December 29, 2020

Ten Tracks (by Alec J. Weatherwood)

(Today I’m trying something different. Ten Tracks is a new series where contributors can talk about ten specific songs of importance to them – ten songs which they feel should be shared or discussed much more often, whether it be for personal reasons, or because they help describe or helped form their tastes, or even just because their ten songs likely wouldn’t receive any coverage on the blog for whatever reason. Today I bring you the Ten Tracks which helped Alec J. Weatherwood get through our shared nightmare known as 2020. If you’re a reader who finds the concept of a Reader Review daunting but likes the idea of talking about your faves in a less high-pressure format, hit me at the e-mail address in the sidebar. Enjoy!)

Hi there. My name is probably Alec, and I am certainly a hip hop obsessive. Currently I am imagining Just Blaze shouting, “TWO-OH MOTHERFUCKERS!” over this bio. My existence began sometime during Reagan’s presidency in the city of Hardenberg, a place in the Netherlands which contains fairly extensive quantities of livestock along with a bunch of lovely people. My day job in Amsterdam involves having to wear black robes. My review of Funcrusher Plus on this site has caused the two readers of this site to purchase copies of that album. That is my third proudest achievement.

Because I’ve largely spent 2020 in a small room without specialized medical care, I have listened to disproportionate amounts of hip hop. I’ve compiled a playlist here, from which I’ve dredged ten tracks which I have grown to appreciate greatly through this hellish year. Maybe you’ll like a few of these, too. In no particular order, I’ll highlight some favorites released this year which I think haven’t gotten the attention they deserved, and because 2020 has already sucked hard enough for everyone, I’m going to lavish praise and appreciation on these artists because they fucking well deserve it.

Please join the choir and sing the praises of your favorite songs from 2020 in the comments!

Che Noir has said she wants to “stand out and do something different”. Well Che, congrats: in 2020 you staked your claim to the throne by doing exactly that across a ton of projects. Che’s got a knack for a memorable image (“Fiends arms lookin’ like NASCAR tire tracks”), fills each verse with personality, and is focused as all hell. On “Worth Gold” she’s canvassing her Buffalo, NY birthplace, observing the dire circumstances there (“enough coke lines on the table to write a paragraph”), and letting the listener know that it’s only made her more determined to succeed: “They gave me crumbs, I made a meal so my n----s can eat / Never settle for getting’ fed, make a position to feed”. It doesn’t hurt that Apollo Brown laces this gem with one of his finest beats ever.

Both JT and Yung Miami waste no time here. They each get their life story across in eight-bar verses, floating over a grimy neon-lit Miami night of a Tay Keith beat. Some choice thoughts are included for the persons who tried to shoot up Yung Miami’s Mercedes G-Wagon. Meanwhile, Lil Durk provides a catchy hook with some useful nutrition tips (“Codeine / I’m sippin’ lean for the protein”). Put this one on repeat in a good car system and you’ll be crushing speed limits in no time. An absolute banger.

A recap of my first of many plays of this track:

- Nice, smooth ethereal Quelle Chris production.

- “I got trauma from my mama / She used to beat me down as if she was the brown bomber”. Okay, this is going to a different place...

- He said what?

- He said WHAAAAAAAT???? (My specific response to a set of bars ending with: “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so sexual”)

- Tears.

- Instant rewind.

Possibly the realest shit written by anyone in this fucking alligator-infested shit swamp of a year. Slick Rick would be proud of this fine example of storytelling.

The Honorable Count has been grinding since you were being fed soft, unidentifiable foodstuffs with a pink spoon shaped like a duck. This has provided him with immeasurable wisdom, which he dispenses on the eve of Armageddon on “Break Bread”. His argument is rock-solid and his conclusion inescapable: “Payment is the only arrangement / You can give me exposure when I’m dead”; “You ain’t no better than DOOM / and DOOM paid me”. The Count has informed me that he prefers you buy the physical merch, which is available now via, because, “The goal is to get something when you break bread with me”. Now that is a viewpoint I can get behind. Get to it – this year there’s more reason than ever to break that bread with your favorite artist.

Alongside his recent album Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition, Your Old Droog released an accompanying playlist showcasing an incredible mixture of styles and influences, ranging from Mic Geronimo to Karlheinz Stockhausen and Russian legend Alla Pugacheva. Our Droog gives his eclectic worldview life on the album, perhaps best on “Ukraine”. The Ewonee beat is all murk and 1980’s graffiti writing, a fitting backdrop to Droog’s story about finding self-acceptance as a child of Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants, in which he manages to sneak in references to his (ridiculous) original moniker of Future, Ukrainian foods such as olivye and pelmeni, and antisemitism. Droog brings all of this in at under three minutes, a testament to the skill of this truly remarkable artist.

