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When in doubt, think What Would Quik Do. 

DJ Quik & Suga Free  – “Nobody”

For the six people on the Internet and the pockets of Pomona, who understand that Suga Free’s Street Gospel is a classic (and that Free is probably the most underrated West Coast rapper of the 90s), the reunion of David Blake and Dejuan Rice is a momentous occasion. There are parts of Los Angeles where these two could get a bronze statue built, and rightfully so. At this point I’d wager that they’ll get one before Antonio Villaraigosa. They are better dressed, sport better coifs, and are better at their jobs.

Stepping back from the (almost) afro-futurism of BlaQKout, Quik opts to further refine his smoked-out West Coast aesthetic. This is BBQ and potato salad music, the ideal post G-Funk groove ideal for Free to go in on John Mayer, Tiger Woods, and quote the Dos Equis commercials. Free raps so well that it sounds like he’s having a casual conversation, until you listen closely and realize he basically weaves his own beat full of complex syncopation — I’d compare it to free jazz if Suga Free wouldn’t probably slap me for it. For two men who are far from modest, this is modestly great.

Freeway & Jake One – “African Drums”

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The iTunes bonus track from the still-excellent Stimulus Package finds Jake One sampling (obviously) “African Drums,” and it shows Freeway’s versatility, finding him”spitting hood raps over African Drums.” One of my knocks on Freeway always was that he seemed to only have one mode: winded raps as though he was being chased by a gang of Libyan terrorists in a van. Pairing with Jake One has been mutually symbiotic, with the Seattle producer’s mellow eclecticism blending nicely with Freezer’s blood and asphalt intensity. I’m sure it also helps Jake find the best Cheesesteak spots in Philly.

Redman – “Buck Buck”

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I could try to find new things to say about a Redman song, but it’s not like Reggie’s really evolving, nor do I want him to. I just want to hear him talk shit, tell people to fuck off, make blunt-cruising bangers, and maybe occasionally yell “Gilla House.” If you resign yourself to the fact that we’ll never get another Muddy Waters (sequel bedamned),  new Redman is invariably a very good thing. Also anytime I can use the phrase, “smoke something, bitch,” I will.

G-Side ft. Nicole J. King – “Get It” (prod. by Hudson Mohawke)

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The “Outkast on Steroids” comparisons don’t help anyone. Nor does hyping them as a life-altering entity changing the game with their international perspective, love of spaceships, bloggers, and Sasha & Digweed. G-Side are good and occasionally great, particularly when Block Beataz rein in their cheesiest impulses and meet Yung Clova and ST 2 Lettaz halfway (see “Feel The”).  I’m as guilty of hyperbole as anyone, but ratcheting it down could not hurt. I suppose I’m contractually obligated to write something about this song because I’m heavy into Hudson Mohawke, but let’s not pretend that this isn’t an old beat that he recycled for G-Side. Besides, Magr rapped well over Hud Mo beats last year, and no one said shit. I’d write something speculative and half-baked about G-Side having a savvy Internet strategy, but that would prove nothing. There are far worse outfits who could be receiving the attention, and I appreciate their ability to rap well and willingness  to breach arbitrary genre boundaries and occasionally flash a sense of humor (“My Aura.’) But for what it’s worth, I think Jackie Chain has the most star potential out of anyone from Huntsville.

Raekwon – “Flawless Crowns”

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Rae has approached the last few years of his career like a President nearing the end of his second term.  Few rappers are as self-conscious about their legacy and as open about their desire to rehabilitate their late first term stumbles. Granted, Rae will go to his grave hollering that Immobilarity and Lex Diamond are great records (admittedly, they’re much better than their rep), but it’s songs like this that solidify his solo reputation as one of the all-time greats.  Heavily bootlegged on the Internet and recently released on purple vinyl, the Chef fricassees a beat from German producer Mondee. Apart from Starks, no one drops vivid imagery like Rae and this is full of “blimps with emblems pimps,” “car shows and cases,” “Caesars and Blue Eagles.” The sort of stuff that makes term limits seem stupid.

Mistah F.A.B. – “Ungreatful”

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Now that the hyphy hype is long dead and the bloggers would rather find another obscure Oakland rapper to annoint, everyone seems to have forgotten about Fab. Which is a shame, because his Prince of the Coast (get it for free, trust) is the best rap album of the year that no one is talking about. Repudiating himself from the exploding car alarm beats that he’d rapped over during the “Ghost Ride” days, Fab creates a classic West Coast gangsta’ rap record, complete with drops from every California rapper imaginable, including Murs who proves that he’s a better rap critic than 99 percent of bloggers. As he puts it: “[Fab’s] not one-dimensional, he’s more than a hyphy or a bay area rapper, he’s got love on all sides of the West Coast scene.”

Danny Brown –  “Thank God”

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Danny Brown is my favorite rapper this month. I’d probably give Detroit State of Mind Vol. 4 the slight nod over official album, The Hybrid because the former is just 35 minutes of head nodding beats and witty punchline raps. Listening to it while lifting weights is superior to Creatine, and it proves why Brown is a great street rapper. But The Hybrid proves that Brown is a flat-out great rapper, capable of writing songs about everything from prescription pill abuse to single mothers, to slinging crack. Highly recommended.  Somebody needs to lock him and Black Milk in a room and not let them out until they’ve created the Detroit album that convinces any and all lingering doubters.

O.J. Simpson – “Cali Hills”

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Cali Hills 10304-style. Noodles.  Guilty doing a Dilla tribute without descending into sucrose sentimentality. He is rap’s John Salley. Making his name in the D as a hard-nosed role player who knows how to surround himself with the right talent. Coming to LA to play for the championship with Madlib and Dilla, the Kobe and Shaq of LA beatmaking. When I hear beats like this, I wonder how everyone doesn’t love everything Madlib does, and then I realize that I’m probably smoking better weed. For all the Affliction and Ed Hardy you have to do deal with, there is something to be said about the Cali Hills.

Freddie Gibbs – “The Ghetto”

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Gotty said it best.