#5: Young Jeezy Thug Motivation 103
RELEASE DATE? First Half of 2010
PRODUCERS/COLLABORATORS: Kanye West (rumored), Drumma Boy (rumored), Tha Bizness (rumored)
WHAT WE KNOW: Young Jeezy is like Ghostface, Redman, Too Short and AC/DC before him: Every album hits basically the same notes, and is basically a great listen, too. A year ago Jeezy teased that he'd done 7 songs with Kanye West behind the boards, which might indicate a slight change in sound, but then the two records he's leaked thus far have been straight back to the trap. However it breaks, though, Jeezy has a consistent track record and shows no signs of chasing crossover hits.
#4: M.I.A. TBD
RELEASE DATE? Summer 2010
PRODUCERS/COLLABORATORS: Blaqstarr, Rusko
WHAT WE KNOW: M.I.A.'s whole world has changed since her anti-crossover album Kala crossed over, thanks to the Grammy-nominated, boundry-smashing anthem "Paper Planes." She's had a baby and hunkered down with Baltimore producer Blaqstarr for most of her third album (which is rumored to be titled Mission.Impossible.Area), which will include the recently-leaked track "Space Odyssey" and a song called "I'm Down Like Your Internet Connection" that reportedly features an actual Verizon customer service employee on the hook. "Paper Planes" might have been a pop radio fluke, but you can bet whatever she does will be one of the year's most original albums.
#3: Eminem Relapse 2
RELEASE DATE? First Half of 2010
PRODUCERS/COLLABORATORS: Dr. Dre, Just Blaze
WHAT WE KNOW: Our current cover star is extremely focused and has moved on from the punchline driven shock-rap that dominated Relapse, for a more enduring, emotive sound. Working for the first time in years with outside production, courtesy principally of Just Blaze, we expect Em's attention on the intricacy of the rhymes, and the candor of the sentiment. Given Em's vocal appreciation of T.I.'s Paper Trail, and Blaze's involvement, perhaps he's sitting on a "Live Your Life" meets "Lose Yourself" type anthem.
#2: Kanye West TBD
RELEASE DATE? 3rd Quarter
PRODUCERS/COLLABORATORS: Kid Cudi, Consequence, Common, Mr. Hudson, Drake, No I.D., Tony Williams
WHAT WE KNOW: Rap! That's what we expect from Kanye's much-anticipated follow up to 808s & Heartbreak. If his last LP embodied the emotional rollercoaster he went through in '07 and '08, it seems likely his forthcoming effort will address his chaffing discomfort with the mainstream (yeah, you MTV.) with aggressive and dangerous RAP! Never a slouch on the mic, since 808s release 'Ye has made a pointed effort to blaze all of his cameo verses, so we're expecting some very forcused, very articulate vitriole on a variety of topics, along with his usual memorable one-liners, etc... Recorded mostly in Hawaii (so far), it seems 'Ye has surrounded himself and all of his key collaborators (Kid Cudi, Consequence, Common, Mr. Hudson, Drake, No I.D., and Tony Williams) in seclusion. There haven't been indicators of where 'Ye's taking the beats these days, but each of his albums has been one-half departure, one-half evolution, so we're imagining tracks in the vein of 808s with a decidedly more aggressive, hip hop edge.
#1: Drake Thank Me Later
RELEASE DATE? March 2010
PRODUCERS/COLLABORATORS: Boi-1da, 40, The-Dream, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Sade
WHAT WE KNOW: He absolutely owned 2009 with a classic mixtape and a slew of guest appearances, so expectations could not be higher for Drizzy's long-awaited debut. By sticking with his trusty in-house producers and sprinkling in a few superstars, he should be able to match the perfect balance of punchlines and R&B that made So Far Gone such a hit. At this point, 2010 is his to lose.