Narrowcast's Top 100 Albums of the Decade (Part 18)
11. Reflection Eternal - Train Of Thought
(Rawkus Records, 2000)
I’ve always been in the weirdo minority that heard the Black Star album and just liked Talib Kweli more than Mos Def, but I will continue to maintain, even though Kweli’s career has been on a boring downhill slide ever since “Get By,” that Train Of Thought is kind of a masterpiece and easily a better album than Black On Both Sides. Hi-Tek isn’t one of the greatest or flashiest producers, but he’s really great at creating a front to back album experience, and he really made an amazingly wide variety of beats for this record.
12. Faraquet - The View From This Tower
(Dischord Records, 2000)
Sometimes I fret about how very ‘90s this list is in some ways, whether in terms of when the artists therein peaked or when their type of music peaked, and considering about a 2000 album by a math rock band on Dischord is one such occasion. But honestly, this album is such a perfect little tightly wound collection of snaky riffs and bombastic drumming that it’s easily one of my favorite rock albums of the decade. That reunion show last year was so worth the wait.
13. T.I. - Trap Muzik
(Grand Hustle/Atlantic Records, 2003)
Just on the strength of how many albums and mixtapes have had the word “trap” in the title since this record, there’s a case to be made about this being one of the most influential rap albums of the decade, let alone the mix of Toomp bangers and Kanye soul beats in the Lil Jon era, and the way Tip tipped his hat to UGK and 8Ball & MJG instead of the then more widely acknowledged southern forebears like Outkast. But beyond that it’s just a great album that sparked the great run T.I.’s been on for the four albums since.
14. Freeway - Philadelphia Freeway
(Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam Records, 2003)
I feel kinda funny ranking this above any Kanye album (or even Beanie, really), but to be honest Freeway really is my 2nd favorite Roc rapper after Jay, and Just Blaze at his best (which he is on his 10 beats on this album) always beats Kanye as a producer. And even though this has a few superfluous guest spots, it’s still just a remarkably solid album from front to back.
15. Chris Lee - Chris Lee Plays & Sings Torch'd Songs, Charivari Hymns & Oriki Blue-Marches
(Smells Like Records, 2001)
The night 9 years ago that Chris Lee stepped onto the stage of the old Ottobar (the building that later became the Talking Head) for a Smells Like Records showcase remains one of the most heartstopping introductions to an artist that I’ve ever experienced, and the three solo albums he released in the next couple years completely lived up to that moment, particularly the second one with Steve Shelley playing drums in Lee’s backing band. Chris Lee Plays & Sings Torch'd Songs, Charivari Hymns & Oriki Blue-Marches isn’t nearly as diverse or ambitious as its title makes it sound, but the soulful horn-driven rock of “Lonesome Eyes,” the minimal acoustic balladry of “Mount Venus,” the tropical grooves of “The Politics of Sway” and the faithful cover of Neil Young’s “On The Beach” pack a lot of influences and ideas into a cohesive and beautifully sung 38-minute package.