by Angie B. Fresh
[Ed: Angie B. Fresh is the host of ‘The Corner‘ on CFUV 101.9 FM in Victoria, B.C. She’s also the newest contributor to 4080 Records! Read on for her inaugural post: a passionate, articulate survey of the last decade’s best hip-hop. And if you know what’s good for you, tune in to her show every Friday from 5-6 p.m.]
Being a child of the late 80’s, this past decade has been the first I can remember from start to finish. And while I can’t speak for my generational peers, I will always feel as though the 00’s belonged to me. Rolling Stones called it the “decade of lost chances”, Time called it the “decade from hell”, but I look back on the double-zero’s as the decade of my musical awakening. Thanks to my brother, I was introduced to hip hop in my early teens and its been my passion ever since. On that note, I’d like to take a quick look back on the music that served as a soundtrack to my life.
In the interest of keeping this short and sweet, I picked one song per year. Consider first that Pitchfork Media‘s feature on the best music of the decade contained 500 songs. Picking just ten favorites was not an easy task, but here goes!
Common – The Light
For a long time after I heard this Grammy-nominated love song I only had ears for Common. Produced by the legendary Dilla, this soulful and sensual tribute is uplifting and romantic in the most genuine way. Common’s well articulated love and respect for his woman had ladies everywhere wishing they were Erykah Badu. “It don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine”
Nas – One Mic
An instant classic from one of the biggest names in rap, One Mic still gives me goose bumps. The slow and subtle start, the crescendo into his rage-filled declaration of power, no wonder critics called in legendary. Two years ago I took a short road trip with a few fellow heads to watch Nas perform in Vancouver. Hearing the opening bars to this track live was an experience of almost spiritual proportions.
Talib Kweli – Get By
I can clearly recall the first time I heard this song; 7 years have passed and I still love it. Produced by Kanye West, it became Talib’s biggest hit to date as a result of its commercial appeal. The beat is deliciously funky with its piano loops, handclaps and Nina Simone samples, while the lyrics are positively righteous: “They need somethin’ to rely on/ We get high on all types of drugs, when all you really need is love, to get by”.
Little Brother – The Listening
9th Wonder’s beat samples Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” while Phonte and Big Pooh lament the fact that no one listens to full albums anymore or pays enough attention to the lyrics. This is a song about hip hop by hip hop fans. “I got suspicions your ear’s to the street where we’re whispering/ are you listening?” I know I was…
Danger Mouse & Jemini – Ghetto Pop Life
Epic beats from one of the most versatile producers in hip hop, nay music, combined with the inventive and energetic flows of a very talented but underrated MC resulted in a near perfect album. It was hard for me to pick just one track off this album as the whole thing is clever, creative and fun so I opted for the title track. It’s a real shame that this project was so slept on because the kind of musical chemistry found with this dynamic duo doesn’t come along often.
Zion I – Bird’s Eye View
Zumbi’s lyrics in this ode to hip hop don’t really put it in the same realm as “I Used to Love H.E.R.”, however the sincerity of his unconditional love for the culture is obvious. And when his poetry is coupled with the beautiful synthy production provided by Amp Live- complete with subtle strings and pretty piano loops, what you get is a deeply soulful tribute. “She’s my heart, my mind, my spirit and my bones/ She’s the only one I know that would go across the globe/ Meet me in a foreign land, treat me like I’m home”
Lupe Fiasco – Daydreamin’
This was a tricky pick for me because of the commercial success it garnered. However I truly believe that good music is good music despite who listens to it. I was late getting into Lupe, but once I did I knew I was hooked. The master of metaphor, his slippery lyrical prowess is in full effect in this Jill Scott collabo. The concept is imaginative, the sound is wonderfully jazzy, what more could you ask for?
Blu & Exile – The World Is (Below The Heavens…)
This album came out of nowhere and then proceeded to blow my mind again and again the more I listened to it. If you were like me you were asking yourself where the heck this kid Blu came from (he was 22 at the time of its release). Exile has since become one of my favorite producers, (check last year’s “Radio” if you like instrumentals) and Blu one of my favorite MCs. Every beat is perfectly matched to its lyrics; every verse is revealingly heartfelt; this is an album I’ll be listening to for years to come. “Hell is what you choose to call the present/ That’s why you’re going through it/ I just choose to call it stressin’/ To tell you fools the truth, I don’t feel that’s what I’m destined/ So you can call it hell but bro, I’ll just say I’m below the heavens”
Q-Tip – Gettin’ Up
This sophomore release was a long time coming and worth the wait. Being a Tribe fan, I welcomed that familiar high-pitched voice back into my playlists immediately. The vibe is mellow and warm at points yet Tip sounds enthusiastic and energetic throughout. With help from the likes of Raphael Saadiq, D’angelo, and Norah Jones, Q-Tip put together a smooth sounding and perfectly timed celebration of life and love; you can’t help but get into the spirit. Welcome back Tip!
Tanya Morgan – She’s Gone AKA Without You
Hands down my favorite album of the year, Brooklynati had me wishing I could take up residence in this fictional locale and spend my nights watching the “Hardcore Gentlemen” perform their 15 year old hit 15 times (only people who have been to Brooklynati will get that one). “She’s Gone” has been described by some as our generation’s “I Used To Love H.E.R” (so I like Common okay??) and it’s just one of the many infectious tracks on the album. Production from Von Pea and Aeon will have you reminiscing about the so-called Golden Era of hip hop when well-cut jazz loops and soulful samples laid the canvas for thoughtful, witty rhymes. This is one you can pop in and listen to front to back and not have to hit that skip button.