When Earl's verse cuts to silence and he exclaims, "I fucking hate you" your ears perk up. You're offended, taken aback, but relating with the emotion in his voice. And then, near the end, when he says under his breath, "fuck it, you'll never listen to this shit anyways," you decide that this 16-year-old is spitting some shit you can back up, no matter how old you are or what you've gone through. Like in the brief moments of the Slim Shady LP when Eminem mentions - in between lines about defiling corpses - that he hates how his mother raised him. The character is unmasked just long enough to realize they're just as flesh and bone as you are. Download his amazing album right here.
stalker - My Swag *removed*
I think this really marked my first big fascination with anonymous internet artists. The imagery that came with stalker's creations always remained minimal and abstract. It may be my imagination but it feels like it predates the overpopulation of triangles and satan swag that filled up the Internet through the rest of this year. It's Souljaboy's "Pretty Boy Swag" but it sounds like it was forced through the nine circles of hell and back again. This was the first noticeable track that dropped by stalker and it wasn't quite DJ Screw or Salem or just any Indie kid with Audacity downloaded on his macbook. It was... stalker.
Waka Flocka Flame - Hard In Da Paint (ft. Ciara)
It's likely that Flocka actually has more haters than fans, and he's surely embraced it at this point. The unrelenting aggressiveness of Gucci Mane's apprentice is what has sent him soaring overtop his mentor this year and what made me want to go through with smashing everything in my house on numerous occasions. If there was ever a bad day, this became the reward for enduring it all. Your parents would be confused and disappointed if they heard it, and isn't that what we all secretly strive for in life?
Jai Paul - BTSTU
This track served as an endlessly entertaining one. Equal parts tender and fist pumper. Feels like Jai Paul designed this club/crib favorite and took a bow (seeing that this was really the only original track he dropped this year?) You can't ignore a song that opens with the line "don't fuck with me" being sung quietly into your ear. A mysterious and undeniable masterpiece.
Husalah - You Neva Know
Producer Dex Beats flipped a glossy 90s R&B track and turned it into an underdog beat that continuously trips over itself while Husalah warns that you always watch your back. The production alone gives this a deserved spot on anyone's yearend list, but Husalah, after a long stint in jail, hops on the track, raps like an experienced father and sings unapologetically out of tune, which only adds to the charm.
The Pack - Fresh (Lunice Remix)
First impressions must be a big thing for me. This is what really got me onto Lunice - everything from the pitched 808s, synthesized bells, to the creative use of a single word from the same song as the refrain. The original "Fresh" is good, but it's actually 3 6 Mafia's inclusion that made me not listen more than once or twice. Lunice must've shared those sentiments because he tossed Mafia's verses and added what is probably a total of ..three different instruments overtop the acapella. And I wouldn't want to hear a single thing added to it.
Droop-E - I'm Loaded
Speaking of minimal production, Droop-E is the king of self-restraint. E-40's son has been producing since he was 15 and it shows with the professionalism on I'm Loaded. The beat is simple, his verses are simple, but this is the furthest thing from belittling his talent. If everyone made Lex Luger beats, music wouldn't be worth listening. This is what makes music beautiful: you can go from a chaotic song and then turn on a track like "I'm Loaded" and zone out or drive around all night long and never want to find your way home.
Girl Unit - Wut
Girl Unit must've been so incredibly pumped when the vocal samples for "Wut" fell into his lap. I'm sure the song could survive without those pitched up yelps - it's doing just fine with a fat slap, stabbing drum machine snares, and a synth pad that sounds like a choir of voiceless robot gospel singers - but the urgency of those screams cutting in and out make me able to listen to this track over and over, regardless of its track length (mine is seven minutes, I think some versions run shorter and also longer).
DOM - Living In America
This is pure synthpop rock from a band that no one on the Internet let alone the world knew about a year ago. But a lot can happen in a year, and DOM can attest to that. The lyrics are goofy and ironic, the keyboards sound like they torn out of their sockets during an 80s krautrock show, and all-in-all it's just the perfect quality for those who miss their Sony Walkmen.
Lil B - The Trap
Choosing my favorite Lil B track over the duration of a year is like choosing the funniest Seinfeld episode (if that show went on for another 30 seasons). There was always something about "The Trap" though. It was released smack in the middle between tracks like "Wonton Soup" and "Swag On My Dick" and it had Based God at his wisest, preaching about the "mindset" of living in the projects and why we're not sufficiently taught about taxes in school. How does that relate to being a "pretty bitch"? That is the true genius of Lil B.
Crystal Castles - Empathy
The Canadian duo continued this year to create songs that make want to dance, cry, make love, and get drunk blind. Their formula for writing songs has proven to be successful and I can't see them slowing down any time soon. This is a track that could easily let any rapper fill in the grooves (I think Big Boi freestyled over it?) but singer Alice Glass's sensual singing and jaded melodies helped make this a song I could listen to all year round and continue to do so into 2011.
Sade - Soldier of Love
A certain demographic would be angered by me saying this, but I'd honestly never listened to Sade before this song dropped. Safe to say though, the song dropped on the internet and I bought the album the following day. I haven't had a song do that to me since, but this track had such a sound that dug its way into the nooks of my brain and set up camp for weeks. The rolling, militaristic snare, the sporadic (almost heavy metal) guitar, and the singing. Never has such a masculine voice sounded so sexy to heterosexual ears, and the choir of male warriors she has behind her sound like her willing slaves.
Yelawolf - Pop The Trunk
There is so much emotion in this song. Say what you want about Yelawolf, his image, his voice, whatever. Turn all the lights out and turn this song on. That piano line; his flow; his tone. I recommend it.
Kanye - Monster (ft. Bon Iver, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, and Nicki Minaj)
This was one of those tracks that leaked a few times, each release having a little more recorded. What I didn't hear until the final release was Nicki's verse. And wow, did they really leave best for last. People have hated on the beat, saying that there's not enough production magic going on, but honestly, I wouldn't want this track to be any busier. We should really just thank Kanye for holding the best party ever and recording the audio - because I like to imagine that's how this went down. The structure of the song makes it thoroughly enjoyable, feeling like a Tarantino movie where the cameos just get better and better the further you get into it. And just... Wow, Nicki could've retired after that verse.
Robyn - Dancing On My Own
2010 was also a great year for Robyn, after at least five years of more-or-less musical hibernation, the super Swedish 90s pop sensation jumped back on the scene with a shit ton of releases. There wasn't a single moment of awkwardly getting back into the swing of things or catching up with the contemporary sound. She somehow managed to nuzzle her way into every listener's heart - from that preppy bitch you went to high school with to that cool dude who doesn't say much at the clothing store. Not to mention, Pitchfork gobbled up everything she did, so that helps. The songs on my list, the ones that really made an impact through my year, seem to be ones that dominated a number of genres and blurred the line in as many ways as possible. Robyn could turn this into an acoustic track and make it a candle-burner, easily. But instead, she's confessing her sad drunk thoughts overtop a four-on-the-floor beat, the stable synth holding her up the entire time.