Rap has changed for the better and for the worse, but fortunately still thrives and is very much alive amidst the pandemonium. If anyone is to blame, radio killed hip hop for the most part while 2007 was a year of maturity for many artists as reflected by their releases. 2007 was a turning point for several artists after a somber 2006 with the losses of hip hop legends, but opportunely, the wonderment still lives on. Ultimately, it’s those individuals who rise above the rest in the hip hop industry and keep this movement continuing in 2007 and beyond.
TOP 10 RECORDS OF THE YEAR
10) Living Legends: “Almost Famous” (re-issue)
It was good the first time around when it was originally released in 2001, but the new re-packaged album of the original artwork is even better. The first full length album representing the entire LL crew now comes with an unreleased Living Legends song as a bonus and remixes from Daddy Kev and Pigeon John. This is pure heaven for the dedicated LL fan. Collaborations from artists such as Slug, Pep Love, and N8 the Gr8 complete the already exceptional album.
9) Kanye West: “Graduation”
Most of you know that I’m an underground hip hop kind of girl, but from time to time I like a little mainstream, too and what better artist to listen to than Kanye. With the controversial 9/11 release date alongside 50 Cent’s album, “Graduation” was hyped from the beginning. As a master sampler, Kanye incorporates reminiscent sounds from artists such as Elton John, Public Enemy, and Daft Punk (“Stronger” was impressive.) Unlike his previous albums, he’s now about progression and development at a larger scale even if his lyrics are still somewhat pretentious, but then again…he’s Kanye.
8) Hieroglyphics: “Over Time”
If you’re a Hiero fan like me that likes to rummage through stacks for oldies, but goodies material, this has to be included in your collection for 2007. An anthology of rarities, b-sides, and remixes, “Over Time” is not only a compilation or a “best of” album, but instead, features the highlights of this underground hip hop collective over a span of the past 10 years. Be sure to check out Domino’s remix of “You Never Know” and Dan the Automator’s remix of “If You Must.”
7) Black Milk: “Popular Demand”
Although another lucky RR writer beat me to it in writing the review for “Popular Demand,” I was at least fortunate enough to have a copy for my own listening pleasure (thanks Flash.) After the fall of Detroit’s iconic artist, J Dilla, the next generation arises with Black Milk as a frontrunner for the newcomers of 2007 as he puts the city back on the map. His previous collaborations with Slum Village, J Dilla, and Canibus shaped him into an accomplished producer/rapper exemplified by his soulful, yet grimy beats and fierce lyricism. While few artists excel in both areas, Black Milk’s multifaceted talents are effortless.
6) Sole and The Skyrider Band: self-titled
Anticon’s Sole took a chance to explore artistically and teamed up with The Skyrider Band to delve into a different sound than what most were used to. Secluding themselves in Flagstaff, AZ for the duration of the recordings proved to have an influence on this innovative album full of live instrumentation and Sole’s signature immersed lyricism with topics ranging from politics to emotional stability. Not for the faint of heart, this is an album that you’ll have to muse on to appreciate its complexity.
5) Brother Ali: “The Undisputed Truth”
After a succession of personal struggles and impediments, including a divorce and a continuing custody battle, Brother Ali faces the “truth” behind the ongoing calamity. A candid, poignant journey in order to maintain his integrity and sanity, Brother Ali doesn’t seek pity, but instead, seeks redemption. With his polished lyricism, refined voice, and recognized production from Ant, Brother Ali masters the art.
4) Sage Francis: “Human the Death Dance”
Although usually known for his politically hyped, aggressive verses, Sage Francis strays away this time around to seek a more eclectic album. He refers to it as a “mix-tape-style” of album without the disorderliness. With production from Sixtoo, Odd Nosdam, Buck 65, Alias, Reanimator, and composer Mark Isham who worked on the soundtrack for the movie “Crash,” Sage Francis shows his versatility as an emcee on any beat. As Sage Francis phrases it well, he says, “I like these albums to be photo albums of me that show all the things I think under different moods.”
3) Aesop Rock: “None Shall Pass”
Two years in the making, “None Shall Pass” reveals itself like a mysterious storybook exposing an introspective look into unreality as he flaunts his verbose lyricism and well recognized voice. With a mind-blowing lineup of production from Blockhead, El-P, Rob Sonic and Aesop Rock, himself, the array of experimental sounds including rock, electronic, and funk is impeccable. Aesop Rock has been a favorite artist of mine from the beginning of his career and things still haven’t changed.
2) El-P: “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead”
When you have names like Mars Volta, Cage, Aesop Rock, and Cat Power on El-P beats, you know it’s about to get crazy. With a plethora of sounds that are impossible to differentiate individually, El-P slowly peels back the layers to reveal a melodic, yet mystifying journey of hypnotic auditory stimulation. His love-hate relationship with life is uncovered as the album is perhaps cathartic in a sense.
1) M.I.A.: “Kala”
Oddly enough, I first heard “Paper Planes” while shopping, of all places, and was immediately drawn into the track with its gunshots and distortion. Following her previous album, “Arular,” named after her father, “Kala” refers to her mother’s name and her difficulties surrounding the hardships as an immigrant from Sri Lanka. M.I.A. experiences the same after failed attempts to obtain a visa to come into the U.S. to record and ultimately is forced to record elsewhere. The influences of traveling to Australia, India, Jamaica, Liberia, and Trinidad while recording “Kala” are clearly heard with the wide array of ethnic/aboriginal beats throughout the album. “Kala” incorporates a multitude of genres including, hip hop, drum n’ bass, dub, and electronic and makes for an extremely diverse album. Her well known politically driven, unconventional antics and lyricism marked with a British accent fuels the album as her delivery is unmatched. Yes, Timbaland is even on the production of “Come Around.” Am I biased because of my feminine perspective, no, but what can I say? 2007 was the year for female domination!