Saturday, January 23, 2010

Last Night's Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards Incident

Many of you may know that last night's Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards were unfortunately cut short due to an untimely and unnecessary fight. Being in the position that I am — manager of a TC/Midwest hip-hop blog with a modest readership, active participant in the Twin Cities hip-hop scene, and friend/acquaintance/business partner/associate with many of the artists who attended the event last night — I felt particularly obliged to write something about what took place. However, I sat down several times throughout the day, attempting to string together some coherent thoughts about the altercation, and couldn't come up with much worthwhile. I was not there last night, and thus felt uninformed and not ready to jump to conclusions about people or specific events.

I will make a few, more general statements, though:

First, these things do happen, but usually don't have to happen. It appears as if multiple bad decisions were made by multiple people, and these judgments snowballed into one unwarranted, avoidable incident. Violence is never the best way to go about resolving disagreements, and it is even more inappropriate in specific situations. This was one of those situations. David Powell spent countless time and energy putting this event together. It was at the First Ave Mainroom, people. The entire Twin Cities hip-hop scene was on display last night at the premier music venue in Minnesota, and we embarrassed ourselves. This does not reflect well on the prospects of future events of a similar nature. In the future, I hope people think twice before acting so brazenly, and damaging the reputation of everyone else who was supporting a worthy cause.

Second, I have never heard of the individuals who were involved in the fight last night. My position at Midwest Broadcast by no means guarantees that I will know everyone in the Twin Cities scene. However, I like to think that I blog about, or at least am aware of, most the artists doing good things for the Twin Cities scene. In my opinion, if you start a fight at the Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards, you are not doing good things for the movement. But keep in mind that while this one incident was, more or less, a "disaster," we should not let it diminish the greater purpose of last night's show. There are countless artists, managers, promotes, bloggers, etc. helping unite the Twin Cities hip-hop scene. They are who last night's event was for, and we'll continue to honor and respect their efforts. One clown don't stop the show.

Third, it is important to have open communication and honest opinion being put forth, to not only challenge artists but to commend and support them. I hope that in 2010 Midwest Broadcast can evolve to be a platform for some of that discussion. Comment on this post and let it be known what you think about last night, about the Twin Cities scene, and whatever else is on your mind. For the Twin Cities hip-hop scene to unite and become a truly interconnected community, an open discussion needs to be started. There are countless ways to link up these days, and the blog world can be just one of many forums. I hope people begin using it to its full potential. Obviously, there seem to be several issues that need resolutions.

Fourth, and finally, let's move on. Like I alluded to, there are plenty of beautiful people creating beautiful music in the Twin Cities. We have a very dedicated fan base in the Twin Cities that in many ways separates us from other markets. Furthermore, the intimate fan-artist dynamic is one final thing that makes the Twin Cities, in my opinion, one of the nation's best music scenes. 2010 figures to be a big year, and we still have the majority of the year to right our wrongs. Let's get moving on the right path again.

To peace and progress.

Now that I've said my two cents, I'd like to dedicate the rest of the post to Franz Diego, who, earlier today, wrote an assessment of last night's fight and heartfelt assessment of where we are at as a community right now. He posted it on Facebook and on Frank 151, and graciously granted me permission to repost his words here. Below is a YouTube video of the fight and Franz's letter.

Via Franz Diego:
I have been debating all night and morning what statements I should make about this event and what happened. I have been very upset and saddened by it all so let me try and break it down.

1. People must recognize the efforts and intentions of the folks behind the Awards, namely Depth, who has busted his ass for more than 4 years to put it on with very little help and still sells it out every year.

2. What had been created with the awards was a whole new crowd that has not been seen in over a decade in Minnesota hip hop. What do I mean? Packed venues full of beautiful brown folks celebrating Minnesota hip hop and culture. The press rarely covers it because they don’t understand how difficult it is, it is a feat in itself.

3. I don’t blame First Ave security for their response, because the folks having the issues were not communicating properly and should have taken the proper steps to diffuse the situation.

