This Top 10 is being crafted under protest – not at the ever-fine governing body of RapReviews, of course, but at how WACK this year has been in hip hop. Sure, there have been some pretty awesome singles, but great albums have been few and far between – you know what I mean, Reader. Albums that you anticipated. Albums you would have got out of bed for to go and buy on the first day of its release. There were a few of those in 2007, and most of them disappointed. In all honesty, it has been a real struggle to make this list – hence a Top Five. So I will be handing out a few more awards in addition. Enjoy this and have a great 2008! Jay Soul.
TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2007
5) UGK – “Underground Kingz”
I would be lying if I said that UGK were my lyrical ideals in rap, but as a listening experience, this double album is exceptional. It never flags from the off, the choice of guests is spot-on and in sheer entertainment/value for money terms, it is a great investment. Also, proves that double LP’s are viable if done correctly. RIP Pimp C.
4) Chamillionaire – “Ultimate Victory”
Even I’m surprised this is here, but it just about deserves a place. What impresses me most about Cham – apart from the remarkable consistency throughout UV – is the care with which he crafts his rhymes. He really wants to create a great album, and he pulls it off in style.
3) Lupe Fiasco – “The Cool”
Wow. A stunning sophomore, devilishly dark and lyrically laudable. Whilst it hasn’t been out long enough for me to figure out exactly what the fuck is going on, I’ve still understood that his go-go-go-go-go flow is ever so impressive. A quite remarkable album and an essential purchase.
2) M.I.A. – “Kala”
Simply the most exciting artist on the planet right now. Not everyone will “get” her – hey, even I didn’t at first – but if you are bored with the standard fare of hip hop, this will inject some excitement and energy. Beats, choruses, replay value… She even improves as an MC. We said this after her debut but how on Earth can she follow THIS one up?
1) Jay-Z – “American Gangster”
From start to finish, a true blue classic. Upon every listen, I discover something new. Some who called for this type of album complain about a lack of hit singles? You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. But seriously, how many other MC’s can GENUINELY be compared with him? Cherish this oasis in a desert of shit. You’ll miss him when he is gone.
Soulstice – “Dead Letter Perfect” (Brightened my summer)
Cassidy – “B.A.R.S.” (Reminds me of Big L)
The Regiment – “The Come Up” (Promising younglings)
Gnotes – “Rhymes and Beats” (Skilled lyricist)
Wu-Tang Clan – “8 Diagrams” (Mature, interesting)
El-P – “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” (Wonderfully apocalyptic)
Army of the Pharoahs – “Ritual of Battle” (Fight music)
NOT BAD BUT, BY THEIR STANDARDS, SHOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
Common – “Finding Forever” (Tight but emotionless)
Kanye West – “Graduation” (Average by Kanye’s standards)
Talib Kweli – “Ear Drum” (2003 Jay-Z’s praise still gone to head)
Pharoahe Monch – “Desire” (MC amazing, music average)
Fabolous – “From Nothin’ to Somethin’” (Sounds ring rusty)
Little Brother – “Getback” (Takes me back to 1988 – take that anyway you like)
50 Cent – “Curtis” (Like watching culmination of a six-month car crash)
Ghostface Killah – “The Big Doe Rehab” (Pretty good, but not “Pretty Toney”)
T.I. – “T.I. vs. T.I.P.” (Consistent but unspectacular)
Timbaland – “Timbaland Presents Shock Value” (Half genius, half rubbish)
THE TOP TWELVE ‘JAY SOUL’ AWARDS 2007
12) Exercise In Futility Award: Swizz Beatz
There are some hot beats, but absolutely no point in even attempting to listen to the lyrics of “One Man Band” so don’t bother. It is background music.
11) The Continuing Saga Award: UK Hip Hop being non-mainstream, again
What is going on with UK Hip Hop? Seriously, has not ONE person figured out a strategy for success? Just ask me and I’ll help you, promise!
10) Please Stop Making So Many Albums: Ghostface Killah
I love Ghostie, but he has released more or less 5 albums in three and a half years. Unless you are The Beatles, your quality level will dilute, so if it isn’t an attempt at contract emancipation, chill out.
9) (It Could Have Been) Album of the Year: “Hell Hath No Fury”
If they had waited a few weeks, the Clipse HHNF sophomore LP may well have topped my 2007 list. But they didn’t, so it didn’t.
