End of the Year Urban Awards Part 1: Best Album

Similar to last year, we have asked our DJs and Urban department music heads to select their favorites of this year for 7 different categories. We will be logging the results throughout the next few days in the following parts:

 

Part 1: Best Album (12.30.16 – AM)

Part 2: Song of the Year (12.30.16- PM)

Part 3: Best Music Video/ Best New Artist/ Best Bay Area Album/Producer of the Year/ Best Live Performance  (12.31.16)

 

This year was an amazing year musically with artists such as Isaiah Rashad, Mick Jenkins, Schoolboy Q, Anderson.Paak, Mac Miller,  Chance the Rapper all dropping well-received albums, and similarly Bay Area artists Rexx Life Raj, Caleborate, Traxamillion, Elujay, Jetpack Jones & Tone Oliver and others dropping some of their best work yet. Combine these with other notable projects from artists such as Chuuwee & Trizz, Noname, Bas, and countless others, and we realized we had our work cut out for us.  We also witnessed veterans A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Royce Da 5’9, Masta Ace and others dropping projects that exceeded expectations, which were pretty high to begin with. Before we dive into our team’s selections, check out the contributors below:

The Jury

 

StrongArm (“Fresh to Death”: Sundays 6-10pm)

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Abeltron (“The Shark Tank”, Wednesday 6-9pm, “Mind $oup” Wednesday 9-10pm)

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Debo (Urban Music Director) (“A Vibe Called West”, Wednesday 10pm – 2am)

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LaTOR (Promotions Director) (“The Marauder”, Wednesday 10am – 2pm)

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Ghoulboy (KSJS’s jack of all trades, hosts a Jazz show “Kosher Jazz”)

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DJ Llama (“The Plug” Thursday 10pm – 2am)

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Dee Mobby (“Derick Morales is a quality KSJS’r”)

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The Barhemian  (“Stop Drop & Roll” Mondays 6-10am)

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James The Butcher (“The Butcher Shop” Sundays 10pm – 2am)

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Phinite (“Fiend Feeding Fiends” Tuesdays 10am – 2pm)

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Shiva Diva (“The Takeover” Wednesdays 6-10am)

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Part 1: Best Album

The following albums have been deemed the most noteworthy releases by our crew of DJs (introduced above). After we countdown the top 25, there is also an Honorable Mentions section which we list some of the albums certain DJs were feeling a lot but fell just short of our top 25 list. By clicking on the album cover for any of these albums you will be redirected to where you can purchase the album. 

25. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo 

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Now this was an album which was an acquired taste. Many disliked the direction, many loved it. One thing is for sure, Kanye works with some of the most brilliant people to bring his vision to where he deems necessary. From “Ultralight Beam” to “Fade” to “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” Kanye has some huge tracks on his latest release.

  • #2 on DJ Llama’s Top 10
  • #2 on Billboard’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #4 on Complex’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #5 on Pitchfork’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #6 on Pigeons & Planes Best ALbums of 2016
  • #7 on Noiser’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #8 on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #11 on Entertainment Weekly’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #11 on Fuse’s Best Album of 2016
  • #25 on FACT Magazine’s Best Albums of 2016

 

24. Mozzy – Mandatory Check

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The Sacramento-based street poet has continued to make serious waves in the industry, and is one of, if not the most, buzzing West-Coast emcee at the moment. His album Mandatory Check got some serious spins from us at the station with stand-out tracks like “Pain Killers” w/ E Mozzy, “Cold Summer”, “So 4Real” w/ Young Mezzy, and “Round & Round” w/ Iamsu!, Rich Homie Quan & Lil Blood.

  • #2 on The Barhemian’s Top 10
  • #43 on FACT Magazine’s Best Album of 2016

23. Zion I & Mikos Da Gawd – Stay Woke Mixtape

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Serving as a precursor to The Labyrinth, the Stay Woke mixtape features some slappers with production Mikos Da Gawd, Headnodic, Khristo & Hawk Beatz and appearances by Adam Vida, Deuce Eclipse and Raashan Ahmad.

