by a very blokey output. On Walk You Home, Adit samples a Sufjan Stevens banjo part and all the pieces come together beautifully when Solo’s “if not the one, than you’re the first” line still sums up why I’m such a fan of this duo.
7. Buck 65 (feat. Sufjan Stevens) – Blood Part 2
Buck 65’s hip hop credentials have never been in question in my head, especially after seeing him rock the simultaneous MC and DJ live show – I respect anyone who can hold that shit down. Saying that, I don’t check for him now and I didn’t really like him that much back in the day. This tune is spoken word over a stripped back beat with Sufjan providing a massive chorus – notice Buck never losing his rhythm whilst spilling out scene after scene of lyrical imagery – always something new revealed each listen. It’s intense, dense and memorable.
8. Thundamentals – Sleeping on your Style
Title track of their 2009 album – I reckon they got this one right. The darker beat (reminds me a little of Hermitude) contrasts well with their warm back and forth vocal delivery. The tightness of the overall album is fresh but it also felt a little samey to me if listening to it all in one sitting. These guys have a mad live show and a definite musical approach that sets em apart from most Oz groups. Looking forward to seeing what these guys do next. Blue Mountains represent!
You can vote for your top 10 or of 2009 via Triple J Hottest 100. Voters can also enter a competition to win ‘The Golden Ticket’, a pass to every JJJ-supported gig and festival for the whole of 2010! BUT HURRY! Voting closes this Sunday, January 17th so please vote for some hip hop. You can do that here.
Also if you missed it last year, Urthboy was nice enough to give out a few free downloads to end a great year of hip hop.
Go HERE for READY TO GO from iTunes