What can I say about 2005? It was the last year I attended school and the first year I secured a real job. What can I say about the music? Nothing.
But that’s only because I wrote it out below :P.
Happy Throwback Thursday, people!
Artist: Beanie Sigel
Album Title: The B. Coming
Label: DDMG/Def Jam
Release Date: March 29th, 2005
Producers: Heavy D, The Neptunes, Bink!, Just Blaze, Buckwild, DJ Scratch, Chad “Wes” Hamilton, et. al.
The Broad Street Bully’s third offering was my favorite hip-hop album of ’05. When I saw the cinematic storytelling in the music video for the Heavy D-produced lead single, “Feel It In The Air”; heard the airy beat and listened to Beans’ lyrical depiction of his own paranoia, I knew I needed to get this album. The fact that he had finished this album and its promotional support before going off to serve a prison sentence also provoked me into shelling out some bread for it. The variety of who’s-who producers certainly highlighted the Philly rapper’s vivid lyrics, be it menacing, heartbreak, uncertainty or braggadocio (listen to “One Shot Deal” with Redman).
Album Title: Cruise Control, Vol. 1
Label: Nature Sounds/O.D.O.T. Records
Release Date: January 25th, 2005
Producers: J.Dilla, Jake One, J-Zone, Bink!, DJ PRZM, Cool Ray Slick, et. al.
If “punchline” has a name, it’s Copywrite. Although most of this LP’s production is in the “jackin-for-beats” tradition, that portion is just as jaw-dropping as the exclusive cuts included. It’s here that OH-10’s finest finest came into his own as an artist. Departing from the now-stagnant underground super-group the Weathermen, here he experiments with sounds with both lyrical and commercial potential (The Dilla-helmed “Clap” definitely has a club feel). Even without the enlistment of his O.D.O.T. brethren, his lyrical skills on this offering were sharper than his 2002 debut, The High Exhaulted. Want proof? “The only ‘Matrix’ I know is hoes after April”; “I might bless it/If I bought you a pair of Jordan’s, you wouldn’t have mic presence“.
Album Title: Be
Label: G.O.O.D. Music/Geffen Records
Release Date: May 24th, 2005
Producers: Kanye West and J.Dilla
When an artist like Common veers towards the experimental, the results may vary. When Electric Circus dropped in 2002, I didn’t know what to make of it. In fact, it grew on me four or five years later when I bought the album. But that was a little longer after Be was released. Teaming up with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West gave Common a much-needed boost. Their 2004 appearance and performance on Chappelle’s Show turned my head back to Com-Sense. Though the album was shorter than expected, Kanye handling most of the production (Dilla produced two tracks) brought him back to the witty urban street poet archetype with an updated sound. “The Corner”, “Chi-City” and “The Food” all are hard-hitting melodic street observations while “Testify” attests to Common’s storytelling ability.
Artist: Little Brother
Album Title: The Minstrel Show
Label: A.B.B./Atlantic Records
Release Date: September 13th, 2005
Producers: 9th Wonder, Nicolay and Khrysis
It’s hard to believe that a clueless-when-it-comes-to-hip-hop major record label like Atlantic actually invested money into a hip-hop group and album that satirized trends in Black entertainment, but that’s exactly what happened! Little Brother’s sole release on a major was a much-needed breath of fresh air. In Phonte’s words, “dope beats, dope rhymes, what more do ya’ll want?“. Phonte and partner-in-rhyme Rapper Big Pooh trade verses concerning fatherly absences, experience as rappers, and love in between hilarious skits and soulful backdrops mostly provided by in-house producer 9th Wonder. Releasing the video for “Lovin’ It” caused the North Carolina trio to catch flack from B.E.T. for being ‘too intelligent’. Ironically, and also perhaps because of the low soundscan numbers, B.E.T.’s assessment only proved the point of the album’s satire all-the-more.
Artist: Danger Doom
Album Title: The Mouse & The Mask
Label: Epitaph Records
Release Date: October 12th, 2005
Producers: Danger Mouse
I watched Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block with an almost religious fervor during and sometime after my college years. When I heard MF Doom’s monotone, multi-syllabic, off kilter rhymes over a quirky Danger Mouse beat, I thought it was a one-time-only thing. Then when I saw the song getting heavy promotion on the CN’s late-night programming and then read up on it, I was excited and somewhat skeptical. The concept of the album is that it’s based on and about Adult Swim. Many AS samples, actual voices and references are weaved into the music without being corny and without being too tongue-in-cheek. Though Doom handles most of the rhymes, his guest collaborators include Cee-Lo, Ghostface Killah and Talib Kweli. Along with 2004’s Madvillainy, Doom proved that he has a knack for teaming up with producers who equally epitomize the unconventional.
