1- Dilated Peoples - Directors of Photography
"We just capture the facts, Dilated never left, I'd like to welcome us back" raps Raaka Iriscience on the lead track "Directors" which is a testament to Dilated's formula: great beats, lyrics, and nothing over the top. Production by Alchemist, DJ Premier (the highlight "Good as Gone"), and Evidence and Babu perfectly mesh Dilated with guests like Vince Staples and a decent hook by Aloe Blacc on "Show Me The Way." The bonus cut "Hallelujah" is a classic hard to find posse cut.
2- Homeboy Sandman - Hallways
The Jonwayne produced track "America, The Beautiful" is a vivid look at a the country from a the NYC based MC, as he follows up that track with more tales, both comical and serious, and personal stories, even delving into his diet and relationships. Production is very strong and has that "grown rap" feel from DJ Spinna, Blu, Oh No. and 2 Hungry Brothers. The album finale "Enough" f/ J-Live and Kurious will have the listener wanting more.
3- Your Old Droog - Your Old Droog LP
The great mystery of Your Old Droog ("is he Nas?!") unfurled throughout the year, but when the dust settled we were left with a great collection of tracks over DJ Skizz beats ("Nutty Bars," "Free Turkey") and an MC ripe with pop culture references and abilities. The actual LP dropped late in the year but include "Hoodie Weather" f/ Prodigy and the Larry Fisherman produced "Sleepers" in the group and it gets even stronger.
4- Ghostface Killah - 36 Seasons
So forget all about the new Wu album and concentrate on this Ghostface album if you are looking for that "classic" Wu Tang sound. Both Kool G Rap and AZ appear on enough tracks that it could almost be a group offering. Follow Ghost and crew on his return to Shaolin and the impressive 20 page comic book included in the liner notes.
5- Michael Christmas - Is This Art?
"I'm the school PSA, messages from Michael Christmas: put the guns away let's have some fun today, with drugs and drinking" he raps on the single (check the video) "Y'all Trippin" sets the tone for this fun album. Make no mistake, the Boston MC can spit. "Overweight Drake," "Leonard Washington," and "Michael Cera" all are unique tracks but still allows Christmas to shine over some production from Thelonious Martin, Teddy Roxpin, Childish Major and others.
6- Hail Mary Mallon - Bestiary
Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic are on a mission to save the old bowling alley on Main. What better way to do that than with a "fundraiser concert!" In addition to that vein, the two play off each other so well on tracks like "Whales" which Aes brags "cops five haircuts at the same time" while Rob says his dog "makes money when he barks."
7- PRhyme - PRhyme
DJ Premier links up with a seemingly rejuvenated Royce Da 5-9 along with producer Adrian Younge's standout sample generation. Royce isn't shy about rapping about being sober and his drinking past, and the guest list is impressive: Mac Miller has a wicked verse, along with the ever elusive Jay Electronica, Killer Mike, Common, AbSoul, and all of Slaughterhouse on the finale "Microphone Preem."
8- Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2
There isn't too much to write about RTJ2 since every blogger/critic/barista with a mustache/person with a keyboard has hailed it as the year's best. So, in joining the chorus, El-P and Killer Mike have crafted another classic. A guest verse from Zack De La Rocha (yes, rapping, and rapping well!) on "Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck") is a highlight.
Queens based Shirt gained some traction with his "Shirt fucked Rihanna" and fake NY Times article slogan and campaign, but he should gain some fans with his full length album. Besides having the top video of the year with "Take Off (Queens Cat)", the album is a dope work from the MC and his underrated production team.
10- Marq Spekt & Blockhead - JustPlayWitIt
Blockhead is brought in to perfectly compliment Marq Spekt's off-kilter wordplay with his trademarked production sound. The NY producer and Philly MC get "Grilchy" throughout this joint, and get extra props for sampling "Posse On Broadway" on "Grilchy 808".
11- Zilla Rocca & The Shadowboxers - No Vacation For Murder
SG stalwart Zilla Rocca checks in with his latest "Noir Rap" joint, we can debate what that means, there's no question of the strength of this album. Strong lyrics and verses from Curly Castro and Has-Lo among others fill the tracklist. "Fake Surfers" is a standout track with an exhaustive look at the fakeness of the rap and real world.
12- Dinosaur Burps - Awesome Stuff We Did When Nobody Was Looking
West Virginia's own were back with another strong indie record, complete with such songs like "Death Metal In A Minivan," "Titties Rule," "Eat My Hat," and "Nap In The Face Of Danger." If those titles and B Rude's and their guest's seem not so serious, that's the point.
Others Receiving Votes:
Armand Hammer - Furtive Movements
Ratking - So It Goes
Apathy - Connecticut Casual
Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild - Silk Pyramids
Sadat X & Will Tell - Planet Of The Grapes
Step Brothers - Lord Steppington
AND ITS BEEN THAT WAY SINCE DAY ONE: