"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Importance Of Not Bitching Over Twitter About A Rap List On Somebody Else’s Fucking Blog: 6 Albums That Should Have Made Passion's Top 50 Rap List

"Here I am in my smug, elitist contrarian troll glory! Witness the face of the enemy! Know thee and despair!"

“Zeus is a contrarian troll who debates not with facts and ideas but presumptions and sweeping character generalizations. He deserves nothing but my dismissal and condescension.” - Andrew Noz

A wise man once said (or a wise man I invented for the purpose of rhetorical device but I’m sure someone said something in vein. If not I said it and I’m definitely a “wise man.” No humble.) “there’s no sense in getting your panties bunched up about music lists. You look like a petulant child and the list is probably wrong, anyway.” Luckily, petulant man-childhood is the reigning philosophy of my life and due to my constant state of arrested development and immaturity, I have no qualms bitching about lists. It’s fun. After polling the crème de le crème of hip hop bloggers (including yours truly, bitches), Jeff Weiss and Jonathan Bradley have compiled a list of the Top 50 rap albums of the decade for Weiss’ blog, The Passion Of The Weiss.

While the list is most assuredly better and far more accurate than the brain trust at Pitchfork (or hell, even XXL) will inevitably trot at the end of the year, I couldn’t help but notice that my fellow bloggers inexplicably left off some of the better releases of the decade from the list, in favor, the works of Mike Skinner, extraneous MF Doom albums and mediocre Blu & Exile records. Clearly, this is unforgivably egregious and demands immediate remedy (over Twitter, of course). Luckily, my loyal readers, I am a man that has been gifted with “The Curse of Flawless And Impeccable Taste” so I will offer six records that warrant performance of the Cruciatus Curse upon my fellow bloggers for leaving them off. Consensus can be a motherfucker.

1. The Game – The Doctor’s Advocate (2006)

Jayceon Taylor is… let’s just say… a “complicated” man. To be more delicate, the Game is bat-shit fucking crazy. Of course, you wouldn’t know that had your only listening experience with the man been “The Documentary”, a record best described as “the Transformers 2 of rap music.” His record was an expensive, glossy over-produced rap record saved by the sheer amount of production talent, name-brand guests, and two monster 50 Cent-assisted singles. Game, however, was content to name-drop his way to mediocrity on his own album. You barely would have realized if he was there if he wasn’t staring at you, shirtless, on his own album cover.

The Doctor’s Advocate” coming in the wake of Game’s ejection out of G-Unit and divorce from Dr. Dre (and the cringe-inducing psychosis these events wrought on our hero) is nothing short of revelatory, however. Its an artistic birth for a rapper who remained a creative cipher on his debut album. Not only is Game’s rapping dramatically improved but the album plays like a twisted gangster rap version of “Rumors” or a violently uncomfortable love letter from a scorned stalker to the apple of his eye. Game spends the album raging savagely against those he feels did him wrong (real or imagined) and those who would dare to keep him down. Sure, the annoying name-dropping remains but so does the razor-sharp production and his rapping and song-writing improve upon his earlier work. The name-dropping seems even creepily in place considering songs like “Doctor’s Advocate” place Game firmly in the creepy stalker vein.

This record might be the most emo gangster rap record ever recorded but still it undeniably bangs. “Lookin’ At You”, “It’s Okay (One Blood)”, “Wouldn’t Get Far”, and “Remedy” are as well-executed as anything on “The Documentary” and the deeper cuts like “One Night” and “Why You Hate The Game” are deeply engaging. Game is flawed rapper and this is a flawed record but a vivid and entertaining one. Even if Game is thin shred of sanity away from boiling Dr. Dre’s rabbit in a pot.

