In Rapsentia: Albums
This has been sitting unfinished on my hard drive for about a month, but here’s a quick rundown on some of the rap records that I was banging during my self imposed exile. It’s getting to be that time of year where everybody starts complaining about how bad of a year it was for rap and then I write about how I disagree. But this year has seen some particularly great albums drop  and I’m not just blowing smoke about Shawty Lo or whatever. Here are some quick notes on just a few from the summer.
Killer Mike – I Pledge Alligience To The Grind II (Grind Time/SMC, 2008)
Young Jeezy – The Recession (Def Jam, 2008)
Pretty much the one and two albums of the year from what I’ve heard. Gigantic, life altering, inspirational street music. There’s a youtube interview where Mike talks about trying to make an album of “Git Up, Git Out”s and I think he may have actually succeeded. Jeezy has been doing the same (unconsciously?) for his past three albums but he’s perfected it here. I can’t remember the last time I heard a rap album as personally affecting as either of these. It’s also interesting to hear these two once disparate rappers converge towards a midpoint. Jeezy’s getting more explicitly political and caring more about rapping, Mike’s moving further and further away from rapping for the sake of it/Outkast space funk towards harder, street shit. But despite the shared ideology (that ghetto gospel music) and sound (relatively speaking) such a gap of success remains. That Mike sold just 4k in his first week out is heartbreaking and I’m disappointed in all of you rap fans.  In a perfect world “Can You Hear Me” would’ve been this summer’s “Soul Survivor”. Maybe there is some credence to this “powers that be purposely keep conscious rap down” conspiracy theory talk after all. Or maybe people just don’t want to be shouted at by a dude named Killer.
Killer Mike – “Can You Hear Me?”
Young Jeezy – “Circulate“
CRAC Knuckles (Blu & Ta’raach) – The Piece Talks (Tres, 2008) 
A lot of my disdain for the post-natives/okayplayer head-rap is that those dudes are ripping off the wrong records by the right artists. All of the weird, creative, brilliant aspects of the Native Tongues movement got lost in translation. Instead they are cribbing notes from late period Native Tongues, taking cues from the De La record where they cried about what was wrong with rap for sixty minutes or imitating the Tribe album where they rapped about basically nothing.  Blu’s own Below The Heavens was some of the most tepid boom bap Fakes Is High rap I heard last year. On a purely mechanical level Blu is fairly talented , but his rapping is so pedantic and uninspiring on that record. Which is why linking him with a Dilla inspired weirdo like Detroit’s Ta’raach makes perfect sense: unhinged creativity x the shackles of technicality. So The Piece Talks is the exact opposite of Below The Heavens. It’s a bunch of rambling and goofy song sketches, with most songs rarely lasting more than two and a half minutes before they move onto the next idea. Both studio gangsters and the boho sect are mocked endlessly (though not necessarily despised). More than anything else out the Native’s camp I’d compare it to Jbeez Wit The Remedy, as entertaining as it is adventurous.
ABN (Z-Ro & Trae) – It Is What It Is (Rap-A-Lot, 2008)
This is basically as good as any group of artists not on speaking terms could make a record  But it’s frustrating because we’re left if they remained friends. (What happened to all of Ro’s “Trae’s an angel in my eyesight!” talk?) Also I think Rap-A-Lot’s completely dropped their
budget for sample clearances this year, because at least a few of these tracks have been remixed with synth presets instead of the slurred, screw tape style  soul tracks that drove the original mixes (which I’ve uploaded here for your pleasure).
 And albums disguised as mixtapes – see Lil Boosie, Playboy Tre, The Clipse.
 No excuses for broke rapidsharers. I bought my copy at the height of unemployment on the day it came out.
 OK, this came out well before I left I think, but it sat on my hard drive for a few months before I decided to give it a listen.
 Those records worked because Posdnous is the best rapper in the universe and Tip’s the most charismatic.
 Producer Exile is a beast too, but that record just didn’t add up.
 Well except maybe The Beatles, but Z-Ro > John Lennon.
 Real, actual DJ Screw tapes, not what people who heard “Still Tippin” a few times imagine Screw tapes to sound like.