Monday, December 29, 2008

The Top 20 Baltimore Hip Hop Releases of 2008

Y'know, it's funny. I've been running this site for over 4 years now, and hearing more and more Baltimore rap every year that I do it, and yet every year I feel less and less qualified to let my opinion be the end-all-be-all that some people treat it as. There's simply too much music, too much variety coming out of this scene for any one person to really fairly judge, but if I'm gonna be the only person that attempts to hear all or most of it, I might as well throw in my two cents, even as I encourage any and all other critics and bloggers to cover this stuff from a different perspective. So I make no claims to objective truth with this list; this is totally my taste, my opinion. I tried to do a poll a couple years ago, but that didn't really pan out and I'm kind of soured on the idea now, but if anyone wants to post their top 10, top 5, whatever in the comments, or e-mail them to me, I'd love to post those if I get enough of a response.

The last two years I did top 50 lists, but this year I decided to scale down to 20, even though I heard more stuff, just because I really wanted to emphasize the cream of the crop, and also because a lot of cats put out boring garbage this year. That's not to insult everyone that isn't on this list, because there were definitely some good releases that didn't quite make the cut, and also some great singles and tracks that didn't really fit into the list anywhere, but I felt the need to be more selective this time. Government Names will return to daily posting sometime in January, probably not for another week or two.

1. 410 Pharaohs - 410 Funk (Strictly Rhythm/Ill Friction)
This list is not really about club music, but the Labtekwon/DJ Booman/Jimmy Jones club/rap masterpiece really deserves to be at the top of this list, as well as the City Paper top 10, anyway, because it is a historic moment for Baltimore hip hop in general.
410 Pharaohs - “Big Girls” (mp3)

2. Brown F.I.S.H. - Bootleg III: F.I.S.H. & Friends... The Mixtape
This isn't really an album or a mixtape, just an odds & sods collection of remixes and collaborations that the F.I.S.H. recorded in the past few years, but it's so full of great music that it's the equal of any album, in my opinion.
Brown F.I.S.H. f/ Jeneba Suma & Jahli of Golden Seal - “Cheatin' (It Ain't Cheatin' Unless U Caught)” (mp3)

3. various artists - Beyond Hamsterdam: Baltimore Tracks from The Wire (Nonesuch Records)
There's a couple club tracks on this, and a couple non-hip hop tracks, but this is still more than half local hip hop, and considering how much mileage Baltimore rappers have gotten from associating themselves with The Wire over the past few years, I thought it was pretty amazing that an official soundtrack of the show came out with songs by Ogun, Bossman, Mullyman, Tyree Colion and others. It was really one of the highlights of my year that I got thanked in the liner notes for this album, and had even a small role in it coming together.
The Get ‘em Mamis feat. L. Cash - “When You See Us” (mp3)

4. The Pornstars - Dirty Work (Pornstar Productions/Bird City Entertainment)
A couple MC/producers that are nicer on the tracks than on the mic, but got enough personality and humor that you aren’t sitting around wishing they just sold the beats to someone else. These dudes could be, like, Baltimore’s answer to the Beatnuts. I can bump this album all fucking day, front to back.
The Pornstars f/ Ckrisis & Mell - “Bird City” (mp3)

5. Bear - All We Got Is Us 2008 edition (For The People Entertainment)
For The People Entertainment has really been a unique and fertile label in the past couple years, and in my opinion this is their most complete and enjoyable release to date, although this year's Cutthroat album comes in a close 2nd.
Bear - “Live Through Time” (mp3)

6. E Major - Majority Rules (Under Sound Music)
Another one that I helped get into the City Paper top 10, so I won't say much more about than I already said there, but I feel like he really did everything right with this project, from the great release party show to the videos to making the whole thing available for free online, he really was smart about how he worked this project and got his buzz up.
E Major - “Don’t Worry” (mp3)

7. PenDragon - I Got Hits 4 Cheap: Draggy Baby Edition (Team Arson)
It's funny, Drag is one of these guys that gets on my nerves for calling himself the "king" of the city and this and that, but he also gets my respect for totally watching everyone's moves and sizing up the competition (he's always sending me links to other people's videos and music before know about them). And really between his production skills, and the heart and intelligence and humor that come across in his music, he has as much of a chance at making a run at the title as anyone these days, in my opinion. Not that I think there is a title, or that there should be.
PenDragon - “How Does It Feel” (mp3)

8. Ab Rock - The Mid Midlife Crisis (Rockmics Entertainment)
Maybe it's just because they did the release party together, and guested on each other's albums, but I really mentally group this along with the E Major record, and they're both really good examples of mature 'conscious' rap albums that are actually fun and laid back.
Ab Rock - “The Incredible” (mp3)

