Wednesday, January 8, 2014

PropsOverHere Presents: The Best of 2013 Awards

Rookie of the Year
The Nominees:
This was an admittedly thin year for hip-hop ROY. Dyme-A-Duzin dropped a solid mixtape A Portrait Of Donnovan that featured standouts like "New Brooklyn" and the Joey Bada$$ collabo "Swank Sinatra".
Ty Dolla $ign
The 28-year old L.A. native exploded onto the scene this year with the Mustard-on-the-beat, B.O.B. collaboration "Paranoid". Ty's debut album will be one to check for in 2014.
A$AP Ferg
I was somewhat obligated to put one of those A$AP guys on here, given the lack of alternatives. Ferg emerged as the second most famous of the clan, heating up the streets in 2013 with the singles "Work" and "Shabba".
World's Fair
World's Fair is a group out of Queens who caught my attention with the track "'96 Knicks", an ode to the bench-clearing, shit-talking antics that signified mid-90's basketball. Their debut (?) mixtape Bastards of the Party was worth a download, I guess.
And the winner is...Ty Dolla $ign
Dolla Sign tops a thin rookie class this year thanks to a few big singles. Is this guy even good at rapping? Are any of them?

Guest Verse of the Year (The Bun B Award)
The Nominees:
Method Man on A$AP Mobb's "Trillmatic"
Best Line: "I got a poor man's panache/I be stretchin' the cash"
Nas on Big Sean's "First Chain"
Best Line: "They guided my bones, and now I'm coppin' stones/Sorry, Sierra Leone, one day we'll right the wrongs"
Jay-Z on Drake's "Cake"
Best Line: "I done made more millionaires than the lotto did"
Action Bronson on "NaNa"
Best Line: "I got a team of hoes like Pat Summitt"
And the winner is...Method Man on A$AP Mobb's "Trillmatic"
It's long been my stance that good hip-hop is simply the bi-product of good ideas. Making a 90's-influenced single and then getting a Method Man guest verse is always a good idea.

Duet of the Year
The Nominees:
"Jackson & Travolta" by Action Bronson and Mayhem Lauren
Two old fashioned New York heavyweights go hard over a suitably knocking baseline and boom bap drums courtesy of Party Supplies.
"Nosetalgia" by Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar
Push and Kendrick reminisce on their history in the drug game on one of the hardest tracks of the year. Pusha kicks things off with some clever baby/cocaine double entendre ("Twenty plus years of selling Johnson & Johnson/I started out as a baby-faced monster/No wonder there's diaper rash on my conscious/My teeethin ring was numb from the nonsense") and K Dot follows suit with tales on his dope fiend father and "legendary" granddaddy.
"FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" by Jay-Z and Rick Ross
From the duo that brought you the classic "Maybach Music" comes one of the years most iconic bangers. Boi 1da's booming bass line could be heard emanating from many a car stereo this summer, and Jay-Z ("In a villa in Venice sippin vino") and Rozay ("I don't bop, I do the money dance/My bitch whip cost a hundred grand") bless it with some of their signature kingpin braggadocio.
"The Rockers" by Action Bronson and Wiz Khalifa
Action and Khalifa are something of rap polar opposites. One a fat scumbag who rocks ball shorts in the winter, the other a skinny pothead who wears Chinchilla coats on the beach. The two emcees put their differences aside to do this Marty Jannetty tribute over a mesmerizing guitar loop by Harry Fraud. This was the standout track of Bronson and Harry Fraud's first installment of SAAAB Stories.
And the winner is..."FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" by Jay-Z and Rick Ross
Jay and Ross' anthem just edges out "The Rockers" here. This timely collaboration was arguably the saving grace of Jay-Z's mostly overdone album.

Mixtape/EP of the Year
The Nominees:
Truly Yours 2 by J. Cole
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about J. Cole’s second studio album, Born Sinner (which was fine), is that it had to follow up this expertly crafted 6-song EP that features Cole on top of his game both as a rapper and a producer.  While the album is full of generic crossover hits (“Crooked Smile” and “Power Trip”) and jacked hip-hop classics (“LAnd of the Snakes” and “Forbidden Fruit”), Truly Yours 2 is J. Cole at his most lyrically introspective and musically creative. The standout track “3 Wishes”, on which Cole shares his hopes an end to his mothers’ abusive relationship, that he could have stood up to her abusive boyfriend, and for his childhood friend to be freed from prison over a simple-yet-funky baseline, is the exact kind of song the J. Cole was born to make.
Wrath of Cain by Pusha T
This mixtape, which served as a sort of prelude to Pusha’s solo debut, My Name Is My Name, features plenty of album-worthy material itself. This is due much in part to a producer lineup that is normally reserved for a major-label release: Kanye West (“Millions”), Young Chop (“Blocka”), Bink (“I Am Forgiven”), Jake One (“Take My Life”), and long-time collaborators The Neptunes (“Revolutions”). Maybe it goes without saying, but these are the five strongest tracks on the tape.
The Pimpire Strikes Back by Roc Marciano
Nearly a decade since the release of The U.N.’s hidden gem, U.N. Or U Out, group leader Roc Marciano has re-emerged as an unlikely hero of New York’s underground rap scene. The Pimpire Strikes Back features Marciano’s signature drawl over some of his finest production work to date, plus tracks by legendary beat makers Lord Finesse and Madlib. Also chipping in are Action Bronson (“Sincerely Antique” and “Velvet Cape”) and fellow champion of classic East Coast rap, QB’s own Cormega.
Blue Chips 2 by Action Bronson
The 2011 mixtape Blue Chips paired the unlikely duo of the brutish and vulgar Queens rapper, Action Bronson, and a little-known hipster-producer duo called “Party Supplies”. The mixtape, a critical success albeit rough around the edges, showcased the budding chemistry between Bronson and Supplies, whose sample-based, straight looping production style fit Bronsolino like a Todd Hundey baseball mitt. If the first Blue Chips (named after a mid-90’s Nick Nolte movie starring Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, because of course it is) was a Shaq and Penny give-and-go, then Blue Chips 2 is LeBron and D-Wade throwing each other full court alley-oops off the backboard.  Party Supplies’ use of familiar loops (Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”, Elton John, Isaac Hayes…fucking “Tequila”) sets the stage for some of Action’s most hilarious punch lines and 90’s references to date (“He took a sniff and started dancing like Elaine Benes”). The second half of the tape, particularly the excellent “9.24.13” and “Rolling Thunder”, establishes Party Supplies as a legitimate go-to beat maker and Action Bronson as a full blown rap superstar. 
And the winner is...Blue Chips 2 by Action Bronson
In an era where the difference between what's an album, or a mixtape, or an EP, or what the fuck ever, is increasingly hazy, Blue Chips 2 takes best mixtape, but should be looked at as 2013's best hip-hop project. 

Verse of the Year
The Nominees:
Jay-Z on "FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt"
Best Line: "Hov keep gettin that dinero, got it?/Even if a n**** gotta rob it, get it?/Black Jack in a casino/A n**** got unlimited credit."
Drake on "5 AM in Toronto"
Best Line: "Give these n****s the look, the verse, and even a hook/That's why every song sounds like Drake featuring Drake."
J. Cole on "Villuminati"
Best Line: "My pops was club hoppin back when Rick James was out/And all I get is Trinidad James/Wait a minute that's strange/Sip a little champagne say 'fuck it'/If the hoes like it, I love it n***a, n***a, n***a."
Action Bronson on "Through the Eyes of a G"
Best Line: "Hop in the Vanquish and vanish off the manor in a strange manor/Aim a hammer at your dame's bladder"
And the winner is...Action Bronson on "Through the Eyes of a G"
Bronsolino rocks the old "Passin' Me By" sample with some of his most creative lyricism to date. This verse is chock full of classic Action Bronson quotables like "I'm signing authographs in Spanish" and "I smoke till I've got Down's Syndrome."

