Starting off I’d like to give a few honorable mention shout outs to Somobe (The Great Communication), Zeph & Azeem (Rise Up), RBX (Broken Silence) and Theory Hazit (Extra Credit) for just missing this list. Now on to the top ten!
TOP 10 RECORDS OF THE YEAR
10 – Spear Of The Nation – Spearitalk
I never thought I’d see the day when a Koch release made one of my Top 10 lists, but with Spear Of The Nation’s Spearitalk they have finally given us a real winner. Right from jump it’s clear where Spear stands. The first full length song, “Black Love?,” features a host of community based questions and a chorus that features “that ain’t right” repeated a number of times. Spear is an intellectual MC, but not of the boring or preachy variety. One listen to the incredibly funky first single “Clap” gives listeners the full spectrum of what Spear is here to do, make you move while making you think.
9 – Sketch Tha Cataclysm – Party Music 4 Pissed Off People
Speaking of artists who want to make you move while making you think, Connecticut’s Sketch Tha Cataclysm burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut EP, Party Music 4 Pissed Off People. Whether he’s discussing the plight of commercial radio, or just looking to drop some historical knowledge on listeners, Sketch is always on point with a rapid fire flow. He even dips into some reggae stylings at some points, incorporating the genre perfectly with Hip-Hop, making it so neither loses their essence or their power. Sketch is a new voice in Hip-Hop worth listening to.
8 – Dyalekt – Square Peg Syndrome
Everyone’s heard the phrase “trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.” It’s a common description for someone, or something, not fitting in. Square Peg Syndrome is Dyalekt’s look at the idea through the life of someone he’s very close to, himself. It’s also the soundtrack to his one man Hip-Hop Theater show of the same name. Describing himself in the album’s introduction as “half Fred Sanford / half Dukes of Hazard” Dyalekt paints an elaborate portrait of what it means to not fit in and how to deal with it. The Mindspray member enlisted the likes to Domer, Conscious and EuphAmism to handle the production duties for the album and the trio created some impressive beats to go with Dyalekt’s always strong rhymes. Square Peg Syndrome is the perfect album for anyone who has ever felt left out in any way, shape, or form.
7 – KRS-One & Marley Marl – Hip Hop Lives
If I was surprised at one Koch release being in my Top Ten you know listing two has me nearly on the floor in astonishment. Did anyone believe this pairing would ever happen? One of Hip-Hop’s longest standing feuds was squashed in a major way this past year when KRS-ONE and Marley Marl joined forces to make an album that was everything every Hip-Hop head from back in the day hoped it would be. Amazing production, fantastic rhymes, it was nothing short of a dream come true. Highlights include “Kill a Rapper” which features the haunting chorus “you wanna get away with murder? Kill a rapper” and listing off in great detail of the numerous unsolved crimes that have involved the deaths of MCs over the years. Then there’s “Rising to the Top” where KRS breaks down why he had beef with Marley Marl all those years. It’s a real treat for the many Hip-Hop heads who remember the feud.
6 – Plan B – Who Needs Actions When You Got Words
Plan B floored me the first time I heard him. He’s a grimier version of The Streets but instead of at-home computer based production he’s using some live instrumentation, mostly his acoustic guitar, to accompany all of his beats. There’s something really captivating with the combination of the guitar, his accent and the topics he rhymes about. Content-wise Plan B is unafraid go into the dirtiest gutter of the worst slum he can find and bring back the most graphic of stories to tell. This is an artist who has a real shot at doing something special if given the right opportunities.
5 – Homeboy Sandman – Nourishment
What can I say about a man who has an entire song where he rhymes solely off of the clapping of his own hands? Simply put, Homeboy Sandman has skills. The quick tongued New Yorker has been earning quite the reputation for bringing the house down at his live shows and his 2007 effort, Nourishment, only adds to his already well established status. The topics he rhymes about range greatly and Homeboy Sandman is a master when it comes to flow. A perfect example of this is personal fave “Knock Em Out” where he rhymes over the Lily Allen beat of the same name. Nourishment proves Homeboy Sandman is just as effective on CD as he is live and for someone with a show like his that is one heck of an impressive feat.
4 – Knobody – Tha Clean Up
Hiero released a lot of albums this year, at one point I felt like I was getting one a week. The real standout of 2007 was recent addition Knobody’s effort Tha Clean Up. The best way to describe this album is dope Hip-Hop the way it was meant to be done, straight up, no chaser. He sounds a bit like The Clipse at times, but definitely has a flavor all his own. The lead single, “What U Think,” is a perfect example of this. From the beat to Knobody’s flow, to the lyrics, everything is just right and that’s exactly how the rest of the album feels. Tha Clean Up is one of those albums you can put on from start to finish and enjoy it the entire time.
3 – Esoteric vs. Gary Numan – Pterodactyl Tubeway
I know this technically isn’t a “rap” album, though there is some rapping on it, but Esoteric’s mad scientist project where he remixed Gary Numan tracks and made them into unique pieces of Hip-Hop art deserves some major recognition. Everyone is familiar with the work of Gary Numan even if they don’t realize it (“Cars” anybody?) and Esoteric’s obsession with the man’s music led him to create something fantastic, Pterodactyl Tubeway. Since there would be obvious issues with selling this as an individual album (sampling doesn’t begin to describe what’s done on this) it’s only available from select online retailers as a bonus CD when ordering 7L & Esoteric’s Egoclapper. Believe me, it’s worth it. (7l-esoteric.com)
2 – Vinnie Scullo – How I Met Your Mother
Another year, another great Vinnie Scullo effort. This time around the concept Vinnie used was sampling from artists not normally heard from in the Hip-Hop world. Opening with “Audrey Hepburn Was Mad Nice,” his ode to acting like a full grown man, Vinnie starts his album off with a fantastic Tori Amos sample. The start of the chorus, “I got a sister and another one and a mom, and I’ll be damned if I gon disrespect a one of them,” should be more than enough for the many females disenchanted with a lot of rap’s misogynistic ways to hop on the Vinnie Scullo bandwagon. Other artists that Vinnie samples on HIMYM include Jim Croce, Shakira and Nelly Furtado. Even if the industry is having a hard time catching on to the incredible talents of Vinnie Scullo, Hip-Hop heads everywhere should be taking notice. This is his second appearance in my Top 10 list in the past two years. PS – This is also a clean album!
1 – k-os – Atlantis: Hymns for Disco
Wow. That was the first thought that entered my mind after first listening to k-os’ Atlantis: Hymns For Disco. The broad range of music, from traditional Hip-Hop to rock to reggae to gospel, and the deep, personal nature of the lyrics are what make give Atlantis that “wow” status. I was expecting a lot from k-os this time around, he still had a lot of buzz and I had faith that he was capable of something great. Thankfully he did not disappoint, instead he delivered one of the most complete Hip-Hop albums of the past five years. Atlantis touches on everything a great Hip-Hop album should cover and does so in such a way as to show how Hip-Hop can easily mesh with other genres of music. He also kept it clean. You can play this record from front to back in front of your kids or your grandmother and be safe. Truly amazing. With Atlantis k-os has gone where we all wanted Mos Def to go. (k-os-music.com)