2011 Top 10 for Wil Wander: Elevated Rhymestate
Here is the extended version of my top ten albums of 2011 with comments on the album. I’ve also thrown on a quick Best of 2010, because I didn’t get to make a list last year, and there were some amazing albums that are due respect. Agree? Disagree? Speak up in the discussion thread.
ArtOfficial – “Vitamins & Minerals” – ArtOfficial Music
ArtOfficial is very nearly the perfect example of the type of act I would love to get involved with, combining a talent live-band with hip-hop vocals with a sound that builds from a groove. “Vitamins & Minerals” is their second full-length album and delivers the next step in the development on their sound.
Atmosphere – “The Family Sign” – Rhymesayers
I’ve always considered Atmosphere “hit or miss” for my tastes. As Slug and Ant have grown older, their sound has developed from raw and angry to chill and wise, and this year’s album, “The Family Sign,” is a perfect example of where the sound has traveled. It’s good from start to finish and a very strong contender for album of the year, if I were forced to pick just one.
CunninLynguists – “Oneirology” – QN5
CunninLynguists are a personal favorite. I can’t imagine any release they’ve had not making a top 10 list of the year, and “Oneirology” is no different. With a theme of dreams and euphoria, the sound changed significantly from their other albums, which used a lot more of a natural sound. It’s certainly a solid album and worthy of the CunninLynguists name, and perhaps the new style will attract even more fans to this stellar act.
Dessa – “Castor, The Twin” – Doomtree
I’ve only recently “discovered” Dessa and her act Doomtree. Many people consider Doomtree’s album an easy contender for hip-hop album of the year, but the act’s sound doesn’t quite meet my tastes. Instead, I nominate “Castor, The Twin,” as one of my top picks. While the album repeats a number of tracks from her earlier release, each one has been given new, more developed production, and the album blows me away.
The Extremities – “The Mint Condition”- Droppin’ Science Productions
I had never heard of The Extremities before stumbling upon the album on the KDHX New Release shelf. What I found was a couple of Canadians, Fresh Kils and Uncle Fester, who have risen in their respective cities and put together an act that’s both chill and stimulating. Up against a solid, new album from Halifax’s Classified, I gave “The Mint Condition” a slight edge and a spot on the top ten list this year.
Farout – “Farlow” – Indyground
Let’s say this simply. This is my pick for the best local album of the year. Farout’s second album with Indyground Entertainment doesn’t fail to entertain. It got a little more energy and dance to the production than the previous album, but “Farlow” still delivers for the Elevated Rhymestate fans.
Grieves – “Together/Apart” – Rhymesayers
Grieves has a style all to himself, in both production (which he splits with longtime partner, Budo), and in his lyrical style that finds a dark medium between spoken word and melody. I definitely looked forward to “Together/Apart” and got it early after its release. It’s powered by strong singles, including the release of four videos from this album alone.
JNatural – “Love is on Hiatus” – Project Blowed
JNatural is definitely one act I regret missing this year (appeared at Hip Hopper’s Holiday). She possesses a downright awe inspiring combination of beautifully sung vocals and stylized flow. “Love Is On Hiatus” builds upon the sound she started developing with earlier releases, and gives us a taste of what she is capable of as her career progresses. This is certainly another potential album of the year in my book.
People Under the Stairs – “Highlighter” – PUTS
Thes One and Double K had put together an impressive catalogue of seven albums that has put The People Under the Stairs into near legendary status in the hip-hop community, but none of that matters when you listen to “Highlighter.” This 8th album is my handsdown pick for the best of PUTS. Always proud of their influences from the world of funk, primarily George Clinton, they’ve taken their sound to a new level, straying from their traditional hip-hop production form and focusing on instrumentation and the energy that funk brings.
Zion I & The Grouch – “Heroes in the Healing of the Nation”- HBD Label Group
Working on my Elevated Rhymestate playlists have gotten me to listen to artists that I didn’t know very well before. I’ve always known of these two stellar musicians, but only discovered how great they are with their previous collaboration, “Heroes in the City of Dope” (2008). As I got to know both of their work more intimately, I was very excited about “Heroes in the Healing of a Nation,” which proved to be every bit as potent as its predecessor. I’m now a fan of everything that they each do, and hope to hear rumors of another in the “Heroes” series soon.
Best of 2010:
Bliss N' Eso, Running on Air, Liberation
Collective Efforts, Freezing World, 1320
Eligh, The Grey Crow, Legendary
The Foreign Exchange, Authenticity, +FE Music
Grieves, 88 Keys and Counting, Rhymesayers
Hocus Pocus, 16 Pieces, On and On
Kno, Death is Silent, QN5
Mathias, Devils Pirates and Rebels, Indyground
Skryptcha, The Numbers, Obese
Spit Syndicate, Exile, Obese