50. Redman-Red Gone Wild [Def Jam]
Other than M.O.P., Redman is the only East Coast rapper able to conceptually re-make the same album since 1992 and get away with it. The only difference is that where Billy Danze and Fizzy Womack are concerned with curb-checking you if you wander into Brownsville, Reggie Noble wants to blow trees, molest chubby women, watch cartoons, babble about Zilla, and freestyle. And just like M.O.P, Redman is really really good when he sticks to the script. The only thing different with Red Gone Wild is that this time the Funk Doc put a weird Smurf-looking anime character on the cover, a decision no doubt made under the influence of some strong Super Skunk. Ultimately, it's Redman. He tells you he's gonna' be “breakin' you off wif da ultimate funk shit!” And he does. Let the weed do the rest. —
49. Blockhead-Uncle Tony's Coloring Book [Ninja Tune]
Blockhead's a fitting name for the Manhattan-based producer born Tony Simon, who like his Charlie Brown referencing alias, gets no respect. Best known for his production work with Aesop Rock, Blockhead has released a steady string of great hip-hop instrumental albums over the four years that received the worst response possible: they've been ignored. But below the radar, Blockhead has evolved into one of the best producers in hip-hop, mainstream or otherwise. Not to mention his Party Fun Action Committee record is probably the funniest LP made this decade (really.)
On Uncle Tony's Coloring Book, Blockhead trades in the brooding, candles and seance vibe of his previous work, for a more upbeat, lush sound. Resuscitating 40s blue jazz notes, aching soul samples and acid rock guitar riffs and melding them to his crate digging aesthetic, Blockhead's third record might be his best yet. Now people need to stop being such blockheads and pay attention.
48. Chromeo-Fancy Footwork [Vice]
Chromeo mesh perfectly with the hipster retro aesthetic so popular today. Their 80s breakbeats, Zapp-like vocoders and hollow tenor saxophone solos are are all a throwback to the time when headbands and leggings were de rigeur fashion items in hip circles. record. It's only upon multiple listenings that you start to hear Bird's mastery of the violin, as he morphs an ostensibly staid instrument into a pop weapon. Armchair Apocrypha doesn't expand much beyond beyond 2005's similarly excellent, Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs. It doesn't really need to. Every Bird song is a miniature symphony, one that grows more complex and poetic with every spin. Plus, he's a much better whistler than that dude in Peter Bjorn & John. —Scott Towler