Producer of the Year
The Nominees:
Mike WiLL
Mike WiLL followed up a strong 2012 with an even better '13, emerging as one of the biggest producers in popular music in the process. Most notable was his work with 2 Chainz ("Fork", Where You Been", "Good Kush and Alcohol"), Jay-Z's short-but-sweet "Beach Is Better", and the Miley Cyrus/Wiz Khalifa/Juicy J club banger "23".
Party Supplies
From what I can tell, Party Supplies are relatively new to the hip-hop production game, only working closely with Action Bronson. While their body of work doesn't necessarily stack up with rap's veteran producers, their superb work on the year's best mixtape warrants a nomination.
DJ Mustard
At this point, you pretty much know what you're going to get with DJ Mustard. When the anthemic "Rack City" hit a few years back, my initial thought was "How has nobody made this beat already?" Mustard has since made a career of crafting slightly different incarnations of that same beat, but, I mean, they're bangers. "R.I.P." at least delayed Young Jeezy's fade into obscurity, while Ty Dolla $ign's "Paranoid" and Kid Ink's "Show Me" helped put two up-and-comers on the map. Hey! Hey! Hey!
Hit-Boy took a year off of being everybody's go-to producer to build his own brand, dropping the very good HS87 mixtape with his artists, Audio Push. He also flexed his skills with horn samples on Jay-Z's brilliantly produced "SomewhereInAmerica" and Drake's triumphant "Trophies".
And the winner is...Mike WiLL
Hit-Boy is the best producer in rap but Mike WiLL is the hottest beat maker right now. It will be interesting to see how his career trajectory plays out; will he expand his sound to become more universal or will he keep doing 2 Chainz bangers forever?

Beat of the Year
The Nominees:
"Collard Greens" produced by THC and Gwen Bunn
THC and Gwen Bunn? Me neither, but they teamed up to make one of the unique sounding rap songs of the year. The loud, crisp percussion gives way to a trippy backdrop that is perfect for the Black Hippy duo of Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar.
"Picasso Baby" produced by Timbaland
Front like you didn't put on a mean "who farted" face the first time you heard this shit. Timbo's jamming guitar loop is pleasantly reminiscent of the classic Jay-Z/Primo cuts "So Ghetto" and "Friend or Foe 98".
"Started from the Bottom" produced by Mike Zombie
The first time I played this, long before the "Twitterverse" got their hands on it and made it into an insufferable meme or a hashtag or whatever, "Started from the Bottom" was almost an intoxicating hip-hop listening experience. Drake's hook may be immortalized by the Internets, but it was Mike Zombie's spare, eery production that made this a great song.
"Numbers on the Boards" produced by Kanye West
Kanye was rather quiet on the beat making front this year, with the exception being this glitchy, avant-garde sounding Pusha T single. The Jay-Z vocal sample was also a ballsy master stroke.
And the winner is..."Numbers on the Boards" produced by Kanye West
This was a really tough call. "Started from the Bottom" has the instant recognition factor going for it, and "Picasso Baby" might go harder, but this was the overall best.

Album of the Year
The Nominees:
Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z
The now-infamous commercial that features Timbaland and Pharrell crafting beats for a new Jay-Z album while Rick Rubin sleeps on his couch sent the hip-hop world into a frenzy, but also might have placed unrealistic expectations on a Jay-Z album in 2013. Critics panned the album for being unimaginative and out-of-touch, which is fair, but what was to be expected of a rapper pushing 50 who spends more time perusing art galleries than he does “in the streets”? While Jay-Z was not always on top of his game lyrically on Magna Carta, this was the best-produced album of the year by a long shot. Jay recruited "in" producers like Hit-Boy ("SomewhereInAmerica") and Mike WiLL ("Beach Is Better") to help stay current musically, while Pharrell ("BBC", "Oceans") and a rejuvenated Timbaland ("Tom Ford", "Picasso Baby", "Versus") contribute some their best material in ages.
My Name Is My Name by Pusha T
With 808's and Heartbreak on the shelves and his street cred at an all-time low, Kanye West decided that his G.O.O.D. Music crew made up of mostly beta-males (Consequence, Big Sean, Kid Cudi, John Legend, etc.) could use a little muscle. Enter: The Clipse's Pusha T, whose lyrical skill and drug kingpin bravado added a new and necessary edge to the G.O.O.D. music catalogue. The potential combination of Pusha T's talent and distinct style and Kanye's limitless musical resources made his solo debut one of 2013's most anticipated projects. However, aside from the Kanye-produced "Numbers on the Boards", My Name Is My Name was hardly distinguishable from The Wrath of Cain tapeor Fear of God tapeor much of the Clipse's material, for that matter.
Nothing Was The Same by Drake
When Drake dropped the anthemic "Started from the Bottom" followed by the spacey, on-fire "5 AM in Toronto", I had high hopes for a rapping-heavy Drake album. As much as I would like to hear such an album, this will never happen. Drake is a terrific rapper when he wants to be, but his crossover appeal is what landed him the lucrative record deal, the bitches in Miami, and is what separates his career from that of, say, J. Cole. Like his first two albums, Nothing Was The Same was a great rap album when it was a rap album, which is to say like 30% of the time. There was also this vague Wu-Tang motif going on here that didn't quite land.
Yeezus by Kanye West
Kanye just doesn't give a fuck anymore. Gone are the tiny sweaters, humorous punchlines, and soul samples, since replaced by sleeveless leather trench coats, vulgar yelling, and a bunch of weird noises. Yeezus may not be the same Kanye that burst onto the scene a decade ago, but at least he is still pushing the envelope creatively.
And the winner is...Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z
This album has its share of flaws; Jay-Z on his 'B' game lyrically, the terribly overwrought duets with JT and Beyonce, being "over-produced", and so forth. But given the weak crop of studio albums this year, it was either this or a third of that Drake album, which was a pretty easy decision.

Song of the Year
The Nominees:
"Trillmatic" by A$AP Mobb and Method Man
I don't know where this song came from but it is fucking fire. Ty Beats tries his hand at an East Coast boom bap beat with glorious success and the addition of Method Man is just perfect. A$AP Nast, who carries the rest of the rhymes on this track, doesn't take a back seat to the Wu-Tang legend, perhaps giving us an artist to watch in the future.
"FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" by Jay-Z and Rick Ross
Two Dons of the rap game go hard on one of 2013's biggest bangers.
"9.24.13" by Action Bronson
On this the best song off of Blue Chips 2, Action Bronson reminisces on old flames as only he can ("I caught her cheatin'/Her pussy didn't feel the same") over an incredible female chorus sample flip by Party Supplies.
"Started From The Bottom" by Drake
Whether or not Aubrey Graham did, in fact, "start from the bottom" is up for debate, but this was without question one of the boldest, most creative hip-hop songs of the year.
And the winner is..."9.24.13" by Action Bronson
I waffled on this one too, but ultimately settled on this mostly because it was the best song off of the best tape.

Artist of the Year
The Nominees:
Drake released the critically acclaimed album Nothing Was The Same while keeping rap fans appeased with verses on Migos' "Versace" and Future's "Shit".
Action Bronson
In addition to Blue Chips 2, Action was among hip-hop's most prolific guest rappers. According to my iTunes, Bronson appeared on tracks with Chip The Rapper, Prodigy, Alex Wiley, Fat Joe, Roc Marciano, and Task Rok, and came correct on all of them.
Roc Marciano
Marci followed up the mixtape The Pimpire Strikes Back with the self-produced album titled Marci Beaucoup. Both are worth a listen.
J. Cole
Like Marciano, J. Cole had both a great mixtape (Truly Yours 2) and a proper album (Born Sinner) in 2013. Maybe when he stops being so butthurt about not having a crossover pop hit, he'll actually win a coveted PropsOverHere award.
And the winner is...Drake
Drake, a serious nominee heading into the holiday season, pulled ahead for good by dropping "We Made It" and the Hit-Boy produced "Trophies" right before New Years.

Congrats to all of this year's nominees and award winners. See you all again in 2014.

Monday, April 22, 2013

PropsOverHere's 2nd Annual High School Hoops All-Star Team

1st Annual High School Hoops All-Star Team

Nigel Williams-Goss / G / Senior
Scouting Report: I got my first look at Nigel Williams-Goss in last years NHSI championship game against Kasey Hill's Montverde team. Williams-Goss had already committed to a major program at Washington, but he was largely overshadowed by a loaded Findlay Prep roster that included Anthony Bennett, Brandon Ashley, and Dominic Artis. However, Nigel stood out during the game for his steady point guard play and finished the game with 17 points, including a decisive floater that capped an incredible comeback headed by Ashley. The next time I watched Williams-Goss was , incidentally, another matchup against Montverde and highly rated point man Kasey Hill. With the departure of Bennett, Ashley, and Artis, Williams-Goss shouldered the offensive load for Findlay and put on a terrific performance. He scored 18 points in the 4th quarter (26 total) including a game winning three at the buzzer, while Hill struggled with foul trouble and was mostly ineffective (9 points). His performance at the McDonald's game raised his stock even more as he showed gorgeous shooting mechanics en route to winning the 3-point contest, and put his court vision and ball skills on display during the game, tallying 10 points and a game-high 6 dimes. He is not as good of an athlete as the top-rated Andrew Harrison, but his size (6'3") combined with his pure point guard skills make him the best floor general in this years recruiting class. 
In a Word: Leader
NBA Comparison: Goran Dragic

Andrew Wiggins / G / Senior
Scouting Report: Wiggins occupied this spot on last years team when I wrote that the then-17 year old "has superstar written all over him", before it was all trendy. But seriously, Wiggins has garnered a lot of hype this last year; from jumping Jabari Parker as the nation's "top recruit", to NBA scouts saying that he would go #1 this year, to a prolonged recruitment process (he is still deciding between Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, and Florida State). After watching him this year in the McDonald's game, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit, I can't say that he's lived up to the hype. Wiggins is clearly an incredible athlete, one that effortlessly bounds and glides across the basketball court like few I've ever seen. In the dunk contest portion of the McDonalds game, Wiggins missed an attempt, took two steps backwards, and, with no momentum or preparation, completed a behind-the-back dunk that's impossible to all but like ten people in the universe. These skills on a 6'8" frame make Wiggins a terror in the open court, where he scored most of his points on the all-star circuit. However, Wiggins' jump shot leaves much to be desired. He was highly inefficient from the perimeter and even struggled at the free throw line. Wiggins certainly has the skills and the pedigree to be a superstar as I once wrote, but the development of a consistent jumper will dictate his future as a wing prospect at the next level. 
In a Word: Athlete
NBA Comparison: Tracy McGrady (in his prime, of course)

Jabari Parker / F / Senior
Scouting Report: I want to like Jabari Parker. I really do. The prodigy from Chicago's famed Simeon High School (Benji Wilson, Derrick Rose) will play his college ball for Coach K and Duke, reportedly for all four years (gasp!). Parker has a frame that is NBA ready (6'8" and 220), possesses a high motor and great fundamentals.  He's been labeled as a versatile player, one that is "good at everything, but not exceptional at any one thing" in the mold of Grant Hill, Glenn Robinson, Carmelo Anthony, and the like. Although he obviously still has room to improve, he didn't show the athleticism or perimeter skills that made those players NBA all-stars. Though his future as an NBA wing prospect may be unclear, Parker's polished skill set and competitive spirit will make him a force in the new-look ACC.
In a Word: Complete
NBA Comparison: Michael Kidd-Gilchrest

Aaron Gordon / F / Senior
Scouting Report: I really don't have much bad to say about Aaron Gordon. Gordon will join rising sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and fellow blue chipper Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on an Arizona Wildcat front line that will be absolute hell to score against and defend. Standing 6'8", Gordon is a jump-out-the-gym athlete with a relentless motor and a versatile skill set, even playing a pseudo point-forward at times during the McDonalds game with dazzling success. If he can continue to build onto his frame and develop a consistent mid-range jump shot, Gordon will become can't miss NBA prospect.
In a Word: Talented
NBA Comparison: Derrick Williams

Julius Randle / F / Senior
Scouting Report: Randle possesses great size and athleticism that allows him to dominate high school competition, but I'm not sure how his game translates at the pro level. As a left-hander that's not quite skilled enough to play the three but not big (or comfortable) enough to play in the post, watching the Kentucky commit evokes former Wildcat Terrance Jones and Sixers forward Thaddeus Young, not exactly an inspiring list for a guy who projects to be a top-5 pick in 2014. That said, Randle might actually be the best high school basketball player at the moment. Unlike Parker and Wiggins, Randle didn't try to do too much, instead playing to his strengths and imposing his will at times, including a dominating stretch during the Jordan Brand Classic that was one of the highlights of the all-star game circuit.
In a Word: Beast
Pro Potential: Josh Smith

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

PropsOverHere Presents: The Best of 2012 Awards


In 2006, Nas made an album called Hip Hop is Dead, and he was right. 90's rappers were losing their touch, Jay-Z was retired, Eminem was AWOL, and there was a dearth of young, talented rappers to fill the void. Hell, even that Nas album kinda sucked. It was a hip hop landscape that allowed "Laffy Taffy" to hit #1 on the rap charts (seriously, that happened, look it up). Well, six years later it pleases me to say that hip hop is fuckin back, baby! There was so much good rap music put out this year that it was almost overwhelming. This is what it must have been like to not have been 4 years old in 1994. In case you were sleeping on hip hop's renaissance, here are my choices for this year's best.

Rookie of the Year
The Nominees:
Kendrick Lamar- The west coast wordsmith with the funny voice made a huge splash in 2012, dropping the critically acclaimed debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. city and appearing on singles from everyone from A$AP Rocky to Pac Div to fucking Dido.
Joey Bada$$- Joey made a name for himself this year with the excellent 1999 mixtape, which is perhaps made more impressive by the fact that the 17-year-old Brooklynite probably doesn't even remember the year 1999.
2 Chainz- The artist formerly known as Titty Boi exploded on the scene as a solo artist in 2012. Something of a new-age Bun B, 2 Chainz appeared on tracks by Rick Ross, Game, A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, Curren$y, and Big K.R.I.T. just to name a few. He also dropped a solo album which, albeit not very good at all, featured memorable moments such as "No Lie", "Birthday Song", and "I'm Different".   
A$AP Rocky- This guy probably should have been on last year's ballot but I didn't really buy into the hype until 2012, so I'm making up for it here. I still can't decide whether or not A$AP Rocky is a good rapper, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying his music.
And the winner is...Kendrick Lamar
K Dot edges out the competition based on the strength of his album and contributions to others, however it should be noted how strong the competition was for this year's ROY, and how encouraging that is for the future of hip-hop.

