Best of 2019 Hip-Hop Part 4: Top 5 Books + Top Celebrated Hip-Hop City + Top 50 Artists/Songs Video Countdown (#30 - #16)

Posted by Billyjam, January 7, 2020 04:03pm | Post a Comment


Top Celebrated Hip-Hop City in 2019: Detroit Michigan

My mind is constantly blown by the steady flow of incredible hip-hop emcees and producers from Detroit that are constantly releasing some of the best contemporary hip-hop music. Perhaps it is the indelible influence of the late great J Dilla or the fact that generally rents are affordable for artists in the economically challenged city, with the exception of the small downtown gentrified area, that was once the bustling epicenter of the US motor manufacturing industry.  Further the artists from Detroit always display a love for their city in their lyrics and their production practices. The most notable of these in 2019 was Apollo Brown whose album Sincerely, Detroit was a literal hip-hop love letter to his hometown Michigan city. With 56 different Detroit artists making appearances on the 21 track, 79 minute album it was also the most comprehensive representation of Detroit’s hip-hop acts.

Featured Detroit artists, from old school to new school, included  included Black Milk, Clear Soul Forces, Royce Da 5’9”, ELZhi, Slum VillageGuilty Simpson, One Be LoBronze Nazareth, KunivaBoog Brown, Trick Trick and many more. Interestingly Detroit’s most famous rapper Eminen is noticeably absent. Other Detroit artist releases of the past year included Danny Brown's WARP Records album  uknowhatimsayin¿ LP, Nolan The Ninja’s album Illphoria 2 LPClear Soul Forces’ (featuring Ilajide, E-Fav, LAZ, and Noveliss) albums STILL LP and Detroit Revolution(s) LPChris Orrick's  Out To Sea LP and his I Read That I Was Dead collaborative album with The Lasso, Black Milk's Mass Appeal released DiVE LPBronze Nazareth's album Gravitas he recorded with (CA artist) KXNG CrookedEllie Santiago’s  smooth pop rap single “So Cool” and last but not least (even though she no longer lives in her hometown) the Detroit born breakout star of 2019, singer/rapper Lizzo and her album Cuz I Love You   (also avail on vinyl deluxe edition LP) her album. 

Top 5 Hip-Hop Books Published in 2019

#5 TIE: My First Hip-Hop Book + The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop
              Martin Ander’s My First Hip-Hop Book is a bright colorful picture book to introduce young kids to the culture of hip-hop and its famed four elements. With the tagline “No one is too small for the four elements!” the book was promoted as a teaching tool for the kids and grandkids of “Ageing B-Boys and B-Girls.”   Somewhat similarly but for an older aged audience, author Carole Boston Weatherford along with llustrator Frank Morrison’s The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop was an illustrated homage to hip-hop’s four elements; DJing, MCing, breaking and writing (aka graffiti).

#4 Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius
     Rakim’s own book (written with help from music journalist Bakari Kitwana) Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius offers a first-hand account / inside look at the creative process of the hip-hop emcee long considered the greatest lyricist in hip-hop's history.

God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip Hop
     While God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip Hop was long overdue in the traditionally male-dominated genre, this book by Kathy Iandoli (billed as  Can't Stop Won't Stop meets Girls to the Front) could not have arrived at a better time given the renaissance of female hip-hop artists in 2019.

BUILD: The Power of Hip Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World

BUILD: The Power of Hip Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World
was published at the perfect time; one in which the world could use some positive force to bring different groups, races and nationalities together.

This insightful academic book, comprised of an impressive 150 interviews with artists from all over the globe, was written by the Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mark Katz who proposes that hip-hop is the sole art form at this point in history capable of bridging cultural divides and able to “promote positive productive international relations between people and nations.’

#1 Goin' Off: The Story of the Juice Crew & Cold Chillin' Records

Ben Merlis’ November 2019 published Goin' Off: The Story of the Juice Crew & Cold Chillin' Records (part of the RPM Series and with a foreword by Peanut Butter Wolf) was an exhaustive history of the pioneering hip-hop collective the Juice Crew and the influential Cold Chillin’ Records label. Best to be read with Marley Marl’s “The Symphony” played on repeat.


