Kanye West is clearly deserving of producer of the year since he's had essentially a song in the top 10 all year writing for Twista, Dilated Peoples, Slum Village amongst others). I enjoy his sensibility and the musicial direction on the album a lot. The beats are original, the samples are well chosen, it's hip-hop grounded in gospel and the great soul singers of yore. I like the fact that a backpacker can make it to public acclaim, wearing formal jackets and as opposed to track suits or baggy pants. I like especially that a hip-hop artist (or any artist) can get get away with a Number 1 hit overtly about religion (Jesus Walks) with marching bands.
The only thing is that he just doesn't have the flow or the voice; Black Thought would massacre him in a battle. And even though he's very intelligent, I'm not one for this fake anti-intellectual pose: college dropout? Come on... Nevertheless, this album has sold a ton and has brought him much acclaim. He deserves it; it's exciting that something this focused can break out.
Having obviously seen what the Philly connection did last year for Les Nubians with whom she toured, Zap Mama go wholeheartedly for the Philadelphia production and the result is great. Collaborating with Erykah Badu, Common, Talib Kweli, Bahamadia and QuestLove of The Roots, this is essentially a Soulquarian joint, rooted in Philly. What's not to like, my favourite collective come through again. The track with Scratch (ex Roots), Wadidyusay? is acappella heaven: Congo pygmy music meets hip-hop beatbox mastery. There's less of Africa here than in the past and as in Les Nubian's masterpiece but it's a wonderful album set for much repeated listening.
Another solid, if commercial, album from Miss Mahogany Soul, much loved by all the big girls out there (if Jill Scott goes on about food, Angie is concerned with body image). I say commercial because she brings on Snoop Dogg as a guest. Still she's one of the hardest-working female vocalists. It's a long album There's very little filler but at the same time there isn't much experimentation. On the other hand, there are at least 10 songs that are club classics and dance floor bangers. And of course any album featuring Antony Hamilton and Betty Wright is all right by me. Not to damn her with faint praise though, I sometimes wish that she'd occasionally let someone else do the production and/or writing, Jam and Lewis perhaps.