I want all hip hop fans to look in the mirror and repeat this mantra: ‘Rap didn’t change, I did.’ Accept this and be happy. — Phonte aka Phontigallo from The Foreign Exchange (and formerly of Little Brother)
Album Art

The Roots - Now or Never ft. Phonte & Dice Raw

A little motivation while I’m preparing for a job interview in a couple hours. Create change, don’t wait for it…

ArtistThe Roots
TitleNow Or Never ft. Phonte & Dice Raw
AlbumHow I Got Over


Just because it’s already March doesn’t mean that we still can’t talk about last year, right? Anyway, I’m lagging as always, but for my new readers/followers, I do this “favorite albums” thing on an annual basis. Also, I don’t know if I just took more time to search for new music in 2011, but out of all the years, this was definitely the toughest list to decide on (even with the Honorable Mention section). As usual, there’s a lot of hip hop, but the top choices are from a different genre.

1. Jeff Bernat - The Gentleman Approach
The closest thing I can come to describing this album is saying that it reminds me of 90’s R&B. The brotha is just smoove widdit (see previous post).
Favorite Tracks: Just Vibe, Ms. Seductive

2. Adele - 21
Even though this album came out in the beginning of the year, I didn’t get my hands on it until the last few months of 2011 (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that this was actually the first time that I really listened to any of her music). That woman can sing!!
Favorite Tracks: Someone Like You (I know…it’s played out), He Won’t Go

3. J. Cole - Cole World: The Sideline Story
A lot of my homies have been J. Cole fans for awhile now, but this is another artist I slept on. I’m pretty selective with the hip hop content I listen to and this album doesn’t really fit the mold, but I found myself bumpin’ this…a lot.
Favorite Tracks: Sideline Story, Lost Ones

4. Blue Scholars - Cinemetropolis
This was a much different sound from their previous albums. Although I was feelin’ the lyrics, this album gave me a newfound respect for Sabzi (the DJ/producer) — he’s definitely one of the most versatile beat makers out there.
Favorite Tracks: Marion Sunshine, Yuri Kochiyama

5. Lupe Fiasco - Lasers
Upon my very first listen, I wanted to delete this album from my iPod. I was extremely disappointed with it and thought it was so watered down and tried too hard to have mainstream appeal, but considering his previous track record, I gave Lupe the benefit of the doubt. I still think a lot of the hooks are really lame and cheesy, but this album really grew on me and was actually one of my top contenders for most of the year. The lyrical content was still on point, which is ultimately what matters most to me.
Favorite Tracks: Words I Never Said, 'Til I Get There

6. Murs - Love & Rockets, Vol. 1: The Transformation
I’ve said it many, many times before, but Murs is one of my favorite MCs and I think this just might be his best album to date.
Favorite Tracks: Eazy E, Animal Style

7. Mayer Hawthorne - How Do You Do
What can I say? The dude is just smoove with it. I’m diggin’ this more than his first album too.
Favorite Tracks: Get to Know You, Dreaming

8. Prometheus Brown & Bambu - Walk Into A Bar
Two of my favorite MCs, Prometheus Brown (aka Geo of Blue Scholars) and Bambu (formerly of Native Guns) doing a collabo project together?! Yooo…I damn sure couldn’t sleep on this one! Yet another solid release from the Beatrock Music label.
Favorite Tracks: Nowhere, National Treasure

9. Phonte - Charity Starts at Home
Kind of like with the Lupe Fiasco album, this one really took some time to grow on me. I thought it was just aight at first, but was actually a little disappointed. I think he’s one of the dopest and wittiest rappers in the game right now, which is why I had really high expectations that weren’t immediately met. I’ve been bumping this a lot and the dude really touches on some good subjects while still having an original flow. This will be in heavy rotation for a long time to come.
Favorite Tracks: The Good Fight, Sendin’ My Love

10. Childish Gambino - Camp
This is probably the most “commercial” sounding album on my list. It’s similar to the J. Cole album in the sense that I might disagree with a lot of the content, but I’m still feelin’ it (see previous post).
Favorite Tracks: Outside, Hold You Down

HONORABLE MENTION (in no particular order):
1. The Roots - Undun: I have a strong feeling that this one will grow on me a lot over time, especially considering that it’s a concept album.
2. Krystle Tugadi - Time EP
3. Dumbfoundead - DFD
4. re:plus - Ordinary Landscape: Shout out to my FlowEthics fam for their Japan to CA collabo!!
5. Little Dragon - Ritual Union
6. Zee Avi - Ghostbird
7. Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming
8. Mikey Manifest - Collection Fifteen
9. Stic.Man - The Workout
10. Digital Martyrs Remix Beatrock

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne: I had really high expectations for this one but was pretty let down. I’m not saying it was a horrible album, I just wasn’t feeling it as much as I thought I would.