Guest Verse of the Year (The Bun B Award)
The Nominees:
Andre 3000 on Rick Ross's "Sixteen"
Best Line: "I'm in my room/Drawin' LL Cool J album covers with Crayolas on construction paper/I'm tryna fuck my neighbor/I'm tryna hook my waves up/I'm tryna pull my grades up/To get them saddle lace-ups"
Ghostface Killah on Kanye West and Pusha T's "New God Flow"
Best Line: "Six hundred cuban cigar is the big tub/Medallion on, Dove soap on the fresh cut/With soap suds on the Mac-11/My big lion hasn't ate since 12/And it's after 7"
Drake on A$AP Rocky's "Fuckin’ Problems"
Best Line: "Then just, drop down and getcha eagle on/Or, we can stare up at the stars and put the Beatles on"
Action Bronson on A$AP Rocky's "1 Train"
Best Line: "Red roses drop on boxes very often/Confetti torture, drinking Henny like I'm Kenny Lofton"
And the winner is...Andre 3000 on "Sixteen"
It seems like every year that Three Stacks drops a verse if only to serve as a reminder that he's one of the most talented cats to ever pick up a microphone. Trying to list the "best line" off this epic verse is almost insulting to how brilliant it is as a whole. I think I ran it back like 10x the first time I heard this song.

Duet of the Year
The Nominees:
"No Lie" by 2 Chainz & Drake
The radio-friendly duo of 2 Chainz and Drake keep it real over a certified banger from Mike Will on what was one of the bigger singles of 2012. 2 Chainz provides his signature energy and hilarious punchlines ("All I get is cheese/Like I'm takin' pictures") while the oft-sappy Drake reminds us that he, too, doesn't luh deez hoes ("She can have a Grammy, I'll still treat her ass like a nominee").
"Hip Hop" by Scarface and Nas
Two rap legends go in over incredible J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production in an "I Used To Love H.E.R."-style ode to hip-hop. Scarface reflects on the ups and downs of his long rap career ("I'm doin drugs tryna feel you/I'm killin' me tryna kill you/I built my whole life around ya/I thought I found it all when I found ya") but the real highlight is Nas' advisory verse directed at up-and-comers that is rife with rap-related double-entendres ("Her Vibe covers keep you warm/But the Source to her heart is love/Word up, right on/You know how girls are/She love when you lickin' on her World Star/Kissin' on her Belly/Trick on her and Onyx"). 
"Accident Murderers" by Nas & Rick Ross
Nas and Rozay collaborate on this track directed at the cowardly killers in the hood. Both emcees come correct as last year's producer of the year, No I.D., provides an organ-sampling backdrop reminiscent his work on Jay and Nas' "Success".  Nas provides storytelling and imagery as only he can ("Side of his mouth toothpick, one eyebrow raised/Got into it with dude who's tryna live out his old wild out days.") while Rick Ross drops one of his stronger verses in a while, distinguishing himself from said "accident murderers" ("Memoirs of a rich ni**a/Sweat suits, gold chains, old drug dealers/New benz, chrome rims, a fo sho killa/You ni**as accidental, choppers in back of the limo").
"Poetic Justice" by Kendrick Lamar & Drake
Kendrick and Drake wax poetic about females over a brilliant Janet Jackson sample in what was the highlight of one of the year's better albums. Neither verse stands out, but Kendrick and Drake get bonus points for their lyrical cohesiveness on this. And this beat is just fucking amazing.
Honorable Mention: "Pouches of Tuna" by Action Bronson & Roc Marciano, "Birthday Song" by 2 Chainz & Kanye West, "Bitch, I Deserve You" by Action Bronson & Evidence, "The Recipe" by Kendrick Lamar & Dr. Dre, "Capitol" by Curren$y & 2 Chainz.
And the winner is..."Hip Hop" by Scarface and Nas
You're not going to find a much better duo than Scarface and Nas (see: Nasir's "Favor for a Favor" and Face's "In Between Us") to do a song called "Hip Hop". Say what you will about DJ Khaled, but that dude knows what's up. Just look at how giddy he was about putting this song together as opposed to, say, "All I Do Is Win". J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League uses the beginning of rockers Mott's "She Does It" for this chilling piano beat that sets the tone perfectly for Scarface and Nas' angry, heartfelt verses. Oh, and DJ Premier does the scratches. Yeah this song's pretty good. 

Mixtape of the Year
The Nominees:
1999 by Joey Bada$$
A friend of mine put me on to this mixtape a while back and I listened to it pretty much nonstop this summer. Joey and the PRO ERA crew do their part on the mic, but the jazzy, boom-bap production from the likes of Lord Finesse, MF Doom, and J Dilla (who, in death, still has more fresh material than MF Doom) make this not only one of the best mixtapes of the year, but some of the best hip-hop of the year period. 
Rare Chandeliers by Action Bronson & The Alchemist
Thanks to the assistance of super producer The Alchemist, this may well be the most refined, cohesive work of Action Bronson's career to date. Throw in appearances by Roc Marciano, Evidence, Sean Price, and others and you've got yourself some classic material. 
Cigarette Boats by Curren$y & Harry Fraud
Like the aforementioned Bronson/Alchemist combo, Spitta and Harry Fraud have complimentary styles that come together on this short but sweet mixtape. Roll one up to this. 
The Soul Tape 2 by Fabolous
Fab enlists the help of J.Cole, Troy Ave, Pusha T, Wale, & Joe Budden in what was his best effort in some time. I guess sometimes the sequel is better than the original.
Honorable Mention: Blue Chips by Action Bronson, Rich Forever by Rick Ross, On The House by Slaughterhouse, Priest Andretti by Curren$y
And the winner is...1999 by Joey Bada$$
Leave it to a kid that was born in 1995 to make a mixtape that sounds like it was made in 1995, in the best way possible of course. Joey Bada$$'s introduction to the hip hop world showcases this incredibly promising emcee over production by up-and-comer Chuck Strangers and the much improved Statik Selektah that hearkens back to the heyday of the Diggin In The Crates crew. If you don't believe me, theres a beat on this by Lord Finesse, of the real D.I.T.C., that blends in seamlessly with the rest of the tape. If you haven't already, go download this immediately.

Verse of the Year
The Nominees:
Nas on "Hip Hop"
Best Line: "I doubt I'll ever be the same, uh/Hallowed be thy name/Give me strength so I don't do this dame like Orenthal James."
Andre 3000 on "Sixteen"
Best Line: "I'm in my room/Drawin' LL Cool J album covers with Crayolas on construction paper/I'm tryna fuck my neighbor/I'm tryna hook my waves up/I'm tryna pull my grades up/To get them saddle lace-ups"
Joell Ortiz on "Can’t Stop The Prophet"
Best Line: "Out my window I can clearly see the body of a brotha/Funny cars stay ridin' by, I know they're probably undercover/Tryna figure out who caused the Henny sippin' and the candle lightin'/The reminiscin' of the night you and you're man was fightin'."
Joe Budden on "Hammer Dance"
Best Line: "Just a real ni**a/Straight from my mother's stomach/Ain't enough cloth for all of us to be cut from it."
And the winner is...Joell Ortiz on "Can't Stop The Prophet"
This loose freestyle over an old Pete Rock beat may have flown under the radar but, whooo boy, this shit is a monster. Joell begins the verse by saying "Brought my gloves in the booth, I'ma fuck this beat up" and more than delivers, dropping an incredibly intricate verse that features some of the best fast-rapping since Big Pun's infamous "Dead in the middle of Little Italy" line on "Twinz '98". 

