Today I tackle my favorite 10 Milwaukee hip-hop/hip-hop-ish albums of 2011. As always, the list is presented in alphabetical order.
Rapper/singer/songwriter B. Reith creates his bravest and most honest album with "How The Story Ends." Hailing from Brown Deer, the now-Nashville resident has had some interesting ups and trying lows in the industry and after becoming a 100 percent indie artist again. Reith gives you wit, a smooth style, an angelic
voice and catchy tunes.
After releasing "Remember The Name" in 2010, KHB showed they were growing and gelling better than they ever had in recorded form. It was going to be tough to match the feeling their EP gave me because it was just enough of what they did best and it wasn't laborious in any way. In the middle of December they released "The War Room," which takes what they did on "Remember The Name" and keeps the ball rolling, but with a darker and angrier tone. "The War Room" often comes off as a gigantic middle finger, but in the world of the underground the glorification of the "f*ck you" mentality is just as important as the core fundamentals hip-hop was built upon, and when you get a new KHB record you know the core fundamentals are going to be there.
When depressive meets manic, chaos ensues. "...STILL untitled" is the chaos created out of The Hollowz emcee Logic teaming up with producer and rapper Raze, and it's a chaos that ebbs and flows in and out of standard hip-hop, pop, confessionals and party anthems. It's tough to make diversity work on a larger scale, but the duo's debut does just that.
Seeking to throw off the title of merely being one of the rappers in the Packers tribute song "Green and Yellow" that roared around the net and radio stations late last year and earlier this year, impeccable rapper Pizzle released his excellent pop/rap debut "Fame In Vain." Pizzle is an artist that gives you everything you want from the pop side of the genre, similar to Atlanta's B.o.B, and should be looked at as a commercially viable entity from here on out.
Prophetic has always shown flashes of being able to put together a complete project, but until this year's "Purgatory" his efforts had some gaps in them that led them to be a bit disjointed. This is not the case with "Purgatory," which stands alone as his best album to date and one of the strongest of the year. Proph is often compared to Jay-Z in how easily he's able to speak on myriad topics both from the I and as somebody putting on a persona to explain a specific situation. Proph shows that he is the real deal with "Purgatory."
The NYC-by-way-of-MKE emcee SigNif is hands down one of the coldest rappers to be linked to Milwaukee's newer school of artists. After releasing several projects between 2010 and 2011 she dropped the crowning jewel in her discography, "Embracing Rejection," in the fourth quarter of 2011. Nif creates songs that consist of lyrics that paint vivid pictures for the listener and she is always speaking from the heart. There is still a lot of sexism in hip-hop today, so there will be people that say ignorant things like "she's pretty good for a girl," which is unfortunate because she's just plain old good for a human.
SPEAK Easy has consistently been on the short list of artists that don't get much attention from the media but completely deserves it. His album "So To Speak" builds off of the more aggressive and soulful tendencies found on his debut album and subsequent mixtapes. SPEAK Easy is someone who does music because of his passion for it and that passion comes through clearly on "So To Speak."
Tay Butler released "Mayor" with absolutely no fanfare and if you blinked you could've completely missed the fact that it was released. The Army vet spends lots of time deployed overseas but in between deployments he found time to put together an extremely passionate and worthy album that deserves being heard.
Sometimes light can be found in the dark, and if the darkness is depression then the light is The Hollowz's "Dreams Of Sex And Flying," an album that plays out like two people on the verge of being placed in straitjackets. Emcee Logic is fantastic on the album but it's truly the production of Ed Cayce that gives the album its desperation, intensity and hollowness. "Dreams Of Sex And Flying" is a soundtrack for anybody on their way down to the bottom, or those who are already there and don't want to feel alone.
The scope and sound of "Painghosty Dreamlaughs" is huge while still remaining dusty and indie. WC Tank is like a modern representation of Syd Barrett, and the album absolutely plays out like an acid trip with its sudden turns and twists and runs of nearly inaccessible lyrics. Not often can a clusterf*ck of sound and singing create something beautiful and engaging, but WC Tank's brilliant "Painghosty Dreamlaughs" does just that.
Born in Milwaukee and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer, Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus Poppe has spent the majority of his life in or around the city and county of Milwaukee.
As an advocate of Milwaukee's hip-hop community Poppe began popular local music blog Milwaukee UP in March 2010. Check out the archived entries here.
Though heavy on the hip-hop, Poppe writes about other genres of music and occasionally about food, culture or sports, and is always ready to show his pride in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.