Best of 2004

It’s that time of the year again kiddies! As always, these lists were not easy to compile. Both because I hear so much music in a given year and because there was so much good shit that is hard to separate. Spots 5 through 15 are damn near interchangeable on any given day. The highlight of this year would have to be the quality of major label releases. It has been nearly 10 years since the majors have put out this many dope albums. I know I speak for many when I say…it’s about fucking time. If you disagree with me, just remember, I know much more than you. No wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that out loud. Let’s try again. If you disagree with me, just remember, opinions are like rap careers…everybody’s got one.

Album of the Year

Madvillain – Madvillainy (Stones Throw)

Major Label Albums of the Year

The Roots – The Tipping Point (Geffen)

Kanye West – College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella)

Ghostface – The Pretty Toney Album (Def Jam)

K-OS – Joyful Rebellion (EMI)

Cee Lo – Cee Lo Green The Soul Machine (Elektra)

De La Soul – The Grind Date (Urban Sanctuary)

Nas – Street’s Disciple (Columbia)

Handsome Boy Modelling School – White People (Atlantic)

Mos Def – The New Danger (Geffen)

Xzibit – Weapons of Mass Destruction (Columbia)

Lloyd Banks – The Hunger For More (Shady)

Jadakiss – Kiss of Death (Interscope)

Eminem – Encore (Shady/Aftermath)

Talib Kweli – The Beautiful Struggle (Geffen)

Ludacris – Red Light District (Def Jam South)

Dilated Peoples – Neighborhood Watch (Capitol)

Beastie Boys – To The 5 Boroughs (Capitol)

Snoop Dogg – R&G: The Masterpiece (Geffen)

Twista – Kamikaze (Atlantic)

Erick Sermon – Chilltown, New York (Universal)

Independent Albums of the Year

Masta Ace – A Long Hot Summer (M3)

Ill Bill – What’s Wrong With Bill? (Psycho+Logical)

Foreign Exchange – Connected (BBE)

J-Zone – A Job Ain’t Nuthin But Work (Old Maid)

Gift of Gab – 4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up (Quannum)

MF DOOM – Mm..Food (Rhymesayers)

Leak Bros – Waterworld (Eastern Conference)

Royce Da 5’9 – Death is Certain (Koch)

Wordsworth – Mirror Music (Halftooth)

Jean Grae – This Week (Babygrande)

Time Machine – Slow Your Roll (Glow In The Dark)

Illogic – Celestial Clockwork (Weighless)

Sabac – Sabacolypse (Psycho+Logical)

Insight – The Blast Radius (Brick)

Devin The Dude – To The X-Treme (Rap-A-Lot)

Masta Killa – No Said Date (Nature Sounds)

Eyedea & Abilities – E&A (Rhymesayers)

RA The Rugged Man – Die Rugged Man, Die (Nature Sounds)

Oh No – The Disrupt (Stonesthrow)

Prince Po – The Slickness (Lex)

Encore – The Layover (Hiero Imperium)

Capital D – Insomnia (All Natural Inc.)

Haiku D’Etat – Coup De Theatre (Project Blowed)

Vast Aire – Look Ma, No Hands (Chocolate Industries)

Jedi Mind Tricks – Legacy of Blood (Babygrande)

EP’s of the Year

Murs – Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition (Definitive Jux)

Brother Ali – Champion EP (Rhymesayers)

Viktor Vaughn – VV2: Venomous Villain (Insomniac)

C-Rayz Walz – We Live: Black Samurai EP (Definitive Jux)

Blueprint – Printmatic: Vitamins & Minerals EP (Weightless)

Instrumental Albums of the Year

Blockhead – Music By Cavelight (Ninja Tune)

Rjd2 – Since We Last Spoke (Definitive Jux)

DJ Signify – Sleep No More (Lex)

DJ Sharkey – (Babygrande)

DJ Krush – Jaku (Red Ink)

Compilation/Producer Albums of the Year

Halftooth Records Presents You Don’t Know The Half (Halftooth)