  • #1 on Debo’s Top 10

22. The Game – 1992

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The veteran West-Coast emcee is back with a new album in 2016 and it seemed to get fairly good reception. Its a shame that The Game’s publicity comes from beefs and other sideline stories, when he’s actually making some good music nowadays. James the Butcher views the album as his favorite album of 2016 and with standout tracks “The Juice”, “F*ck Orange Juice”, “True Colors/It’s On”, “I Grew up On Wu-Tang” and more.

 

21. YG – Still Brazy 

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YG’s follow-up to My Krazy Life, received a lot of love from critics, with high-profile bangers such as “Twist My Fingaz”, “FDT” and “Still Brazy” among many others, the album breathes West-Coast and is a great example of YG’s ability to continue to make music for the streets, and yet add some social commentary to it as well, which was less abundant in his previous LP.

20. Kamaiyah – A Good Night in the Ghetto

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The Oakland artist has quickly become the West-Coast queen and after a high-profile hook on Drake’s “Why You Hatin”, and the viral radio hit “How Does It Feel”, Kamaiyah’s album is one of the best things to come out of the Bay in a while. Tracks like “I’m On”, the YG-assisted “Fuck It Up” and “Out The Bottle” are all example of her ability to create timeless slaps that can easily get stuck in your head. She has a knack for crafting relatable songs that resonate with the streets and will get burn in the clubs.

  • #4 on The Barhemian’s Top 10
  • #10 on Mobby Dee’s Top 10
  • Rated 9/10 by Exclaim Magazine.
  • Rated 8.2 (out of 10) by Pitchfork.
  • #21 on Complex’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #16 on StereoGum’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #6 on FACT Magazine Best Albums of 2016
  • #48 on Noisey’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #35 on Pigeons & Planes Best Albums of 2016

19. Travis Scott – Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight

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Travis Scott’s album is one of those albums that repeated listens is needed for. His ability as a songwriter and musician is really demonstrated with standouts like the Kid Cudi assisted “Through the Late Night”, the radio smash hit “Pick Up the Phone” w/ Young Thug, the amazing Kendrick Lamar assisted, “Goosebumps” and other gems like “Sweet Sweet” and “Coordinate”. This is going to be an album that will be remember for a long time.

18. Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine

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Mac Miller’s album is themed around his exploration and understanding of love. With the amazing Anderson.Paak assisted, “Dang!”, the Cee-Lo assisted, “We”, and the creative Kendrick Lamar assisted “God is Fair, Sexy, Nasty” and other gems like “Stay” and “Congratulations” w/ Bilal, the album is another quality addition to Mac’s growing discography of impressive LP’s.

17. Bas – Too High To Riot

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The Dreamville artist has dropped his most impressive project to date. With tracks like “Ricochet”, “Housewives” , “Penthouse” and more, Bas really has created some introspective blaps that are well-written and well-produced.

16. A$AP Mob – Cozy Tapes Vol. 1

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A$AP Mob’s tribute to the late A$AP Yams is something he can be proud of. The various A$AP members crafted banging tracks with some of today’s newer artists such as Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti, Tyler, The Creator & Skepta from the UK. “Put That On My Set” was a dope collaboration between A$AP Rocky and Skepta and did well on our Top 40 rotation, while other bangers like “Runner” and “Telephone Calls” got a lot of spins from our crew.

15. Mistah F.A.B. – Son of a Pimp 2

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The Bay Area veteran, Fabby Davis Jr. drops potentially his dopest album yet. It challenges the first Son of a Pimp in variety of music that lies on this album. You have heartfelt, thought-provoking tracks like “Survive” featuring Kendrick Lamar & Crooked I, or bangers such as “Up Until Then” w/ Iamsu! And Boosie Badazz and who can forget the infectious “Still Feelin It” which was even part of one of the dopest NBA Finals halftime shows in history (S/o to the Jabbawockeez).

14. Royce Da 5’9 – Layers

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Another veteran drops potentially his dopest solo LP, after much success last year with collaborative LP with DJ Premier as Prhyme. Layers sees him collaborating with some very dope producers. On “Tabernacle” he crafts a very unique story while still maintaining his reputation for witty bars and punchlines. He tones down the aggressiveness we are used to hearing from him on the Slaughterhouse music, and gets more introspective on this album, and has some very memorable moments on tracks like “Dope” and “Hard”. He also taps Pusha T and Rick Ross for the bars-filled title track.

13. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

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Chance changed the game in 2016, my feeling is he would have been higher on this list, if we didn’t listen to HELLA underground music, being the tastemakers and music connoisseurs that we are. Chance petitioned for albums like this which was not for sale to be eligible for The Grammy’s, and what do you know, now its nominated for several. “Finish Line/Drowning”, “Smoke Break”, “Mixtape” and the smash hit “No Problem” are just a few reasons why this Chance album has been revered by fans, tastemakers and DJs around the globe.

12. Ab-Soul – Do What Thou Wilt. 

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Ab-Soul drops an album out of the blue toward the end of the year that has pleased many of his hardcore fans. Though this is not going to break him into the mainstream, I’m not quite certain he is particularly interested in that in his career. Instead, Ab-Soul intricately weaves social commentary, pyschedelic experiences, bars, and somehow still manages to keep it sonically interesting. Detractors claim this album is boring sound-wise and doesn’t allow them to get into the lyrics, but our crew definitely didn’t feel that way. “Huey Knew”, “Braille” and “Threatening Nature” all did great in rotation, while this album is filled with gems from front to back (too many to list). Repeated listens recommended to dissect layers of wordplay.

11. NxWorries – Yes, Lawd

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Anderson.Paak’s 2nd full-length release in 2016 is another treat which allows fans to experience an album which sends a subtle nod to previous duos in Stones Throw’s past (Jaylib and Madvillainy come to mind), and Paak does a great job crafting different sounds and channeling his influences throughout the album over Knxwledge’s genius production. This is a different side to the crooner’s artistry who lands on our countdown two times with this album and Malibu which was a bit sunnier than Yes, Lawd, but both are necessary to understand the impact and arrival of Hip-Hop’s newest superstar, Anderson.Paak.

10. Traxamillion – The Tech Boom

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Veteran Bay Area beatsmith Traxamillion taps some of San Jose’s most promising talent to craft an original album filled with bangers, introspective tracks, waviness and good vibes all around. Ziggy sounds as good as ever on “Parolee” and “Ain’t No Love” tracks supplying very memorable choruses, while City Shawn definitely makes his impact with “Days Inn”, a track that you will see in Part 2 is one of our crew’s favorite of the year. City also drops some memorable verses on “Knock It Off” along with San Jose artist, M.O.E., and “Space” which sees him collaborating with Flammy Marciano. Flammy makes his presence known on the project as well with potentially the 2nd most popular track on the album, “Mood RN” which was a great feel-good party anthem. Other standout tracks include “Got Work” which see Westacy’s Ziggy and Mac spitting some dope verses over a G-funk beat sounds like DJ Quik meets Tone Capone, with help from Taj Withers on vocals.  “Cold World” which is a dope eastside anthem by Dough Hello and Taj Withers. There are many other gems as well as the ladies Outrageous Karina and Molia both shine on their respective tracks “Dope Dealer” and “Magic” on the LP as well.

  • #2 on Debo’s Top 10
  • #5 on The Barhemian’s Top 10
  • #6 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10

9. Elujay – Jentrify

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Elujay’s Jentrify is a beautiful and honest album which captures the essence of Today’s New Oakland scene which is blossoming with great art. Elujay taps some awesome producers and creates timeless music with gems like “580” and “Respirate/Atlas” really making an impact on our playlists, while “Flagrant” remains one of the most popular tracks of the year, word to YMTK. “Mrs Jackson” w/ Rexx Life Raj is another example of a creative concept that is executed very well.

  • #3 on Dee Mobby’s Top 10
  • #4 on Phinite’s Top 10
  • #8 on The Barhemian’s Top 10
  • #9 on Abeltron’s Top 10

8. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face

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Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face is perhaps his most commercially successful album to date and it has earned him some Grammy nominations. The album has one of the best visual campaigns in hip-hop history. Every visual accentuates the track and brings more attention to the project. “That Part” w/ Kanye West, “Overtime” w/ Miguel, “Dope Dealer” w/ E-40, “By Any Means” and many more tracks live on this project which is another testament to TDE’s chokehold on Hip-Hop.