Producer of the Year
The Nominees:
As I noted in one of my few tweets, Hit-Boy was able to leverage the success of the epic banger "Ni**as in Paris" to become the in-demand producer of 2012. As it turns out, "Ni**as In Paris" was only the beginning. His 2012 resume includes Kanye, Big Sean, and Jay-Z's smash hit "Clique", A$AP Rocky's "Goldie" and "1 Train", and Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle".  This kid might just fuck around and become one of the all-time great producers. 
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League was the early favorite for this award thanks to their strong work on Curren$y's Stoned Immaculate, Rick Ross's Give Forgives, I Don't, and that Nas and Scarface jawn. Best known for their production on Rozay's "Maybach Music" series, it seems as though Ross only enlists their help when he wants to draw in all the real hip-hop heads that he alienated with "B.M.F." and all the subsequent songs that sounded just like it. I must admit, it works. 
Harry Fraud
Twenty twelve was a big year for "la musica de Harry Fraud", who made a name for himself as one of the best young producers in hip-hop thanks to his work with Action Bronson ("Bird on a Wire"), Smoke Dza, French Montana ("I'ma Coke Boy"), and Curren$y (Cigarette Boats). Plus, Harry Fraud has to one of the better stage names of the last few years, with the trend moving towards utter ridiculousness  Two of the rookie of the year nominees have dollar signs in their name for fucks sake. 
Mike Will
While I normally prefer more traditional, sample-based producers, it's hard to argue against Mike Will's track record of bangers in 2012. Between "Marble Floors", "No Lie", and Juicy J's anthemic "Bandz A Make Her Dance", if it's on the radio 50x a day, chances are "Mike Will made it". 
Honorable Mention: Young Chop, Alchemist, Party Supplies, Boi-1da, AraabMuzik
And the winner is...Hit-Boy
With respect to all of these producers who were all prolific this year, this wasn't really a contest. Hit-Boy is just on another level right now, and is quickly approaching the realms of Timbaland, Pharrell, Kanye, and other transcendent super producers. 

Beat of the Year
The Nominees:
"Mercy" produced by Lifted & Kanye West
In typical Kanye West fashion, he followed up his massive hit "Ni**as In Paris" with the similarly simplistic melody, heavy bass line, and knocking percussion of "Mercy", effectively changing the way big hip-hop records should sound. 
"The Recipe" produced by Dr. Dre
After several botched attempts at a proper single to Detox, Dr. Dre finally nailed it in 2012...on a Kendrick Lamar song. The clever sample of Twin Sister's "Meet The Frownies" and the crisp, hard-hitting breakbeat make this perhaps Dre's best production since 2001.
"Dope Bitch" produced by The-Dream
Radio killer The-Dream uses the classic Melvin Bliss drums (as heard on classics such as "O.P.P.", "Code of the Streets", and "Mighty Healthy") and an infectious piano riff on his hit single featuring Pusha T. Every time I hear this, I have to do all I can to resist breaking out in the running man (it's my only move, still). Fabolous also hopped on this beat on one of the year's better freestyles. 
"Fuckin' Problems" produced by Noah "40" Shebib
With no Drake album, 2012 was a rather quiet year for 40 except for this A$AP Rocky banger. Much like "Mercy", "Fuckin' Problems" uses a simple, four-note melody and a heavy bass line to compose one of the club's hottest tracks in 2012.
Honorable Mention: "Clique" produced by Hit-Boy, "I Don't Like" produced by Young Chop, "Showtime" produced by Jahlil Beats, "In The A" produced by DJ Toomp
And the winner is..."Mercy" produced by Lifted & Kanye West
Much like "Ni**as In Paris", this beat was originally made by a lesser-known producer (Lifted) and then modified and cleaned up by Kanye, who added the dancehall sample and presumably the Scarface-esque part that kicks in for his verse. I guess he's at that Marley Marl/Dr. Dre/Diddy stage in his career where he can do that kinda shit. Must be nice. 

Album of the Year
The Nominees:
Cruel Summer by G.O.O.D. Music
Following the release of "Mercy", "Cold", "New God Flow", and finally "Clique", I was expecting this to be the best album evar. As it turns out, those songs made up like half the album, and were the best songs by a decent margin. Still another quality release from Kanye and the good folks over at G.O.O.D. Music. 
good kid, m.A.A.d. city by Kendrick Lamar
I know this got five mics in The Source and everyone on the internets went all gaga over it--and it is definitely a good album--but let's cool it with the "modern day hip-hop masterpiece" nonsense. Just because Kendrick uses big words and metaphors doesn't make him the west coast Nas, and no one even reads The Source anymore. Still, good album.  
Life Is Good by Nas
After a series of underwhelming solo albums, Nas finally hit the mark with Life Is Good. Maybe utilizing only one feature (Rick Ross) a la Illmatic had something to do with it, as did his tackling of more relevant  challenging subject matter such as fatherhood and divorce, but the biggest difference between this and, say, Untitled, was the production. Beat making legends Salaam Remi and NO I.D. carry the bulk of the production, crafting a mix of jazzy, soulful instrumentals ("Cherry Wine", "Stay") and more traditional, Queensbridge boom-bap shit ("Nasty", "Loco-Motive") that fit Nas like a glove.
Long Live A$AP by A$AP Rocky
I wasn't a fan of A$AP's much anticipated mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP, and wasn't sure my traditionalist tastes and east coast bias would ever really allow me to enjoy his music, outside of a song here and there. That said, I was feeling this shit from the first listen. The title track sets the tone for one of the most unique and entertaining albums of the year. 
Honorable Mention: The Stoned Immaculate by Curren$y, The Final Adventure by Murs & 9th Wonder, Jesus Piece by Game, God Forgives, I Don’t by Rick Ross, Mic Tyson by Sean Price
And the winner is...Cruel Summer by G.O.O.D. Music
The four singles, "In The Morning", and "To The World" were among the best songs of the year, and it was definitely the album I listened to the most. Still, I worry that this will go down in history as Watch The Throne's retarded half-brother, and the fact that it has similar album art but in silver rather than gold won't help.

Song of the Year
The Nominees:
"Hip Hop" by DJ Khaled featuring Nas & Scarface
I've already spoken ad nauseum about this track, which should say something given that this is a best-of-the-year awards post. 
"Mercy" by Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T, & 2 Chainz
The G.O.O.D. Music posse cut was one of the most popular singles of the year and really put 2 Chainz on the map. 
"Dreams and Nightmares" by Meek Mill
Even though I'm a proud Philadelphian, I must admit I find Meek Mill's relentless, screaming delivery mostly tiresome. However, this song is fucking incredible and gets bonus points for being the best album intro in at least a decade.         
"The Recipe" by Kendrick Lamar featuring Dr. Dre
K Dot was the lucky beneficiary of rare post-2004 Dr. Dre brilliance on what is something of the 2012 "California Love". 
Honorable Mention: "Sixteen" by Rick Ross featuring Andre 3000, "Poetic Justice" by Kendrick Lamar featuring Drake, "Clique" by Kanye West featuring Big Sean & Jay-Z, "Swimming Pools" by Kendrick Lamar, "Chasin' Paper" by Curren$y, "Funeral For A Killer" by Murs & 9th Wonder, "Dear Moleskine" by Jay Electronica
And the winner is..."The Recipe" by Kendrick Lamar featuring Dr. Dre
This could have easily been a four-way tie, but what a cop out that would have been. Could you imagine if they pulled that shit at a real award show? Or better yet, could you imagine Kanye's reaction to such a debacle? Never mind what I said before, this has to happen!

