Monday, January 31, 2011

The Top 20 Baltimore Hip Hop Releases of 2010

It's been an annual tradition that at every December, I do a post here listing my favorite Baltimore hip hop albums and mixtapes of the year. But I never got around to it before the end of 2010, and here we are at the end of January and I feel bad about slacking and just want to get it out there, better late than never. I'll be posting each entry one at a time, and you can follow me on Twitter for updates when I add a new one:

1. Dirt Platoon - Deeper Than Dirt (Brake Fast Records)
So many underground rappers, especially in Baltimore, talk a good game about real hip hop, keeping it grimy, bringing the ‘90s back, all that shit, but when you really listen to their music they’re as eager to keep up with trends or be on some pop shit as anybody they’re complaining about. So that’s why it’s so refreshing to hear Dirt Platoon just not fuck around at all and make some nasty gritty old fashioned hip hop, but still have enough production values, attention to detail and content in their lyrics that it all holds together as a real dope album.
purchase Deeper Than Dirt on Band Camp
Dirt Platoon - "D.P. Shit" (mp3)

2. Los - Shooter (After Platinum/DJ Ill Will/DJ Rockstar)
As a pure MC Los is one of the rare people in Baltimore who I can sincerely say has inspired awe in me at times, just how fast his mind works and how the words pour out of him. I don’t love every creative decision he makes on this, really his first album-style project of all original production, but it’s a consistently engaging listen and probably the only record on this list I’ve seen on any year-end lists outside of Baltimore, even XXL’s, so I’m really happy that dude is kind of becoming a breakout star around here.
download Shooter on DatPiff
Los - "Freedom Of Speech" (mp3)

3. Rome Cee - Tunnel Vision (FreEP)
This may be billed as a “FreEP,” but at just under 40 minutes with barely a second wasted, it’s closer to what rap albums used to be like and probably should still aspire to. Rome Cee was easily the best new Baltimore MC (or new to me, anyway) to grab my attention in 2010 with such a concise, no-nonsense record.
download Tunnel Vision on Band Camp
Rome Cee f/ Kneel Knaris - "Rock My Style (mp3)

4. Backland - Block Work: None Better (DJ Jabril/Block Boy Music)
Backland’s been on the scene forever, and has always been one of the most talented rappers in Baltimore, but his projects have been fewer and further between since an accident and resulting health problems put him on the sidelines for a while. So every new mixtape is an event, especially this one, which he kept trickling out dope songs from throughout 2010 before finally dropping the whole thing on us.
download Block Work: None Better on
Backland - "Goin' In" (mp3)

5. Mickey Free - Last Of The Tight Wiggers
Sometimes white rappers give me some bullshit about how I'm biased against them, but really I just wish more of them were as dope as Mickey Free or were able to navigate their way through hip hop with the same kind of wit and creativity, letting race factor into his identity but not dictate it, playing with white rapper archetypes while transcending them. Last Of The Tight Wiggers is a fun, funny record with some great rapping and the kind of goofy-ass skits people don't make anymore.
purchase Last Of The Tight Wiggers on Band Camp
Mickey Free - "The Unnies" (mp3)

6. Mania Music Group - Welcome To The Audience (Mania Music Group)
I'm a big fan of Mania and have always enjoyed their plethora of free online releases, although no single one of them completely lived up to the crew's overall potential. And that extended to their first official retail album, but they got close enough with a nice collection of jams where all 4 of the group's MCs got a good solo showcase or a standout verse on a posse cut.
purchase Welcome To The Audience on Band Camp
Mania Music Group f/ Dappa!!! Dan Midas - "U Might Think" (mp3)

7. Mullyman - Harder Than Baltimore (Major League Unlimited)
Mully's second album was a total improvement over 2005's Mullymania and really found him tightening his circle up to 2 great producers that both cover a lot of territory, DJ Booman and MBAHlievable, and just focusing on collecting the best of his various singles and leaks over the past year or two plus some dope new songs.
download Harder Than Baltimore on DatPiff
Mullyman - "MULLY!" (mp3)

8. Greenspan - Got Green 2 (Federal Reserve/
Greenspan is one of the few rappers in Baltimore that seems to make every move carefully and thoughtfully, his rhymes are always well written, his tracks are always crisp, his live show is always entertaining, just an all-around solid artist.
download Got Green 2 on
Greenspan - "Never Done" (mp3)

9. Skarr Akbar - The Pursuit Of Happyness (Akbar Enterprize)
Skarr Akbar is one of those artists that keeps dropping new mixtapes year in, year out, and always makes this list, usually somewhere lower, because honestly although he's a huge talent and every record has some dope songs, a lot of times they end up feeling like just another mixtape. But The Pursuit Of Happyness and to a lesser extent its sequel really broke that pattern and felt like cohesive album statements.
download The Pursuit Of Happyness on
Skarr Akbar - “Unbreakable” (mp3)

