Register Tuesday | June 18 | 2019

Top Five Hip-Hop Albums of 2009

It’s that time of year, dear readers. So, here it goes…

1. Slaughterhouse, Slaughterhouse

My favorite album of the year is the collaboration between four seasoned, industry-jilted rappers: Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, and Royce Da 5’9”. Slaughterhouse’s self-titled debut— reportedly recorded in just a week’s time— is a never-ending onslaught of witty, acerbic, psychotropic, cannibalistic verses. One of the album’s best tracks, “The One,” satirizes the rock-and-roll lifestyles of Hollywood starlets (and other like-minded offenders) at center of American celebrity culture. The Long Beach-born Crooked I— who had two complete albums die unreleased at the hands of Death Row records— rhymes, “ Let’s get a keg, let’s split a mescaline that mess wit’cha head… / They wanna ban me like Marilyn Manson / for all the whores in my Baltimore, Maryland, mansion / I’m the one who wants to spear Britney / Give Pink some black, put it near her kidneys.” Joe Budden adds to the pun-filled madness: he bangs “Khloe on her car dash,”  he has “all the ladies goin’ gaga,” and he puts on a “dome at Katie’s home.” What’s ironic, as Joell Ortiz intimates, is that the sex, drugs, and rock-‘n’-roll lifestyle of such rich and famous gals gets idolized and rewarded (er, reality TV anyone?) while, at the same time, it’s used to demonize black musical production like hip-hop. In that sense, Slaughterhouse is an exorcism of sorts. If these guys got their shit together and spent more than a week recording an album, the results would be frightening.

Hot Tracks: “Sound Off,” “Cuckoo,” and “The One”

2. Doom, Born Like This

And so Doom— the supervillain jokester par excellence with a comic-book-styled vendetta against intergalactic forces conspiring against him, the schizophrenic-paranoiac MC with more alter-egos and enemies than yo’ mamma— returned in 2009 with Born Like This, his first solo album in five years. Officially he dropped the “MF” but everything else seems in tact. His legendary insult raps, in particular, are as wackadoodle as ever. On the track “Ballskin,” for example, Doom uses teabagging as the track’s overall metaphor: “Villain always been, feel real genuine ballskin / Not to call the whole crowd out / It’s just a few chumps, and you know who you are like a shoutout / Place ’em [i.e. his balls] in your loud mouth and taste ’em like a pastry / Waste of space face hastily bow out gracefully.” The production is top-notch, with a couple of guest-production spots by the late-great J Dilla, Madlib, and Jake One. Dilla’s work on “Gazzillion Ear,” in particular, lifts Doom’s verse-flow into the stratosphere. Listen out for the sonic bait-and-switch at about the 1 min 15 sec mark— a goose-bump moment. The only real groan-worthy stumble is “Angelz,” his collaboration with Ghostface, which fails to live up to the precedent set by 2005’s “The Mask,” their first collaboration (available on the DangerDoom album)

Hot Tracks: “Gazzillion Ear,” “That’s That,” and “Lightworks”

3. Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones, Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones

Aceyalone (pronounced A-C-alone) is a household name among hip-hop heads. But that’s about it, sadly. He’s a founding member of Freestyle Fellowship, the Los Angeles-based collective that, in the early 1990s, released two excellent albums—To Whom It May Concern… (1991) and Innercity Griots (1993)— which stood in stark contrast, musically and lyrically, to the gangsta rap phenomenon that’s so often identified with L.A. Aceyalone’s verses on the 1993 track “Cornbread” won me over and remain groundbreaking by virtue of their iconoclastic disregard for what everyone else is up to: “jellybeans banjo candy sto’ / Polka dot backpack microphone / Shamalama ding dong doggie bone / Chippeechippa chop bust a flip flop.” What’s remarkable is that after all these years, Aceyalone is still at it, evolving even as an artist. He could have easily slipped into KRS-One-like tedium. Instead, the album is a retrofit mix of hip-hop, Motown, doo-wop, gospel, blues, and funk— it’s everything. He’s rapping and crooning and having a great time, backed up by a full band. In a just world, this album should have had the same cross-over appeal and success as Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003). And if “What It Was” doesn’t make you wanna get up, clap your hands, and feel good, I don’t know if anything ever will. (Sidenote: the album cover is remarkably similar to that of Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele.)

Hot Tracks: “What It Was”, “On the One,” and “Power to the People”

4. R.A. the Rugged Man, Legendary Classics Vol. 1

Okay, so, here’s the deal: technically this isn’t an album of new material but I’m including on my 2009 list anyway. All you need to know about R.A. the Rugged Man— who I’ve praised in this column before— is that Biggie called him “the illest.” After that, do you really need my recommendation? The album is a compilation of unreleased or hard-to-get material as well as various guest-spot recordings the rapper’s made since the early 1990s. With only one released album to his name, 2004’s fantastic Die, Rugged Man, Die, and one other album from the early 1990s that was never released to the public, there’s something extraordinarily awesome about R.A.’s decision to boldly title a new album Legendary Classics. (I love the title’s redundancy, by the way.) If there’s one track on the album that absolutely substantiates the Rugged Man’s claim to classic status it’s “Uncommon Valor.” It first appeared on the Jedi Mind Tricks’s 2006 album Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell. “Uncommon Valor” borrows its title from the 1983 Vietnam war movie starring Gene Hackman. The long second verse, performed by a lisping R.A., is a dramatic monologue in which the rapper ventriloquizes his father’s own Vietnam war experience (his father’s chopper was shot down) beforing hinting at, ultimately, the psychological and chemical after effects of war on the offspring of veterans.

Hot Tracks: “Cunt Renaissance,” “Every Record Label Sucks Dick,” and “Uncommon Valor”

5. MF Woolly, Operation: Chrome & Ivory

Try to buy this mixtape “collaboration” between Altanta-based rapper T-Woolly— only 21 years of age— and producer MF Doom on Amazon and you’ll be informed that it’s been “discontinued by the manufacturer.” To boot, no used copies are available. Ebay? Zippo. In fact, I don’t own the original CD (if such a thing ever existed), though I have a “copy” of it. All tracks are readily available via YouTube, too. A complete track listing is easily obtained via a Google search. There’s also a low-fi cover image that’s circulated. Where it came from?— your guess is as good as mine. That’s about it. The whole thing is shrouded in mystery. I’m not even sure it’s a collaboration. It may just be T-Woolly invading the readily-available archive of Doom-produced beats and creating a kick-ass mixtape in anticipation of his 2010 album. That’s quite possible. T-Woolly has a MySpace page, so I’m simply assuming he in fact exists, too. In other words, I don’t know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes, and at this point don’t really care. This I do know; the album dropped in 2009 and it’s kick ass. T-Woolly’s got “universal verbal rhymes tighter than a girdle / More hip-hop than a hundred-meter hurdle.” I haven’t been so excited about a young rapper in a long time. The word play and allusive density is jaw-droopingly good and nearly impossible to keep up with (his lyrics require multiple listenings): “Bouncing up and down on the track like Tigger / on his tale I’m a whale … Ishmael / You goin’ to hell if your records don’t sell / But don’t worry about that cuz my records ain’t selling / I’m beyond the pale like the homey Jimmy Gaffigan / Hot pockets voted old and cold, not to rap again.”

Hot tracks: “Drop,” “You Need To,” and “Midnight Marauders (The Heist)”

Three Honorable Mentions:

1. Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II
2. The Slew, 100%
3. Gift of Gab, Escape to Mars