TOP 50 BEST OF 2019 HIP-HOP ARTISTS/SONGS [#30 to #16]
Video Countdown


#30 Roughneck Jihad & Solomon Strange "The Adventures of DR. VOODUN"

Longtime LA based, Bay Area lyrical talent and Third Sight emcee Roughneck Jihad (aka Jihad The Roughneck MC) had a busy year releasing two albums; the early 2019 released solo album Juan Sequitur  and the mid year collaborative album release The Adventures of DR. VOODUN with Solomon Strange. Above is the accompanying animated video project for that high concept release 

#29 Donwill "Screens (feat. Quelle Chris)"
The above music video's commentary on modern culture's obsession with their smart phones is found on the album One Word No Space by Donwill who is the Brooklyn based emcee and DJ/producer known to most as one half of the duo Tanya Morgan with Von Pea. On the solo project track "Screens" the emcee is joined by the distinctive voiced (in high demand for features in 2019) emcee Quelle Chris.


#28 Madchild “Watergate”
Prolific British Columbia, Canadian rapper Madchild raps from an LA nightlife perspective on “Watergate” that was the lead single from the Swollen Members  solo album Demons. That title of the 16 track album is a direct nod to the personal demons that  the longtime MC faces on a day to day basis.  Long been openly talking/rapping about his recovery from substance abuse (including on his 2017 album The Darkest Hour), Madchild uses his art as a form of therapy. Upon the Battle Axe Records April 2019 release, his label described the album as “a hard and honest look at the addictive personality that continues to haunt” the artist who has embraced it as a challenge by “crafting his lyrics as a weapon…….as he dances with the devil to push himself creatively."


#27 KOTA The Friend "For Colored Boys"
KOTA The Friend's "For Colored Boys" mostly stripped-down, simple but commanding production acts as the perfect backdrop to BK emcee's low-end BPM infectious flow. KOTA The Friend, who began turning heads upon the release of his 2016 nine song Palm Store Liquor album, has been since honing his sound as exemplified by the empowering "For Colored Boys." Taken from his 2019 album FOTO as in it being like a photo (foto) album look at his life, KOTA The Friend is a refreshingly unique and welcome voice in contemporary hip-hop.


#26 Ras Kass "Grammy Speech"
In his attention grabbing “Grammy Speech” Ras Kass raps straight-from-heart and the hip, telling it like it is from the perspective of a veteran emcee who (deservedly) feels like he has not gotten the level of respect for his role in the history of hip-hop as he should. The Diamond D produced banger appeared on the artist’s 2019  Mello Music 2LP album Soul On Ice 2 that was the sequel to his breakout landmark debut Soul On Ice album from 23 years previously. In addition to his own album Ras Kass also made many memorable cameo appearances in 2019 including on Soul King & Jizzm High Definition’s “Grand Star Jazz,” Sojourn’s “Basement Boogie” and on the Fokis & Oh No track “I Believe.”


#25 Choosey & Exile “Low Low (feat. Aloe Blacc)”
Choosey & Exile's “Low Low (feat. Aloe Blacc)” from the Dirty Science label released album Black Beans  from the collaborative duo comprised of LA by way of San Diego emcee Choosey and LA hip-hop power-producer (and sometime rapper) Exile who invited singer Aloe Blacc to lay down the soul-moving chorus on this track. Note that Exile's   busy 2019 schedule also included him rejoining his original hip-hop partner Blu to release their great EP True Livin that incidentally also featured Choosey on its title track.


#24 Von Pea "Frenzy" / "Doorbell"
From the 2019 concept album City For Sale (HiPNOTT Records) by Von Pea of Tanya Morgan (BK based duo with Donwill) the above music is culled. The album's concept was a commentary on a common theme; the gentrification of cities from Oakland to Brooklyn that have witnessed longtime minority residents being forced out of their neighborhoods with rising costs of rent. As Von Pea wrote upon the album's release; "City For Sale is a breakup album. A relationship album. Instead of a woman its about my hometown...YOUR hometown...your old way of living. Growing apart from a place, from people, from who you once were. Because I'm from a currently gentrifying city that theme is on the surface of the album but the overall narrative is for any person that feels unfamiliar in a space that was currently familiar to them."


#23 Common “Hercules (feat. Swizz Beatz)”
Where does the tireless renaissance man Common find time to do all he does and still manage to craft amazing songs like this one found on his 2019 album Let Love LP?  An active actor (always popping up in movies and TV shows) author, poet and emcee, the Chicago artist returned in 2019 with his twelfth studio album Let Love that came a full 27 years after his 1992 debut album Can I Borrow A Dollar (back when he was known as Common Sense. Sure this latest album may not have been a perfect five-star release by his own standards but it had enough great songs like "Hercules" featuring Swizz Beatz and “HER Love” to make it a highly recommended release.