4. There was LOVE there last night and lots of it, please don’t let one persons poor choices taint what was actually taking place.

Now let me try and recount to you what took place last night.

I arrived with my crew early to hit the red carpet around 845 pm and there was already a significant amount of people there. We mingled, got interviewed by KMOJ, got photographed, networked and caught up with people we havent seen.

There were people from all backgrounds and facets of the Minnesota hip hop community, managers,
promoters, djs, graffiti writers, fans, friends, families, Rhymesayers artist, Doomtree artists, Northsiders, Southsiders, folks from St. Paul, producers, community organizers, youth workers ,the list goes on....

People, this does not happen regularly and I think thats what folks need to understand. Minnesota is extremely segregated when it comes to hip hop and nightlife. And when I say segregated I mean that in all senses of the term, race, culture, economic background, geographically, down to the press coverage of it. So you have to understand I was very happy and high off the people buzzing around and seeing all these new faces and old alike.

Anyways, the night was moving rather smoothly for the ambitiousness of it all, that being to try and award an extremely diverse and segregated community of people and not have folks get upset and try to mess things up.

I must tell you at this point, early on, a scuffle had already occurred, of which was directly in front of me but the people along with security took charge of the situation and stopped it and people moved forward.

At this time, Boima Freeman, the host yelled very loudly over the microphone, "NO FIGHTING, THERE WILL BE NO FIGHTING TONIGHT, IF THERE IS, WER'E ALL GONNA BEAT YOUR ASS AND THROW YOU OUT!" He also said this on into the night a few more times to make the point clear.

So, the night progressed. Performances took place, awards were given, more interviews, more photos, more networking and the crowd! Oh the crowd! It was packed full of brown folks, with a mix of eveyone else, but I have to reiterate it was very beautiful and gave me a lot of hope that maybe we can turn this scene around and maybe we can be more together and break down some barriers. Maybe right?

Well, here’s what happened.

Just before my crew Illuminous 3 was getting on stage, there was a minor technical difficulty that the stage hands and folks were fixing so we could perform. However it was not communicated to the host that the performance could not take place as scheduled until the problem was fixed, so the hosts anounces us: "AND NOW TO THE STAGE: ILLUMINOUS 3!" well, we weren’t ready, the problem was still being fixed, so we were just off stage behind the speakers.

So this is when the skills of being a true host come into play. Stalling. He needed to buy some time while the difficulties were being smoothed out and being known as a comedian, he went into joking with the crowd, as a host should.

Well, here comes a random guy onto the stage who grabs a mic and just starts yelling stuff. Now here’s where things get hairy; I dont know who that guy was or how he got back stage to get on to the actual stage but it happened, and this may be a fault of the security, I dont know, I don’t have the information. Regardless, the man was not supposed to be there, but the problem was that it was very hard to tell if it was an act, or random situation that the host was trying to remedy with humor, either way, the host started sort of roasting the guy and the guy seemed to take it alright, I guess... But then the Host got upset that the man was not leaving and started calling for security, yelling it out loud repeatedly, but still, it appeared as if he was joking, he did not change his demeanor or tone of voice, it just seemed like a joke.

Next thing I know, they get closer and the host is swinging on the man and then all hell breaks loose people rush security and the stage, grab bottles and other objects and just start punching and kicking.

Well, security gets in eventually, separates folks, the curtains come down, mics unplugged and everyone is just kind of confused what just happened.

Here’s what happened. One person's actions, or depending on how you look at it, 2 peoples action destroyed the entire event and evening for everybody, as well as the reputation of these sort of events at a place like First Ave.

My disappointment is directed at the host who is always the number one person in control at an event, the control the crowd, how folks are feeling and keep things right and moving. To me, what he did was panic, in a situation where he did not know what to do, he did one of the poorest things possible and used violence. If he really needed security he could of walked over to them, who were all over on both sides of the stage and told them that they need to take him off, he could of grabbed the organizers of the event and had him addressed, there were certain alternatives that he did not use.

