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No Country for Old (Rap) Men: The rap albums I didn’t hate from 2016 so far

Spoiler alert: None of your favourites made Robbie's list

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Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s that special time when various music hacks everywhere get the opportunity to churn out ‘Best of the Year…So Far’ lists. Not being above lowest common denominator behaviour myself, here is a list of rap albums that I didn’t hate.

01. Agallah - "Bo: The Legend of the Water Dragon"

From his days as 8-Off through to his time as a member of Purple City with Jim Jones and into his latest indie incarnation, the Agafella has continued to deliver his own brand of uncompromising hardcore rap. While I normally abhor too much emotion on the mic, Agallah is never one to bite his tongue so tends to go in, balls and all, on whatever the subject matter at hand is. Thanks to a keen ear for great loops and a restrained guest list, Legend of the Water Dragon has been in constant rotation at CRC HQ since it dropped and is still head and shoulders above the competition at this stage.

02. Havoc and The Alchemist - "The Silent Partner"

There’s nothing particularly interesting about Havoc as a rapper, besides the fact that he maintains his composure as a stony-faced man who lives by his own code. It just so happens that this code basically extends to ‘trust no one’, ‘bitches ain’t shit’, and ‘get money,’ which has a directness to it you’ve got to respect. As the walking anthesis of the young rapper dudes who are bursting with feelings that they want the world to know about, Hav is here to remind us that his heart beats the blackest of ice at all times. With the ever-reliable Alchemist providing the soundtrack, this amounts to the purest of Conservative Rap Coalition experiences one could hope for in 2016.

03. DITC Studios - "S/T"

As I’ve written previously, this was a bit of a mixed bag but worth the effort for the four or five strongest moments, even if there was a little too much O.C./A.G. and not nearly enough Lord Finesse.

04. J-Zone - "Fish-N-Grits"

As much as I enjoy Zone’s dedication to mixing his everyday sarcastic worldview with the ideology of great Ignorant Rap, I’ve found some of his previous works to be a little lacking in long-term replay value in the same way that stand-up comedy albums are – brilliant for the first three or four spins before becoming a little over-familiar. But thanks to his newfound passion for drumming, Fish-N-Grits sets itself apart from the rest of his catalogue in that it provides a more balanced mix of good tunes to accompany the laffs.

05. Westside Gunn - "Flygod"

While I initially categorised Gunn as yet another ‘Son of Marciano’, this LP proved to have some legs and is a worthwhile addition to the ever-growing Drum Free Rap contingent. Naturally, the high point is ‘Omar’s Coming’, where Roc steals the show over the best beat of the album, but the overall atmosphere of possible random violence is something to be appreciated over the entire running time.

06. Elzhi - "Lead Poison"

This isn’t a record that I personally enjoyed all that much, but I’m willing to admit it’s an expertly crafted piece of work if you’re into this sort of thing (i.e. rap not from the Tri State area), in much the same way that I believe that Justin Bieber’s latest album was a minor modern pop classic but that doesn’t mean I’m ever going to listen to it.

07. Meyhem Lauren - "Piatto D'Oro"

This was originally going to drop last year, and when it finally surfaced it was a free download for some reason. I enjoyed it well enough when I originally reviewed it, and being that it’s Free Ninety Nine there’s no reason why you shouldn’t fux with it. Meyhem is very much a ‘meat and two veggies’ (pause) type of MC in that he’s fairly predictable and doesn’t try any weird and wacky shit on the mic, which I appreciate enormously. Sadly, his use of the phrase ‘move a bag of that Robbie’ doesn’t appear to have caught on in the rap world to the extent that I’d hoped.

08. Cole James Cash - "Street Champion"

Themed around the classic Street Fighter II arcade game, this project began life as a Kickstarter project before being picked-up for distribution and finally released as a free download after Capcom threatened legal action. To make matters worse, Cole James was shot in the knee and robbed for his laptop in his hometown of Oakland only a few weeks before the album dropped. The good news is the album is musically strong and features a wide enough cast of rapper dudes and gals that it’s sure to have at least something that’s in your wheelhouse if you have even the slightest interest in lyrical miracle rap.