J Dilla - Dillanthology Volume 3

The third installment in the Dillanthology series, this collection focuses on releases from Dilla's solo material. It opens with “Workinonit” from Donuts, which would have to be in competition for my favorite album of all time. If you've ever wondered what the fuss about Dilla is, you haven't put in any quality time with Donuts. Do yourself a favor and do it. Next up, we get “Pause,” from his 2001 release, Welcome 2 Detroit.

Diplo - Decent Work For Decent Pay

This compilation put together by Diplo that is there mostly to showcase his own work and artists he has worked with really leaves listeners wanting. I realize it's a little tricky with trying to figure out who the audience for this collection is, which is probably why he decided to lead off the album with a track from his excellent solo album, Florida, “Newsflash,” and then his remix of M.I.A.‘s big crossover hit, “Paper Planes.

DOOM - Born Like This

I feel like I need to preface this review by stating that I never bought into the cult of Doom. While I enjoyed Madvillain and some other tracks he did here and there, I never got the devotion of his fans who are so quick to declare his genius. That said, most of the time when I listen to an entire album of Doom, I can’t help but notice all of his shortcomings.

Eyedea & Abilities - By The Throat

Emcee Eyedea and DJ Abilities are well known for coming up through the battle circuits, and for that their sound always seemed to retain that edge. They could switch things up and experiment a little, but you always knew that you were messing with someone who could spit rhymes quicker than you and someone who could scratch better than you could ever hope to. E&A, their 2004 release, really established them on the scene and gave us great songs like, “Now,” “Man Vs.

El Michael's Affair - Enter the 37th Chamber

In case you missed it, El Michael's Affair, a band made up of musicians from other New York soul revival outfits like the Mighty Imperials and The Dap Kings, has been putting in time as the Wu Tang Clan's live backing band. In person, they are fantastic, and it really adds to the energy of the show and allows for some back and forth between emcees and musicians. On the heels of this foray into the world of Wu Tang, El Michael has decided to record an album of Wu Tang instrumentals.

Gift of Gab - Escape to Mars

Remember, back around ‘03/‘04, when Quannum could do no wrong? What happened, guys? It seems like everything the past couple of years have been decent to disappointing. Also, production seems to have slowed down and their website is not great. This saddens a guy who wore his Lyrics Born hoodie every day for years until the holes were big enough that he finally had to retire it this year. 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up was one of my sleeper favorite albums of 2004.

K'naan - Troubadour

K'naan is a Somali-Canadian hip hop musician whose been slowly been building a following which is surely going to grow even more with the release of Troubadour. First and foremost, we need to be honest in assessment of K'naan - he has a compelling story and an interesting and accessible sound. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I just felt the need to put this out front before I delved any deeper into picking apart this album.

Lateef The Truth Speaker - Truth is Love Mixtape

Sometimes, good artists go bad. I wish I could explain it better, but the man who helped bring such albums as Latyrx and Maroons and mixtapes as killer as Ahead of the Curve, delivers us a mixtape that fails pretty much from start to finish. I'm hard-pressed to pick an part of this album that isn't cheesy as hell. I do like the cool envelope packaging, but that’s about it. The only good tracks are from previous albums like Maroons and Generel Elektriks.

Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol. 5 & 6: Dil Cosby Suite & Dil Withers Suite

One of the first hip hop releases of 2009, and it turns out to be one of the most difficult to discuss. Why? Because there are so many different contexts in which to listen to this album. Do you discuss it in terms of other volumes of the Beat Konducta series that Madlib has been engaging in? Do you discuss it in terms of other instrumental hip hop albums? Do you dare touch it in terms of a tribute to fellow producer and friend J Dilla?

Major Lazer - Guns Don’t Kill People...Lazers Do

Here’s where we expose my ignorance in regards to dancehall music. Major Lazer is the project from producers Diplo and Switch, whom most people know from their involvements with M.I.A. Supposedly, Major Lazer is a character they created who is a Jamaican commando who lost an arm fighting a zombie war. This is an interesting concept, but doesn’t necessarily affect the music on the album, just the art work. As for the music on the album, I have to say I'm a little let down.