Friday, December 22, 2006

The Best Baltimore Hip Hop Albums and Mixtapes of 2006

First of all, let me say that this is not The Government Names 2006 Baltimore Hip Hop Poll Results, which I posted the other day, and also that I kind of apologize for my attitude in that post. I knew going into it how it might turn out, and I still got a little bitter about it, and inadvertantly disrespected some of my favorite artists. But it seems like people understand now that I wasn't trying to diss anybody, and it's water under the bridge. Now, onto my official year-end wrap up, which is completely my opinion and noone else's. I won't say much about what my opinion means, because I'm just one person and I have my own biases, but the fact that I've heard this much local music, and that I know too many of the artists to feel any obligation to any one of them beyond saying how I really feel about their music, should speak for itself. But still, take it with a big grain of salt and understand I'm rooting for everybody. Enjoy the feast of mp3's, discover some artists you might like, click the links and get to know them. I'll be posting less often for the next 3 weeks or so, so you'll have plenty of time to digest this.

1. Little Clayway - Still Movin' Independently: The Takeover (Clayway Records)
Government Names review
Clayway Records website
Little Clayway on MySpace
Little Clayway - "Clay Family Story" (mp3)

This is kind of an offbeat choice for #1, I don't think a lot of people heard this one, but in my opinion it was just the best, most complete album I heard out of the scene this year. Clayway doesn't rap real fancy but he has a laid back, conversational flow you can relate to, and by combining new material with some older career highlights, he put together a good, balanced album. But what I really loved about it was the personal storytelling perspective of songs like "B-More Hip Hop" and "Clay Family Story," squeezing years of history into brief songs and letting you inside his head.

2. Dirty Hartz - It Is What It Is Vol. 2 (Dirty Hartz Ent.)
Government Names review
Dirty Hartz on MySpace
Dirty Hartz - "The Hartz Is Here" (mp3)

Verb and everyone else in DH can just rhyme their asses off, and with a really hot selection of industry beats and original tracks by Debonair Samir, they did the mixtape thing more consistently than just about anybody this year.

3. Tyree Colion - Tyree Colion presents Hustle Hard Blvd (Rare Ent./Hustle Hard Blvd)
Government Names review
Rare Ent. on MySpace
Tyree Colion - "Help Me" (mp3)

I was pleasantly surprised by how highly this placed in the poll, considering that Tyree got locked up before it was officially released and as a result it was never really promoted or heard by many people. But I think everyone that heard it has to respect the accomplishment of a triple CD where every disc is as consistent as most other dudes' whole mixtapes.

4. UnReal - Dat Boyz A Problem (UnReality Ent.)
Government Names review
UnReal on MySpace
UnReal - "Breath" (mp3)

UnReal has been a favorite of mine going back to his track from Hamsterdam, and he really pulled together almost all of his best joints for this one.

5. Mullyman - Still H.I.M . (Major League Unlimited/DJ Gemini)
Government Names review
Mullyman on MySpace
Mullyman - "Old School Tribute" (mp3)

Mullymania never totally lived up to my expectations, but he really came hard on the follow-up mixtape and let people know he wasn't going anywhere.

6. DK - King Me (730 Commission/DJ Kay Slay)
Government Names review
DK on MySpace
DK - "You Ain't Fooling Me" (mp3)

I don't think people in the city really realize yet who DK is, let alone how talented he is and that he's signed to a mid-sized national indie label. Maybe when he drops the album they'll start noticing.

7. Tha Annexx Click - Banga Bill Presents Chapter 16: Tha Return Of Da
(Knokville Ent./Street Official Ent.)
Government Names review
Bill on MySpace

Tha Annexx Click - "Funky Fresh" (mp3)

Tha Annexx Click is one of those crews whose history goes back way further than my knowledge of the scene, back in the 90's, so I don't know how this measures up to the old stuff, but it made me a fan.

8. Skarr Akbar - The Cerebellum: General Part Four (Akbar Enterprize/DJ Radio)
Government Names review
Skarr Akbar on MySpace
Skarr Akbar - "Picture Me Rolling" (mp3)

Skarr released so much music this year that it's hard to say what his best release was -- he just put out a DVD/CD at all Downtown Locker Rooms this week that I haven't heard yet -- but this one is my favorite of the ones I've heard.