Artist of the Year
The Nominees:
2 Chainz
Like I said earlier, 2 Chainz's debut album Based on a T.R.U. Story pretty much sucked, so it says a lot about how prolific he was in 2012 that he still manages to be a finalist for this. This guy was literally everywhere this year. I hear at least three new 2 Chainz verses every time I tune into Shade 45.
Action Bronson
Bronsolino followed up his rookie of the year campaign with a great 2012 that included two of the years best mixtapes (Blue Chips and Rare Chandeliers) and a shit load of stellar guest spots. 
Downloading mixtapes is usually a fruitless endeavor that ends up filling up my trashcan with half-assed rap music, but that's rarely the case with Spitta. He made the list last year on the strength of three mixtapes: Weekend at Bernie's, Verde Terrace, and Covert Coup, and he did it again this year with Priest Andretti and Cigarette Boats. Also, he made a real album this year that was decidedly higher quality than the mixtapes, so there's that. 
Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar performed the rare feat of making the jump from an awkward, underground act to a bonafide superstar in less than a year's time. Wiz Khalifa had a similar career trajectory a few years back, and he fucking sucks now. I'd like to believe that the more talented and versatile K Dot has more staying power.
Honorable Mention: Rick Ross, Nas, Pusha T
And the winner is...2 Chainz
Who am I kidding, 2 Chainz fucking ran shit in 2012. "2 Chaaaaiiiiinzz".

Props to all of this year's winners, nominees, and everyone else that put out good shit in 2012. See you all again next year.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PropsOverHere's 1st Annual High-School Hoops All-Star Team

Over the past few weeks, I have been paying close attention to the high school basketball all-star game circuit, scouting out some of the future stars of the collegiate and, in a year or so, pro game. Here is what I consider to be the all-high school team, along with a brief scouting report on each player full with an arbitrary NBA comparison. (Note: I've yet to see Chi-town prodigy and player of the year Jabari Parker play, which explains his conspicuous absence from the team.)

Archie Goodwin / G / Senior
Scouting Report: Goodwin has the size and skill set of a prototypical two guard. He is a slasher first and foremost with a very quick first step and elite athletic ability that allows him to finish well above the rim. The future Kentucky Wildcat could slide into the Doron Lamb role in Lexington should the sophomore decide to declare for the NBA draft.
In a Word: Athletic
Pro Potential: J.R. Smith

Andrew Wiggins / G / Sophomore
Scouting Report: Although he turned 17 just two months ago, Wiggins is already the best guard at the high school level. The Canadian high schooler has more than ideal size at 6'7" and is a dazzling offensive player, possessing incredible shot-making ability and scoring instincts that are well beyond his years. He is constantly in attack mode which leads to turnovers and forced shots but, again, he is just 17. This young man has superstar written all over him.
In a Word: Star
Pro Potential: Penny Hardaway

Shabazz Muhammed / F / Senior
      Scouting Report: Muhammed is a 6'5" player with a big man's mentality, making him the most intriguing prospect in the class of 2012. The future UCLA Bruin possesses awesome athletic ability, a nice left-handed shooting stroke, and an infectious toughness and intensity. A mid-range scoring machine and highlight reel finisher, Muhammed also has all the tools to be a terrific defensive player at the next level.
In a Word: Powerful
Pro Potential: Michael Finley

Kyle Anderson / F / Senior
Scouting Report: Anderson, who will co-star with Muhammed at UCLA, is the most versatile player in his class. Standing close to 6'9", Anderson looks like an NBA small forward but plays with the tempo and unselfishness of a point man a la Scottie Pippen or Lamar Odom. Much has been made of his slow-motion, under control style, but he has sneaky athleticism and an impressive offensive arsenal that make him an all-around playmaker to be reckoned with. Expect him, Muhammed, and fellow all-american Tony Parker to restore glory to the UCLA program.
In a Word: Smooth
Pro Potential: Jalen Rose

Nerlens Noel / C / Senior
Scouting Report: Regarded in some circles as the best prospect in the class of 2012, Noel has undeniable potential, but he also has a ways to go before he reaches it. Nerlens has a 7'4" wingspan and is a fluid and explosive athlete, making him a great shot-blocker and an exciting finisher around the basket. Naturally, he has drawn comparisons to Anthony Davis, the similarly slight, shot-blocking big man who Noel will replace at Kentucky, but Wildcat faithful will soon find that, at this stage, Noel is more DeAndre Jordan than a game-changer like Davis.
In a Word: Bouncy
Pro Potential: Tyson Chandler

Monday, April 9, 2012

PropsOverHere Investigates: Was Iverson's Crossover on Jordan Even The Best by a Sixer?

Yes. However, a decade before Iverson famously shook the GOAT, another Sixers rookie from Georgetown (can't make this shit up), David Wingate (above), broke MJ's ankles and scored an acrobatic and-one. Below is the exclusive PropsOverHere footage of Wingate's crossover circa 1987 as well as Iverson's from '97. Watch both and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This Week In "Rappers With A Bun B Feature"...

Marcus Manchild! Me neither. What's Bun B's going rate for a verse these days, $250 and a cup of sizzurp?

The Rookie Of The Year Is Back At It

Get some.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome to my Wheelhouse Party

Here is Cormega announcing the formation of a new group consisting of himself, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, and Saigon. Oh, and Large Professor is producing for them. Given my level of stannery for everyone involved, this is the best hip hop related news I've heard in some time.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

PropsOverHere Presents: The Best of 2011 Awards

      As I do every year around this time, I've returned to recap the year that was in rap music. Now usually this is where I talk about how terrible a year it's been for hip-hop, but this wasn't the case in 2011. As I've mentioned a few times over the course of the year, 2011 has been one of the best years this decade as far as the quality of new music. In honor of a great year in hip-hop, I've decided to switch from a countdown format to an award show-style post in which I'll recognize some of the year's best performances. So without further ado, here is PropsOverHere's 1st Annual Best of the Year Awards.

Rookie of the Year
The Nominees:
Meek Mill- The Philly native burst on the scene after signing with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group and hit big with bangers like "Work" and "I'm A Boss".
Action Bronson- When he wasn't being a gourmet chef, this MC earned some respect from hip-hop heads in 2011 with his Ghostface-eque delivery and wordplay.
Big Sean- Despite my negative review, Sean's debut album received much critical acclaim and was a bona fide commercial success.
Maffew Ragazino- This New York City lyricist came out of nowhere to deliver some great tracks in '11 including on of my favorites, the soulful "Decepts On The L Train".
And the winner is.... Action Bronson
This guy impressed me early in the year with the terrific The Program EP and continued to deliver lyrically on tracks with Ghostface, Asher Roth, and Ragazino among others. I'm looking forward to hearing more from him in the future.

