Recent picks. Mini-reviews of all the rap albums below.
Devin the Dude - Just Tryin' ta Live
Once again I hold the opinion that this is one of the very best rap albums of the 2000s. Devin the Dude is one of those Too $hort or Snoop Dogg-esque figures in rap who isn't a lyrical genius or anything but does possess a certain subtle force of personality that makes him unique. He toys with some very creative and interesting concepts on this album, including rapping from the perspective of aliens, rednecks, and children whose parents bring them to rap shows. I personally favor his first album, but this one has his best songs. Far from just rapping about weed (as people often mistakenly think), he talks about driving shitty cars, running out of money, being mistaken for a normal person, and more. Amazing.
Lil Wayne - The Drought Is Over 2: The Carter III Sessions
This might just be Wayne's best mixtape, with only Dedication 2 as competiton. Then again, that one has DJ tags, so it might be this one for me. Essentially, the guy has a huge obsession with rhyming on this tape and the ones around it, and this one in particular has too many incredible songs to summarize. "I Feel Like Dying," "Something You Forgot," "La La La," and "Prostitute Flange" are some of Weezy's most profound songs ever, with the latter in particular displaying rap's interest in auto-tune even before the overrated 808's and Heartbreak. I wish this shit came out instead of Tha Carter III, which is good but has a lot of mediocre radio crap and filler. Only issue with this one is the business interest in promoting people like Mack Maine and DJ Khaled, who were in Wayne's camp at the time. At least Curren$y's feature is worth hearing.
Future - Pluto
Once upon a time I was a huge detractor of Future, but somewhere along the line his auto-tuned drenched croon became hypnotic to me and I'm now a fan. Pluto is his humble beginnings, and his style here is pretty interesting, especially compared to his current output. "Turn on the Lights" in particular has become addicting to me. It's very hard for me to quantify my enjoyment of this album in any way other than the fact that the shit is so catchy it all falls into place for me. Future can also flow very well. He even employs a Cuban accent on street hit "Tony Montana," which unlike "Turn on the Lights," I don't particularly enjoy. The Drake verse on the remix doesn't help either, though it is historically important for marking the first time in rap music when Drake would be outshined by Future. It happens often. Matter of fact, most of the features here are pretty unimportant, which is a good thing considering that they allow Future to shine. Looking at his career now, it's clear that he did just that.
Cool Breeze - East Point's Greatest Hit and Witchdoctor A S.W.A.T. Healing Ritual
I'm starting to get bored so I'm going to lump these two albums together for the sake of time. This shouldn't undermine the fact that both of these albums are incredible and very overlooked in the wider context of rap music. Cool Breeze and Witchdoctor are both members of the Dungeon Family, and their styles are reminiscent of those of Goodie Mob and OutKast, who they collaborate with frequently. Cool Breeze's "Watch For the Hook" actually features all of those guys and Witchdoctor. These albums employ the stellar production of Organized Noize, who use a sparse, spacey, and incredibly appealing soundscape to create a backdrop for these rappers' street tales. These albums show us how Atlanta went from OutKast's more "conscious" stylings to being home to rappers like Jeezy, T.I., and Gucci Mane. Cool Breeze and Witchdoctor possess characteristics of both of these schools of rapper, making their albums compelling listens. Don't expect these guys to rap on the same level as Goodie or 'Kast, but expect rich and interesting albums nonetheless.