9. Tha Profitt - Concept Art (Profitt Productions)
Bmore's #1 white boy really went in on this one, coming up with creative concepts for every song and showing improvement as an MC.
Tha Profitt - “Fast & Furious” (mp3)

10. 80'z Boys - The 80'z Made Me
Most of the time when rappers boast about being born in the ‘80s, I feel almost like they’re making excuses for their music being inferior to the generations before them. But these guys pretty much just make dope music that doesn’t feel too tied to any particular age or era. I got this early in the year and I’m pretty sure it was released before 2008, but it’s still by far one of the best things I heard in Baltimore this year.
80’z Boys - “The 80'z Made Me” (mp3)

11. Skarr Akbar - The Epidemic (DNA/Akbar Enterprize/U-Turn Ent./Round Table Music Group)
Another year, another ton of new music from Skarr, but even as he was churning out radio singles and collaborations, he put out a 'street album' that ranked up there as one of his most consistent efforts to date.
Skarr Akbar - “If I Should Die” (mp3)

12. Profound - Carpe Diem (Real On Purpose Entertainment)
After years of dwelling in Ogun's shadow, Profound came out swinging this year and established himself as one of Baltimore's punchline masters.
Profound - “What You Gonna Do!?” (mp3)

13. Greenspan - Got Green? (Federal Reserve Music Group)
I knew this guy was a serious talent from the first couple times I saw him live, and I was not disappointed by his debut full-length release.
Greenspan - “Mt. Rockmore” (mp3)

14. D.O.G. - G Pack Music (7 Entertainment/Invisible Set Entertainment)
On the same tip as the 410 Pharaohs record, a really inspired union of rapping and Baltimore club, stretched out to album length. If he put this out right after "Ryda Gyrl" it could've been huge.
D.O.G. - “Louder” (mp3)

15. Soul Cannon - Kaboom (Soul Cannon/Morphius Records)
Soul Cannon might be kinda slept on in the hip hop scene, just because they're a band and mainly play rock clubs, but they really made one of the best conscious rap albums in the city this year.
Soul Cannon - “Get Serious” (mp3)

16. various artists - The Mania Music Group Sampler (Mania Music Group)
Mania Music Group put out a pretty ridiculous amount of free music this year, including solo EPs by each of its 3 solo artsts, and while they were all pretty good, this first sampler mixtape still really stands out to me as the best demonstration of the label's range and diversity of sounds.
Ron G. - “What Ya See” (mp3)

17. Wordsmith - The Revolution Begins With a Takeover Vol.1 (DJ Furious Styles/
Wordsmith is another guy that's been so prolific this year that it's been really hard for me to keep up with his output so far, but this mixtape was the first time I really started to get a handle on how talented he is.
Wordsmith f/ Kontact - “Hard To Forget” (mp3)

18. B.O.M.B. - Testers EP (Money In Da Bank Entertainment)
B.O.M.B. had one of the best ideas this year: make a release as long as possible (9 songs) while still being able to call it an EP, so that he could sell basically an album-length release at half price. And really, there's something to be said for making a short release where every song counts, instead of just filling the CD to its maximum running time just because you can.
B.O.M.B. - “Over Here” (mp3)

19. EJ - The Westside Hustle (Carnigie Records/DJ Radio)
I'd been waiting to hear a mixtape from EJ since I first heard him like 3 years ago, and while I thought it could've been better overall, this still had some jams on it.
EJ - “Bitch Niggaz Pt. 1” (mp3)

20. Caddy Da Don - Fixed Fight 2.5: Exclusive Edition (Harup Entertainment)
Caddy definitely gets props for being one of the most notable newcomers of the past year or two.
Caddy Da Don - “What’s Funny” (mp3)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quick announcement: Government Names will be taking a break from regular posting for the holidays. The year-end list of the best Baltimore hip hop releases of 2008 will go up on Monday, December 29th, and daily posts will resume in January.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 19, 2008

My latest stuff on the City Paper's Noise blog this month: a Club Beat column with Sean Caesar of Unruly Records, and live reviews of Ellen Cherry @ Mobtown Studios, John Legend/Raphael Saadiq @ the Lyric, Ted Leo @ the G-Spot, Why Are We Building Such A Big Ship?/Hurray For The Riff Raff @ The Windup Space, and
They Might Be Giants @ the 9:30 Club.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Born King as...Killa Fifth - The Secret Order (Mad Thinkah Productions)

This week in the City Paper I reviewed the new album by Born King, or I guess technically it's by his alias Killa Fifth, but to be honest I can't really tell the difference. He released two albums in the past year before this one, and he seems to be kinda going further out into his own world, which is cool, I think more artists should feel free to create their own lane. Some really crazy noisy production and vivid, nasty lyrical imagery, too, Born King just makes some wild shit.