Guest Verse of the Year (The Bun B Award)
The Nominees:
Nas on Mobb Deep's "Dog Shit"
Best Line: "Freedom is a virtue/Ni**as hangin way past/They're parole curfew/Blowin' on that purple/Know my street ties/Beef-wise/I let three fly/Over ya head/Welcome home P/Let's get this bread."
AZ on Wu-Tang Clan's "Legendary Weapons"
Best Line: "Breezed on the D's when they tailed on the pike/Around the same time I exhaled on the mic/The name AZ ring bells on sight."
Freddie Gibbs on Curren$y's "Scottie Pippens"
Best Line: "Stay runnin' the rock just like I play quarterback for the Eagles/Randall, Donovan, or Michael/'Fore I picked up this mic/I was hittin' licks with some lords and did dirt with plenty disciples."
Elzhi on Phonte's "Not Here Anymore"
Best Line: "See a little nervousness/And a frown/'Cause you know deep down you know you ain't nice just a little courteous/You just runnin' game/Ni**a, we the fuckin' tournament."
And the winner is...Freddie Gibbs on "Scottie Pippens"
No one can contest with Nas' imagery and lyrical poignance, but I had to give this one to Gibbs for his delivery and for the energy he brought to that track, which was the best on Spitta's Covert Coup mixtape.

Duet of the Year
The Nominees:
"Ghetto Dreams" by Common & Nas- The lead single from Common's The Dreamer, The Believer features two hip-hop heavyweights on top of their game. While Nas is one of the all-time masters of the guest verse, the best moments had to be Common rhyming about his ideal woman, "Butt naked in the kitchen flippin' pancakes/She ain't trippin' off the dough that her man makes."
"Otis"by Jay-Z & Kanye West- On one of the biggest songs of the year and another lead single, Jay and Kanye trade verses over an extra-choppy Otis Redding sample. Jay-Z begins the braggadocio with the opening line, "I invented swag" and, not to be outdone, Kanye raps about his "Otha, otha Benz" among other things.
"Martians Vs. Goblins" by Game & Tyler The Creator- The Game and Odd Future's Tyler The Creator team up for the sinister banger that also features Lil' Wayne, but only on the hook. As if he hasn't gotten enough shit this year, both artists attack LeBron James in their verses as Game raps about fucking his mom and Tyler advises his haters to "fall back like LeBron's hairline."
"Choices" by Asher Roth & Action Bronson- In what has to be the best rap song by two white kids in decades, Roth and Bronsolino both drop a killer verse over a funky instrumental. By far the best part was Asher Roth's flow in his first couple of bars that include clever lines such as "Under a submarine/Bare as the kitchen cupboard be/Californication/Agent Mulder/David Duchovney."
And the winner is..."Otis" by Jay-Z & Kanye West
This and "Ghetto Dreams" are dead even in my book but I gave the nod to Jay-Z and Kanye for the way their verses complimented each other making it more of a "duet" in the true sense of the word.

Mixtape of the Year
The Nominees:
Purp & Patron by Game- Game teamed up with DJ Skee for two mixtapes in anticipation of The R.E.D. Album, but Purp & Patron was the stronger of the two thanks to great production by Nottz and Dre as well as appearances from Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross.
Elmatic by Elzhi- With the help of the Detroit rock group Will Sessions, Elzhi masterfully re-created Nas' classic debut album, Illmatic.
Semester Abroad by Kidz In The Hall- Long before the release of Occasion, Naledge and Double O put out some album-quality material on this mixtape such as "So Amazn" and "Moments", two of my favorite songs this year.
Covert Coup by Curren$y- Curren$y and Alchemist provided hip hop fans with some solid listening material on 4/20. In addition to the aforementioned collaboration with Freddie Gibbs, "The Type" featuring Prodigy was another standout.
And the winner is...Elmatic by Elzhi
Where a lot of MCs would have jacked the beats from Illmatic and freestyled over them, Elzhi and Will Sessions actually re-crafted the timeless album and put their own unique spin on it. The way Elzhi remakes the songs to reflect his own life experiences is brilliant as is his lyricism and delivery throughout the tape.

Verse of the Year
The Nominees:
Elzhi on "It Ain't Hard to Tell"
Best Line: "Robberies of liquor stores/Tricks and whores/Reality sick as yours/So I blow trees stronger than Sycamores."
Game on "Mama Knows"
Best Line: "But that ain't stop me/Pretending I was Apollo from Rocky/Workin on my dip game/Now nobody wanna box me"
Nas on "Nasty"
Best Line: "Maserati/Bumpin Biggie the great legend/Blastin/I'm after the actress that played Faith Evans."
Kanye West on "The Joy"
Best Line: "This beat deserves Hennessy/A bad bitch/And a big of weed/The holy trinity."
And the winner is...Kanye West on 'The Joy"
Kanye's verses on the Pete Rock-produced bonus track on Watch The Throne were pure genius and some of the best rapping of his career. I actually went back and forth on which of Kanye's two verses on this track was actually the verse of the year because either could have won. He flows perfectly over Pete's slow, soulful instrumental and drops hilarious and well-thought-out bars throughout his verses.

Producer of the Year
The Nominees:
Big Jerm- I don't know much about Big Jerm but he did some stellar work on the boards this year for Wiz Khalifa and his Yinzer counterpart, Mac Miller. His beat for Wiz, Curren$y, and Big Sean's "O.T.T.R." was one of the best instrumentals this year.
Big K.R.I.T.- The rapper/producer made a splash this year in both areas but his beat-making stood out as he produced the hit "Country Shit (Remix)" with Bun B and Ludacris as well as T.I.'s new single "I'm Flexin'".
No I.D.- No I.D. had a hand in the two best-produced albums this year, Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne and Common's The Dreamer, The Believer which he produced in its entirety.
Double O- Double O's musical creativity was a major factor in all of the great music that Kidz In The Hall dropped in 2011 including a nominee for best mixtape and best album.
And the winner is...No I.D.
This one was sort of a no brainer. Between Hov and Kanye's "Primetime", the entire Common album, and the best moments from Big Sean's debut album, Chicago legend No I.D. had by far the greatest impact of any producer in 2011.

Beat of the Year
The Nominees:
"Ni**as in Paris" produced by Hit-Boy & Kanye West- Despite the simple, minimalist melody, this became the most popular beat of 2011 thanks to the banging percussion and heavy bassline, not to mention the hilarious "Blades of Glory" movie samples.
"Martians Vs. Goblins" produced by Brody Brown, Lamar Edwards, & Laranee Dopson- This might be the busiest instrumental of the year but Edwards and Dopson of 1500 Or Nothin and Brody Brown pull it off exceptionally well. The main attraction here is the heavy synth bass al a Dead Prez's "Bigger Than Hip-Hop" but listen closely and you can hear violins and choirs and a whole host of weird noises that help make this one of the best, most unique beats of the year.
"I'm A Boss" produced by Jahlil Beats- This Meek Mill anthem was right up there with "Ni**as In Paris" as far as the most freestyled-over beat of 2011. Jahlil Beats provides the track that combines what has become the signature MMG sound with what sounds sort of like the old NBA on NBC theme song.
"Ghetto Dreams" produced by No I.D.- In what was the standout moment for the producer of the year, No I.D. uses an off-tune piano sample, hard snare drums, and a horn section that would make Pete Rock blush. To top it off, the hook makes use of scratches of both Nas and Common, the track's two artists.
Honorable Mention: "Mama Knows" produced by Pharrell,"Tupac Back" produced by Mike Will, "Gotta Have It" produced by The Neptunes & Kanye West, "Anti Freeze" produced by Swiff D, "Player of the Century" produced by Double O, "Born In The Trap" produced by DJ Premier, "The Motto" produced by T-Minus.
And the winner is..."Ni**as in Paris" produced by Hit-Boy & Kanye West
It was close between this and "I'm A Boss" but you can't go anywhere these days without hearing the bass from "Ni**as in Paris" blasting out of someone's car window. I even heard the panel members of ESPN's "Around The Horn" singing this beat during a commercial break and most of those guys are 50 year old white men.