The host was the same person yelling earlier in the night that they would not tolerate fighting, the number one person in the building that night advocating non-violence was the person who got in a fight and sabotaged the night.

And for this poor decision, we have all suffered, a beautiful coming together of people celebrating our own culture, which very seldom happens in a place like Minnesota, sabotaged by the actions of few.

I am so personally hurt by this because I have seen the beauty of this community, since I entered into it as a young teenager. I have been so welcomed, guided and taken care of by so many people in this city under the umbrella of hip hop culture that it is a part of me and I want to reciprocate it. We need events like these, we need to grow and celebrate and share and network and show off and have fun, we need that more desperately now than ever. But people have to understand the value of that first and until they do, we will continue to have problems such as these.

I know that people will have things to say to me about this, good and negative, I know I dont have all the facts and I am not here to attack people or start beef or anything. But I need to let folks know what I saw from my perception because when it hits the rumor mill and the press, its garaunteed that they will mess it up. If I am wrong correct me. Talk to me, I’m available.

I send love to everyone who showed up, got nominated, performed, presented awards, photographed, interviewed, filmed, danced, promoted, or organized at the event last night. Lets remember what was taking place before things got bad, but let us also understand why things got bad so we can prevent it in the future.

Franz Diego

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards

It took me long enough to post about this. But, if you have some free time tomorrow night, which you will, because it's Friday, head on over to the First Ave mainroom to catch the Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards. Tons of great performers, and plenty of awards to present; should be a great night.

And someone send me an email if I win "TC Best Documentarian," for which Midwest Broadcast got nominated, okay?

Abstract Pack: "That's Life"

Last time I wrote a post about Abstract Pack, I was announcing their first album in over a decade, Ear-Responsible. The album will be out in the spring, but here is the first single from that release.

Common: "Next Time" (Prod. Kanye West)

An unreleased Common track, produced by none other than Kanye West. Duh. Round of applause to Andrew at Fake Shore Drive.

You know how Com and 'Ye do, they do it for the people!

RDM: "Rock To Tha Beat" + "Hatin' On Me"

Twin Cities veteran rapper and member of Abstract Pack, RDM (if you don't know, now you know), is working on his debut solo album, Priorities. Here are the first two leaks from that project.

Naledge & Willie The Kid: "Midwest Kush"

This track will be featured on DJ MoonDawg's Midwest Kush 2 mixtape, coming out on Friday. If you want the first installment of the mixtape series, you can find it here. Thanks to DJ Moon Dawg for sending this my way.

Heidi Barton: The Familiar Pattern EP (Free Download)

Heidi Barton is a transgender rapper from Minneapolis, who just released The Familiar Pattern EP for free download. Here is the press release for that project:
Transgender HipHop artist Heidi Barton Stink grew up in south Minneapolis where the themes of struggling with gender identity and addiction became prevalent in her life and art. After coming out as trans she released The Familiar Pattern EP.

The lyrical content of The Familiar Pattern EP comes not only from a fresh perspective as far as traditional hiphop is corncerned but it also represents voices that aren't normally heard in mainstream gay culture. Shying away from the sexualized lyrics and party songs that have been a staple of "HomoHop," Heidi's songs hit on topics such as the lack of inclusion and visibility of gender variant people's needs in the mainstream ("Direct Action") addiction ("Pick your Poison") and the shame a transgender-queer faces growing up in a gender-normative "liberal" city ("Love Who"). Heidi's beats, like her verbal style have a wide range; from the warm positive midwestern style, experimental electro-pop to east coast epic with production by Homo-Hop MC/Comedian Soce The Elemental Wizard on the song "Direct Action".
Heidi Barton: The Familiar Pattern EP

Intuition: "Buzzkill ft. Slug"

Intuition is a Los Angeles group I have never heard of before. However, they got Slug to make a guest appearance on this track, and I like it quite a bit. Their upcoming album, Girls Like Me, will be out on January 26. Link via 2DopeBoyz. I see you too Pwelbs.