7. Caleborate – 1993

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Caleborate is a dope artist out of Berkeley (by way of Sacramento) who has continued to gain momentum with every release. 1993 is undoubtedly his best work yet, and sees him working with some great producers such as Mikos Da Gawd, JULiA LEWis, Cal-A, Ian Mckee and more.

  • #1 on Dee Mobby’s Top 10
  • #1 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10
  • #6 on DJ Llama’s Top 10
  • #7 on Phinite’s Top 10
  • #8 on The Barhemian’s Top 10

6. Anderson.Paak – Malibu

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Anderson.Paak’s Malibu dropped early in 2016, however that didn’t stop it from making a lot of our crew’s lists. With gems like “The Season/Carry Me”, “Without You”, “Am I Wrong”, “Come Down” & more, the album is packed with reasons why Anderson.Paak is perhaps the most talented artist to emerge in hip-hop since guys like Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar.

  • #2 on StrongArm’s Top 10
  • #2 on Shiva Diva’s Top 10
  • #2 on Phinite’s Top 10
  • #4 on Dee Mobby’s Top 10
  • Rated A- by Consequence of Sound
  • Rated  9 (out of 10) by Exclaim!
  • Rated 8.6 (out of 10) by Pitchfork.
  • #2 on Pigeons & Planes’ Best Albums of 2016
  • #6 on Hypebeast’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #7 on NPR Music’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #9 on Entertainment Weekly’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #10 on Billboard’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #12 on Stereogum’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #14 on Complex’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #24 on SPIN Magazine’s Best Albums of 2016

5. Rexx Life Raj – Father Figure

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Rexx Life Raj’s Father Figure is a great indicator that raw talent will eventually prevail if you have the right people around you. We first heard Rexx Life Raj on a track called “Cookies” around 2012-2013 era, and since then he has gained momentum with every drop. On Father Figure he seems most comfortable, and the album is a great listening experience. From the heartfelt title track, to “Handheld GPS” which garnered praise from the likes of Kehlani, G-Eazy and Russ, to “On Ice” w/ YMTK, Raj shows his versatility as not only an emcee, but an artist who can harmonize vocals, write dope hooks and in a nutshell, just create greatness for the masses. “Moxie Java” dropped last year but it was an indicator that Raj wasn’t going to play around in 2016, and thats exactly what he didn’t do. Many believe Rexx Life Raj is the next to emerge from the Bay following Kehlani, Iamsu! and Kamaiyah’s footsteps to success.

  • #1 on Shiva Diva’s Top 10
  • #2 on Dee Mobby’s Top 10
  • #2 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10
  • #7 on The Barhemian’s Top 10
  • #10 on StrongArm’s Top 10

4. Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component

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Mick Jenkins told us Wave[s] was a interlude in between The Waters and The Healing Component, and now it makes sense. Similar to the impact his debut, The Waters, had, his latest effort is a breath of fresh air. Mick does something not many artists manage to do which is talk about REALLY positive subject manner, social commentary, spiritual experience while still remaining relevant to the youth. Through great production from the likes of Sango, Da-P, THEMPeople, etc. he crafts vivid tales of triumph, heartfelt stories and musical masterpieces. “Spread Love”, “Drowning”, “1000 Xans”, “Prosperity” and many more are truly gems and it will be very interesting to see where Mick is heading with it next, because so far, he has a flawless record.

3. Chuuwee & Trizz – Amerikka’s Most Blunted 2

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West-Coast indie marvels Chuuwee and Trizz link up for the sequel to Amerikka’s Most Blunted which garnered a lot of praise from both their fanbases. They may have even outdone the original with AMB2, as the duo’s brand is growing and they are in a great place creatively. Standouts include “Location, Location”, “Gettin Money”, “$ & Bitches”, “Mario Party” w/ Tay Hundreds, and many more.

  • #3 on Shiva Diva’s Top 10
  • #3 on LaTOR’s Top 10
  • #4 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10
  • #7 on StrongArm’s Top 10
  • #7 on Debo’s Top 10
  • #8 on Abeltron’s Top 10

2. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

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The legendary hip-hop group did not disappoint as they hit us out of nowhere with an amazing body of work right after the news hit of Trump securing the election. And boy was it a treat. With guest appearances from Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak, Kanye West and several appearances from frequent collaborators Busta Rhymes & Consequence, the album is a joy to listen to. I’m not even going to list standout tracks, because they almost all are in their own ways.

