I am endlessly fascinated with the way the record-buying public views Nas with a mixture of amusement and indifference. Unlike Kweli or Mos or Common or Tip, something about Nas's overtly political and heartfelt messages doesn't connect even though he's a better emcee by half.
I say this because as usual people don't really like Nas' new song.
I never really bought singles unless there was a B-side or a remix that was dope. And while I'm aware now that Michael Jackson's single + filler archetype is the dominant approach to album making for most black music, I still hold out hope that artists will give me 10, 12 or 14 songs that fit together in a way that makes for a complete listening experience.
In 2011, that happened far more infrequently for me than I would have liked. Last year, I did a list of 30. This year, I only got 10.
NOTE: I should also say that I haven't really had time to digest new material by Anthony Hamilton, Common, Meshell N'degeocello, Trey Songz, and The Roots (tho my initial reaction here was that it's the best album of the year) so I just couldn't justify ranking them at all.
Before we get to the top 10 after the jump, here are albums I liked, but didn't love:
Anwar Robinson, Everything (pleasant, but unremarkable except for "Come Over," which is sublime)
Johnny Gill, Still Winning (pleasant but unremarkable)
Idle Warship, Habits of the Heart (feels undercooked in places)
Frank Ocean, nostalgia/ultra (definitely feels undercooked)
The Paxtons, Avenue: A (a shade too in love with Kanye and Jay Electronica, but tight rhymes)
Cali Swag District, Kickback (far too long, far too short on the verve that makes their singles so hot)
And albums that disappointed me:
Ledisi, Pieces of Me (too adult contemporary for my tastes. much of this material is just not worthy of Ledisi's voice)
Jill Scott, The Light of the Sun (unfinished and undisciplined is the last thing Jill Scott needs. Tried to be like Worldwide Underground and failed miserably).
Beyonce, 4 (didn't go far enough toward real tried-and-true R&B or soul. full of messy lead vocals)
Kelly Rowland, Here I Am (the definition of derivative. three strikes and you're out, Kelly!)
Kelly Price, Kelly (zzzzzz)
Tyrese, Open Invitation ("Stay" should have been an indication of what this album would be, but unfortunately it's just a weird outlier on a standard bad male R&B album)
Ginuwine, Elgin (why Ginuwine thinks "maturity" equals "boring" is beyond me. someone get him his groove back, please.)
Pharoahe Monche, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (some mediocre production ruins this one for me)
Talib Kweli, Gutter Rainbows (too long, too much bad production. feels like an afterthought)
Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin' (i am over this retro Ray Ray. time to step into the new millennium, homie)
A review of episode ten* of VH1's Single Ladies after the jump. You can read all my reviews of the show here.
*I was informed that the premiere movie – what I call episode one – is considered a separate entity from the show. So my reviews are numbered incorrectly. Oops. This is technically episode nine. Why VH1 did it this way is beyond me.