Archives

The best releases of 2011 thus far

by Ryan Snyder

‘ 

LIL B — I’m Gay (I’m Happy)

The most hated-on rapper of the past two years has also been one of, if not the most prolific, and with his fifth solo album, Lil B taken his disregard for the hip-hop status quo to new heights. Sporting probably the most willfully provocative album title in rap history, I’m Gay is like a bulletproof vest with layers of social criticisms, self-diagnoses and superb production.

And that’s a good thing, because his shot at the homophobia prevalent in rap has earned him a slew of death threats. His response? “Unchain Me” fires back with denunciations like “The hood is a lie/ Man, you better wake up before you’re dead or surprised.” Lil B’s been called immature and attention seeking. I call him one of the best rappers out there, and just a little crazy. Respect.

‘ 

BLACK JOE LEWIS & THE HONEYBEARS — Scandalous

If the retro-soul revival is getting a little too whitebread for the tastes of some, Black Joe Lewis is doing his damnedest to tip the balance. The second album by the young Austin soulslinger and his inexorably funky band take blues back to the salacious days of Chuck Berry and Marvin Sease with songs like “Booty City” and “Black Snake,” where he’s not talking reptiles. The album’s highlight, however, is a narrative romp inspired by “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” called “Mustang Ranch” that finds Lewis and co. holed up in a Nevada whorehouse with a Jackson trying to get, err, his ham glazed.

‘ 

‘ 

BON IVER — Bon Iver

Let’s make one thing clear: Bon Iver’s self-titled album might be making the top of every publication’s midway point Best Of lists, but I’m not willing to overlook the derivativeness of the schmaltzy ’80s synths he recycles so deliberately. That said, I am a fan of schmaltzy ’80s synths, and I’m an even bigger fan of his songwriting, so there is without a doubt a place for the former Raleigh native. It doesn’t quite stack up to the masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago, but in a somewhat disappointing year for indie rock, it’ll do pig.

‘ 

CURREN$Y & THE ALCHEMIST — Covert Coup

Conversely, it’s been an exceptional year thus far for hip-hop and standing atop the mount with Lil B is New Orleans MC Curren$y. But whereas B is smashing taboos and soapboxing on societal ills, Curren$y is content to stick to more insincere topicality. That he does it with the smoothest of flows, profound wit and a deeper repertory of pop culture knowledge than Grantland is what makes lines like “Patty cake, patty cake/ I’m baked my man” all work. Barring what he offers later this year with Pilot Talk III, Curren$y’s long EP with producer the Alchemist stands to top his trio of 2011 releases, all of which hold up better than most.

‘ 

‘ 

MOTOR CITY DRUM ENSEMBLE — DJ-Kicks

Called the Don of all DJ mix series, DJ-Kicks simply doesn’t quit. The latest installment finds disco-house producer Danilo Plessow exploring his own rangy tastes in music via Sun Ra overlaid with slowed-down jungle beats that mutate into stanky dub and subsonic funk. It’s an absolute head trip from beginning to end of which lovers of smoking hot obscurities would do well to take note.

‘ 

‘ 

ARAABMUZIK — Electronic Dream

Having already mastered the science of the commercially-minded hardcore hip-hop beat to brilliant effect, it’s almost like Dipset producer araab- MUZIK wants to assimilate other genres of dance beats into his own twisted vision. On his solo debut Electronic Dream, he throws a wrench into the machinery churning out crappy, diva-laden house music out of the UK by drowning them out with snappy, propulsive beats. Unlike most trance music, the meandering propensities are shot down by a near-constant state of tension that lurks beneath the euphoria. When Dipset hold their yearly reunion in Greensboro later on this summer, it’ll be fun to hunt down the locale of their semi-secret throwdown.

‘ 

Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan

Share: