Been listening to rap for the most part recently. As much as some people (including myself) claim that indie-hop is being outshined by more commercial hip-hop (thank you Kanye, Jay-Z, Missy) in recent years, not least in the respect that some mainstream artists have been more adventurous and innovative beat-wise than indie-hoppers, most of my favorite hip-hop records of this year are hardly recognized as mainstream.
None have mixed beats and a political stance as effectively this year as the Perceptionists, whose Black Dialogue has grown on me in recent weeks despite being released as early as April. The new Blackalicious album displays the genius that Gift of Gab can be; lyrical and smooth and fast and tricky. The beats are as bouncy and funky as you'd wish they would be. Eirik is beginning to like it too. Dangerdoom is by far the funniest rap record so far this year. MF Doom's outpouring of words brings plenty of pleasant, if not knee-slapping surprises. And the skits are good too ("Call me doggie! WOOF"). Edan's Beauty and the Beat was a strong contender earlier this year, and although I still enjoy it, I find it a bit too retro-centric and perhaps a bit one-dimensional. Blueprint's 1988 still sounds great, though. Big girls need love too. Count Base-D's mini lp Begborrowsteel is a lovely little gem, perhaps reminiscent of Common at his best, which means Like Chocolate..., not Be. Quasimoto's second offering is a bit disjointed, but that is part of why I like hin in the first place.
But having said all this, Kanye still remains a favorite, and although there is no denying his place in the mainstream (as if that was something bad), he displays more compassion, warmth and commitment through his music than mot indie-hoppers do. This year he got political too, both in and outside of music. And I'm a sucker for political art. Well, as long as it's good anyway.