Dessa: "The Chaconne" (Live on 89.3 The Current)

Dessa, along with Aby Wolf and Jeremy Messersmith perform "The Chaconne" live in the studios of 89.3 The Current.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Soundset 2010 Announcement...

Photo courtesy of the Soundset Blog

Exciting news regarding Soundset 2010 was announced today. It will return to Canterbury Park on May 30, 2010. I had my doubts about the locale last year, as being in the heart of Minneapolis at the Dome was pretty great for the inaugural Soundset. However, Canterbury put on a great festival, and I expect more of the same for this year.

No lineup yet, but I'm positive Rhymesayers will give you plenty of time to whet your appetite.

Toki Wright, Omaur Bliss, and Haziq Ali: The Black Belt Tour 2010

Check the website. Tour dates are as follows:

2.19.10 - Lake Worth, FL - Propaganda
2.25.10 - Duluth, MN - Pizza Luce (All ages)
2.26.10 - Fargo, ND - The Aquarium (21+)
2.27.10 - Sioux Falls, SD - Club David (21+)
3.1.10 - Omaha, NE - The Waiting Room
3.2.10 - Lincoln, NE - TBA
3.3.10 - Des Moines, IA - Vaudeville Mews (All ages)
3.4.10 - La Crosse, WI - The Warehouse (All ages)
3.6.10 - Chicago, IL - Reggies Record Breakers (21+)
3.7.10 - Minneapolis, MN - The Fineline Music Cafe (21+)

P.O.S.: PinBoard Interview (Video)

Props to 2DopeBoyz for digging this up.

Aziz Ansari's Night Out with Kanye West (Video)

A few blogs posted audio of this yesterday, but Nah Right got a rip of the video footage. It's really pretty hillarious.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lupe Fiasco & Kenna: "Resurrection" (Haiti Benefit Song)

Lupe and fellow mountain climber Kenna teamed up with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park, who produced this song, lent this unreleased track to Music For Relief to raise money for Haiti. If you download the song or compilation at the above website, make sure to donate. Your money will aid Haiti by providing water, food, emergency medical supplies, and more to the ailing nation.

Dessa's 'A Badly Broken Code' Reaches #11 on iTunes Rap Charts

(Click to enlarge)

Congrats to Dessa! Purchase A Badly Broken Code at the Doomtree store or on the iTunes store to keep it moving up the charts!

Big Sean: "Million Dollars" (Music Video)

Big Sean can be a very hit or miss artist with me, but I enjoy this song quite a bit. Sean's upcoming album, Finally Famous, currently is suffering from the all too common problem of having no release date.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Skol Vikings!

Just in case there was any doubt where my allegiances lie.

UPDATE: Vikings 34, Cowboys 3. On to the next one.

UPDATE #2: Purple Reign

P.O.S.: "Yeah Right" (Music Video)

Doomtree just uploaded the video for P.O.S.' track off Audition to their YouTube. Not sure if it's been out already, but I don't think I've ever seen it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dessa: "Dixon's Girl" (Music Video)

Here's a video to match Dessa's lead single from the upcoming A Badly Broken Code.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lupe Fiasco: "I'm Beaming" (Prod. The Neptunes)

Lupe's second single off Lasers finally gets an official release, after the mishap that took place last time. The beat on this version is altered slightly from the original leak. I actually prefer the original, but the differences are fairly minimal. Either way, Lupe's in top form on this song. Hopefully the rest of the album can be this strong, and we'll have a 2010 album of the year contender.

Semicolon, closed parentheses.

Lupe Fiasco: "I'm Beaming (Prod. The Neptunes)"

UPDATE: I got a DMCA Takedown notice from whoever regulates that sort of thing. Apparently Lupe and Atlantic still can't resolve their differences, so hopefully you guys caught the download (a fairly large number of you did), because it's only up for streaming now.

