Don’t get hung-up on the exact spot that any particular album occupies, because if you were to ask me for this list again, in a month’s time, I’m sure the order would have changed. Also, I blatantly haven’t listened to everything that dropped this year, so if something is missing, it could be that I haven’t heard it… Or, alternatively, I might have thought it was shit…
20. Invisible Inc - The Exit Strategy
19. Stig Of The Dump – Mood Swings
Another much delayed album that didn’t quite meet expectations. Stig’s skills were never in doubt to anyone after years on the battle circuit, and a couple of EOW titles, but could he transfer that into a great album? Not quite this time, but the potential remains, as the high points on this album are excellent. What holds it back is mainly inconsistent production, and occasionally slipping into self-parody. When sounding fully focused, very few in the country can stand next to Stig.
Hardcore, comic books vibes over typically crunching production from Jazz T & Zygote made Kashmere’s latest effort as entertaining as ever. Could it have been improved? The concept seemed to slightly limit Kash’s wild imagination if anything, and the Boot production, whilst as rock solid as ever became a little samey over the course of the LP. These are minor points though, the album bangs.
17. Grit Grammar – Life Music
A promising debut, Life Music featured high quality production from Baron Samedi throughout, a high caliber guest list and a host who was eager to impress. Although the subject matter occasionally slipped into cliché, this release mark Grit out as one to watch for the future.
16. J-Simple – Late Night Theatre
A heavily slept on release from the Huddersfield MC, out of the Groundwurq crew. Sadly a digital only release, this album showed that Jack Flash is far from the only talent coming out of the Hudd. I really enjoyed this album, as Simple brought an accomplished flow, engaging, varied subject matter and excellent production to the table. If you never checked this out, do yourself a favour, it deserves a wider audience.
You should know what to expect by now from Life & DJ Nappa, hard beats, and rapid fire, righteous rhymes, and Life Beyond Rap does not disappoint. Although this re-treads most of the ground covered by his previous 3 albums, the standard hasn’t slipped.
14. Dr. Syntax - Benny Huge
Is there a more quotable MC in the country than Synners? Not for my money. Hardly bringing a weak bar, let alone verse, Mr Huge is in top form throughout his second solo LP. It only reaches 14 due to a pretty erratic choice of beats, and a bit of overkill in detailing his drunken antics in the first few tracks.
13. Jon Phonics - Half Past Calm 2
One of the country’s most accomplished producers second album brought a mix of styles, a huge guest list, and some screen printing. There aren’t many out there who can master both dusty boom bap, and 21st century synths, but Phonics is that man. Most of the MCs he has given beats to over the last couple of years return the favour, and the result sounds very cohesive for a producer led project.
12. Rhyme Asylum - Solitary Confinement
The punchline experts build on their previous effort, with this solid 2nd album. Although they’ve always specialised in a dark, wordy, almost horror-core style, it is actually their departures from this that are particularly impressive. The more focussed, concept-driven tracks, such as Life Support, This Is Where and Broken Window suggest that if they keep improving, there could be even better albums to come from this trio.
11. Cappo - Genghis
No guests or outside production to be found, Nottingham’s Cappo continued to bring a style that could never be confused for anyone else, his esoteric lyrics and cinematic beats in a league of their own. Whilst I dare anyone to say they understand exactly what he’s on about with every lyric, that’s half the fun. This is to played at LOUD, whilst snapping your neck…
10. Diversion Tactics - Careful On The Way UpUncompromising, true school hip-hop from the Guildford crew, just as expected. Few MCs have as much personality on a track as The Chubby Alcoholic, and Jazz T & Zygote’s production is probably superior here than on the Galaktus album. See Back To School for proof that no one brings unpretentious bangers like DT.
9. Delusionists - Prolusion Plus
Although this was in part a retread of a project from last year, I’m including it here as I wasn’t aware of these guys until this dropped earlier this year. Bringing grounded, smart, everyman rhymes, and excellent production, this crew announced themselves as a name to watch out for in a major way. The assured flow and witty lyrics of Ben Black, both here and in guest slots on Mr Loop’s release, mark him out as one of the best up-and-coming MCs in the UK.