Welcome to the Polo Rican Appreciation Society (or “PRAS”), where we celebrate the continued artistic output of Victor “Thirstin Howl III” DeJesus. The man who has single-handedly financed a large part of Ralph Lauren’s Bedford manor house probably, Howl has never been afraid to be 1000% himself, and on “Ralph Lauren’s Closet” he plays to type. After detailing his legendary fashion collection, he takes you on an unfiltered trip through his hyper-specific New York: “Jumping the turnstile... Boombox on the train / Euclid stop / This is the place where people shoot the cops”. Then, because Statik Selektah is connected as fuck, he drops an unreleased Sean P verse over his angelic beat. Sheer perfection. This track is a PRAS essential.

Modern day Renaissance man Sage Elsesser, also known as Navy Blue, is in charge of proceedings here. He laces a smooth Madlib-esque self-produced beat, drops a touching verse addressing his father, and then, after some chanting by way of hook, opens the curtain on one of the all-time great guest verses in hip hop history. In a little over a minute, fellow multi-hyphenate Ka concisely conjures up the ravages of the 1980’s crack era. His verse is special because every line hits: how about “the common thread with our enemies / Is we was all men in need with no amenities”; or, ”Doomed in the womb, surprised I ain’t see a hanger / Start questioning affection when all you see is anger”? No lie: I still get chills when his first bars come in, and I’ve listened to this fucker a million times.

In a cobwebbed corner of history known as 2011, Mr. eXquire entered my world through the Lost in Translation mixtape, a project which featured some of the least subtle artwork in the history of our chosen genre, and while some of the music present certainly lived up to that artwork, it was also immediately clear that eXquire could spit. Since then, he’s only grown as an artist, and he reaches his apex on the Madlib-produced “Black Mirror”, which features vocals from no less than three of eXquire’s uncles (London Brown, Flex, and Shango, the latter of whom sadly passed after the record was finished). Through two verses, eXquire reflects on his youth growing up in Brooklyn and the importance of knowing yourself and your history. Just a few weeks ago, maybe while reflecting on this year (as we are all doing right now), eXquire added extensive annotations to the lyrics on Genius which really illustrate the depth of this track. Essential listening and reading for hip hop fans such as you two.

The outcry after the racist killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and too many others this year has been echoed widely in hip hop. In “Deep End”, Lecrae (who should be more widely recognized as a fantastic emcee) tries to square his emotions on the topic with his faith in God during his first verse, while using the second to take a long, hard, and ruthless look in the mirror, admonishing himself not to go back to “the old me”. You should also definitely check for the official “Deep End” remix, on which Rapsody absolutely shreds her feature verse. Black lives matter.

Given the existence of Ghostface Killah and his tendency to rap over entire preexisting songs, as opposed to chopping samples for a beat (“My Guitar” and “Holla” come to mind), I am already predisposed to like any hip hop song which riffs on that template. Houston band Khruangbin receive a production credit on this one, which is only right since the Jays simply rap over what is basically the complete version of their beautiful, mournful “A Hymn”. This track evidently touched a nerve with Z and Elec, who recorded “A.P.I.D.T.A.” on the night Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven other people died in a horrific helicopter crash. Shawn and Timothy each reflect on those who passed and the traces the deceased left in their mobile phones. Jay Elec’s verse is particularly heartbreaking, as he mentions scrolling through his mother’s texts repeatedly the day she died. I’m fine with him dropping music only once every decade, so long as it’s a masterwork such as this.

-Alec J. Weatherwood

(Questions? Comments? Want to submit one of these yourselves? Let me know! I’m here.)


  1. Dope idea, really like it. And some music I've never heard of on here.

  2. Thanks for your valuable contribution to the hiphop community

  3. Thanks Anons #1/#2! Bonus track which just appeared on streaming services: Navy Blue and Yasiin Bey - Breathe. In the same vein as "In Good Hands", this time with a welcome appearance by the lesser-spotted Bey. Now I can't hear Yasiin without being reminded of his show last year where he played full MF Doom tracks backed up by Robert Glasper's band. It's a trip to have heard him spit Meat Grinder, and knowing now that's the closest I was ever going to get to seeing DOOM live. RIP Daniel Dumile.

    1. I keep hearing great things about Navy Blue from people in the billy woods/Backwoodz Studios orbit, I'll have to check it out