Rhymefest: "Say Wassup ft. Phonte" + "How High ft. Little Brother"

Here are two songs from Rhymefest's ever delayed, yet unreleased El Che. They come in one zip file via DJ RTC of Ruby Hornet. Clap for him.

Heiruspecs Live at the Triple Rock 12/26/09 (Audio Download)

Heiruspecs had their Home For The Holidays show at the Triple Rock on December 26, 2009. I unfortunately was not able to go because I left town, but Empty's Tapes was able to gather some very high quality recordings of a few songs they played. Thanks to Eric of Heiruspecs for sending these over to me, as I missed the original post.

Also, I think it's worth mentioning that Heiruspecs is funding a scholarship to help one lucky high school student attend college to study arts. They're putting on a concert at their alma mater Central High School on February 25, and proceeds go towards that cause. Felix makes this announcement at the start of Heiruspecs' "It Was A Good Day (Remix)," below. That's a very good look for the band.

Abstract Pack: "Skills ft. Big Jess"

Minneapolis' Abstract Pack is returning from a decade-long hiatus to release their long awaited album Ear-Responsible in 2010. Though the album won't be out until springtime, the group is beginning their promo push right now. First is the track "Skills" featuring Big Jess of Unknown Prophets (the song was also on Jess' Whatever I Want mixtape). Then, on January 17, the lead single from Ear-Responsible, "That's Life," will be released. So stay tuned.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Justin Timberlake Beatboxing for Brother Ali (Video)

So just a few minutes ago I saw Brother Ali post a funny story on Twitter. Last night he and BK-One put on the first ever hip-hop show at a historic bar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. During the set, Justin Timberlake jumped on stage and started beatboxing. Ali didn't recognize him at first, but BK pointed out who he was, and Ali freestyled to JT's beatboxing for a while. The video below captured the moment, but with very poor audio quality. However, Jake at Rhymesayers announced that better footage will be available soon (the guy is even more on top of his YouTube searching than me! Props).

Paper Tiger: "Random Stack" 20 Minute Mix

Doomtree's Paper Tiger put together yet another 20 Minute Mix. This time it's a bit of a potpourri, if you will, just a collection of random songs Paper Tiger felt like blending. Enjoy!

Eyedea & Abilities To Tour North America

E&A will be hitting the road later this month to embark on a North American tour in support of their recent comeback release By The Throat. The duo has always been known for their live shows. Eyedea always delivers an unorthodox, quirky performance, while DJ Abilities is the constant of the group, awing fans with his unmatched turntable skills. Rhymesayers artists' tours have recently been putting Madison, WI at the tail end of every tour. I'll surely be at that show.
Tour Dates:
1/28 - Duluth, MN - Pizza Luce
1/29 - Minneapolis, MN - Augsburg College
1/31 - Missoula, MT - The Palace
2/1 - Spokane, WA - The Blvd
2/2 - Calgary, AB - Republik
2/3 - Edmonton, AB - The Brixx Bar and Grill
2/5 - Vancouver, BC - The Biltmore Cabaret
2/6 - Seattle, WA - Nectar Lounge
2/7 - Portland, OR - Hawthorne Theatre
2/8 - Eugene, OR - WOW Hall
2/10 - San Francisco, CA - Bottom of the Hill
2/11 - Los Angeles, CA - Echoplex
2/12 - Scottsdale, AZ - Chasers
2/13 - Flagstaff, AZ - Green Room
2/15 - Albuquerque, NM - Launchpad
2/16 - Denver, CO - The Marquis Theatre
2/18 - Lawrence, KS - Jackpot Saloon
2/19 - St. Louis, MO - Firebird
2/20 - Madison, WI - High Noon Saloon

The Prof & Rahzwell Show (Episode 2)

Featuring guest appearances from Sims and Lazerbeak. I mistakenly neglected to post episode 1, which you can view here.

Mod Sun: "Keep It Moving ft. P.O.S."

