Mos Def, Aceyalone, Tanya Morgan, Method Man & Redman, Eminem, and Toki Wright

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Phases & Stages

Finally off Geffen and onto Downtown Records, Brooklyn "Quiet Dog Bite Hard" Mos Def avoids New Danger on The Ecstatic, rolling "Life in Marvelous Times" or, rather, an album evoking 1999 debut Black on Both Sides. Make this one a "Priority" – rare is the rapper who flips styles so seamlessly ("Workers Comp") and flows so raw ("Wahid"). L.A.'s Aceyalone does his part to put it "On the One," bringing doo-wop back on the album Raphael Saadiq would've released if he could rap. Finding gold in Treasure Davis ("Can't Hold Back," "Step Up"), The Lonely Ones' (Decon) mix of Motown ("What It Was") with Delicious Vinyl spins as a surprise mover and shaker of 2009's first half. Just as welcomed is Cincinnati trio Tanya Morgan's Brooklynati (Interdependent), the sophomore LP that should remind 9th Wonder fans of Little Brother's The Listening ("Morgan Blu"). MCs Ilyas, Donwill, and MC/beatmaker Von Pea ratify themselves "allergic to that sucker shit," hitting the Pharcyde "On Our Way" and flashing "Alleye Need" to anybody who likes sunroofs and spliffs in the summertime. Method Man & Redman's Blackout! 2 (Def Jam) lights up something more the size of a baseball bat over NYC legends Pete Rock ("A-Yo") and Erick Sermon ("Dangerus MCees"). "How Bout Dat"? A Red and Meth joint just like their first session. Same goes for Billboard's No. 1 – Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, Eminem – on Relapse (Aftermath/Interscope), which slips and bores on the same tricks ("My Mom," "Must Be the Ganja," and hellish skits) that grew old on 2004's Encore. Minneapolis' Toki Wright, whose A Different Mirror harkens to Murs and early Abstract Rude, saves face for the Midwest. The "Next Best Thing"? Naw, but "The Feeling" and "Good" suggest Wright's justifiably graduated into the Rhymesayers' upper echelon.

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Mos Def, Aceyalone, Tanya Morgan, Method Man & Redman, Eminem, Toki Wright

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