  • #1 on StrongArm’s Top 10
  • #3 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10
  • #3 on Butcher’s Top 10
  • #5 on Phinite’s Top 10
  • #6 on LaTOR’s Top 10
  • #6 on Abeltron’s Top 10
  • #7 on Shiva Diva’s Top 10
  • #9 on DJ Llama’s Top 10
  • Rated A- on Consequence of Sound
  • Rated 9.0 (out of 10) by Pitchfork. 
  • #3 on Complex’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #4 on SPIN Magazine’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #4 on Stereogum’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #6 on Billboard’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #8 on FACT Magazine’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #13 on Noisey’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #17 on NPR Music’s Best Albums of 2016

1. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade

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It was pretty unanimous that this was our pick as a crew for Album of the Year. Four different members voted is as their #1 album of the year, while three others included it in their top 10. With standout tracks like “4r Da Squaw”, “Free Lunch”, “Park” and more, Isaiah has really built a knack for heartfelt songwriting, and capturing a vibe that is timeless. This is the 2nd straight year that an album from the TDE camp is our #1 album of the year as a staff.

  • #1 on Abeltron’s Top 10
  • #1 on Phinite’s Top 10
  • #1 on LaTOR’s Top 10
  • #1 on The Barhemian’s Top 10
  • #4 on StrongArm’s Top 10
  • #9 on Dee Mobby’s Top 10
  • #10 on DJ Llama’s Top 10
  • Rated B+ on Consequence of Sound
  • Rated 8.1 (out of 10) on Pitchfork
  • #3 on Passion of The Weiss’s Best Albums of 2016
  • #25 on Pigeons & Planes Best Albums of 2016

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Below are some albums that didn’t make the collective Top 25 but still made our crew member’s personal Top 10 Album list. Peep below

Vince Staples – Prima Donna

  • #3 on Debo’s Top 10

J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only 

  • #7 on LaTOR’s Top 10
  • #8 on Shiva Diva’s Top 10

Martin $ky – If Anybody Ever Told You That They Know Me, They Lied

  • #8 on LaTOR’s Top 10
  • #10 on Abeltron’s Top 10

Waldo – Be Ever Wonderful

  • #4 on Abeltron’s Top 10

Invisibl Skratch Piklz – The 13th Floor

  • #4 on Butcher’s Top 10

Noname – Telefone

  • #4 on DJ Llama’s Top 10

Ezale & DJ Fresh – The Tonite Show

  • #4 on Debo’s Top 10

Young Gully & DJ Fresh – David 2

  • #5 on Butcher’s Top 10

Oddisee – Alwasta

  • #5 on Dee Mobby’s Top 10

Tone Oliver & Jetpack Jones – The Pad

  • #5 on Abeltron’s Top 10

J. Lately – The Good Panda

  • #6 on Debo’s Top 10

Saba – Bucket List Project

  • #6 on Phinite’s Top 10

Live n Direct – All the Way Live

  • #7 on Butcher’s Top 10

Smoke DZA & Pete Rock – Don’t Smoke Rock

  • #8 on Butcher’s Top 10

Kendrick Lamar – Untitled, Unmastered

  • #8 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10

Ziggy – Hurry Up & Buy

  • #9 on Debo’s Top 10

City Shawn – Merry Thanksgiving (EP)

  • #9 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10

Like – Songs Made While High

  • #9 on Phinite’s Top 10

Beejus – No Time But to Mob

  • #9 on Butcher’s Top 10

Murs & 9th Wonder – Brighter Daze

  • #9 on LaTOR’s Top 10

SiR – Her (EP)

  • #10 on Phinite’s Top 10

Flatbush Zombies – 3001: A Laced Odyssey 

  • #10 on Butcher’s Top 10

Zion I – The Labyrinth

  • #10 on Ghoulboy’s Top 10

 

 

Compiled & Written by StrongArm

 

 

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