Mod Sun is an artist from Suburbia, Minnesota, whose name stands for Movement On Dreams, Stand Under None. Something about this guy strikes me with an aura of upper-middle class entitlement (one of his Myspace vlogs features him road tripping in his pimped out Escalade), but who am I to judge? Honestly, though, I'm only posting this song because P.O.S. spits an absolute gem of a guest verse. The track is from Mod Sun's The Hippy Hop EP, out on January 15. Link via Pwelbs/2DopeBoyz.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brother Ali & The Roots at the Okayplayer 2009 Holiday Jammy (Video + Audio)

Here's better quality footage (compared to the previous video) of Brother Ali and The Legendary Roots crew performing together at the Okayplayer 2009 Holiday Jammy. Brother Ali kicks things off with "The Trap" (from Off The Record) before Black Thought rips through the same verse he performed with Clipse last night on Jimmy Fallon (maybe new verses from How I Got Over?). Then, Ali closes the session out by rapping verse one from "The Travelers." There's also an audio download at the bottom of the post, with some additional freestyles. Two of the best live emcees in hip-hop — doesn't get much better than that.

All of this is courtesy of It's All The Way Live. Give props where they're due.

DOWNLOAD -- Brother Ali & The Roots at the Okayplayer 2009 Holiday Jammy

Toki Wright: "Devil's Advocate" (Live)

I'm turning in a serious overdue late pass with this post, as Toki Wright's concert at the University of Wisconsin - Madison's student union was something like a month and a half ago. Here is footage of "Devil's Advocate," with more to come as well.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mike Swoop: "No Go Die!"

Here's the lead single from Mike Swoop's upcoming album, New Love. Also, don't forget that Swoop is hosting Last of the Record Buyers on January 21.

Acebandage, Aeon Grey, & Daniel Heavens: BandageYourHeavensGrey EP (Free Download)

A few moments ago I posted Manned Missiles' 2DMan EP. Here's the second free EP of the day from Central Standard Records. This one came with no official artwork, so I just posted a picture of Aeon Grey.
The BandageYourHeavensGrey EP is a collaboration between Acebandage, Aeon Grey and Daniel Heavens. Four songs composed over an eight hour time period, it is a spontaneous piece of work created in Des Moines Iowa. Travelling through the Midwest Bandage and Daniel found themselves on Iowa highways with no real destination but home. Stopping in Des Moines for a quick rest turned into an overnight marathon of writing and recording. All lyrics were written and recorded during the stay over production provided by Acebandage and Aeon.
Acebandage: Aeon Grey, & Daniel Heavens: BandageYourHeavensGrey EP

Wide Eyes: "Hands Tied"

Twin Cities group Wide Eyes released their most recent album, Hands Tied, back on December 15, 2009. Clearly, I'm a little behind on this one. However, below is a download link to the title track off that project. I should be posting a review of the album relatively soon. The album is available for purchase at Fifth Element and other indie record stores around the Midwest.

Manned Missiles: 2DMan EP (Free Download)

Here is the first of two free EP releases from Iowa-based label Central Strandard Records:
The 2DMan EP is the first solo release by Manned Missiles (Jeff Blanchard, formerly of Cleo's Apartment). A D.I.Y. testament to what curiosity, caffeine, and a sizeable record collection can produce: an audio collage masterpiece that is dizzyingly brief and endlessly listenable, designed to occupy a sliver of a musical genre that encompasses comic-book funk, hip hop, 80’s electro, and Bossa Nova.
Manned Missiles: 2DMan EP

Get To Know Franz Diego (Video)

2BrokeBoyz got to spend some quality time with Franz at one of his favorite thrift stores. Unless you never check this site, you probably already know who Franz Diego is, but this video gives us the opportunity to learn more in depth about his worldview, style, and personal background.