2. Devin The Dude – Just Tryin’ Ta Live (2002)

No rapper catches the bittersweet pangs of everyman sad-sackitude quite like Devin Copeland. His melodic, melancholy voice and off-beat, weirdo cadence captures woe better than any instrument this side of Robert Johnson’s devil-infused guitar strings. The Dude is a simple man obsessed with simple things like cheap wine, cheaper women and weed that is way to fine to be cheap and “Just Tryin’ Ta Live” is his lonely magnum opus tribute to those three things. He’s been the lonely stoner freein’ his mind way back before Kid CuDi was getting high at the triangle cutting gym class in high school. (Word to my Shaker High heads! Trust me, they get the reference…)

Make no mistake, Devin the Dude is just as emo as anything that has passed the lips of Sean Daley but he has the uncanny ability to make you laugh hysterically at his problems and not want to punch him in the face (like anytime, somebody tries to convince me to re-evaluate an Atmosphere record) when you hear him gleefully croon rap on his record. Devin injects his music with the type of southern fried funk that rattles trunks in adjoining states that keeps his albums from falling into the traps of whine rap. Devin subverts expectations of what you expect from both a Houston rapper and an emo one by gleefully bragging about his problems like his busted, broken down car (“Lacville ‘79”), neighborhood bullies (“I-Hi”), and even somebody stealing your last bag of weed (“Doobie Ashtray.”) The latter song is one of the most oddly heartbreaking songs of quiet reflection, rap music has ever produced. It’s become something of a personal anthem as I stumble home drunk and lonely at 3 a.m. by myself. (Which happens way more than I’d care to admit).

Personally, I don’t feel you can go wrong with a record where the hero is more than willing to play the fool…repeatedly… at his own expense…repeatedly. If I were a drunken fuck-up from Houston this undoubtedly would be the record that I’d make.

3. Cage – Hell’s Winter (2005)

If you are a person that believes in the inherent truth in tropes than you might ascribe to the notion that devastating personal trauma is often the genesis for great music. In fact, you might ascribe to the notion that personal trauma is the only recipe for great music. So one must wonder why it took Cage nearly a decade into his fledgling rap career to make “Hell’s Winter,” a darkly confessional album that journeys into the heart of Cage’s horrifically troubled life?

On his debut album, “Movies For The Blind”, Cage crafts violent, horrorcore fantasy and on “Hell’s Winter”, we learn where the violent fantasies come from. Backed by the Def Jux all-stars dystopic production (Total Aside: Is there another way to describe El-P’s production style? I’m tired of writing dystopic when describing him.), Cage delves into his abusive childhood, his own rampant drug addiction and the deep-seated psychological problems that accompany it. “Too Heavy For Cherubs” describes the horrors of the indescribable abuse (and I really do mean indescribable…) he faced at the hands of his junkie drug-dealing father while “Stripes” describes the pain of being ripped away from the same father by the police. By the time we hear the defiant, mournful horns on the title track, we have been painted a vivid picture of an artist’s life and pain. Its breathtaking in its candid honesty. For an artist, best known prior to this album, as the rapper who claimed Eminem stole his style from him, its remarkably ironic that Cage made the best Eminem album since “The Marshall Mathers LP.”

4. Ludacris – Word Of Mouf (2001)

It’s a fallacy to claim that Ludacris’ does not have any classic albums because, in a lot of ways, “Word Of Mouf” is the Dirth South’s answer to Jay-Z’s “Vol. 2.” It is a record jam-packed with a litany of Dirty South rap singles that ruled the radio way back in the year of our lord, 2001. What album this decade do you know that features a better collection of trunk-rattling, club assaulting, jeep bass crushing bangers than “Word Of Mouf?” “Rollout (My Business)”, “Saturday (Oooh Oooh!)”, “Area Codes”, “Move Bitch”, “Growing Pains.” That’s a murderer’s row of motherfucking club singles if I ever saw one.

The knock on Ludacris has always been that he can’t make a cohesive album to save his life. Perhaps, that’s true. However, I counter that sometimes you don’t need to make “the definitive artistic statement” to make a classic records. Sometimes the sum of the parts manage to make the whole look irrelevant. And sometimes, “Move Bitch” is such an undeniable jam slamming in the CD deck of your car that it don’t matter what you think.

5. Little Brother – The Minstrel Show (2005)

I’m always a bit baffled (but yet again, I guess I live in an ivory tower. You know because I like Edan records and write a middlebrow reactionary blog…) when a certain subset of people like to front like the “Minstrel Show” is some “boring ass, hating ass backpacker faggit shit” because when I listen to the record I hear the most incisively, hilarious record of the decade. “The Minstrel Show” is a no-holds, barred assault on the state of modern African-American entertainment and a record that’s simultaneously prophetic as fuck and an indictment of the sign o’ the times. It’s this decade’s “Stakes Is High.”

