Best Albums Of 2010 (Part Two) – Ghostface / The Left / Kashmere etc.

Ghostface Killah – “Apollo Kids” (Def Jam) – After the mixed reception to 2009’s R&B-driven “Ghostdini” project, Toney Starks, still Wu-Tang’s most consistent member, returned in full Iron Man mode on his ninth solo album. Featuring Ghost flipping his usual unique stylings over dusty, break-beat-fuelled production, “Apollo Kids” revisited the classic Clan formula without sounding tired or recycled.

The Left – “Gas Mask” (Mello Music Group) – Adding a further dimension to the traditional Detroit rap sound we’ve all come to know and love, producer Apollo Brown teamed up with lyricist Journalist 103 and DJ Soko for this well-executed lesson in intelligent, hardcore Hip-Hop. With the likes of Kool G. Rap and Guilty Simpson along for the ride, the Motown trio crafted an album that went one-step beyond the standard “rap sucks today” rhetoric and actually made you feel their passion for the music and its culture.

Nottz – “You Need This Music” (Raw Koncept) – Rooted in a love of Hip-Hop’s drum-heavy boom-bap sound but displaying a variety of musical styles, this album found Grammy-award winning producer Nottz flexing his production talent with supreme confidence, supplying soundscapes for a diverse line-up of artists (Joell Ortiz, Snoop, Bilal) that might’ve looked strange on paper but worked brilliantly on CD.

Blacastan – “Blac Sabbath” (Brick) – Raw is the only word that can be used to sum up the music of Connecticut’s Blacastan. On his official debut album, the gritty lyricist showed himself to be a true student of Hip-Hop’s golden-age without resorting to old-school cliches or predictable throwback imagery. Mixing savage battle rhymes with imaginative concepts, Blac proved that rap’s backpack underground definitely still has some sharp teeth when required.

DJ Muggs Vs Ill Bill – “Kill Devil Hills” (Fat Beats) – Following the underground success of his one-producer / one-emcee projects with Wu-Tang’s GZA and West Coast favourite Planet Asia, Cypress Hill’s Muggs teamed-up with Rotten Apple resident Ill Bill for this dark, moody and, at times, claustrophobic gem of an album. Packed with brooding beats and conspiracy-fuelled lyricism, “Kill Devil Hills” also boasted hard-hitting appearances from the likes of Sean Price and Vinnie Paz and added further weight to the argument that Muggs should be mentioned amongst Hip-Hop’s beat-making greats.

Kashmere – “Galaktus: Power Cosmic” (Boot) – Kashmere has always been one of the UK’s most imaginative artists and this latest project (produced by Diversion Tactics’ Jazz T and Zygote) found the ever-entertaining wordsmith combining his love of comic books, sci-fi and Hip-Hop into one inter-stellar package featuring British homegrown heroes such as Jehst and Ramson Badbonez. A cosmic blast, indeed.
Kashmere "  Galaktus: Power Cosmic"
Ultramagnetic Foundation – “Ultra Laboratory Stories” (Black Pegasus) – Going some way to erasing the memory of the last Ultra album, 2007’s extremely mediocre “Best Kept Secret”, this TR Love / Moe Love-helmed return to Bronx science form introduced new members of the extended Magnetic family, such as Fred Beanz, dropping rugged rhymes over boisterous beats, and also dusted off some vintage unreleased Ultra joints.
Prose – “Force Of Habit” (BBP) – Wearing their Gang Starr / Pete Rock & CL Smooth influences on their shared sleeve, UK duo Steady and Efeks shrugged off the pressure to conform to any current trends and crafted an album that could sit comfortably alongside other quality releases in the UK rap discography from the likes of Guttersnypes and Caveman. Jazzy, boom-bap beats and honest lyricism were the order of the day here, resulting in one of the year’s most satisfyingly solid albums.
Force of Habit LP Cover Art
Hell Razah – “Heaven Razah” (Nature Sounds) – A true lyricist if ever there was one, Sunz Of Man member and Wu affiliate Hell Razah gave listeners no easy options on his second solo album, packing his verses with dense imagery, obscure historical references and urgent social commentary, which meant that this wasn’t a release to be played as background music – this was some heavy mental Hip-Hop that actually made you think whilst nodding your head.
Strong Arm Steady – “In Search Of Stoney Jackson” (Stones Throw) – Possessing the overall vibe of an extended rap jam session in someone’s basement, this album from Left Coast trio Phil Da Agony, Krondon and Mitchy Slick benefited from some soulfully drum-heavy  Madlib production and appearances from Talib Kweli, Chace Infinite and Fashawn. Unpredictable, amusing and extremely entertaining, “In Search Of…” bumped from beginning to end with sharp rhymes and knocking beats.

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