2009 was a huge year for hip-hop and R&B. Jay-Z dropped his new classic, The Blueprint 3, spawning his first number one single, Empire State of Mind. Rick Ross humbled raps biggest bully 50 Cent with his third album, Deeper Than Rap. And Kid Cudi proved that you dont have to be named Kanye West to win with emo rhymes. 09 also saw the triumphant return of R&B heavyweights Maxwell and Whitney Houston.
This year looks to be just as major. Sabbaticals are being broken. "Papers" are being filed. Thug Motivation classes are back in session. And then there's that Drake kid.
Check out the 10 projects VIBE is most amped about in the new year.
Andre 3000, TBD?Release Date: 2010??Expected Production: A studio loner, its likely Three Stacks solo LP will be mostly self-produced, but dont count out Outkast affiliates Rico Wade or DJ Swift.?Expected Collaborations: If 2003's The Love Below is any indication, Andre will keep the guest list extra-exclusive. Partner-in-rhyme Big Boi may be the one and only guest spot, if any. ?Why The Buzz? Hip-hop heads collectively sighed after discovering Andre Benjamins deeper-than-rap raps were replaced by idiosyncratic crooning on his first solo effort, The Love Below. Today, lyricists from Fabolous to T.I. are hitting notes, and maybe thats a good thingfor thembecause each infrequent verse from Dre threatens that coveted hottest rapper alive title. While his inclusion here is wishful thinking, lets just hope his long-awaited rap LP isnt on a Detox-like schedule.
?Nas and Damien Marley, Distant Relatives (Tuff Gong/Def Jam)?Release Date: March 16, 2010?Production: Damien and brother Stephen handle the bulk of the album, but 9th Wonder and long time Nas collaborator Salaam Remi chip in also.?Expected Collaborations: Somali rhymer Knaan is featured on two cuts, while songstress Joss stone and legend Stevie Wonder lend their vocals for Our Generation.?Why the Buzz? For the first time, reggae and Hip-Hop unite for an entire album. And who better kick off such a happening than two of the best to do it in their respectable arenas? Gods Son and Bobs son will both preach and teach as expected, but also entertain. As We Enter, the albums first leak, promises the projects going to be equal parts patois and rap star.
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Part II (Return of the Ankh) (Universal Motown)?Release Date: Feb. 23, 2010?Expected Production: An eclectic lineup that includes 9th Wonder, Sa-Ra, James Poyser, Madlib, Karriem Riggins, the late J. Dilla and Ms. Badu herself. ?Expected Collaborations: Roots band leader/drummer ?uestlove offers his masterful hands. But the Lil Wayne-featured track Jump in the Air (one of 10 versions of a two-fisted, rap-funk sound clash that will feature 10 MCs) is floating around the web via leaked download.?Why the Buzz? The usually forward-thinking Badu gives a sincere nod to her jazzy torch song style that first made her a neo-soul superstar with 1997s Baduizm, making it one of her most accessible projects to date. Still, theres plenty of the left field brilliance of 2008s critically acclaimed standout New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War.
T.I., TBD (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)?Expected Release: TBD?Possible Production: Tip should have plenty of options. Expect him to pull from the likes of Just Blaze, DJ Toomp, Swizz Beatz and Kanye West.?Possible Collaborations: In the past, T.I.s worked with everyone from Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes to Justin Timberlake and Rihanna, so we expect more high-caliber cameos. An Alfa Mega sightingnot so much.?Why the Buzz? T.I.s only halfway out of jail, but reportedly already all the way back in the studio. For roughly six months, the kings been absent from his throne. Gucci Mane (now imprisoned) and a host of other Southern style MCs have emerged during his leave. Were anxious to see if hell put them back in their place.
Lupe Fiasco, Lasers (Atlantic)?Expected Release: Spring 2010?Expected Production: Instead of shelling out top dollars for super producers, Lupe works exclusively with his 1st & 15th producers Soundtrakk and Prolyfic.?Expected Collaborations: Contributions from his stable of artists, including Gemstones and Nikki Jean?Why the Buzz? While in the past Lupe dazzled true hip-hop heads with his intricate wordplay, hes always shirked the spotlight. After reneging on retiring from the game, though, hes now out to prove he should be No. 1 on everybodys list (see: his Thanksgiving mixtape, Enemy of the State). Which means more work for those still decoding metaphors from his last two albums, 2006s Food & Liquor and 2007s The Cool.
