The Year 2007 in Review
Author: Arthur Gailes
Even though 2007 continues a downward trend in rap sales, the genre is going as strong as ever. Even a top ten list leaves out countless great albums (Pharoahe Monch's "Desire" was hard to leave out). This list was made in the middle of December, and I missed out on some contenders from Lupe Fiasco, Cunninlynguists, Scarface, and Wyclef. Runners up include Redman, Consequence, Wu-Tang, and many more artists with similarly great albums.
TOP 10 RECORDS OF THE YEAR
10. Urthboy - The Signal
This one is out of the left field, but the Australian rapper from The Herd dropped possibly the most consistently good album of the year. Not one track from "The Signal" is filler, whether Urthboy is being happy, sad, intense, or silly. Topped with some great beats, it stands out from the standard rap scene by miles.
9. Guru - Jazzmatazz 4
Guru comes with it here, and Solar fits him just as well as that other producer Guru used to run with. The live instruments compliment it well, and when it all goes right, the results are amazing ("State of Clarity" is a top five song this year). Fans of that smooth, mature hip hop sound will love this one.
8. Kanye West - Graduation
Personally, I consider this Kanye's best production effort. Nobody agrees with me, but the first three songs on this album are amazing. I don't understand anybody who doesn't get shivers from "Good Morning," "Champion," or "The Glory." Kanye completely switched up his sound, again, and it always works. Say what you want about the guy's arrogance, he's right.
7. Little Brother - Getback
This was a quiet release compared to "The Minstrel Show," which is unfortunate, because it's a better album. Big Pooh, called the weak link, is just as sharp as Phonte, who's always one of the top rappers out. It's funny, smart, old, and new all at the same time.
6. Killah Priest - The Offering
With no real support from his label or the Clan, Priest still managed to put up one of the strongest albums of the year. It's his most personal yet, and Priest just writes beautifully. It stalls at times, but when Priest gets rolling with his visual metaphors, the hip hop head in me melts.
5. Brother Ali - The Undisputed Truth
Brother Ali's always been talented, but this is his artistic manifesto. Ali bares his soul for this one, and that's something that pours through his voice and music. He's got this passion about his music that just can't be described. Beside's Ant is one of rap's most underrated producers, and he does all of this.
4. UGK - Underground Kingz
With the tragic loss of Pimp C., this will be their last album. Sad as this is to anybody who's been following hip hop over the past 20 years, they sure went out on a high note. This is the best produced album of the year, and both rappers are in top form. Pimp's solo, "Shattered Dreams," is possibly the best song of the year, and Bun B is always one of the best rappers to listen to. Pimp C.'s death is awful, but it's important to remember that in life, he was living the dream of millions. Rest in Peace.
3. Talib Kweli - Ear Drum
Always somewhere between underground and mainstream, Kweli released the best, most consistent album of his career here. His beat selection has come a long way from "Beautiful Struggle," and given the control of having his own label, we're finally seeing his vision in its purest form. It's a beautiful thing.
2. Jay-Z - American Gangster
In my opinion, any top five list without this album is a joke. Comparisons to "Reasonable Doubt" are trite, but it's safe to say that this is a triumph I didn't think Jay had left in him. It captures the essence of one of the best rappers ever, and its production, writing, and cohesion is impeccable. In one stroke, Jay-Z went from being on the decline to re-establishing himself as rap's premier spitter.
1. Blu & Exile - Below the Heavens
Choosing anything over "American Gangster" is hard, but where that is great, this is extraordinary. "Below the Heavens" is quite simply the most unabashedly soul-baring album I've heard since "Me Against the World." From the fears of early fatherhood, to dealing with his concept of eternity, Blu holds absolutely nothing back for this one. Oh, and that guy Exile is nice on the beats.
Originally posted: December 25, 2007