Once again, not really sure if this should be considered an album. The first nine tracks are available as a free EP, and I'm pretty sure that the artist himself hasn't referred to this an album proper. Whether or not the music is good enough isn't up for debate though. As a former EOW champ, it's clear that Flash has serious skills, but as his underrated LP The Union Jack Album showed, he's also a good songwriter. This project continues in exactly the same veign, although perhaps contains a little more filler.
7. Mr. Loop – Music From The Tanhauser Gate
The only entirely free release on this list, but don’t let that trick you into thinking this is worth ignoring. At 10 tracks long, including an intro, it might also be a bit short to really be considered an album, but it’s my list, and I like the tunes, so bollocks to it… The featured MCs are mainly also from the massively slept on Sweatbox Sounds stable, bringing down to earth ‘Grown Man Music’, although The Delusionist’s Ben Black brings some comedy to the standout Suburban Hustler. Really though, it is the soulful beats that steal the show, just like on last year’s equally underappreciated The Bury All. Every MC in the country should be looking to this man for a beat or 2…
6. Verb T – Serious Games
Excellent YNR debut, from an MC who is approaching veteran status. Verbs sounds more at home than he’s ever done, and brings a quality list of producers and guests along for the ride. You know that anything on YNR is going to bring high production values, and this is no different. A couple of the smoothest bass-lines of the year can be found on here.
5. Ty – Special Kind Of Fool
Former Big Dada rhymer Ty returned in 2010 with his 4th album. The amount of effort that went into the music on this is immediately evident, I don’t think I’ve heard an album with such good outros to each song. Although he might not have the most technically accomplished writtens out there, that has never held Ty back before, and doesn’t here either. For an album to stick on, and kick back to, 2010 didn’t provide a better candidate than this.
4. Fliptrix – Theory Of Rhyme
A massive step up in class for Fliptrix from a distinctly average debut, Theory Of Rhyme was probably the surprise package of 2010 for me. Covering a wide range of topics, without the project losing its cohesiveness is always a challenge, but one that Fliptrix easily overcame here. The guest list is kept slim, and strong, so despite the high profile co-signs, it is clear who is at the helm. Perhaps lacking in standout tracks compared to some of the others on this list, the fact that you probably wouldn’t skip 1 of the album’s 16 tracks more than makes up for that.
3. Prose – Force Of Habit
This album was a real throwback, both in terms of style and quality. Sample heavy beats, many of which feature loops you will recognise from elsewhere, form the backdrop on which the previously underrated Efeks does his thing. Not the most skilled MC, he clearly rhymes from the heart, and the passion for the music oozes from almost every track on this album.
2. Skitz – Sticksman
A decade on from his previous album, Skitz eventually returned in 2010. Perhaps his biggest achievement is bringing a fired-up Rodney P with him, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard the UK vet in the sound as focussed as he does during his 3 appearances on Sticksman. UK artists often seem to recruit the odd American guest for their projects just for the sake of having some sort of US co-sign. Skitz brought through an absolute legend in Masta Ace, who couldn’t have sounded more at home. Skitz has always been about a funky bass-line, and you won’t find a better album to bump in the car from 2010. To try and balance out all this praise, Music Is My Life featuring Darrison is rubbish…
1. Jam Baxter - Rinse Out Friday/Spack Out Monday
Excellent guest spots on the Fliptrix and Jon Phonics albums paved the way for this double album. Baxter avoids the usual bloated, filler-filled double album by completely attacking every single track. I’m not sure anyone in the country could stand toe to toe with him on this form, as he has a complex flow, venomous delivery and a pretty unique turn of phrase. Rinse/Spack is a real statement of intent, on which Baxter jumps on every track sounding like he has a point to prove.
Not too sure about the cover though. A bit reminiscent of 90s No Limit/Cash Money, rarely a good thing...
So there you have it, the top 20 of 2010. If you think I’ve got it spot on, or that this list means I must be certifiable fuckwit, then drop a comment. This sort of thing is all about opinion anyway…