9. Barnes - The Last Shall Be First (Street Official/Sugar Water)
Government Names review
Barnes on MySpace
Barnes f/ Goddi - "Real Nigga" (mp3)

Barnes did it big with radio hits and national distribution this year, but I think the fact that he got locked up right for a while right after his album dropped kinda hurt his momentum. He really put out a quality album, though.

10. Bossman - BulletProof B (One Up Ent.)
Government Names review
Bossman on MySpace
Bossman - "You're Wrong (live)" (mp3)

Bossman hadn't really released too much new music since getting signed last year, but then recently he unleashed a whole 2 CD mixtape to make up for it, and I hope it really gets people ready for the Virgin album in the next few months.

11. PX (Parts Unknown) - Hood Therapy (Street Legal Entertainment/BRM Music/MDL Music)
Government Names review
PX (Parts Unknown) on MySpace
PX (Parts Unknown) - "Hood Therapy" (mp3)

I still feel really bad about disrespecting PX the other day, because they've been in this scene a long time and really didn't fuck around with this album, got good distribution and made sure people came out in droves to cop it, and not a lot of people around here have really accomplished that. And they've got a real unique sound that's all them, too.

12. B. Rich - Born Rich (Sure Shot Recordings)
Government Names review
B. Rich on MySpace
B. Rich - "Angels" (mp3)

For a lot of people around here, B. Rich's story is a cautional tale about how not to get treated by the industry. But it's really to his credit that he came back on an independent level all these years later and actually made an album that was better than his first.

13. Midas - Pay-Per-View (Team Green/Beat Game)
Government Names review
Midas on MySpace
Midas - "Movies" (mp3)

I think Midas is one of the most promising MCs in the city right now, and this feels like a really good appetizer for the album he's dropping in '07.

14. PenDragon - Revenge Of The Harm City King (Team Arson Music/DragonMoon Records)
Government Names review
PenDragon on MySpace
PenDragon - "Sweet Dreams" (mp3)

Probably the best pleasant surprise I heard this year, as far as getting sent a CD by an artist I hadn't previously heard of.

15. Ray Lugar - Exclusive Respect II (Stay Hi Ent./Team Fifty)
Government Names review
Team Fifty website
Ray Lugar - "I Know" (mp3)

I just did a big City Paper feature on Ray Lugar and the Low Key God that's coming real soon, so I won't say too much other than that these dudes are legends and you need to be familiar with them.

16. Labtekwon - The Ghetto Dai Lai Lama V. 777 (Ankh Ba Records/Morphius Urban)
Government Names review
Labtekwon on MySpace
Labtekwon - "The Gift" (mp3)

I don't know why Lab went back to a 2005 album and re-released it with some minor adjustments, but every change he made (compare the old version of "The Gift" to this one if you have both) made it better.

17. Comp - Independence Day: Bang-A-Rang Mixtape Vol. 3 (DNA)
Government Names reviewa>
Comp on MySpace
Comp - "B-More Anthem" (mp3)

Like B. Rich, Comp is someone else I respect for getting fucked over by the major label system but still coming back independent.

18. Backland - Back In Business (Charm City Records)
Government Names review
Backland on MySpace
Backland - "What Would You Do?" (mp3)

I think I would have liked this mixtape more if I hadn't gotten his previous one, The One, which is really great, right around the same time, but it's good to have Backland back on the scene.

19. Finacy - Napoleon Complex (Infinite Legacy)
Government Names review
Finacy on MySpace
Finacy - "Round 1" (mp3)

I only got around to really listening to this album a lot lately but it's been growing on me fast.

20. ShellBe RAW - Do You Like It Raw? (A.R.S. Entertainment/DJ Radio)
Government Names review
ShellBe RAW on MySpace
ShellBe RAW f/ Che Ray - "Do It For You Freestyle" (mp3)

ShellBe really earned her hype with this one, although I kinda wish there were more original beats, since the ones that are on here are good.

21. Cutthroat - Words Can't Explain It Chapter 2.5 (For The People Entertainment)
Government Names review
Cutthroat on MySpace
Cutthroat - "Painter" (mp3)

The production on this album is really beautiful and subtle, Cutthroat succeeded at making a really different album from most of the stuff on this list.

22. C Love - Respect, Vol. 1 (
Government Names review
C Love on MySpace
Brown F.I.S.H. - "45" (mp3)

What up, C Love! It's harder for me to rate various artist mixtapes but there's some great tracks on here.

23. Mike Malachi - Malachi's Way
Government Names review
Mike Malachi on MySpace
Mike Malachi - "What Y'all Really Want To Do" (mp3)

This record sounded really promising but inconsistent to me, I hope Malachi lives up to his potential on the next project.