Born King as Killa Fifth f/ Articulate - "Revolationz" (mp3)
I believe Articulate produced some tracks on the album, so I guess he did this one, but either way he has a verse on here and it's one of my favorites.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Get Em Mamis are featured in the current issue of Baltimore Magazine, and their Darkroom-produced single "Cold Summer" was listed in both Rolling Stone's 100 songs of the year and Fader Radio's year end best-of show.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Boy Blesst - Lockdown II: In My Skin (Reign Music/DJ 5 Starr)

This is the sequel to the last mixtape I heard from The Boy Blesst, last year's Lockdown Vol. 1, which he sent to me from ATL where he's been staying lately. This has the song "Barry White" that I posted the video for a while back and some other dope new songs, although it's still largely a freestyle mixtape. The mix is really kinda bad on this, just sounds kinda cheap and muddy, but Blesst is a pretty talented, charismatic MC so his words kinda cut through the tracks anyway.

The Boy Blesst f/ Debonair Samir - "Won't Stop Rockin'" (mp3)
Samir made a banger here, nice Run DMC sample hook.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Here's B. Rich's new video, "Letter To Vick," which, I dunno...I guess I understand the idea of him doing a song telling Michael Vick to keep his head up, but seriously, fuck Michael Vick.

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bossman - "Break Me Off" (mp3)
This is the new One Up-produced Boss single that 92Q's been playing constantly lately. I'm not too crazy about it, personally I think he's done much better singles in the past and he needs to stop doing that high singing voice on hooks, but it beats that AutoTune track he did a few months ago and hey, people seem to like it.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Baltimore City Paper's annual top ten issue is out this week, and I voted in a few of the lists. In The Year In Local Music, I wrote the blurbs for the albums by the 410 Pharaohs and E Major. I also voted in The Year In Music and The Year In Film, although I didn't blurb anything and just a few things I voted for got into the lists (Erykah Badu in the former, and The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder in the latter). The album ballots are up on the website, although my 'final' top 10 albums will look different from what I voted for in November. Also over on the CP website we did a top ten of the best concerts of the year, and my 2 picks for the list were Soul Cannon/Grand Buffet/J-Roddy Walston and The Business @ The Ottobar and Teop/Comp/Mullyman/Skarr Akbar/Little Clayway/Huli Shallone/Heavy Gold/1st Family/SL Danga/Al Great @ Sonar, and there were some other good picks there (My Crew Be Unruly @ Paradox, Whartscape @ the Charles, etc.).

(illustration by Paige Shuttleworth)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mullyman f/ Jarrod - "Luh You Hear" (mp3)
Here's the extended dirty version of Mully's latest collaboration with DJ Booman, another club beat but a whole different vibe from "Party Walk." They've also got a new mixtape that I haven't checked out yet, although it's a lot of the songs I've heard or posted here in the past few months.

Labels: , , ,

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The 'heartbreak' featured in my contributions to Idolator's 80 '08 (and Heartbreak) year-end list is a short piece about the death of DJ K-Swift. I also interviewed Sean Caesar of Unruly Record last week for the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog, and got a lot of details about K-Swift's Greatest Hits album that is being released via Koch Records on December 23rd.

Labels: , , , , ,

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DJ Mic Marvelous & DJ Twikks - "Jingle Bells ENT" (mp3)
Here's a little Christmas music with some Baltimore club flavor that DJ Mic Marvelous sent me for the holidays. I love how they chopped that sample.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 08, 2008

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 06, 2008

B.Eveready - The C.P.T. Mixtape (Checkmate Entertainment)

B.Eveready is an MC that I met in August at the Making The Right Moves conference who gave me this CD, which he had a release party for in October. He's in Baltimore but I guess he's got roots in Boston and Pittsburgh too. Anyway, I like this record a lot, nothing too special or unique but not bad at all. He's got some pretty good original production, and some good taste in beats to freestyle over (there's 3 tracks over Kanye West beats from 2002, and I always loved Kanye's shit from back then), and he flows his ass off on the last song, "AHunnitBarsOffMyChest."

