Yeah, it stirred the Yankees to the World Series championship, but was there a more boring album this year than Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3? Perhaps it was a geographic thing; with a few exceptions like Raekwon and Kid Cudi, most of 2009's exciting, innovative rap records came from Southern artists. Sure, many are filthy, grimy and didn't get major-label releases - note the preponderance of mixtapes below - but there's little doubt that hip-hop is still whistling Dixie. Here are the year's best Southern rap albums. 10. Trae The Incredible Truth (Mixtape) This latest from ever-sinister-sounding Houston rapper Trae (who just happens to be Z-Ro's cousin and Screwed Up Click-mate) features his rhyming alongside Wayne, Joc, Boosie, Twista and others, and none of them comes off sounding particularly good by comparison. Although Trae is perhaps best known for scuffling with Mike Jones at an awards show a couple years back, TIT (sorry) shows the swangin' H-town underground champ at his most potent. 9. Dallas Austin Experience 8Dazeaweakend (Universal Motown) With no promotional support from his label, venerable Atlanta producer Dallas Austin's 8Dazeaweakend film/touring show/album fell completely under the radar. But though the movie was a muddled, poorly acted hallucination, the soundtrack disc is full of contagious club songs and solid '70s-influenced genre mash-ups. Goodie Mob's Big Gipp, George Clinton and Colin Munroe all make appearances, but Austin does the bulk of the writing, playing and production. His simultaneously goofy, earnest and endearing ode to the hippie era is easily more fun than all of the year's Woodstock tributes. 8. Slim Thug Boss of All Bosses (E1) Just as Bon Jovi survived the hair-metal era, Slim Thug has made it through Houston's gimmicky, mid-decade sittin'-sidewayz craze with his credibility intact. In fact, his long-awaited sophomore disc, Boss of All Bosses, is superior to his Neptunes-heavy 2005 effort, Already Platinum, trading flash for easy, syrupy, anthemic slow-burners that don't try to reinvent the low-rider wheel. 7. Killer Mike Underground Atlanta (SMC Recordings) Look past the bold-faced, not-at-all underground names on Killer Mike's Underground Atlanta compilation (Soulja Boy, OJ da Juiceman) and you'll find some great below-the-radar talent like Prynce Cyhi, Rich Kidz and Grip Plyaz, not to mention much-missed veterans like Trillville. Of course, the show is stolen by the Killer himself, whose humor and bombast help him unite this diverse group of A! artists. 6. Pill 4075: The Refill (Mixtape) Despite being virtually unknown to anyone besides bloggers and heads, Atlanta gangsta MC Pill is already being compared to (gulp) Tupac and Biggie. His standout mixtape 4075: The Refill is Southern rap for coastal snobs, full of quickly spit, sincere laments about street life and plaintive reminiscences about his deceased mother.
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