One Day It'll All Make Sense - Common
One Day It’ll All Make Sense is Common’s 3rd album and was the follow-up to what is considered by many to be Common’s best record, Resurrection. It was much more commercially successful than its predecessor but not as critically acclaimed. That being said, I think it’s one of Common’s better albums but for one reason or another, not a lot of people have heard of it. ODIAMS would be the last time Common and his long time producer, No I.D., would collaborate until they reunited 14 years later to do The Dreamer/The Believer. The album definitely has a more conventional sound compared to Common’s previous work, which might be a reason why Common fans weren’t as enthused when it was released. Still, ODIAMS delivers when it comes to content and Common’s rhymes pack the same punch that they’ve always had. That, combined with guest appearances from Q-Tip and Lauryn Hill, among others, makes for a dope album. ODIAMS, in my opinion, marked a turning point in his career. After parting with No I.D., he teamed up with ?uestlove and J Dilla, who coproduced his next 2 albums, including Like Water For Chocolate. While he did forsake the gritty, underground sound that brought him street cred, he aligned himself with two musical geniuses and eventually partnered up with a man who would help him reach his musical peak: No I.D.’s protégé, Kanye West.
“Invocation” | “Real Nigga Quotes” | “G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition)” (Featuring Cee-Lo) | “My City” | “Hungry” | “Reminding Me (Of Sef)”
What list of mine is complete without The Roots? While die-hard Roots fans appreciate Illadelph Halflife, it doesn’t really get much recognition from mainstream critics. Illadelph Halflife is The Roots’ 3rd album and marks the end of the jazzy phase of their careers. Unlike their landmark record, Do You Want More?!!!??!, this record deals with heavier subjects. Black Thought replaces the carefree nature of the lyrics of their previous endeavor with rhymes dealing with poverty, terrorism, and other serious topics. ?uestlove’s production still maintains the jazzy feel of the previous two Roots albums, but it definitely sounds a little darker, matching Black Thought’s lyrics. This record also sees The Roots collaborate with Q-Tip and D’Angelo, setting the stage for the creation of The Soulquarians. Even though it was the last time The Roots made music based on jazz, the dark undertones of Illadelph Halflife would carry over to Things Fall Apart and would help The Roots see their first glimpse of mainstream fame.
“It Just Don’t Stop” | “What They Do” | “No Alibi” | “One Shine”
Don’t get me wrong: good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a great album. It’s one of my favorites of 2012. But if you think that it shows Kendrick Lamar at his best, I would respectfully say that you're wrong. To me, Kendrick’s debut album, Section.80, is his best work to date. Now, that’s not really saying much since Kendrick’s only released two LP’s. However Section.80 was one of the best records of 2011 but you wouldn’t have known since it seemed that everyone and their momma was talking about Watch the Throne. Since Kendrick was an unknown a year and a half ago, the production isn’t quite as conventional as good kid, m.A.A.D. city, but I think it sounds better. When you listen to Section.80 you can tell that he's hungry for success, and his rhymes reflect that. While I still think that Kendrick Lamar is one of the best rappers today, he doesn’t quite have the edge that he had in Section.80, at least that’s my opinion.
“Fuck Your Ethnicity” | “Hol’ Up” | “A.D.H.D.” | “Rigamortis” | “Blow My High” | “HiiiPower” | “Keisha’s Song” | “Poe Man Problems”
The Ecstatic – Mos Def
When we think of Mos Def we either think of Black on Both Sides or Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star. That’s understandable, seeing as those two records are probably his best. But his latest release, The Ecstatic, is a great album that had the misfortune of coming out at the wrong time. It was released in 2009, and even though it sold reasonably well and was nominated for a Grammy, it didn’t get much, if any, radio play since Lil Wayne and Flo Rida dominated the airwaves. The listening public just wasn’t into hip-hop with substance. In terms of production, I would say that this is Mos Def’s most sonically diverse album, sampling from jazz, R&B, Latin music, and other genres. On the mic, Mos Def does his thing, and does it well, as always. Had it been released ten years earlier, The Ecstatic would have gotten the props it deserves.
“Auditorium” (Featuring Slick Rick) | “History” (Featuring Talib Kweli & Produced by J Dilla) | “Casa Bey”
Reasonable Doubt – Jay-Z
I really hate the fact that I have to include this album on this list because it really is Jay-Z’s best work. Unfortunately, Reasonable Doubt gets lost in the shuffle and is forgotten compared to albums like The Blueprint, The Black Album, and even Watch the Throne (which really pisses me off). Much like Kendrick Lamar, it seems that the success of the later years of Jay-Z’s career has overshadowed the greatness of his debut album. Upon its release, Reasonable Doubt was already being hailed as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, and given that it came out in 1996, a time when hip-hop was at its peak in terms of quality, that means A LOT. This record really shows Hova at the top of his game. Jay-Z is regarded by critics as one of the best MC’s of all time. Some even say he's 2nd only to Rakim. If you asked me to back up that claim, Reasonable Doubt is all the proof I would need. It’s damn shame that one of the great records in hip-hop history has been so overshadowed. So disrespectful.
“Brooklyn’s Finest” (Featuring Notorious B.I.G.) | “Dead Presidents II” | “Feelin’ It” | “Ain’t No Nigga” | “Coming of Age” | “Bring It On” (Produced by DJ Premier) | “Regrets”