New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War1. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Pt 1: 4th World War (Universal Motown, 2008). Downplayed and practically disregarded as it was, 2003's Worldwide Underground was an excellent and brave follow-up to 2000's Mama's Gun. Erykah Badu concedes she had nothing to say at the time -- the loose 50-minute "EP" was more about sounds than statements -- but she evidently holds herself to a high standard. Perhaps that streak was a factor in her protracted silence from its release to New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War; she even thought she might be through with making music. Her creative energy returned at some point, and then some, with this set apparently just the first in a series of releases. Varied and layered, New Amerykah, Pt. 1 has Badu collaborating principally with the members of Sa-Ra (who are present in almost half of the tracks), Madlib, 9th Wonder, and Baduizm/Mama's Gun vets Karriem Riggins, James Poyser, and Ahmir Thompson. Read more >>

Love/Hate2. The-Dream - Love/Hate (Def Jam, 2007). When Terius "The-Dream" Nash released his first album, during the third-to-last week of 2007, the Top 30 of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart contained five songs he co-wrote, only one of which was credited to him as a performer. Four of these singles -- Mary J. Blige's "Just Fine," J. Holiday's "Suffocate" and "Bed," and his own "Shawty Is da Sh*!" -- were on their way to the Top Five. Six months earlier, another song involving his input, Rihanna's "Umbrella," hit number one on the Hot 100. For Love/Hate's duration, Nash sticks with close associates Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and Carlos "L.O.S." McKinney. Not only does it lend the album a unified sound unlike most modern R&B albums, but it has the effect of a suite, with common elements shared between tracks; some of the transitions would make any album sequencing assistant deeply envious. Read more >>

Immer3. Michael Mayer - Immer (Kompakt, 2002). Whenever something arrives in the shops with the name Michael Mayer affixed to it -- whether it's in the form of a remix, a 12", or a mix album like this one -- it's an event. It doesn't happen often enough, but when it does, disciples of the warm flavors of tech-house, click-house, micro-house, whatchamacallit-house, and experimental techno dealt out and curated by Mayer pay immediate perked-ear attention. It's with very good reason. Following four years after his mix for the Neuhouse label, Immer finds Mayer smoothly fashioning tracks from labels like Ladomat, Ultra, Trapez, Force Inc., and his own Kompakt into a luxuriant digital bubble bath of envelopingly rounded beats, misty, atmospheric smears, and the odd tug at the heartstrings. Read more >>

Metro Area4. Metro Area - Metro Area (Environ, 2002). The right amount of exposure and the right number of open minds would turn this record into the dance-music equivalent of Pulp Fiction. That film and this record are mindbending syntheses of undervalued styles and scenes of the past -- both slyly referential and humbly reverential -- with mad-scientist approaches that are dead set on being both current and translatable to the future. The men behind Metro Area, Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani, take six tracks from four 12" releases that left immediate impressions on the dance underground, edit them as needed, and weave them into four new productions for a painstakingly sequenced album that flows constantly and smoothly with colorful, melodic, and deep feeling and simplistic yet full-sounding grooves. Read more >>


Black Mahogani5. Moodymann - Black Mahogani (Peacefrog, 2004). Black Mahogani is Kenny Dixon, Jr.'s fifth compilation (not compilation), another disc constructed with previously vinyl-bound tracks and a little bit of newness. This is nearly as reliant upon old material as Silent Introduction, making it potentially frustrating for folks who have remained on top of every move made by the enigmatic producer. True to the tradition of the past full-lengths, Black Mahogani nonetheless casts the oldness in a new light; the adept soundtrack/score-like manner in which all of the tracks are weaved into a continuous mix -- with perfect pacing -- make the original 12" releases seem like puzzle pieces in retrospect, every single one of them crucial to this fresh whole. The end result is even more cinematic in attack than Forevernevermore, and that's not only due to the sampling of extended dialogue bits from Superfly and Detroit 9000... Read more >>

Donuts6. J Dilla - Donuts (Stones Throw, 2006). Donuts was made on a hospital bed and in a home studio, on a stripped-down setup with a stack of vinyl. Released on its maker's 32nd birthday, three days before he passed away, the album has a resonance deeper than anyone could've hoped for or even imagined. Some who were close to Dilla have said that there are hidden messages in the samples, the track titles, and who knows where else. It's impossible not to speculate about some things, like the track titled "Don't Cry," the looped "broken and blue" from a version of "Walk on By," the presence of Eddie Kendricks singing "My people, hold on," or the fact that there are 31 tracks, a possible signal that Dilla survived a little longer than he expected. Then again, for every possible message, there are two or three elements that could've been designed to throw any analysis off its trail. Read more >>