#22 Joell Ortiz - Anxiety
"Anxiety" is taken from Joell Ortiz's 2019 album Monday  LP and addresses head-on a topic typically avoided in traditionally macho genre of hip-hop.  "It’s an everyday issue. Millions of us struggle with anxiety, depression, PTSD and many other forms of mental illness," stated the Brooklyn emcee who most came to know via his membership of the super-group Slaughterhouse. "I just want everyone to know that they should never feel ashamed or be afraid to ask for help. You’re not weak or crazy or a failure. You’re human!"

#21 Chris Orrick “Out To Sea”
"Out To Sea" is the title track from Chris Orrick's 2019 Mello Music Group album release Out To Sea LP.  The album by the 33 year old Detroit artist formerly known as Red Pill displays the lyricist's witty, unpretentious, self-effacing style on songs such as the drinking alone anthem "Liquor Store Hustle." As the artist's bio nicely surmisses, "Chris Orrick is the patron saint of a poisoned world. The blue-collar Michigan MC writes spiteful chants for the permanently scarred, death letters for the forgotten, surly hymns for charcoal lungs." Along with so many other hip-hop artists in 2019 Orrick did not confine himself to just one album release but also the November collaborative release with producer The Lasso; the MMG album I Read That I Was Dead.


#20 Sampa The Great "Final Form”
Sampa The Great is the Zambia-born, Australian-based femcee whose sound Ninja Tune aptly billed as "spiritually-minded gospel and chants to neo-soul and hip-hop, intertwined with Sampa’s clearly-defined, no-holds-barred political outlook." The record label backed up that claim with the September 2019 release of her album The Return that included the track “Final Form” and such other standouts as "Time's Up (feat Krown)."  Note that Sampa The Great is among the many performers scheduled for the upcoming Coachella 2020.


#19 DJ MUGGS x CRIMEAPPLE "Crazy Eddie’s"
"Crazy Eddie’s" is taken from DJ Muggs produced collaboration project with CRIMEAPPLE, the album Medallo. That album was just one of four albums unleashed in 2019 by the Hackensack NJ emcee who seemingly blew up out of nowhere over the past year beginning with the Janauary 2019 release of his d Wet Dirt. album. That collaborative project with DJ/producer DJ Skizz featured wall to wall bangers including "Pasteles" and "Heavy Sativas." Similarly did the bilingual artist's two other 2019 album releases; Viridi Panem and his final release of the year, Metralleta.


#18 Danny Brown “Dirty Laundry”
Next level shit is the terminology that might best describe the output from ever innovative Detroit artist Danny Brown who in late 2019 unleashed the WARP record label album  uknowhatimsayin¿ LP Wwith tracks like "Dirty Laundry" that was produced by Q-Tip who incidentally executive produced this fifth studio album by the ever unpredictable but always envelope pushing emcee who transcends hip-hop.


#17 Freddie Gibbs & Madlib "Crime Pays" 
“Crime Pays” was one of the tracks from the justifiably anticipated July, 2019 hip-hop album release “ Bandana  (LP/Vinyl version) via Madlib Invazion/RCA Records by the collaborative super duo of  Freddie Gibbs  and Madlib. who five years previously collaborated on the album Piñata.  The 15-track Bandana, that ranked high on the Amoeba Hollywood best of chart of 2019, featured several top notch guest appearances. These cameos included Pusha T, Killer Mike, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Black Thought. and Anderson .Paak who made an appearance on the track “Giannis.”



#16 Wiki “Pesto”
The sick Tony Seltzer produced “Pesto” was the lead single off Wiki’s well received November 2019 released full-length OOFIE. That 15 track release was the second solo studio album (sequel to 2017's No Mountains In Manhattan) from the super-gifted, distinctive sounding emcee who initially came to fame as part of NYC’s critically acclaimed, now defunct RATKING crew.

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Sampa The Great (2), Joell Ortiz (3), Dj Muggs (5), Madlib (37), Dj Skizz (3), Chris Orrick (1), Crimeapple (3), Common (19), Best Of 2019 Hip-hop (5), Wiki (6), Best Of 2019 Amoeba (5), Best Of 2019 (10), Von Pea (2), Ras Kass (6), Kota The Friend (1), Donwill (2), Madchild (7), Roughneck Jihad (1)