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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Top 10 Bay Area Hip-Hop Albums of 2010

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 9:27 AM

2010 has been a pretty good year for Bay Area hip-hop, if only because it saw the next generation of local rappers come into its own, eager (and maybe even ready) to put the

Bay back on the national radar once again. Even after the death of hyphy,

rappers here just continue to get weirder and weirder, falling in love

with abstract, synthesized beats as they rhyme about weed, outer space, and Paris Hilton. Not that that's

not a bad thing.

click to enlarge moe_green_rocky_maivia.jpg

10. Moe Green - Rocky Maivia: Non-Title Match

One of 2010's newcomers, Vallejo's Moe Green kicks things off by sampling

dubstep producer Skream's remix of La Roux's "In For The Kill." This is the

new Bay, where emcees and producers are influenced as much by the Internet

as they are by the local legends they grew up around. From there, the

album only gets better as Green's smooth, boastful rhymes skate over a

variety of sonic styles; drum-heavy slaps, jazzy, Madlib-esque beats, and a

touch of East Coast boom-bap. You can tell Moe Green hasn't fully come into

his own quite yet, but Rocky Maivia shows that the future is bright for this


MP3: Moe Green -- "Search Party"

click to enlarge erk_jerk.jpg
Besides maybe Lil B, there's not a more honest, introspective rapper around

than Erk Tha Jerk. That doesn't mean he's preachy or corny though. On Nerd's

Eye View, Erk just talks about what he knows, and in this case, it largely

centers around his uncertainty over what the future holds. Erk has a

gravelly voice and bouncy flow that takes a couple of songs to get used to,

but once you do, it's hard not to love the ravey synths, big hooks, and

confessionals found on songs like this year's minor hit, "Right Here."

Download: Erk Tha Jerk: Nerd's Eye View -- The Prelude

8. J. Stalin - Prenuptial Agreement
click to enlarge j_stalin_prenup.jpg

J. Stalin is still flying under the radar outside the Bay, but around here,

his loose lyrical style and ear for lush, sparkling beats has brought him a

lot of buzz. On Prenuptial Agreement, J Stalin isn't doing anything new

necessarily, but it all sounds so good that he doesn't really need to. "Get

Me Off," an R&B-tinged track featuring E-40 and E-Da Sanga, sounds like

something straight out the Bay Area circa 1995. He even ventures into the

sultry side of '80s boogie funk on "When It's Real," pulling the same "Ooh

La La La" sample made famous by the Fugees on "Fu-Gee-La." I'm not


J. Stalin - "H.N.I.C (feat. Messy Marv)":

7. E-40 - Revenue Retrievin' : Day Shift/Night Shift (Heavy on the Grind)

click to enlarge e_40_revenue_night.jpg
E-40 could have easily mailed it in on his eleventh album. Instead, he

opted to release No. 12 along with it, and turned to his son Droop-E to lace him

with a wild set of futuristic slaps. Standout tracks include the dreamy

"Spend The Night," which is comprised entirely of Bjork samples. And even if

the Revenue Retrievin' project buckles a bit under the weight of its double-disc load, E-40's

flow sounds rejuvenated.

E-40 (feat. Droop-E) - "Spend the Night":

6. Sleepy D - Sleepy Deprivation
click to enlarge sleepy_d.jpg
Sleepy D, the half-brother of Oakland favorite D-Lo (you know, Mr. No Hoe),

had a few tricks up his sleeve with the release of Sleepy Deprivation this

year. Sleepy's hyperactive flow is perfectly suited for the array of

supercharged beats, which seem to simultaneously head in every direction on the sonic spectrum. "Blap," produced by Young L and featuring D-Lo, is the

high point of this album, featuring a trippy beat that could only have come out of

the Bay.

5. Cousin Fik - No Gravity (Sick-Wid-It)

click to enlarge cousin_fik.jpg
Sick-Wid-It's Cousin Fik got a hell of a guest lineup for his debut album, No

Gravity. Produced entirely by Droop-E, Fik managed to pull label boss E-40,

Clyde Carson, Stevie J, Stressmatic, Murs, Yukmouth, Beeda Weeda, and Turf

Talk for this album, which is about as synthed-out and spacey as one can get

without venturing into the realm of psychedelia. Fik is no slouch on the

mic either, showing he can handle an uptempo track or a slow head-nodder

with equal skill. Album closer "My Own Opponent," which also features Murs

and Droop-E, perfectly sums up Fik's futuristic, braggadocio style.

4. Young L - L-E-N: The Mixtape

click to enlarge young_l_e_n.jpg

Lil B wasn't the only one who stepped out of the shadow of The Pack in 2010.

Young L also proved his worth, unleashing a flurry of some of the most unique-sounding beats to come out of the Bay in years.

Somehow minimal and bombastic at the same time, Young L's beats sound like

they come out of the coldest, loneliest, angriest corner of the

universe, pulling as much from techno, grime, and dubstep as they do from hip-hop. Some of his best production work in 2010 ended up on L-E-N,

even if the rhymes weren't quite up to the same level.

3. DaVinci - The Day the Turf Stood Still (Sweetbreads Creative Collective)

click to enlarge da_vinci_turf_stood.jpg
It's not very often that S.F. emcees come with a boom-bap, beats-and-rhymes

approach. But Fillmore rapper DaVinci did just that, without sacrificing any

of his Bay Area flavor. The Day The Turf Stood Still is an album full of

street tales that neither glorify, nor condemn, the goings-on in this city. It's

merely a man describing what's going on around him. Shit, he even

manages to touch on the gentrification of S.F. on "What You Finna Do."

2. Roach Gigz - Roachy Balboa (Thizz City)

click to enlarge roach_gigz.jpg
Although Roachy Balboa was labeled a mixtape, so much love and care was put

into this project that it's essentially an album. Over the course of an

hour, the lyrically nimble Roach Gigz makes it very clear he loves drugs,

women, and hip-hop (not necessarily in that order), as he drops punchlines

that most battle rappers would die to create themselves. To match his

likable personality on the mic, Gigz is blessed with head-nodding

beats that slump, slap, and knock their way through your speakers, finding

a happy medium between the S.F. and Oakland sounds. Look no further than

"Medicine," "Wasting Time," or "Respect It" for appropriate examples.

1. Lil B - N/A

click to enlarge lil_b_red_flame.jpg
It may be cheating to put Lil B on this list, since there's no single release

this year that was as focused or coherent at last year's 6 Kiss (instead he

released hundreds of hastily-composed tracks spread out across multiple

mixtapes). But over the course of 12 months, the Based God has turned

himself into a bonafide Internet/hip-hop folk hero, seemingly starting a new meme every day, conspiring with Soulja Boy, selling out venues in

NYC and Chicago, and snagging himself multiple cover stories. Yes, he has

his spoken-word album, Rain In England, performed entirely over

self-produced, ambient beats, but that's a different beast entirely. The

sheer volume of his output is enough to make your head spin, but buried in

those tracks are enough songs to make you understand how Lil B got as far as he did this year.

Editor's note: Props must also be given here to S.F. native Richie Cunning's Night Train, a thoroughly head-nodding example of rhyme-spitting-as-hometown-boosterism and adroitly crate-dug old-school beats.

What should be added to this list? Tell us on Twitter, or hit us up on Facebook.

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