8) Albums That Are (In Retrospect) Rather Similar: “Hell Hath No Fury” and “American Gangster”
Two classics, and two (Bilal-closing) albums that follow almost identical narrative arcs. I’m not saying one bit the other – I’m saying they BOTH bit almost EVERY gangster film EVER, duh!
7) Artists I’m Angry At For Abandoning Me: Nas
I really wish that Nas had released his “Nigger” album on target. Actually, no I don’t. Nas probably needs more time: releasing albums too close together always goes to his head like an on-leave sailor in a brothel. Still… Impatient!
6) Most Ironic Arrest: DJ Drama
Erm… WTF?? Why not just arrest every single DJ on the planet and wipe their Serato libraries/destroy their vinyl collections? DJ’s PROMOTE your artists for FREE. Tossers.
5) Opportunity Lost But He’s So Rich He Doesn’t Care: Timbaland
If “Shock Value” had been slimmed down to a ten or eleven track album, trimming the fat, it would have been hailed as a trailblazer. The most evenly balanced album – weighing pure genius equally with pure rubbish.
4) 2 Good 2 Bad: “Curtis”
50 Cent released 2 awful build up singles that made God weep – a mixtape-worthy track (“S.T.T.B”) and possibly the laziest lead single you will ever hear (“Amusement Park”); then, he follows it up with 2 of my favourite songs of the year, “Ayo Technology” and “I Get Money.” The question is, would he have sold his usual gazillion records (and beaten Kanye in their… cough cough… “contest”) if the first two shitters had never been released?
3) Albums I Tried So Hard To Love: “Graduation” and “Finding Forever”
I can’t tell you how disappointed I was with Common’s latest LP. Although FF was tight, it was without soul and feeling. Strong singles, but the rhymes had little emotion, and for the supposed Marvin Gaye of hip hop, that is not OK, player. It really seems that Dilla’s death (totally understandably) hung a dark cloud over Common, so he should have put recording it on hold for a year. Replay value: 3 weeks. Such a shame.
Kanye is a great artist and I tried so hard to connect with this LP, but let us put it in the simplest terms possible. I listened to his debut for 4 months straight. His sophomore for a solid 6 months. And “Graduation” for less than 3 weeks. It is as simple as that. Now tell me that YOU didn’t follow a relatively similar trajectory. Again, a real shame.
2) Running Jokes of the Year(s): Papoose debut, Saigon debut, Dr Dre’s “Detox”
Look, I may as well burst your bubble: Santa Claus was an marketing invention of Coca Cola, the whole “walking on the moon” thing may not have been real (how would you know either way?) and yes you SHOULD have waited a few months to purchase an iPhone.
1) Genre That Needs To Step Its Game Up: Hip Hop
Comparing our beloved genre to others this year does not a pretty picture paint. Indie/Rock is rock solid right now. R&B has slyly been on the rise for the past 18 months. You see, hip hop is alive and well on lower to mid levels, but the “commercial” side of things is truly just “corporate” and the end result is the death of the classic album. This has been a GREAT year for hip hop singles (see list below) but definitely not albums. Make great albums with great singles and people will exchange money for them. It is not a difficult equation.
THE MUST-OWN COMMERCIAL SONGS OF 2007
Kanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”
50 Cent – “I Get Money”
Soulstice – “High As You Wanna”
M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”
UGK feat Outkast – “International Players Anthem”
Chamillionaire feat Slick Rick – “Hip Hop Police”
Jay-Z – “The Roc Boys (And The Winner Is)”
Pharoahe Monch – “Trilogy”
Fabolous feat Ne-Yo – “Make Me Better”
Timbaland feat Keri Hilson – “The Way I Are”
Common – “The People”
Dizzee Rascal – “Pussy’Ole (Old Skool)”
M.I.A. – “Boyz”
Soulja Boy – “Crank That”
Rich Boy – “Throw Some D’s”
MIMS – “This Is Why I’m Hot”
Eve – “Tambourine”
Bone Thugs feat Akon – “I Tried”
Jay-Z feat Bilal – “Falling”
Timbaland feat Nelly F & Justin T – “Give It To Me”
Kano feat Craig David– “This Is The Girl”
50 Cent feat Justin T – “Ayo Technology”
Lupe Fiasco – “Superstar”
Cassidy – “My Drink N My 2 Step”
Wu Tang Clan – “While My Heart Gently Weeps”
Akala – “Electro Livin'”
Common – “I Want You”
Kanye West – “Flashing Lights”
Shop Boyz – “Party Like A Rock Star”
Lupe Fiasco feat Snoop Dogg – “Hi-Definition”