Clavius Crates: "Classically Trained ft. Silas Green" (Live)

Clavius Crates and Silas Green (both of Tree City) recently visited Teddy Ruck-Spin's F.O.K.U.S. Radio show in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Tree City crew landed a spot on my Best Mixtapes of 2009 list with Black Trees (and were also on Flyover Land, Vol. 1); don't sleep on these guys.

The Cool Kids: "Free Throws" (Music Video)

New Year's blogging hiatus is over. Here's a video from The Cool Kids' Merry Christmas mixtape with Don Cannon.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Best of the Midwest 2009: Albums

Sorry for the delay. If it weren’t for the last minute, I’d never get anything done.

Honorable mentions: Royce Da 5’9”: Street-Hop; Blakroc: Blakroc; No Bird Sing: No Bird Sing; Tanya Morgan: Brooklynatti; Franz Diego: Franz Diego

15. Eyedea & Abilities: By The Throat

E&A threw us a changeup with By The Throat, and probably alienated a few of their more traditional fans. This album was not for everyone, and I admittedly did not enjoy it at first. After giving it a second chance — and third, and fourth — I came to appreciate the artistic risks that the group took. While not every song was a success (“Forgive Me For My Synapses,” “Factory”), the album’s better tracks compensated. In particular, “Smile” was one of the ten best songs of the year (and also the best music video).
14. Unknown Prophets: Le System D

Twin Cities veterans Unknown Prophets made a victorious return to the spotlight in 2009. Le System D uses no samples, is extremely guitar-driven, and features several sung choruses. But where you might think the album would stray from past releases from the Prophets, all their traditional trademarks still remain: passion, persistence, hard work, everyday life, struggles, triumphs.
13. Felt: Felt 3: A Tribute To Rosie Perez

With Aesop Rock riding shotgun on the third Felt album, this was their most ambitious and uneasy release yet. His production is haunting and schizophrenic, which did not necessarily make things easy for Slug and Murs. They couldn’t seem to find their comfort zone on several songs, and seem to be having less fun than on previous Felt records (aren’t Felt records supposed to be, more or less, lighthearted side projects?). Rosie Perez probably won’t come calling Slug or Murs anytime soon, but the record had enough terrific songs and punch lines to still merit repeated listens. Had they cut some of the fat from the 21-song tracklist, we would have been on to something.
12. Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon: End of Day

Of all the newcomers releasing debut albums in 2009 that XXL crusaded for, it was Kid Cudi who put together the best album, and sold the most records. All this from a hipster, emo, experimental, alternative, etc., kid from Cleveland. If the entire album sounded like the last three songs (“Pursuit of Happiness,” “Hyyerr,” “Up, Up and Away”), Man on the Moon would have fallen even higher on this list. Cudi taught us more than other “risk-takers” in 2009. Labels and genre classifications are often unfairly administered, and, perhaps taking a few chances isn’t such a bad idea after all.
11. Mally: The Passion

Mally exploded from the Minneapolis underground in 2009 with a hunger not yet seen from the new local crop of emcees. His album The Passion, produced entirely by Mydus, showcased his lyrical capability and versatility. Mally can black out on a track and spit straight for four minutes (“The Passion”) or lay in the cut and reflect on rap politics (“So Close”) and his place in the rap game (“Reflection”).
10. Toki Wright: A Different Mirror

Minneapolis’ finest one-man-live-band has been a fixture in the underground scene for some time now, and when it was time for Toki Wright to craft his debut LP, he made sure to do it right. With Rhymesayers on board and many of the Twin Cities’ finest producers laying the music backdrop, Toki told us stories that made us laugh, lament, and most importantly, think about ourselves and our worldview in a new light. Though Mr. Wright hardly is a rookie to the scene, he has all of us eagerly anticipating his next move.
9. dumate: We Have The Technology

What Heiruspecs is to the Twin Cities, dumate is to Madison. Those of you who have not heard this hip-hop quintet’s 2009 album missed out on one of the most intelligent albums of the year. Rappers Dudu Stinks and MC DLO provide intricate wordplay, while the band’s tight grooves mesh with samples from Man Mantis to create one astoundingly cohesive sound.
8. Illogic: Diabolical Fun