B.Eveready - "Deal Wit It" (mp3)
Daru Jones did such a good fake Premo beat on this that I was actually surprised when I checked the liner notes and saw it wasn't a freestyle, real dope track.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rod Lee
opening for Paul Wall
@ Sonar
Thursday, December 11th

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 04, 2008

P-Shellz - Burpin-Lurkin

I don't know why this sat in my pile of CDs for so long considering how great the title is, but I was just checking it out and realized that P-Shellz (a.k.a. Pa'Shell) sent this to me a year ago, back in last December. I mean, it's been a crazy year and I make no apologize for how I run this site because, well, it's mine and I do it purely for the love of it, but I still feel bad that I slept on this so long, especially since it's pretty damn good. P-Shellz is a MC/producer that I first heard on a solo track on IMP Records' Operation: Shutdown, and some of his production on Marketing And Distribution Volume 1. His beats are definitely the strong point of this album, but he puts in his work on the mic, does some dope little internal rhymes and phrases things in a thoughtful, unique way, which you don't get too much these days. He compares himself to Common on his MySpace page, and I didn't really hear it on the first few tracks and then suddenly on track 7 it hit me and they really do sound alike sometimes. There's a guest MC on 3 tracks named Synnz who's pretty good, too, if he has a solo record I wanna hear that.

P-Shellz - "Fingaz Down (The Hack Anthem)" (mp3)
Now and then, in the course of getting so many CDs, I hear something that wraps up a slice of Baltimore life in the form of a song so perfectly that I'm amazed noone else thought of it earlier. If you're reading this site you probably know what a hack is, but if you don't this sums it up pretty well, and P-Shellz really did a brilliant job of writing this song from the perspective of a hack driver, or who knows, maybe he really is one himself and is speaking from real experiences. Either way, dope song.

Labels: ,

Some quick news items:

- Amotion and Deep Flow Studios landed on the cover of B with a feature by Timothy Cooper earlier this week.

- Say Wut is featured in the current issue of XLR8R with an article by Michael Byrne.

- Here's a YouTube video of Swizz Beatz co-signing Mullyman.

- NOE is featured on a new song from the Jim Jones record called "Swagga From Us" with Lil Wayne and Twista. NOE is talented and he did his thing on that Byrd Gang album, but if he's gonna let Dirty Angel Jimmy keep using him on songs that are mainly about dissing or one-upping Jay-Z, honestly dude is gonna stay losing.

- In other Bmore-cats-getting-shine-on-some-Dipset-bullshit news, producer Street Heat did a beat for their new Bad Santa mixtape.

- If you've heard Lil Wayne's Dedication 3, DJ Drama gives a quick "rest in peace" shout out to DJ K-Swift on track 11, "She's A Ryder," so big respect to him for that.

- I should also say thanks to PenDragon for putting me up on those last 2 items, and mention that he's been really putting his music out there online lately and getting featured on sites like On Smash, illRoots and Limited Hype.

- EDIT@2pm: I forgot to include this when I first put the post up, but the Grammy nominations were announced last night, and a song I posted here a few weeks ago, "Never Give You Up" by Raphael Saadiq with Stevie Wonder and Baltimore singer CJ Hilton, was nominated for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. Congrats to him, it's a great song and really deserves it, I hope he gets to perform it at the Lyric next week when Saadiq opens for John Legend. On a side note, CJ's sister told me she'd help me get in touch with him for an interview, but she hasn't responded to my e-mails lately so I'm still trying to reach him if anyone can help.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

tHe blAcK nErD cOnVenTioN
Artmosphere Cafe
doors open at 8pm get there early!!!

featuring performances by:

W. Felton
Jamma Wun
E The Poet Emcee
Untill Then...
Bomani Armah
Lyrical Leviathan aka Slick Vic
Lamar Hill
Producer Set by: Jon Laine
Hosted By: Droopy The Broke Baller


enjoy an intelligent night of beats, rhymes, song and poetry.

Artmosphere Digital Cafe
3311 Rhode Island Avenue
Mount Rainier, MD

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dappa!!! Dan Midas - Live From The Arcade EP (Mania Music Group)

I've written about Mania Music Group enough times now that you should know the deal, I think these guys are pretty unique and talented and the released a ton of free music on their official site in October that I'm still really catching up on and digesting. Midas is the guy I've known the longest and heard the most music by out of their roster, so I've kinda watched him grow and diversify. And while he doesn't get to show all of that in a 20-minute EP, there's a pretty impressive amount of variety on here. I always kinda feel like the best is yet to come with him, though, like if he just keeps pushing he's gonna have some kind of creative breakthrough and make some really undeniable shit, but that hasn't happened yet, although with the Mania producers he's really starting to get an interesting, original sound. The collab with Kane Mayfield that appeared on Kane's EP, "Your Fired," is also on here, and the song "Plastic" was recently written about on the blog No Trivia.

Dappa!!! Dan Midas f/ Ron G. - "Push Start" (mp3)
This was kinda the advance single that I heard a while before the EP was out, and it's still my favorite song on here, just real high energy and catchy and in keeping with the title and concept of the whole EP.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 01, 2008

Labels: ,

Labels: , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?