5. DeLorean, Grace A year ago, Hood Politics 3 ranked as one of the best tapes in the city - a proper balance of Delorean's idiosyncratic middle ground between New York's traditional rap appeal and Southern bravado. Grace capitalized on that motif and more, tossing plenty of Texas and Southern heavyweights in with Delo's own grumble and flair. "Sing On Key" and "Breathe" cracked the national consciousness while there Delo stood, calm as ever and still owner of one of the best tapes in the city.
4. Le$, E36 The canvas of cloud-rap Le$ painted on E36 completely separated him from other niche weed-rappers in Houston. Somehow it wasn't the production from the likes of Jay Z or even the tried-and-true Southern atmospherics that pulled out Le$'s most straight-lined release of the year, with apologies to Gran Turismoand its return to his "steak & shrimp" rider-music approach. It was Freddie Joachim's light, spaced-out works that gave Le$ the proper vehicle to deliver high-class whip appeal.
3. Killa Kyleon, Lean On Me Kyleon's metonyms and Houston idealism on Lean On Me got him in hot water: a figure in Complex's look into promethazine culture. The Hulk couldn't help but fire back with later freestyles and loosies but he didn't whip his audio wheel harder than here.
You just don't get clever, old-school Caped Crusader metaphors and characterization like "Batman" anymore, besides the hard-gripping street material of "ESE" and woozy riding music of "My City" and Mouse On Tha Track reunion "Cadillac." Killa and brevity go together: he comes, fucks things up and then leaves.
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2. Slim Thug, Boss Life I'm going to argue this loud and clear: Boss Life is the best Slim Thug solo project since the bootleg version of Already Platinum. He hasn't sound this openly invested in a project in ages, and every track sounds destined for a yearbook quote or two.There's gigantic sample flips like the screeching groans and seduction of Aaliyah's "One In a Million" on "Love It," audacious bars from Thugga himself and some of the toughest production he's ever had -- whether on a major label or not.
1. Propain, Ridin Slab No rap tape will leap over Propain's Ridin Slab. Not this year, anyway. Not when his tracks finally found that balance between letting people in and keeping them at a distance. Not when something as weight-bearing as "Father's Day" exists.
And not when Z-Ro is being a goddamn menace on "All Day" or Lee-Lonn helps offer a meme worthy splash of "You On You." The rap crown of the year belongs to Hiram Clarke's own and the team that went into crafting it.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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