Check out the FREE EP that Brother Ali released today.  I still need to give it a thorough listen, but I can’t get enough of that first verse on track 3…Phonte does it again!

Check out the FREE EP that Brother Ali released today. I still need to give it a thorough listen, but I can’t get enough of that first verse on track 3…Phonte does it again!

Even though I had to roll solo to this show back in ‘08, I’m glad I still went (I ended up running into the homies from Rhythm Natives so it worked out anyway).

I’ve been to a lot of hip hop shows, which can sometimes blur together, but this was definitely in my Top 10. As far as the overall fun factor, I’d probably rank this right at the top of the list. I’ve seen this clip a bunch of times and I still laugh at the intro (which is just as long as the song itself). Whether you know him as Phonte/Phontigallo from Little Brother, or Phonte Coleman from Foreign Exchange, he took us to church that night!

But let’s not forget who the real star of this video is though, which is the nostalgia of 90’s slow jams.

I love these two songs, Last Day & Next Day (but it’s combined into one video). It’s dope to see Phonte’s process from working retail to taking a risk and chasing his rap dream. Even if it’s not pursuing music, this is for all the folks taking the road less travelled…

[and here are the lyrics for the 2nd song, Next Day, which starts at 03:14]:

Walked outta Belk like, I was feelin brand new
Something I had never felt like, I had been emancipated
And it seem strange but deep down I know it felt right
Back to the crib, I went to tell my girl
And she just looked at me like, “N—-a, I already knew”
So we packed up the Nissan and went to Maryland
For the holidays, my son was bout to be two
Fresh out of a job, what’s a n—-a to do?
So I called Beni B., he shot n—-as some loot
So thankful to God that I was able to pay rent
Met Kev Brown, did the “Can’t Stay Away” shit
Went back home with out pockets butt-naked
Times got tight, we ain’t know if we would make it
Met with the label who decide that now we
We’ll do the first Little Brother tour through Cali
Maaaan! Shit was whack as hell
We was for “The Big Throwdown” like Le-vert
Me, Pooh, 9th, I.D., and Malachi
In the crowded-ass van filled with ugly-ass T-shirts
Dealin with the label drove Tiggalo bizzerk
So when we got home, I put my foot on the flo’
Said, “I ain’t doin this management shit no mo’”
Gave the call to my n—-a Big Dho, let’s get it
We started makin money doin some travelin
But at home, my family life was steady unravelin
Me and ol’ girl wasn’t seein eye to eye
Just shackin up, layin thigh to thigh
Not in love, just “Fakin Jax” like I-n-I
She said, “Baby, you know I’ll go through the wall for you”
But when I stepped off the plane back from Portugal
She was gone, fuck it, y’all n—-as heard “All For You”
Came back to the crib, had to pack all my shit up
Cause that’s when we did our first tour with Hiero
Seem like everyday them n—-as stay high tho’
I love y’all, thanks for teachin us how to grind, yo
Came off the road with my name well-respected
Hit the studio, me and Nic finished “Connected”
Money in my pocket and a new apartment
And on top of that – now the major labels is watchin
Heeeey! It was the top of ‘04
And everythang seem to be movin in slo-mo
N—-as wanted a deal so bad, they can taste it
But everyday, it seem like it would be a no-go
With a palm that’s sweaty and hand that’s jittery
Signed, to Atlantic and the rest is misery
Oops! Freudian slip, I mean the rest is history
I”m just still a little hot, excuse my n—-ery
In the middle of makin “The Minstrel Show”
We was out one night, saw this thang that caught my eye
I like the way that she danced, like the way that she moved
Fly conversation and the way she thought was fly
She moved in and we got real close
And I can see that she was way above average
So we tied the knot, and my second son dropped
About, six weeks after the album did
Y’all n—-as know the rest, I won’t bore you widdit
“Minstrel Show” came and went; we went to war with critics
They said, “We wouldn’t make it as a two-man team”
But this is part of a two-man dream
That I had in my heart since I walked out the store
That’s what I did with my next day, whatchu gon’ do with YOURS?
Whatchu gon’ do with YOURS?
… and that’s what hap’n, peace!

I’m not too familiar with the newer Foreign Exchange music, but I’m feelin’ this one…especially because Phonte, formerly of Little Brother, is rapping again instead of only singing (which he’s mediocre at). This track is also available for a FREE DOWNLOAD.

I’ve said it before, but Phonte is one of the few MCs who I consistently look forward to hearing because he’ll drop clever lines without sacrificing substance. I’m super geeked out about his long awaited solo rap album that’ll be released in a few weeks!