Leave It All Behind7. The Foreign Exchange - Leave It All Behind (Hall of Justus/Nicolay, 2008). The second Foreign Exchange album reverses the rapping/singing split of the first. Not only is Leave It All Behind much more an R&B album than 2004's Connected -- it's more an R&B album than a lot of modern releases filed in that section, given that Phonte slips into MC mode only twice while otherwise putting his sensitive singing voice to full use. Even more nuanced and textured, and therefore more musical than Connected, Leave It All Behind is a concise and complete set of songs that brings out the best of both producer Nicolay and Phonte. More than ever, Nicolay's mellow but moving productions have that lingering, memory-triggering effect mastered by the late J Dilla, and a multitude of shades is cast: dreamy folk-soul that ranks with the Beauty Room and latter-day 4hero... Read more >>

The Dead Bears8. Newwworldaquarium - The Dead Bears (NWAQ, 2008). Initially a seven-track double 12" issued in November 2007, The Dead Bears is expanded for its 2008 CD version with four additional tracks. Though they come from Jochem Peteri releases dating back to 2000, they fit into the fabric of the album proper, inserted into the original sequence rather than tacked on the end. "NoworldbutU" (2001) and "Trespassers" (2000) do, however, produce the disc's most contrasting moments. The former is apparitional ambient techno that is subliminally gruesome, the score to a horror scene in zero gravity, while the latter could be classified as deep techno, where a fixed blunt thump and buried bassline are flanked by intersecting whoosh-like effects, delirious squawks, and what very closely resembles the fairy dust flourish from Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go for That." Read more >>

The Daily News9. Donnie - The Daily News (Soul Thought, 2007). It's just as well that Donnie's connections with Motown were short-lived. If the label didn't know what to do with The Colored Section, how would they handle an album that is more modern gospel than it is throwback soul -- one with a complete lack of songs for the bedroom and club? They might've refused to release it anyway, what with song titles like "Suicide" and "Atlanta Child Murders." Listening to the whole thing reveals a marketing nightmare: songs about the war on drugs and the pharmaceutical industry, Hurricane Katrina, unemployment, slavery, pedophilia, and the weariness that comes with the inevitable daily bombardment of bad news. You really can't spin that into something resembling a good time, or something to passively enjoy while waiting for the bus. A frustrated, mad, and at times flat-out pissed-off album, The Daily News nonetheless has the ability to make you glad you are alive. What prevents the lyrical content from being a drag is that it is razor sharp, cloaked in funky modern gospel grooves that are advanced and vigorous. Read more >>

Complex Simplicity10. Teedra Moses - Complex Simplicity (TVT, 2004). The knock against neo-soul is that it looks desperately to the past instead of the present or future, having disconnected somewhere in the late '70s, just before the wicked drum machines and synthesizers came around to siphon the soul out of R&B. Pop-oriented R&B is routinely faulted for being insincere and inauthentic, full of flash and bleating-goat ululations. New R&B artists in 2004 tended to be slotted into one of the two categories, either next to Jill Scott and "the next D'Angelo," or next to Usher and "the next Beyoncé." Singer and songwriter Teedra Moses sees the good in both sides, realizing that there must be some people out there who are thrilled by modern-day hip-hop-minded productions but crave lyrical content that goes deeper than memorable hooks and identikit platitudes about desire, romantic drama, and soul-searching. Read more >>

11. D'Angelo - Voodoo (Virgin, 2000)
12. King Midas Sound - Waiting for You (Hyperdub, 2009)
13. Basement Jaxx - Rooty (XL, 2001)
14. Luomo - Vocal City (Force Tracks, 2000)
15. The Avalanches - Since I Left You (Modular, 2000)
16. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (Star Trak/Jive 2006)
17. Triola - Triola im Fünftonraum (Kompakt, 2004)
18. Scott Walker - The Drift (4AD, 2006)
19. David Sylvian - Blemish (Samadhisound, 2003)
20. Jay-Z - The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella 2001)

21. Radiohead - Kid A (Capitol, 2000)
22. Farben - Textstar (Klang Elektronik, 2002)
23. Mathias Kaden & Onur Özer - Momentum (Vakant, 2006)
24. Amerie - Because I Love It (Columbia, 2007)
25. Daniel Bell - The Button Down Mind Strikes Back! (Logistic, 2003)
26. Lawrence - Lawrence (Dial, 2002)
27. Boards of Canada - Geogaddi (Warp, 2002)
28. Closer Musik - After Love (Kompakt, 2002)
29. Omar-S - Fabric 45 (Fabric, 2009)
30. Flying Lotus - Los Angeles (Warp, 2008)

31. N.E.R.D. - In Search Of... (Virgin, 2001)
32. OutKast - Stankonia (LaFace, 2000)
33. Bugz in the Attic - Fabriclive.12 (Fabric, 2003)
34. James T. Cotton - The Dancing Box (Spectral Sound, 2004)
35. Andrew Weatherall - Hypercity (Force Tracks, 2001)
36. Dizzee Rascal - Boy in da Corner (XL, 2003)
37. Theo Parrish - Parallel Dimensions (Sound Signature, 2000)
38. Zip - Superlongevity (Perlon, 2001)
39. Herbert - Scale (!K7, 2006)
40. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night (Columbia, 2009)

41. Sa-Ra - The Hollywood Recordings (Babygrande, 2007)
42. Shafiq Husayn - Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka (Plug Research, 2009)
43. Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt, 2007)
44. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (Def Jam, 2006)
45. Dabrye - One/Three (Ghostly International, 2001)
46. Freeway - Philadelphia Freeway (Roc-A-Fella, 2003)
47. Brooks - You, Me and Us (Mantis, 2002)
48. Villalobos - Alcachofa (Playhouse, 2003)
49. Burial - Untrue (Hyperdub, 2007)
50. Beanie Sigel - The B. Coming (Roc-A-Fella, 2005)

51. Kelley Polar - Love Songs of the Hanging Gardens (Environ, 2005)
52. Cassy - Panorama Bar 01 (Ostgut Ton, 2006)
53. Jan Jelinek - Kosmischer Pitch (Scape, 2005)
54. Spacek - Curvatia (Island, 2001)
55. The Beauty Room - The Beauty Room (Peacefrog, 2006)
56. T.I. - King (Grand Hustle/Atlantic, 2006)
57. Richard Davis - Details (Kitty-Yo, 2005)
58. DKD - Future Rage (Bitasweet, 2004)
59. One Be Lo - S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Fat Beats, 2005)
60. The Roots - Game Theory (Def Jam, 2006)

61. School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms (Ghostly International, 2008)
62. Dâm-Funk - Toeachizown (Stones Throw, 2009)
63. Broadcast - The Noise Made by People (Tommy Boy, 2000)
64. Bows - Cassidy (Too Pure, 2001)
65. Mu - Afro Finger and Gel (Output, 2003)
66. Rahsaan Patterson - After Hours (Artistry, 2004)
67. Coloma - Dovetail (Klein, 2005)
68. Gas - Pop (Mille Plateaux, 2000)
69. Steve Spacek - Space Shift (Sound in Color, 2005)
70. Pinch - Underwater Dancehall (Tectonic, 2007)

71. Aaliyah - Aaliyah (Blackground, 2001)
72. The Detroit Escalator Co. - Black Buildings (Peacefrog, 2001)
73. Georgia Anne Muldrow - Umsindo (SomeOthaShip/E1, 2009)
74. Primal Scream - XTRMNTR (Astralwerks, 2000)
75. Studio - Yearbook 1 (Information, 2007)
76. Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein (Definitive Jux, 2001)
77. Life Without Buildings - Any Other City (Tugboat, 2000)
78. Recloose - Cardiology (Planet E, 2002)
79. Annie - Anniemal (679, 2004)
80. PPP - Abundance (Ubiquity, 2009)

81. Kelis - Tasty (Star Trak/Arista, 2003)
82. Ne-Yo - In My Own Words (Def Jam, 2006)
83. Portishead - Third (Island, 2008)
84. As One - 21st Century Soul (Ubiquity, 2001)
85. Convextion - Convextion (Down Low, 2006)
86. Mary J. Blige - The Breakthrough (Geffen, 2005)
87. M.I.A. - Kala (Interscope, 2007)
88. Black Milk - Popular Demand (Fat Beats, 2007)
89. 4hero - Creating Patterns (Talkin Loud, 2001)
90. Drexciya - Harnessed the Storm (Tresor, 2002)

91. Echospace - The Coldest Season (Modern Love, 2007)
92. Andrés - Andrés (Mahogani, 2003)
93. Junior Boys - Last Exit (Kin, 2004)
94. Quiet Village - Silent Movie (!K7, 2008)
95. Dwele - Subject (Virgin, 2003)
96. DJ Quik & Kurupt - BlaQKout (Mad Science, 2009)
97. Redshape - The Dance Paradox (Present/Delsin, 2009)
98. Wighnomy Brothers - Metawuffmischfelge (Freude-Am-Tanzen, 2008)
99. Robert Hood - Fabric 39 (Fabric, 2008)
100. Kanye West - The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella, 2004)