You know how Major League Baseball and the NBA have All-Star Weekend halfway through the season to honor guys who are really having a good year? I don't see why we can't do the same thing with music. With six months down and six months to go, I present you my mid-2010 All-Star team.
1. Big K.R.I.T. - KRIT Wuz Here
By far the best project I've heard so far this year. It gives the South new hope and new energy with an artist from Meridian, Miss., being able to capture the Southern aesthetic without sacrificing lyricism and spot-on production, which he does himself. For a mixtape, it plays like an album and for those that get past the first three tracks, which are as hood as they come, it's a showcase of what's to come from the recent Def Jam signee.
2. Curren$y - Smokee Robinson
He's not new to the scene but there's something in his recent work that's just inspired. The New Orleans native dropped this mixtape drop during halftime of his hometown team's first Super Bowl and it's been in my rotation ever since. Honest lyrics, soulful samples coupled with a voice and perspective that's as broad and unique as they come, he's managed to move past just being the guy who did "Where The Cash At?" in 2006.
3. Dom Kennedy - From The Westside With Love
For those not paying attention to the noise being made by New West artists like Dom Kennedy, Pac Div, U-N-I and others, you've been missing out on a huge chunk of dope, independent hip hop. This project was the first one from Dom that made me say, it's all starting to click for the L.A. MC. Again a mixtape but it rides like an album with some songs that are just underground dope and others I could see being radio ready today.
4. Freeway & Jake One - The Stimulus Package
Tremendously underrated album. It was Freeway's strongest release since his debut, Philadelphia Freeway, but the real star of the project was G-Unit producer Jake One who did every song on the album and managed not to slouch on any track. Amazing production puts this overlooked album in my top 5,
5. TiRon - MSTRD
The Illinois born rapper residing in LA flew under a lot of radars, including mine, when his last mixtape, Ketchup, was being well received in 2009 but this release got my full attention after hearing one song. Great blend of original material and remakes and how can anyone not love dope beats from MF Doom, among others. For those unsold, I'd just play "The Riches" with Blu & Asher Roth and voila, you'll remember the name. Honest rhymes
Honorable Mentions: Toss-Up: Reflection Eternal, The Roots & Eminem
It's been a surprisingly strong first half of the year with mixtapes taking a prime positions over studio albums but there have been notable artists drop more than solid releases. Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek got back together for the first Reflection Eternal album in a decade. Revolutions Per Minute is also an album where the lyricism would be a given but Hi-Tek's production often stealing the show from one of the most respected MC's in the industry. The Roots proved that going mainstream and not selling out is completely possible. How I Got Over is conscious and commercial without feeling like they were trying to bullshit you. Eminem had to make up for his past two lackluster releases on Recovery he got back to the classic Em sound without all the gimmicks and with strong signs of personal growth from the artists who seems to be constantly in flux.