The Top 10 Bay Area Hip-Hop Albums of 2010

2010 has been a pretty good year for Bay Area hip-hop, if only because it saw the next generation of local rappers come into its own, eager (and maybe even ready) to put the Bay back on the national radar once again. Even after the death of hyphy, rappers here just continue to get weirder and weirder, falling in love with abstract, synthesized beats as they rhyme about weed, outer space, and Paris Hilton. Not that that's not a bad thing.


10. Moe Green - Rocky Maivia: Non-Title Match
One of 2010's newcomers, Vallejo's Moe Green kicks things off by sampling dubstep producer Skream's remix of La Roux's "In For The Kill." This is the new Bay, where emcees and producers are influenced as much by the Internet as they are by the local legends they grew up around. From there, the album only gets better as Green's smooth, boastful rhymes skate over a variety of sonic styles; drum-heavy slaps, jazzy, Madlib-esque beats, and a touch of East Coast boom-bap. You can tell Moe Green hasn't fully come into his own quite yet, but Rocky Maivia shows that the future is bright for this one.

MP3: Moe Green -- "Search Party"

9. Erk Tha Jerk - Nerd's Eye View (SMC Recordings)

Besides maybe Lil B, there's not a more honest, introspective rapper around than Erk Tha Jerk. That doesn't mean he's preachy or corny though. On Nerd's Eye View, Erk just talks about what he knows, and in this case, it largely centers around his uncertainty over what the future holds. Erk has a gravelly voice and bouncy flow that takes a couple of songs to get used to, but once you do, it's hard not to love the ravey synths, big hooks, and confessionals found on songs like this year's minor hit, "Right Here."

Download: Erk Tha Jerk: Nerd's Eye View -- The Prelude

8. J. Stalin - Prenuptial Agreement (I.A.F./Town Thizzness)

J. Stalin is still flying under the radar outside the Bay, but around here, his loose lyrical style and ear for lush, sparkling beats has brought him a lot of buzz. On Prenuptial Agreement, J Stalin isn't doing anything new necessarily, but it all sounds so good that he doesn't really need to. "Get Me Off," an R&B-tinged track featuring E-40 and E-Da Sanga, sounds like something straight out the Bay Area circa 1995. He even ventures into the sultry side of '80s boogie funk on "When It's Real," pulling the same "Ooh La La La" sample made famous by the Fugees on "Fu-Gee-La." I'm not complaining.

J. Stalin - "H.N.I.C (feat. Messy Marv)":

7. E-40 - Revenue Retrievin' : Day Shift/Night Shift (Heavy on the Grind)

E-40 could have easily mailed it in on his eleventh album. Instead, he opted to release No. 12 along with it, and turned to his son Droop-E to lace him with a wild set of futuristic slaps. Standout tracks include the dreamy "Spend The Night," which is comprised entirely of Bjork samples. And even if the Revenue Retrievin' project buckles a bit under the weight of its double-disc load, E-40's flow sounds rejuvenated.

E-40 (feat. Droop-E) - "Spend the Night":

6. Sleepy D - Sleepy Deprivation (I.A.F./Town Thizzness)

Sleepy D, the half-brother of Oakland favorite D-Lo (you know, Mr. No Hoe), had a few tricks up his sleeve with the release of Sleepy Deprivation this year. Sleepy's hyperactive flow is perfectly suited for the array of supercharged beats, which seem to simultaneously head in every direction on the sonic spectrum. "Blap," produced by Young L and featuring D-Lo, is the high point of this album, featuring a trippy beat that could only have come out of the Bay.

5. Cousin Fik - No Gravity (Sick-Wid-It)

Sick-Wid-It's Cousin Fik got a hell of a guest lineup for his debut album, No Gravity. Produced entirely by Droop-E, Fik managed to pull label boss E-40, Clyde Carson, Stevie J, Stressmatic, Murs, Yukmouth, Beeda Weeda, and Turf Talk for this album, which is about as synthed-out and spacey as one can get without venturing into the realm of psychedelia. Fik is no slouch on the mic either, showing he can handle an uptempo track or a slow head-nodder with equal skill. Album closer "My Own Opponent," which also features Murs and Droop-E, perfectly sums up Fik's futuristic, braggadocio style.

4. Young L - L-E-N: The Mixtape (SMC Recordings)

Lil B wasn't the only one who stepped out of the shadow of The Pack in 2010. Young L also proved his worth, unleashing a flurry of some of the most unique-sounding beats to come out of the Bay in years. Somehow minimal and bombastic at the same time, Young L's beats sound like they come out of the coldest, loneliest, angriest corner of the universe, pulling as much from techno, grime, and dubstep as they do from hip-hop. Some of his best production work in 2010 ended up on L-E-N, even if the rhymes weren't quite up to the same level.

3. DaVinci - The Day the Turf Stood Still (Sweetbreads Creative Collective)

It's not very often that S.F. emcees come with a boom-bap, beats-and-rhymes approach. But Fillmore rapper DaVinci did just that, without sacrificing any of his Bay Area flavor. The Day The Turf Stood Still is an album full of street tales that neither glorify, nor condemn, the goings-on in this city. It's merely a man describing what's going on around him. Shit, he even manages to touch on the gentrification of S.F. on "What You Finna Do."

2. Roach Gigz - Roachy Balboa (Thizz City)

Although Roachy Balboa was labeled a mixtape, so much love and care was put into this project that it's essentially an album. Over the course of an hour, the lyrically nimble Roach Gigz makes it very clear he loves drugs, women, and hip-hop (not necessarily in that order), as he drops punchlines that most battle rappers would die to create themselves. To match his likable personality on the mic, Gigz is blessed with head-nodding beats that slump, slap, and knock their way through your speakers, finding a happy medium between the S.F. and Oakland sounds. Look no further than "Medicine," "Wasting Time," or "Respect It" for appropriate examples.

1. Lil B - N/A

It may be cheating to put Lil B on this list, since there's no single release this year that was as focused or coherent at last year's 6 Kiss (instead he released hundreds of hastily-composed tracks spread out across multiple mixtapes). But over the course of 12 months, the Based God has turned himself into a bonafide Internet/hip-hop folk hero, seemingly starting a new meme every day, conspiring with Soulja Boy, selling out venues in NYC and Chicago, and snagging himself multiple cover stories. Yes, he has his spoken-word album, Rain In England, performed entirely over self-produced, ambient beats, but that's a different beast entirely. The sheer volume of his output is enough to make your head spin, but buried in those tracks are enough songs to make you understand how Lil B got as far as he did this year.

Editor's note: Props must also be given here to S.F. native Richie Cunning's Night Train, a thoroughly head-nodding example of rhyme-spitting-as-hometown-boosterism and adroitly crate-dug old-school beats.

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