The homegrown trio from Minneapolis dropped a fourth-quarter EP that showcased many of the likable aspects of the group: relaxed beats, smooth, yet intricate, lyrics, and a fun, easygoing musical atmosphere. They might make it sound like creating music this enjoyable is an easy process — but if you thought that, you’d be wrong.
9. Guante & Big Cats!: Start A Fire EP
Guante’s lyrics may not fit into the “listen to it anytime anywhere” category, but it’s hard to ignore the skill he brings to the table. On the production side, Big Cats! emerged as 2009’s unheralded star. His patience in letting each song develop gradually, as seen in “The Calm,” allows each track to breathe before the fiery Guante tears it apart.
Tru Ruts scored with yet another excellent release in 2009, this time from some local youngsters. But don’t overlook Chantz and Cory Grindberg because they’re relatively new to the scene, their music boasts a maturity seldom seen by artists twice their age. These two should be making waves in the Twin Cities for years to come.
7. F. Stokes & Lazerbeak: Death of a Handsome Bride (Review)
We all know what Lazerbeak can do to an instrumental. This EP, however, was the F. Stokes show. The Chicago/Madison rapper has a — dare I say it? — Kanye-esque ability to unite gospel and blues, tragedy and triumph, in his lyrics. Put this over ‘Beak’s lava bangers, and you’ve got yourself one soulful duo. The two should be putting out a full-length sometime in 2010.
“You can catch up with the rest of my best of,” Slug declared on ”Smart Went Crazy,” off You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having. Slug, we’d love to do so, but it’s not easy when you keep making ‘Best Of’ lists on a seemingly annual basis. No surprise with this pick.
5. Brother Ali: The Truth Is Here EP
Ali’s warm up to Us was an underwhelming effort. This is a testament to the standards he’s created for himself when a poor performance still lands you the fifth best EP of 2009. “The Believer” was one of my most played songs of 2009, and there were a few other solid tracks on this EP. But, in all reality, everyone was waiting for the full-length.
This was my sleeper release of 2009. The Tribe and Big Cats! put together am unhyped, little-supported EP that ended up being one of the more sincere, passionate projects of the year. Raise your glasses, everyone, to the Do-It-Yourself method.
3. Slum Village: Villa Manifesto EP
Things have never come easy for Slum Village; we all know about the tragic losses of J Dilla and Baatin (R.I.P.). The group just seems to keep things moving, however. And in spite of the ever-changing group dynamics, they just keep pumping out first-rate music.
Despite changing their name, Blueprint and Illogic still kept their style intact for this EP. Both members’ slow but purposeful lyricism remains contemplative and firm, and Blueprint is still one of the most overlooked producers in hip-hop (maybe because he doesn’t exactly kick out material at a break-neck pace). In this case, consistency was rewarded with one of 2009’s most thorough releases.
1. Doomtree: False Hopes XV
With each release, every member of this group continues to evolve and improve. In particular, Mike Mictlan has never sounded better. Their uncompromising style has resulted in some of hip-hop’s most innovative music in recent years. Don’t sweat the technique, fella.