Archive for the ‘Janelle Monae’ Tag

4 Music Sleepers of 2010

I didn’t get to catalog my thoughts on much music in 2010. That’s no great loss to anyone else, since I think there are maybe two people counting relatives that care what I have to say about anything, let alone music. But I still like to immortalize my opinions via the internet so I can later look back and realize how absurd many of them were (Oh hey, you really liked Lupe Fiasco…a lot, didn’t you?).

So with that, here are four albums from 2010 that I would tag the “sleeper” label onto. Some things I want to note:

  • This list is predominantly rap because it’s admittedly what I mostly listen to. When I do listen to music from rock-type bands, it’s hilariously outdated (i.e. Have you guys heard of this band called The Smiths? I think they’re going places).
  • I don’t listen to every mainstream release, let alone all the obscure mixtapes that get pumped into the internet every day. This list is mostly stuff I clumsily came into via glorious file sharing. Rick Ross may have had a surprisingly acclaimed album, but I won’t know if it’s valid because I’m not listening to an entire Rick Ross album unless I’m properly compensated.
  • This list is in no particular order because I can’t commit to anything.
  • If you disagree or feel there are omissions, let me know. Maybe I overlooked something good you can put me on to. Unless it’s Rick Ross.

Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot, The Son of Chico Dusty: The often delayed solo joint from the unsung hero of OutKast showed up on shelves with little fanfare. It’s not surprising, since OutKast hasn’t really been relevant to most people since 2004 when they were still enjoying the success of their 2003 double-LP. This damn thing, originally slated for a 2007 release, got delayed so many times that even a lot of people who don’t consult Top 40 lists rap recommendations stopped caring about it.

But the wait was worth it. Even while sounding dated at times because of the three-year collaboration process, Sir Lucious still brings what we’ve come to love about Big Boi: A slippery lyrical delivery that wraps itself around funky beats.

Andre 3000 usually gets the nod as being the introspective part of OutKast, while Big Boi is usually seen as the guy talking about perms and funky roosters and all that stuff. But with a proper solo album to roam free on (I’m one of those who doesn’t consider Speakerboxxx a legit solo disc), Big Boi shows he can pack thoughtful lyrics within that fluid delivery:

My recitals are vital and maybe needed for survival
Like the Bible or any other good book that you read
Why are 75% of our youth readin’ magazines?
’cause they used to fantasy, and that’s what they do to dream
Call it fiction addiction ’cause the truth is a heavy thing!
‘member when the levee scream, made the folks evacua-ezz
Yeah, I’m still speakin’ about it ’cause New Orleans ain’t clean
When we shout Dirty South, I don’t think that is what we mean

There are rumblings of another OutKast album, but until then, Sir Lucious did a fine job of tiding us over, even if all of the tracks featuring Dre 3000 hit the cutting room floor.






Waka Flocka Flame – Flockaveli: Even unapologetic ignit rappers manage to squeeze their ham-fisted attempts at deep thought or slow jams into their mixtapes or albums. Twenty-four-year-old Waka Flocka Flame isn’t one of those rappers. Oh, he’s “ignit” all right. But there is barely anything resembling a hook on his 17-track debut album Flockaveli, let alone anything for the ladies or right side of the brain.

What is on the album is an hour of ribcage-shaking beats over which Waka delivers shallow lyrics such as, “Hope you got yo killers witchya, hope you got yo niggas witchya / Hope your goons ridin’ witchya, they gon fuckin’ miss you.”

I don’t usually tack much merit to this, but there’s a palpable authenticity to Flockaveli. Not in the sense that Waka is out in the streets murdering dudes for simply existing, but rather, under the lens that the LP is so unapologetically raw. “No Hands” is the only thing that could be mistaken for a radio single (and not coincidentally, is the only track from the album getting any airplay). The absence of the slow jam featuring Jamie Foxx or the “Damn, what’s this life really all about” type of song shows that Waka isn’t terribly concerned with chart status or being a Drake-like figure in hip-hop.






Ghostface KillahApollo Kids: Even though the release of Tony Starks’ ninth LP was like a national holiday for me, it wasn’t exactly burning up Twitter feeds or other modes of news dispersion. And leave it to Pretty Toney to wait until all of the Best of 2010 lists had already gone to print/publish to drop what was among the most succinct and listenable rap albums of the year.

Ghost’s non-existent relationship with mainstream radio and charts makes most of his albums sleepers. That felt like the case more so with this drop, since our last full-length Ghost session was way back in 2007 with Big Doe Rehab. Sorry, kiddos, I don’t really consider the R&B album Ghost dropped in 2009 as a proper Ghostface album, much as I dig the big man tapping into his more sensual side.

Apollo Kids isn’t really a concept album, but there’s still a constant acknowledgment of Ghost’s adoration of hip-hop. The production is the most cohesive since the Supreme Clientele era with a heavy reliance on soul samples and stripped down beats. The only thing that holds Apollo Kids back is the long list of guests. The exhaustive list, however, doesn’t include Ghostface LP regular Raekwon. All in, though, the efficient 40-minute album is both an ode to classic hip-hop and a present-day affirmation that Ghost can still go hard on the mic.






Janelle MonaeThe ArchAndroid: This feels a bit like cheating, since the eccentric Monae’s debut studio album became the an internet darling upon its spring release. But how many people saw it coming?

The high praise isn’t unwarranted, though. The album, heavily inspired by the silent film classic Metropolis, show Monae’s flexibility as a creative mind. The ArchAndroid pulls its musical inspirations from a range of sources. Anything from musical scores to glamrock is fair game for Monae, who at just 25 years old, seems wise beyond her years.

Perhaps most striking about the album is that it doesn’t leave the sour taste of pretentiousness in the listener’s most, despite its grandiose ambitions. In a profession prone to the eccentric for the sake of being eccentric, Monae’s left-of-center personality is more a reflection of her deep-rooted love of music and fantasy.