Artist: Kanye West
Album Title: Late Registration
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records
Release Date: August 30th, 2005
Producers: Kanye West, Just Blaze
His facetious ode to money-hungry women along with his “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” spiel were right moves at the right time. Released a year-and-a-half after his critically and commercially acclaimed debut, West uses different sampling techniques (using a film composer to produce epic tracks like “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”) and different collaborations this time around. He still wears both his vulnerability and narcissism on his sleeve while also showing improvement on his lyrical ability. On this sophomore album, Mr. West began to relentlessly improving and refining his abilities in the studio and on the mic, solidifying his place as one of music industry’s most formidable hip-hop talents.
Album Title: Hell’s Winter
Label: Definitive Jux
Release Date: September 20th, 2005
Producers: El-P, DJ Shadow, Blockhead, RJD2, et. al.
Cage’s move from Eastern Conference Records to Def Jux displayed a major shift from his 2002 debut Movies For The Blind. I already liked the Cage who spit horror-core rhymes over sampled boom-bap, so him going to Def Jux made wonder if he lost his edge. Under El-P’s label, Cage kicked his habits and the drug-addict NYC psychotic persona to craft the best album in his catalog. The opener “Good Morning” is Cage’s own ode to post-9/11 New York City over El-P’s bouncy and densely-layered sonics. He makes a clever pun about Bill Murray and his absentee father pf the same name on the aptly titled “Stripes” while taking aim at his former record label on “Public Property”. Another notable track is “Grand Ol’ Party Crash” which features Jello Biafra and production from the elusive (and sought-after) DJ Shadow, juxtaposing aspects of New York City with aspects of the War in Iraq.
Album Title: You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Release Date: October 4th, 2005
Minnesota’s premiere hip-hop duo, Atmosphere (Slug and Ant), can be polarizing for rap fans. Unfairly labeled as everything from “emo-rap” to “sad White boy music”, those who’ve slapped them with those pejoratives have obviously never heard this 2005 gem which I consider their opus. Built off of sample-based beats and thoughtful rhymes, they’re technically* a precursor to the style that Canadian rapper Drake has popularized for himself.
*I write “technically” only to highlight the aforementioned labels and of Slug’s connection to Drake: Both are mixed-race emcees with confessional lyrics.
Artist: Sean Price
Album Title: Monkey Barz
Label: Duck Down Records
Release Date: May 31st, 2005
Producers: Khrysis, 9th Wonder, P.F. Cuttin, MoSS, Tone Mason, Agallah, et. al.
See Ruck from Heltah Skeltah. See Ruck from Heltah Skeltah go solo. See Ruck from Heltah Skeltah go solo and by his birth name: Sean Price.
Released as part of NYC’s Duck Down Records’ “triple-threat” promotion, Mr. Price’s debut is my favorite of the three. With an album cover paying homage to Planet of the Apes, Price entertains all the way through it with battle rhymes, a very wry/self-deprecating sense of humor, and a musical sensibility steeped in his Brooklyn roots. Whether making lyrical threats or facetious brags about being broke, a Sean Price album (or even a guest verse) merits a listen due to a sheer lack of any potential for disappointment.
Artist: Jakki da MotaMouth
Album Title: God vs. Satan
Label: NCS Records
Release Date: September 1st, 2005
Producers: Intalec, DJ PRZM, Copywrite, Camu Tao, Grimm Diabolic, RJD2 and Rocktight
Not a bad concept for debut album. Renown Ohio battle emcee Jakki da MotaMouth places himself as Job in a battle between God and Satan. Complete with a dark humor, acidic punchlines and storytelling worthy of M. Night Shymalan, Jakki takes the listener through a journey that he barely makes it out of. With pitch-black disturbing narratives over upbeat productions like “Cleptobraniac” and “Positive Rap”, Jakki takes a page from Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino when it comes to storytelling. Having skits that actually work to tie the album together added to the album’s cinematic feel.
Sy L. Shackleford is a jack-of-all-trades columnist for Action A Go Go. A UConn graduate with a degree in both psychology and communication sciences, he is a walking encyclopedic repository for all things Marvel Comics, hip-hop, et. al.