Illogic went on hiatus for a few years musically, but came back strong with the Ill-Poetic produced Diabolical Fun in 2009. Not only was this album arguably Ill Poetic’s best production to date, but Illogic sounded as motivated as ever, and ready to prove he still belongs in the upper echelon of rappers today. Full of critiques of the hip-hop industry and complex wordplay, Illogic’s first full-length in years was one of the year’s hidden gems.
7. Big Quarters: From the Home of Brown Babies and White Mothers (Review)

Brown Babies was one of the most consistent efforts of the year. Through both the lyrics and the production, the album maintains continuity start to finish, all with an uncompromising theme of grassroots work ethic. As explained on the chorus to “Good Look,” Medium Zach and Brandon Allday may have punished themselves through nonstop grinding, but their final product was one of the best local releases of 2009.
6. Mac Lethal: The Original 11:11 Sessions

Mac Lethal originally intended to release this album as his Rhymesayers debut, but went through a rough patch in his life, and decided that it was too dismal and somber of an album to put out. Finally released years later on Black Clover Records, The Original 11:11 Sessions is everything 11:11 was not. While 11:11 was at times fluffy, sarcastic, and unfocused, Mac’s initial creative output is heartfelt, passionate, and bitingly honest. One can clearly understand why this version was not released the first time through, but it’s an incredible piece of work.
5. Finale: A Pipe Dream and a Promise (Review)

A Pipe Dream and a Promise marked the official arrival of yet another truly gifted artist from Detroit. Featuring an incredibly solid production lineup for a debut album, the release is a polished-sounding product from start to finish. Finale, in following his dreams and pursuing a career in rap, reminds us once again that Detroit is a stronghold for much of the best hip-hop being created today; he will be an artist to follow for years to come.
4. BK-One with Benzilla: Radio Do Canibal

This album is both genius and amazing for a variety of reasons: 1) The lengths BK-One went to dig up — ahem — the samples used for this album; 2) Benzilla’s masterful (it won’t be easy to top beats this good) production work; 3) The fact that Rhymesayers could assemble such a superstar lineup of guests for an album by two local and relatively unheralded producers. How it all came together so impeccably is beyond me, all I know is that I can’t stop listening.
3. J Dilla: Jay Stay Paid

To me, this album is in a different class from most of the other non-Donuts posthumous Dilla releases. First, Ma Dukes Yancey played a prominent role in selecting and arranging Jay Stay Paid. Furthermore, the project was mixed down by one of Dilla’s biggest influences, Pete Rock. The final product? The best collection of the legendary J. Dilla’s production since Donuts, and an everlasting legacy to one of the greatest of all time.
2. P.O.S.: Never Better

When Stefon Alexander’s career is more complete, Never Better is the album that we will pinpoint as his springboard to being a nationwide star. Ironic, though, that it’s so inherently defiant. Rapping about the recession was a ubiquitous trend in 2009, but no one did it better than Pissed Off Stef. Music about the state of our government is as old as dirt, but P.O.S. took a fresh approach to it. In a time when pop artists are being churned out cookie-cutter style, P.O.S. emerged as our counter-culture hero. It just so happened that his outward resistance to the norm was so damn likeable. On “Optimist (We Are Not For Them),” P.O.S. sings, "We make our own and if they don't feel it, then we are not for them," before calmly adding, “And that’s cool.” Yes, yes it was.
1. Brother Ali: Us

Accept it or not: With each album, we all witness Brother Ali inch gradually closer to legendary status. Us is third damn-near perfect album of the decade. This time around, though, Ali took a different approach. Instead of turning the story inward — seriously, what don’t we know about him? — Ali wove his narratives together with the stories of others. Particularly interesting is the cyclical nature of the album: It ends the same way it begins. Similarly, where Ali’s stories end, so begins someone else’s; everything is interconnected. Because there’s no me and no you, it’s just Us.