Album of the Year
The Nominees:
Watch The Throne by Jay-Z & Kanye West- The much anticipated collaboration between two hip hop giants lived up to and exceeded my expectations.
The R.E.D. Album by Game- Game's fourth album was hit or miss but had a number of terrific songs including "Mama Knows", "Ricky", and "Heavy Artillery" featuring Beanie Sigel and Rick Ross.
Occasion by Kidz In The Hall- Definitely one of the most fun albums of 2011, Occasion was chock-full of party anthems.
The Dreamer, The Believer by Common- The legendary Chi-town rapper-producer duo of Common and No I.D. reunited for what has to be Common's best album in at least ten years.
Honorable Mention: Take Care by Drake, Sideline Story by J. Cole, Greatest Story Never Told by Saigon, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them by Blu & Exile.
And the winner is...Watch The Throne by Jay-Z & Kanye West
Even though all of these were very solid albums, none of them really stood a chance against Jay-Z and Kanye's epic masterpiece. Watch The Throne was brilliantly produced from start to finish and featured some of Jay and Kanye's finest work on the mic in years. This is not only the album of the year, but the best album in the PropsOverHere era.

Song of the Year
The Nominees:
"Ni**as in Paris" by Jay-Z & Kanye West- The second single off of the album of the year set the hip hop world on fire.
"Nasty" by Nas- Nas' newest single displayed his incredible flow and lyricism and proved that the wiley veteran is still on top of his game.
"I Do" by Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, & Andre 3000- In a track that's immediately reminiscent of Outkast's "International Player's Anthem", producer M16 flips the "Overnight Celebrity" sample with a Southern flavor that's fitting for Young Jeezy. As far as I know, this is the first time that rap legends Jay-Z and Andre 3000 have been on a track together which gives this one some bonus points even though their verses weren't particularly good.
"Ghetto Dreams" by Common & Nas- Two legends team up to rap about bitches over a nasty No I.D. instrumental.
Honorable Mention: "Mama Knows" by Game, "Pour It Up" by Kidz In The Hall, Bun B, & David Banner, "Enemies" by Saigon, "Dreams Money Can Buy" by Drake, "Otis" by Jay-Z & Kanye West, "O.T.T.R." by Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, & Big Sean, "Anti Freeze" by Pac Div.
And the winner is..."Ni**as in Paris" by Jay-Z & Kanye West
With respect to Nas and Common, who continue to get shafted, I can't justify calling anything else the song of the year. No song has been so widely accepted from the hood to the burbs maybe since "In Da Club" came out, and that shit went quadruple platinum.

Artist of the Year
The Nominees:
Curren$y- Spitta killed it in 2011 putting out a bunch of solid mixtapes including Covert Coup, Weekend At Burnies, and Verde Terrace, all of which are definitely worth a listen.
Kidz In The Hall- Starting with "So Amazn", Naledge and Double O put out a lot of great music this year including the terrific "Brain Candy" series and the full-length album, Occasion.
Game- Game had a prolific and successful year, dropping two great mixtapes with DJ Skee and one of the best albums of the year.
J. Cole- The up-and-comer and Roc Nation signee had a very solid debut release with The Sideline Story and his "Any Given Sunday" mixes included gems such as "How High" and "Unabomber".
And the winner is...Game
Though all of these candidates were deserving, Game was the rapper that put out more good hip hop music than anyone else this year. His Purp & Patron and Candy Corornas mixtapes were two of the best this year and the much anticipated The R.E.D. Album far exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations.

So there you have it. Congrats to the big winners and props to all the artists that helped make 2011 a great year for rap music. See you all next year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Album Review: Kidz In The Hall-"Occasion"


Kidz In The Hall are one of my favorite new groups in hip-hop but I wasn't enamored with either of their last two albums, The In Crowd and Land of Make Believe. Despite their underwhelming releases since signing with Duck Down, I'm excited to hear this album because Naledge and Double O have been on a roll recently with the "Brain Candy" series and this album's pair of infectious singles, "Break It Down" and "Pour It Up". Does Occasion meet my high expectations or will the Kidz let me down again?

1. Real Life

An upbeat intro with heavy bass kicks, 808's, and synths out the ass. Naledge provides his signature braggadocios raps to top it off. So far, so good.

2. Occasion

A very mainstream sounding party anthem of sorts. I could see this getting some spins on the radio but then again I haven't listened to the radio in years.

3. Break It Down

This was the first single off the album and with good reason. The brilliant use of the Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O Mine" sample and thumping bass line make this one of the best songs to drop this year.

4. That Good (Feat. Esthero)

Speaking of mainstream sounding, this could just as easily be a Maroon 5 track. In my opinion these kinds of songs were the downfall of those last two albums but that probably has more to do with my propensity for '94 boom bap than anything. Or maybe this is just really gay.

5. Make It Up Tonight (Feat. Sulaiman)

Another song about going out and getting fucked up which apparently is the theme of this album.

6. Crash Dummy (Feat. Killa Kyleon)

Double O really went all out on this album. It's not even that the beats are so great but they all have crazy bass and drums and like twelve different synths that come and go at different times.

7. Pour It Up (Feat. Bun B & David Banner)

I listened to this on repeat when it came out and I still can't get enough of it. The bouncy instrumental is incredible and Naledge compliments it with one of his best verses evar. David Banner and Bun B, who was conspicuously absent from both the Drake and J. Cole albums, make guest appearances.

8. She's Smokin

Double O slows it down as Naledge hollas at his shorty. Maybe it's because I just reviewed Take Care, but this actually sounds like a Kidz In The Hall version of one of those Drake songs but with a robot auto-tune effect instead of the muffled, singing-in-a-tunnel effect. You know what I'm talking about.

9. Player of the Century (Feat. Freddie Gibbs)

Another slow-paced track, this one inspired by old school South beats complete with a chopped-and-screwed chorus. This was fucking great.

10. Star (Feat. Tabi Bonney & One Chance)

More raps about drinking and bitches over blaring trumpets. Not terrible but not a standout by any means, especially with the number of songs on this album that sound like this. However, it should be noted that Naledge manages to drop Bill Cartwright and Mookie Blaylock references in the same verse. Props.

11. Won't Remember Tonight (Feat. Marsha Ambrosius & Anton Genius)

Double O provides more horns for another one that could easily get lost amongst all these other songs about partying.

12. Friends

Another pop song, this one with a bizarre chorus. As much as I like the Kidz In The Hall in general I just can't get on board with shit like this.

13. Walk On Air

Basically the same deal here. It's a shame because Naledge spits fire but I can't appreciate it because I don't like this kind of music.

14. I Swear (Feat. Vic Spencer)

This is more like it. Naledge kills it over what kind of sounds like a louder, noisier version of Drake's "Fear". And I'll fuck with anything that sounds anything like that song.

15. Pledge (Feat. Curren$y & Mikkey Halsted)

This one has been out for a while now but it's a good one. There were a few tracks on the Semester Abroad tape that I liked more but I guess they chose this one because its got Curren$y on it.

16. Here Now (Feat. Anton Genius)

This isn't bad, but as far as upbeat synth tracks about how they "made it" go, this is only like the fourth best one on this album.

Overall: Occasion definitely had its moments but it didn't live up to the quality of the first couple singles and some of the other music they've put out in the past year. As long as they make alternative, pop sounding shit there's just no chance that I'll be able to completely get into a Kidz In The Hall album. That said, throw this shit on at a pre-game and you're good to go. I guess that's the point.

Best Songs: "Pour It Up", "Break It Down", "I Swear"