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Monday, December 28, 2009

Albums That Defined Our Decade

Right now there's probably a million posts like this: "So & So's Blog's Top Albums of the Decade."

This is one of those posts, lol. This is a critical, exciting time, why not look back on the music that helped shape our experience over the last ten years? BUT, before I go into it, I should explain how our choices were made:

Wes and I took different approaches towards compiling our lists. In addition to his personal enjoyment, Wes also took sales and overall chart performance into consideration before making his choices...he's a numbers guy, what can I say? With my choices, I cheated; I let my iTunes library determine what my favorites were based on number of plays, thus whatever I listened to more was clearly a favorite. Actually, it's a little deeper than that, but I digress. Both of our lists are very personal accounts of our respective tastes, and now we offer it to you, friends, readers, music snobs, etc., to pick apart and scrutinize at your leisure :-)

Enjoy, and Happy New Year!


Wes: Chronic 2001, Dr. Dre
Even though it came out in 1999, people are still trying to catch up.  It was so good, it seems Dre is reluctant to drop Detox because he wants it to be better than this.  Please do...I've been waiting for 9 years already.

TJ:  Deltron 3030, Deltron 3030
This album changed my life.  The combined prowess of Dan The Automator, Del The Funky Homosapien, and Kid Koala yielded a powerfully vivid and imaginative album that was way ahead of its time.  Ten years later, 1020 years before it, and there's still nothing like it.

Key track:  "Things You Can Do"

Wes:  The Blueprint, Jay-Z
September 11, 2001 release date.  "Even Bin Laden couldn't stop him."  The arrival of Kanyeezy.  5 mics, well deserved.

TJ:  Since I Left You, The Avalanches
A group of Australian DJs pieced together over 3,500 vinyl samples to create this masterpiece of an electronic/dance album.  Not only my pick for '01, this album is easily in my top 5 favorite albums of all time; I still have it in rotation.  Like countless other fans, I am patiently waiting for the follow-up.

Key track:  "Close To You"

Wes:  The Lost Tapes, Nas
A return to the man, not the mobster.  One of his best.

TJ:  Dwight Spitz, Count Bass D
After a long hiatus from the music industry, Nashville MC, beatmaker, and multi-instrumentalist Count Bass D re-emerged with this offering- a brilliant, left-of-center album filled with interesting beats and clever word-play that still holds up today ("I see a Grey Goose in the sky, you see Smirnoff Ice." Crazy!).  Spitz is without a doubt an underground classic not to be overlooked.

Wes:  Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 50 Cent
I was torn this year, so it's a tie between this and R.  Kelly's Chocalate Factory.  It was a hard decision, so I gave it to both.  Kellz snapped hard and 50 created an empire.   

TJ:  The Love Below, Andre 3000
Make no mistake, I really liked Speakerboxxx as well, but for someone like me who listens to music from any and every genre, The Love Below was a breath of fresh air in the hip hop realm which at the time was obsessed with its various personas being the hardest/most Scarfaced-out/ballin'-est/most thugged out/biggest chain having-est/most keeping it real-est on the block or club.  I practically wore this disc out, I played it so much.

Honorable Mention:  Chocalate Factory, R. Kelly
I have to agree with Wes, this album was huge that year and deserves its proper due.  It's definitely a definitive Kellz album.

Wes:  Confessions, Usher
I was torn again this year, so I have two.  Usher came with a lifetime classic R&B album.

Wes:  Kamikaze, Twista
I have to put Twista up on this list; Chi-Town Allegiance.  It was great to hear about Broughams and puffing B's on commercial radio lol.

TJ:  Madvillainy, Madvillain
I also was torn for 2004, so I also have two for this year.  First off, if you know me in real life, you know the quickest way to get into a four -hour conversation with me is to bring up Stones Throw or any artist associated with them.  It's a pretty serious obsession, but a healthy one.  The pairing of Madlib and DOOM on an, I mean if you want to talk about a clash of the titans.  Even though DOOM's MM..Food (also released in '04) was a great work in its own right, it was eclipsed by this behemoth of a record that even Rolling Stone tagged as being one of the best of the decade.  If you have not heard this album, it is possible that you have been in a coma for the better part of six years, please get up.

Key Track:  "Rhinestone Cowboy" 

TJ:  Love, Angel, Music, Baby, Gwen Stefani
Okay, I know it's a far cry from metal-masked villains and indie hip-hop, but my iTunes library doesn't lie; I listened to this album ALOT! Can't help it, I've always been a huge No Doubt fan, lol.  Best known for the singles "Rich Girl" and "Hollaback Girl," L.A.M.B. was exactly what it was supposed to be:  a fun, light-hearted pop album sprinkled with bouts of melancholia for good measure.

Key track:  "Luxurious"

Wes:  Late Registration, Kanye West
Respect.  Common's Be is runner up.  Chi-City running things.

TJ:  The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, Quasimoto
The spirit of Madlib's helium-voiced, aardvarkian appearing alter-ego is very much alive on Further Adventures... the follow-up to 2000's The Unseen.  This album is one of the most puzzling, imaginative, and "visual" albums I've ever heard.  Conceptually, it's consistent in its utter lunacy, but when I reach for an album to compare it to, the only thing that comes to mind is Frank Zappa during his days with The Mothers of Invention.

Wes:  Release Therapy, Ludacris
 Not my personal Luda favorite, but the best in '06, "SLAP!"

TJ:  Donuts, J Dilla
The late-great Dilla may have left the earth too soon, but he left a legacy that will live forever in the hearts and minds of music fans everywhere.  Donuts is an album that is so unmistakably "Dilla-fied" that he didn't even have to say a word on it; this collection of instrumentals speaks for itself.  This is another one that never left rotation, another life-changer.

Key track:  "Two Can Win"

Wes:  Double Up, R. Kelly
This album was written for me :D

TJ:  American Gangster, Jay-Z
It would have been easy to name a Jay-Z album every year because I like everything he does, pretty much, but with this album he outdid himself.  With the assist from Diddy and production from newcomers and usual suspects alike, Hov delivered an extremely soulful, organic, and thorough album.

Key track:  "Sweet"  

Wes:  Untitled, Nas
"Sly Fox" is something I can appreciate.

TJ:  808s & Heartbreak, Kanye West
I'm a Kanye fan (I'm from The Go, how could I not be?), and I've liked all of his albums, but truth be told, whenever he came with something, a friend of mine would give me a CD full of leaked tracks months before the release.  These discs would have songs that never made it on any album, and consequently I always ended up liking those better than the actual release (For the record, I still paid for the albums when they came out.).  But this one is different.  I love it when artists challenge themselves, when they step out from their comfort zones to try something new;  that's usually when next levels are reached, boundaries broken, and history gets made.  No exception here, this album is fantastic and continues to grow on me even now.

Wes:  Relapse, Eminem
This one was hard because [this year] there was a lot of material I've been waiting for:  OB4CL2, BP3, 50 Cent, etc.

But Eminem takes the cake for somehow going multiplatinum in 2009 without many big singles.  Plus, repackaging and reselling it again for Christmas is brilliant.

TJ:  Love vs Money, The-Dream
This is a tremendous album.  Seriously.  For many reasons.  I hear faint echoes of its influences:  R Kelly, Prince, Timbaland (to name a few), but it still has its own identity.  What I like best about it is that it fits in that diminishing family of albums that is consistent with its theme and vibe;  conceptually it's a whole piece, not just a collection of songs.  Tremendous...seriously.

Key track:  "Kelly's 12 Play"

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