Today may be the anniversary of my birth, but this time around, I'll be giving all of you some presents in the form of my Top 10 list. Formulating these every year is beyond difficult. For myself, the question becomes: Do I go with what people would expect me to pick or do I go with what I bumped the most? The answer to this question and the key to my choices has to do with the latter question being answered. So without further ado here is my top 10 tracks of 2010 in no discerning order.
Rick Ross feat. Ne-Yo: "Super High"
This is indeed how I have decided to commence this list. Despite many people's inclination to want to pass off Rick Ross' Teflon Don as laughable or a guilty pleasure, there is nothing trite about this album. Sure, Bawse Rawse's rhyming is deplorable--he rhymes "Atlanta" with "Atlantic" at one point--but his album boasted a quite stunning collection of collaborators including Cee-Lo, Raphael Saadiq, T.I., Kanye West, Jay-Z, Chrisette Michelle, Jadakiss, and several others who helped to make this album one of New York Times' best of 2010. "Super High," featuring Ne-Yo who I never really cared for until he blessed this DJ Clark Kent and The Remedy silken beat reminiscent of a '70s the lavish life we all concoct in our dreams, is pure gold. This song isn't as pure as the driven snow that Ross loves so much, but it is awesome on so many levels that this track stayed on repeat from the first moment I heard it.
Erykah Badu: "Window Seat"
Speaking of Rick Ross' guest collaborators, Erykah Badu certainly was one of Rick Ross' believers and he lovingly blessed this track with his own verse on an alternate version of the original controversial video for "Window Seat." Although this track was the most accepted one from New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh by the masses, there's no denying that this is the vintage Badu that many of us, including progressives such as myself, secretly yearn for. Everything about this track is perfect and encapsulates why Badu has and continues to be revered ever since her skyward headwraps both intimidated and mystified us in the '90s.
Janelle Monáe: "Say You'll Go"
It's no secret that we all stan, not secretly, but loudly for Janelle Monáe here at SoulBounce. Her album The ArchAndroid was one of the most genre-bending, yet accessible ones released this year and certainly provided me with a gauge of whose musical tastes I could trust and those I could not. As a music snob and sometime karate expert, Janelle Monáe is the future. She not only brought us all along on her futuristic vision but she did so with the attention to detail and love that only a person who truly considers her work to be her "baby" could provide. "Say You'll Go" stopped me cold from the moment I first heard it. Not only is there something very reminiscent of Stevie Wonder about this track--her reference to "an underwater Rocket Love" notwithstanding--but Janelle manages to transform her high octane voice into a soothing and just as powerful instrument. Beautiful.
Big Boi: "Shutterbug"
Let's pick up the pace a bit now, shall we? Once Big Boi's "Shutterbug" dropped, I planted my feet to ground myself for what would surely be a groundswell of epic proportions in response to this song. Granted, the rest of Sir Luscious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty didn't quite move me, but this is likely because I couldn't get past this track for a full 48 hours. It became my ringtone, the alarm chime I awoke to in the morning, and the fuel that replenished me during a stellar Southern California summer. I figured that this track would turn the world on its ear the way "Bombs Over Baghdad" did for Outkast some 10 years ago. I guess I was wrong. This is such a shame because what occurs from 2:55 until this song's fade out is the return of the funk in a pure, unadulterated form. Get some.
Black Spade feat. Coultrain: "Planet Rock"
From one version of millenium-era funk to another brings us to Black Spade's "Planet Rock" from his magnificent Build And Destroy. Calling this work a "mixtape" is quite insulting to me, so I won't. This collection of tracks features Black Spade at his best since his debut To Serve With Love which still stands on its own almost 3 years later. Featuring frequent collaborator Coultrain on the hook, these two go together like peanuts and butter. Coupled with the fact that this "deep space nine" beat was expertly executed by French beatsmith Onra and this track's sum of its parts results in you not being able to sit still once its played and gets played over and over again.