24. Gritty Gang - Street Certified Goods (Real On Purpose Entertainment)
Government Names review
Real On Purpose on MySpace
Ammo - "(Say) Gritty Gang" (mp3)

Nobody brings people together in Baltimore quite like Ogun and ROP, this was a real interesting project and I wonder if it's gonna keep going, good assemblage of people.

25. Real2Real - Playground Legends (Street Official Records/Headnod Entertainment)
Government Names review
Real2Real on MySpace
Real2Real - "Like It Or Not" (mp3)

I think I need to listen to this some more, it might be better than I realized.

26. The Yung Huslas - Strickly Business Volume One (Rare Ent.)
Government Names review
The Yung Huslas on MySpace
The Yung Huslas - "Pop!" (mp3)

Along with Ammo, these kids are making being a teen rapper from Baltimore more respectable than the stuff getting played on the radio, they gotta be good to get co-signed by Skarr Akbar and Tyree Colion.

27. Hots - The Introduction (One Up Ent./Lil Skrilla)
Government Names review
Hots on MySpace
Hots - "Criminal Individuals" (mp3)

This is another one that's kinda grown on me with time, might end up belonging higher on this list in retrospect, but I'm not sure yet. Anything with One Up beats is worth copping, though.

28. Billo "The Hood Rockstar" - Daily Grind Vol. 2 "We Got Another
(For The People Entertainment)
Government Names review
Billo on MySpace
Billo f/ Yuk and Cut - "I'm Ballin'" (mp3)

This one's a little inconsistent to me but when it's good it's pretty damn good.

29. M.O.L. - Money On Da Low (Top Of Da Hill Records)
Government Names review
M.O.L. on MySpace
M.O.L. - "You Don't Know" (mp3)

There's kinda too many MCs that I can't tell apart in this crew, I think if any of them dropped a solo joint I'd like it, though.

30. Ray Victory - Ready 2 Go! (Strong Arm Entertainment/Nite Life Entertainment/DJ Nelly Nell)
Government Names review
Ray Victory on MySpace
Ray Victory - "Same Shit" (mp3)

Another mixtape bogged down with too many freestyles, but the original material is on point.

31. Third Kind - Disaster Relief (Sweatbox Recordings)
Government Names review
Third Kind on MySpace
Third Kind - "The Movement" (mp3)

Some of the production on here is really crazy, crate digging shit.

32. Profound and Ogun - Oil And Water 2 (Real On Purpose Entertainment/DJ Radio)
Government Names review

Real On Purpose on MySpace
Profound - "Cash Crop" (mp3)

This mixtape kinda has me hyped for Profound to do a full-on solo joint.

33. Alevan - Came Here 4 (Alevan, Inc.)
Government Names review
Alevan on MySpace
Alevan - "Ride Wit' Me" (mp3)

Maybe a little too mellow but a real consistent mood and a pleasant surprise from a crew I wasn't familiar with before.

34. Bigg Patch - Goldenboy Volume 2 (Diamond Life Records/Unruly Records)
Government Names review
Bigg Patch website
Bigg Patch - "Move" (mp3)

A few great tracks but some real repetitive lyrics and weak hooks.

35. Golden Seal - The Official Brown Sugar Mixtape (DJ Booman)
Government Names review
Golden Seal on MySpace
Jahli of Golden Seal f/ Ogun - "Cicadas" (mp3)

I was a little disappointed there wasn't more Golden Seal on here, way too much of a mix without much focus.

36. Under Sound Music presents Breaking Ground, Vol. 1 (Under Sound Music/DJ Impulse)
Government Names review
Under Sound Music website
Tislam The Great - "That Feelin'" (mp3)

This is one I kinda panned in the paper but some of the tracks have really grown on me.

37. B.O.M.B. - King Of Da Streets Vol. 1 (Jimmy Beamz)
Government Names review
B.O.M.B. on MySpace
B.O.M.B. - "The Best Of You" (mp3)

B.O.M.B.'s loose, spoken-word-type flow is an acquired taste, but I think I'm starting to acquire it.

38. Jon Boe - Before The Storm
Government Names review
Jon Boe - "Sunshine" (mp3)

This might be the nastiest, messiest, most aggressive mixtape I heard all year, but sometimes that's the kinda thing you really wanna hear.