Record and released at the height of the mid-00s radio slip into uncomfortable, pseudo-minstrelsy Laffy Taffyism, Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder take aim at the elements of black culture they felt have failed them. On “Cheatin”, they hilariously send-up R. Kelly-style story tracks (if anything considering the direction of post-urine Kells this track might not go far enough) as Tigallo puts on his Percy Miracle wig and his croons his way to ignorant victory. While other tracks like the heartbreaking “All For You” take absentee fathers to task for abandoning their children. All the while, Phonte and Pooh trade witty clever couplets and craft fall-on –the floor funny type skts.

Oh, and 9th kills it with his production. Fuck what you heard!

6. J-Zone – Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes (2001)

When discussing hip hop music, I often refer to a concept about records I call “gloriously misogynistic.” A record which goes beyond the casual, ugly misogyny of the Cam’ron’s of the world, verves right pass the bounds of traditional feminist criticism and squarely into the realm of Howard Sternian “I-Can’t-Believe-He’s-It-Taking-There” hilarity. J-Zone’s hilarious “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes” is a record that defines the concept.

J-Zone is a gifted story-teller and “Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes” spends the record giving a giant unapologetic “fuck you” to “the fake-ass activist headwrap chicks on the low kidnapping dicks”, backpacker fans demanding he “stay underground forever” and any other human being that crosses his ire. On songs like “Zone For President” and “Live From Pimp Palace East”, he describes his misanthropic ways in full assholic glory. J-Zone is a glorious bastard and he weaves his tales of Marxian anarchy to production that sounds like its channeling French New Wave cinema soundtracks and D.J. Premier. There’s no hooks on this record. Nothing resembling a hit record. And nothing that could remotely played in front of member of the opposite sex. An unapologetically, hilarious mean-spirited soundtrack to play in your Cadillac as you wave to backpackers bumping Trick Daddy.

One Final Note:

I’m often accused of being a violently contrarian prick and by own admission, I actively cultivate that impression. “Not A Blogger” was started with the distinct impression of being aggressively acerbic in my defense of my own particular worldview. A worldview I don’t expect anybody to have but myself. That’s all its EVER been. Its masturbatory, its schizophrenic and I think its also wildly fun. There is nothing I enjoy more than to hate on shit. I'm a narcissist. Sue me.

I’m completely willingly to debate the merits of an idea, as evidenced by the length page-long debates I have on the comment section but not when the opposing party isn’t necessarily being honest with their intentions. And I have distinct trouble reconciling the notion that a few select critics of Jeff Weiss’ list are being honest with their critiques of it ESPECIALLY when the vast majority of the criticism is being done in the 140 characters of asininity that are Twitter tweets. I can’t possibly take you very seriously if you can’t even bother to craft a well-rounded thought.

I mean honestly, people, Passion Of The Weiss is a privately-run blog. It’s not run by a major corporation. It does not claim major cultural cache. It’s not even fuckin’ Pitchfork. It’s the work of about a half dozen writers of various different backgrounds spread across North America who happen to all like hip hop (and happen to be white.. except Douglas. Wait… Oops.). People who do damn good work, I might add, as well. If we are to derive a lesson from a list, its that democratic process leaves absolutely nobody happy in the end… and apparently, George Washington wants MF Doom to have four albums on the top 50 (This is why I’m firmly believe in royalty.) For those who seem to think this is some sort of a vast indie rock conspiracy to ruin rap through El-P records, you need to ease up on the dramatic opening machine a little.

And yeah… Edan > Young Jeezy. Yesterday. Today. Always.

Here's my list for those that are interested:

1. Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele
2. Jay-Z - The Blueprint
3. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
4. Masta Ace - Disposable Arts (This is probably my favorite record of the decade. I love it. I could not it good conscious have it higher than the top 3, though.)
5. Nas - Stillmatic
6. Jay-Z - The Black Album
7. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
8. Kanye West - Graduation
9. Little Brother - The Listening
10. Scarface - The Fix
11. Madvillian - Madvilliany
12. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
13. J Dilla - Donuts
14. Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
15. Cage - Hellz Winter
16. Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer
17. Kanye West - The College Dropout
18. 50 Cent - Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
19. Devin The Dude - Just Tryin' Ta Live
20. Common - Be
21. J-Zone - Pimps Don't Pay Taxes
22. El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead
23. Clipse - Lord Willin'
24. Ghostface Killah - The Pretty Toney Album
25. DJ Muggs vs. GZA - Grandmasters
26. MF Doom - Operation Doomsday (This actually came out in '99. So...)
27. Edan - Beauty & The Beat
28. Lupe Fiasco - The Cool
29. The Game - The Doctor's Advocate
30. Eminem - The Eminem Show
31. T.I. - King
32. Little Brother - The Minstrel Show
33. Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030
34. Reflection Eternal - Train Of Thought
35. Nas - The Lost Tapes
36. Lil Wayne - The Carter 2
37. Ludacris - Word Of Mouf
38. The Roots - Game Theory
39. M.O.P. - Warriorz
40. Outkast - Stankonia
41. RJD2 - Since We Last Spoke
42. Mr. Lif - I, Phantom
43. Wale - The Mixtape About Nothing (I actually didn't want to put this on here because of my strict mixtapes aren't albums rule but I felt weird leaving off my favorite release from last year.)
44. UGK - Underground Kingz
45. Dead Prez - Let's Get Free
46. Slum Village - Fantastic, Vol. 2
47. The Game - The Documentary
48. Common - Like Water For Chocolate
49. The Knux - Remind Me In 3 Days... (I like this record, a lot but I might be tripping on putting this even as low as 49.)
50. Brother Ali - Shadows On The Sun (I'm not sure I even like this record.)


JK said...

I like your explanation behind the whole situation. The fact that people are freaking out over this list is amazing to me. It's almost like people are mad they didn't think to do it first.

All the bitching about it is funny to me. I mean, shit, if someone has a problem with the list they can go and make their own and flood it with obscure southern records and mixtapes that make them feel better for having a different (or in their minds, a more legitimate) opinion.

Lists are like ass-holes, definitely not common sense, or a grasp on reality, because not everyone has that. I definitely hate it when people act like they have a PHD in hip hop and everyone else is a frosh when it comes to the genre just because they have different tastes and opinions.

Everyone who hated on this list like it came directly from a godly burning bush took a big, fat, steaming loss.

Christopher said...

There's absolutely nothing funnier than a bunch of white bloggers arguing about "white privilege" in reference to a list whose audience really only includes other bloggers and a select few readers.

There was very little constructive anything and a lot of waxing ideological about something so clearly immaterial. There were some questionable inclusions but 75% of the fun of the list was reading the write-ups, anyway. No matter how well someone's taste appears, all arguments about music (and sometimes art) usually just equals "nu-uuuuh" anyway.

Jason said...

I don't find you to be all that contrarian really. I mean a certain aspect or part to being a contrarian is kinda a vanity thing. Like I can take this album everyone hates upon, (sometimes justifiably) and with my master bullshitting technique straight up convince non believers it's actually a really good record.
Meh, you don't really do that not Armond White style anyway.
I am glad that some people threw in RJD2 in a top 50, not rap but his work in the early part of decade was really influential for beat makers like myself, (love to sample Rachel's tracks)
Trying to get into any sort of argument on Twitter should be punishable by disembowelment IMO.

bding7 said...

What album this decade do you know that features a better collection of trunk-rattling, club assaulting, jeep bass crushing bangers than “Word Of Mouf?”

Well, I remember King had quite a few singles, and they were better than "Area Codes," at least.

Also, I remember being very excited for The Minstrel Show to drop, and loving it for a few weeks thereafter. I'm sorry, it just doesn't hold up anymore.

DocZeus said...


Yeah, I think I agree with you about King. "What You Know" alone might put it over the top. (Although, my favorite songs on King are the album cuts like "King Back", "Front Back", and "I'm Talkin' To You") And I think "Black Album", "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" and "The Documentary" have better singles as well from an non-south standpoint. Still Word Of Mouf is maaaaaad undderated. Actually, so is "Back For The First Time" as well.

bding7 said...

Also, I would say that the first few songs from Chicken-N-Beer knock at least as hard as what you mentioned from Word of Mouf. Southern Fried Intro/Blow It Out/Stand Up... wow. At least to me.

DocZeus said...