Young Jeezy, Thug Motivation 103 (Def Jam)?Release Date: Feb. 9, 2010?Expected Production: Kanye West is the first producer invited to Mr. Birthday Bashs motivation party. After assisting Mr. West in Hawaii with 808s & Heartbreak in 2008, expect the Put On creator to give Jeezy a bunch of tools to teach. Southern beats kings Shawty Redd, Zaytoven and Drumma Boy will also lend a hand.?Expected Collaborations: Nothing is confirmed yet, but Jeezy reportedly has a wish list that includes Lil Wayne (featured on the leaked Scared Money), Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye.?Why the Buzz? On his last album, The Recession, Jeezy took a break from talking about what could be to rap about what is. With the Americas economy headed back in the right direction, the snowmans back to being the traps go-to professor. Class is back in session.
Sade, Soldier of Love (Epic)?Release Date: February 8, 2010?Expected Production: Producer Mike Pela has handled the boards since the smoky vocalists 1984 debut Diamond Life and will be featured on her sixth studio effort.?Expected Collaborations: Sades longtime bandmates, which include steady guitarist, sax man Stuart Matthewman and keyboardist Andre Hale, once again share writing duties with the Nigeria-born Brit.?Why the Buzz? Sades first new studio album since 2000s Lovers Rock has all the classic, haunting, soul searching hallmarks of her previous releases, as well as a few curve pitches. The title track and first single Soldier of Love sounds like a Sade-led Portishead scoring a 60s-era Sergio Leone spaghetti western while the groove-heavy Bring Me Home is destined to become a freestyle favorite for underground MCs.
Usher, Raymond vs. Raymond (LaFace)?Expected Release Date: March 2010?Possible Production: Ursh is getting help from old favorites like Jermaine Dupri, Sean Garrett, Rico Love, The Neptunes and Polow Da Don.?Expected Collaborations: Ushers sixth set will feature a few rappers including Nicki Minaj (as heard on the leaked Little Freak), Plies on Hey Daddy and possibly Jay-Z.?Why the Buzz? In an era where most artists pray for a gold album, Usher cursed the fact that he only went platinum with his mild-mannered 2008 effort Here I Stand. But Mr. Entertainments single again, meaning that hes cutting the monogamous lyrics loose and is back to macking like its 2004.
Kanye West, TBD (G.O.O.D./Def Jam)?Expected Release: Summer 2010?Possible Production: As usual, West is expected to handle the majority of the album's melodies.?Possible Collaborations: Big brother Jay-Z will likely make an appearance along with Young Jeezy. Members of Wests G.O.O.D. team, Common, Mr. Hudson and Kid Cudi may also come aboard.?Why the Buzz? After taking three months off to get his clear his mind, it appears Mr. West has more to say than ever. And he's starting fresh; as 'Ye's blog tells it, he made his grand return to the studio on New Year's Day. 808s & Heartbreak, his eccentrically emo 2008 effort, featured the rapper singing his Auto-Tuned heart out. We're hoping Yes next effort will be a hybrid of heart-on-sleeve croons and boisterous rhymes. Just look at all the cheers he received when he crashed Kid Cudis Nokia Theater stage last week. Theyre ready. And it appears he is, too.
Drake, Thank Me Later (Universal)?Expected Release: March 2010?Expected Production: His longtime collaborators Omen, 40 and Boi-1Da (Best I Ever Had). He also has studio sessions with Kanye West scheduled this January.?Expected Collaborations: Confirmed guests include Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Bun B. And, last we heard, Drake was looking to nab Sade.?Why the Buzz? On top of a classic mixtape (thats right, classic) and an Eminem collabo, the golden boy of 2009 has one of the most anticipated debuts since 50 Cent. In many eyes, Drizzy hasnt spit a horrible verse or song yet (see: Forever, Fear), so the ball is his to drop. But with his sing-songy flow and witty stanzas, failure is unlikely.