Kendrick Lamar feat. Dash Snow: "The Heart Part 2"
I'm always a little leery of jumping on the hip hop blog darling bandwagon, but Kendrick Lamar is the truth. His O(verly) D(edicated) was an album whose mixtape designation was laughable at best. "The Heart Part Two" was prefaced by "The Heart (Part One)" which featured a hypomanic Kendrick over Mos Def's "Umi Says" instrumental. It was a decent track but "The Heart Part Two," with deceased artist Dash Snow's poignant words in the beginning, featured better production, manic and panicked rhymes, and a lovely reworked "A Peace Of Light" from The Roots' How I Got Over. When people complain about how hip hop is supposedly stagnant, I always point them in the direction of this song.
Pete Philly feat. Roos Jonker: "I Remember You"
I have to give credit where credit is wholly due. If it were not for recent addition to the SoulBounce family, ChrisAlexander, I would have likely never heard of this song. Pete Philly, who has achieved success overseas as one half of duo Pete Philly and Perquisite, is not only a producer and quite easy on the eyes, but he is also a cellist, something that makes my nerdy parts writhe and tingle. "I Remember You" features Roos Jonker on the hook and is the type of track that seems as though, despite its novelty, is a song that your mind wants to recognize as always having existed. Another stellar, non genre-specific "hip hop" track.
[Photo: Maurits Van Hout]
Kanye West feat. John Legend & Chris Rock: "Blame Game"
Despite Kanye West's aura of self-importance, his belief that he is musical genius--he's not, yet--and his penchant for raving like a child whose bike just got stolen, he is good if not great at what he does. Teaming up with John Legend is nothing new when it comes to Kanye but it did seem odd when I first discovered who was going to be collaborating on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye hasn't exactly managed to stay in the lane that John tends to inhabit. I must say that upon first listen, I couldn't place the singer in "Blame Game," a song whose snippet I immediately loved once I watched the much hyped short film for "Runaway." "Blame Game" hands down is my favorite track from Fantasy because Kanye has effortlessly brought us into his world of heartbreak, anger, and fear in one fell swoop all while including comedic yet poignant dialogue at the end of the track courtesy of Chris Rock. Apparently, Yeezy taught us all about the inner turmoil that exists within this sometimes raging but fragile man-child.
Faith Evans feat. Raekwon: "Everyday Struggle"
Faith Evans' Something About Faith may not have exactly captured my interest the way I hoped it would, but I will just as soon take this track over any future track she decides to do with Keyshia Cole or anyone else who has no business singing with this queen. One of the most amazing and endearing qualities about Faith is that her voice sounds just as honey-dipped as it did nearly 20 years ago, a feat that many singers cannot easily claim. Despite Mary J. Blige's "Queen of Hip Hop Soul" moniker, Mary has traveled down paths which I simply could not follow. Faith, however, manages to perfectly embody the beautiful, teasing rose with overlooked thorns that sting. Unlike her ex-husband's lament on his original "Everyday Struggle" from his eponymous Ready To Die, Faith damn near turns her version into a gospel song, praising God's works and urging you to forge ahead. Joined by hip hop's elder statesman of collaborations, Raekwon serves as the perfect wingman upon which Faith's molten heavenly harmonies are brought a little more down to earth.
B Lewis feat Mar: Day 4: First of You
Much like Pete Philly's "I Remember You" above, B.Lewis' "Day 4: First of You" featuring Mar is yet another track whose sum components were floating about in the ether until they suddenly fell to earth and assumed a form our brains could digest. It's an easy track to love, in part because there has never been a track that Mar has sang on that I haven't loved and in part because, though the track is under three minutes long, not one measure has been wasted. Listening to it is akin to being shot with Cupid's arrow: the concept is violent but it hurts so good. Something about this track also reminds me of a much slower version of Sweet Sable's "Old Time's Sake," almost as though "First Of You" is this same song whose key is slightly transposed. Who knows? What I do know is that I love this song and will most certainly, as these others before it, will welcome me into yet another great new year of music.