10. Rapdragons - Featuring Baltimore (Ltd Comp)
I'm really kind of jealous of Rapdragons that they got the brilliant idea to build an entire rap album out of samples from Baltimore rock and indie bands and that they executed it so well.
download Featuring Baltimore on Ltd Comp
Rapdragons - “Come Harvest” (mp3)

11. The Boy Blesst - Show-N-Prove (Reign Music)
I was a huge fan of Blesst's 2009 album Charmicidal, and while this one doesn't have as many memorable songs to keep me coming back, it's still another solid record from one of Baltimore's most underrated rappers, who just has a completely unique voice, an interesting lyrical perspective and a great ear for beats.
download Show-N-Prove on
The Boy Blesst f/ Barnes - “Homeboy” (mp3)

12. Al Great - The Take
After a few freestyle-heavy mixtapes that didn't particularly grab me, Al Great came hard with a couple of records full of original production in 2010, The Heist and a few months later this great follow-up, The Take.
download The Take on DatPiff
Al Great f/ Jet Noise Cardi - “Blinders” (mp3)

13. Si-Notes - Cash On Delivery (Gritty Gang/ARS Productions)
There were other female MCs from Baltimore that made a lot more noise in 2010, but Si-Notes made a mixtape I can really bump front to back last year and they didn't, so I'm still pretty happy with having given her the Best of Baltimore award.
download Cash On Delivery on
Si-Notes f/ Hunnit Proof - “C’mon Baby” (mp3)

14. Rickie Jacobs - Air Jacobs ( Good Life Reviews)
After a couple years of enjoying the tracks I'd heard from Rickie Jacobs here and there, it was cool to finally hear a full-length project from him. His voice and his presence on the mic are still a little lacking, in my opinion, but I like where his head's at and what he's trying to say with his music.
download Air Jacobs on Tha Good Life
Rickie Jacobs - “The End” (mp3)

15. Spita - The Fire
This is one of those kinds of odd records that isn't on anybody else's radar that ended up in my e-mail inbox that I really dug, exists very far outside current trends while still being kind of contemporary and radio-friendly, unique voice and some great production.
purchase The Fire on iTunes
Spita - “Spita” (mp3)

16. Bossman - The Re-Up (1Up Entertainment)
Almost immediately after this album was released, Bossman began a campaign of desperate publicity stunts like "Fuck Radio" song and the one-sided Wale 'beef' that, to be honest, were just bizarre and sad to me, and really made me wonder if the dude has just lost his way completely and isn't worth paying any attention to anymore. But the best part of his uneven 2nd official album at least affirmed that he's still got some of that spark that made the Law & Order album so great way back in 2004.
purchase The Re-UP on Amazon MP3
Bossman - “Pain” (mp3)

17. NOE - Gone Till Noevember (DJ 4Five / G14)
NOE has more of a 'biter' stigma than anyone else in Baltimore, but honestly at this point most of the comparisons to Jay-Z is purely from the voice he was born with and he's really got his own rhyme style and ear for beats that doesn't feel especially derivative of anyone in particular.
download Gone Till Noevember on
NOE f/ Jim Jones - "Tangerine Fisker" (mp3)

18. TestMe - In A Lane By Myself (Power Hitter Records)
TestMe is still copping Lil Wayne's rhyme style, delivery and vocal mannerisms so much that the title In A Lane By Myself is pretty inaccurate, but he's still one of the most talented biters in Baltimore and has gotten better and better at putting together consistent mixtapes.
download In A Lane By Myself on
TestMe - "No Hooks" (mp3)

19. Height With Friends - Bed Of Seeds (Friends Records)
Height is kind of the de facto ringleader of a weird, mostly white crew of rappers in Baltimore that gets overlooked or ignored in most conversations about Baltimore hip hop, and the Height With Friends records in particular go a little beyond hip hop with rock instrumentation and vocals that are sometimes more chanted than rapped. But they're in a great groove right now with the records they've been doing and really making a case for why their eccentric vision of rap is exciting and valid.
purchase Bed Of Seeds on Band Camp
Height With Friends - “Link Wray” (mp3)

20. Ogun - In My Spare Time (Architects Studio/Real On Purpose)
There's so much passion and honesty in Ogun's music at his very best that sometimes I just get a little disinterested when emphasizes swag more and kinda lets go of that earnestness that defined his early albums. And the fact that this mixtape is called In My Spare Time only kind of reminds me how much I'd rather him go hard on making the best possible album he can, but there's still some joints on here.
download In My Spare Time on
Ogun f/ Goon - “Why You Acting” (mp3)

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damn, checked out the dirt platoon album after reading this post. so good. your description of them is spot on.
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