39. Architects Recording Studio presents Street Radio Volume 2.5 (A.R.S. Entertainment/DJ Radio)
Government Names review
Ogun f/ Che Rae - "My Life" (mp3)

This one was chock full of joints, even though it's like a 'half' edition, I think this might be my favorite in the series so far.

40. The Black Family - The City is Ours
Government Names review
The Black Family on MySpace
J-Nina and Ill Will - "For Baltimore" (mp3)

Another crew where I think having a lot of unfamiliar MCs made it hard for me to tell them apart or get to know their voices, but I think some of them, especially J-Nina, I'd check for.

41. Labtekwon - DJ Jazzy Jerk presents Ghettoclectic Volume WON (King of the Slow
(Ankh Ba Records)
Government Names review
Labtekwon on MySpace
Labtekwon - "One In A Million" (mp3)

Lab does everything different from the norm, so even his freestyle mixtape is gonna go a bit off the beaten path, but the whole theme of R&B slow jams works really well.

42. Bosslady presents Baltimore State Of Grind: 21 Different Ways Pt. 1 (House of Platinum Records)
Government Names review
Bosslady on MySpace
Amadaye - "Late At Night" (mp3)

A solid compilation based on a novel theme.

43. Imperial Records presents... Operation: Shutdown (Imperial Records/DJ Spontaneous)
Government Names review
Young Dip on MySpace
Bless - "Who Is He?" (mp3)

Not bad, but I'm looking forward to hearing the new Young Dip mixtape, to get a feel for his solo material.

44. Comp - Bangarang City (DJ B-Roc/DJ DMA)
Government Names review
Comp on MySpace
Comp - "Yea" (mp3)

The Comp tracks are good but there's really not enough Comp on here.

45. E Major - The Major General Mixtape (Under Sound Music/DJ Impulse)
Government Names review
Under Sound Music website
E Major - "Bless One" (mp3)

Eyekon really showed versatility with the beat selection on here.

46. Skarr Akbar - The Bidding War Stars Now! (Akbar Enterprize/DJ Radio)
Government Names review
Skarr Akbar on MySpace
Skarr Akbar - "What I Want" (mp3)

It seems like this mixtape was a little more popular than The Cerebellum, but too much of this material is old to me for me to like it as much. It does have some of his best joints, though.

47. Huli Shallone - Huli Shallone (Hit 'Em Hard Records)
Government Names review
Huli Shallone - "For My Shorty" (mp3)

Huli just didn't come as hard on this as his first album, it felt like a few singles with a lot of filler. And then the best single he dropped this year, "Work It Good," wasn't even on it.

48. Team Green - The Hostage Vol 1 (Team Green/Beat Game/DNA)
Government Names review
Team Green on MySpace
Midas - "Team Green Commandments" (mp3)

The first mixtape I heard with Midas on it, after already being a fan of his from Style Warz, but a little too much of other dudes and not enough of him.

49. D.O.G. - Walk On Air: The Mix Tape (Invisible Set Entertainment)
Government Names review
D.O.G. on MySpace
D.O.G. - "Icy Yo D.O.G." (mp3)

Champagne Dreams probably would've been near the top of this list if it had dropped this year, but since D.O.G. got signed to Universal and pushed the album back once again, all we got this year was a mixtape that was way too short.

50. Yung Gist - The Baltimore Son
Government Names review
Yung Gist - "Holla @ Me" (mp3)

This had its moments but definitely did not live up to the "best rapper baltimore has ever seen" hype. He could stand to mumble a little less, it makes it hard to hear what he's saying.

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thanks for making your list...both of em...we need stuff like that, its healthy.


Kneel Knaris of PX:

Like I told you the other day Al your critiques are very necessary and you dont pull punches. Most people havent learned to do that yet without conflict. I think you just started something annual - A Peoples Poll and a Fuck What People Say Poll!!!!!!

Kneel Knaris of PX

Im glad to see B. Rich in there BTW!!
This is probaby the most complete Baltimore review I have seen. I know it took considerable time to comment on all of these projects, as well as adding mp3's and cover art. Speaking for all artists I will say thank you- your consideration is greatly appreciated. Good work, Al.

LB of PX
al, thanx for giving us something to look forward to on a consistent basis. "The XXL of Bmore Hip Hop!" LOL

I just thought you should know...
I grabbed all 50 tracks and it adds up to 187 MB.

Murderland, what!

Thanks for the great post.
Mixtape for 2008..."Baltimore's Daughter" ...Shiré
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