Personally, I think Ludacris is the living breathing example of the pervasiveness of anti-South bias when it comes to criticism far more than...say, Young Jeezy or like Z-Ro. How are Ludacris' first three records not considered "classics" and Redman's first three albums are. Is there a stylistic difference or a difference in quality? That's not a knock on either. I just think Luda has gotten stuck with this "no great albums" tag early in his career and its become unchallenged fact.

bding7 said...

Well, "Splash Waterfalls," "P-Poppin," "Freaky Thangs" and that song he did with Usher and Lil Jon that wasn't "Yeah!" really hurt his reputation. And deservedly so, they're a bit much. Also, Red never cut his hair in a bald attempt at grasping for the gold ring that is an acting part alongside Sandra Bullock and Thandie Newton. Perhaps that's unfair, but maybe if I revisit Red's first albums, I can give a more fully thought out answer.

DocZeus said...

Oh yeah, Splash Waterfalls was kind of heinous. Was that on "Chicken-N-Beer" or "The Red Light District?"

And speaking of "The Red Light District", am I the only human being alive that likes "Number One Spot" if strictly for the beat alone.

Christopher said...

"Splash Waterfalls" was on Chicken-n-Beer. The Raphael Saadiq assist made that song enjoyable during the mid-song change-up.

Red and Luda are essentially the same rapper, just regionalized.

DocZeus said...

Raphael Saadiq was on "Splash Waterfalls?" Really?

bding7 said...

Saadiq's on the remix. Anyway, looking at many of the lists, I could not help but notice that Stankonia is either ranked rather low or not at all for some people. You, Doc, have it at number 40. Care to explain your logic?

DocZeus said...

I personally wouldn't read much into anything past the top 25 or so records on my list. Everything after that is more or less on the same level when you consider that there are thousands of releases made each year and these are still in the top 50.

Here was my basic process. I ranked them in these sort of factors, in this order.

1. Overall quality of record.
2. Personal relationship to record. (i.e. Was this important record to me in an important moment of my life. For example, Stillmatic and the Blueprint were the records that were playing in my life the first time I fell in love.)
3. Historical Context of record. (What was the records impact? Did it sell? Did it influence other records?)
4. Critical consensus. (i.e. Do other critics and fans like it?)
5. Relationship to other records made by the aritst or other artists. (Could I in good conscious put Disposable Arts over the Blueprint? No.)
6. Is it Purple Haze? (Yes? You're not getting on.)
7. Was I listening to it when I was making my list (My only explanation for how Shadows On The Sun got in.)

Christopher said...

Yeah. I don't remember if its on the album version but the video version splices it in halfway through. It seemed an awkward transition so it makes sense if the Saadiq version is teh remix.

Side note: Really didn't expect you to look so post-Vampire Weekend in that photo. Ha.

DocZeus said...

"Side note: Really didn't expect you to look so post-Vampire Weekend in that photo. Ha."

I looked for the most smarmy, arrogant, frat-boyish photo I had on my computer and that one just screamed post me.

You are far more likely to catch me in a hoodie and a t-shirt with my backwards Cleveland indians baseball cap than in an outfit like that.

MCH said...

Where is Country Grammar on this list?

Trey Stone said...

i think the "no great albums" meme with Luda is pretty accurate. he has a handful of great singles, however his production tends to be the type of budget synth Southern style that rightly gets written off when it comes to less-talented rappers. plus i might be biased cuz i just don't find the guy all that technically skilled or funny. his whole loudmouth style walks the line between entertaining and frat rap douchery to me.

whereas, with dudes like Wayne/T.I./Jeezy, whatever you think of 'em as rappers, they tend to get fairly unique production that isn't a generic extension of whatever's going on in rap at the moment. with exceptions of course.

DocZeus said...

"he has a handful of great singles, however his production tends to be the type of budget synth Southern style that rightly gets written off when it comes to less-talented rappers."

That might be true for his material that is latter in his career but I don't really think that's a fair description of his earlier stuff.

Natan said...

i won't read all the replies now.
i'll just say:

1. Luda's album is str8 out BAD (exept 4 the singles - bumped it last week). his best work is "Release Therapy".

2. Tech N9ne Deserves your recognition man, "Anghellic" is in my personal top 5 of the decade.

3. this is still my favorite blog