Okayplayer Presents True Notes Vol.1 (Okayplayer)

Pete Rock – Soul Survivor 2 (BBE)

Alchemist – 1st Infantry (KOCH)

Chops – Virtuosity (Vocab)

Man of the Year: Jay-Z

’04 featured Jay’s club hits (“Dirt Off Your Shoulders”), controversial, award-winning videos (“99 Problems”), and hundreds of Black Album remixes. His label was behind the years’ breakout superstar, a man who’s career Jay sparked by employing his production. Plus his pseudo album/concert documentary became a feature film and he released two more platinum albums with both an R&B singer (“Unfinished Business”), and rockers (“Collision Course”). He became the first rapper to own a major professional sports team. To top it all off he became president of hip-hop’s oldest and most recognizable label just 8 years after he was trying to convince them to release his debut album. Oh yeah, and he is breaking off arguably the hottest woman in the entertainment biz. Did I mention that this has all come in his retirement?

Artist of the Year: Kanye West

It isn’t just impressive that his debut went triple platinum, it’s how he did it. When was the last time someone blew up with singles that discussed insecurity, superficiality and Jesus? I don’t remember the last time songs like that even made it to the radio. Mr. West not only brought some much needed balance to the mainstream but he made commercial, conscious rap trendy (trendy is better than non-existent). He seemed to produce for nearly everyone under the sun while introducing the world to two unique superstars-in-the-making (John Legend and Miri Ben-Aire), and forming his own label G.O.O.D. Music. Now he’s got 10 Grammy nominations to show for it.

Emcee of the Year: MF DOOM

Everyone’s favorite supervillain kept his metal fingers busy this year with two LP’s, an EP, and countless guest spots. Never sacrificing quality for quantity, all 3 projects were outstanding with “Madvillainy” being widely regarded as the album of the year. DOOM’s off-beat humor, mind-bending wordplay and unconventional wisdom have made him one of hip-hop’s most engaging personalities. So you better “act like you knew like Tucan Sam an’em/he eat rappers like part of a complete breakfast/they rhymes ain’t worth the weight of they cheap necklace.”

Producer of the Year: Necro

Sure most of you have never heard of him and he certainly didn’t make any platinum hits. But this is about the beats, and in ’04 Necro outdid them all. The man not only fully produced 5 full-length albums that were released within 6 months of each other, but he did it incredibly well. He displayed a previously unseen versatility and knack for customizing beats to fit the emcee, each of the 5 albums he produced sound very different from one another. Ill Bill’s “What’s Wrong With Bill?” remains one of the best produced albums this year.

So there you go, my take on ’04. Before I go I wanna thank all of you who supported HHDX over the past year(s), especially all of our dedicated soldiers on the message board. Gotta thank Tommy for the opportunity to run my mouth, Andreas for his brilliant writing and willingness to put his neck in the noose with me, and everyone who contributed to the site. 2-0-0-5 is our year bitches! Last and not least, thank you hip-hop, I love you. And as a bonus treat to y’all, here a couple more lists:

Andreas Hale’s Top 10 (in no particular order)

Murs – Murs 3:16: The 9th edition

Foreign Exchange – Connected

Masta Ace – A Long Hot Summer

Kanye West – College Dropout

K-OS – Joyful Rebellion

De La Soul – The Grind Date

Madvillian – Madvilliany

Wordsworth – Mirror Music

RJD2 – Since We Last Spoke

Roots – The Tipping Point

J-Zone’s Top 10

1. J-Zone: A Job Ain’t Nuthin But Work

2. Suga Free: The New Testament-The Truth

3. Devin the Dude: To Tha Extreme

4. Nas: Street’s Disciple

5. Ludacris: The Red Light District

6 Masta Kila: No Said Date

7. 213: The Hard Way

8. Snoop Dogg: R&G: Rhythm & Gangsta The Masterpiece

9. Wordsworth: Mirror Music

10. Masta Ace: A Long Hot Summer