10. (tie) Lil Wayne: Tha Carter II / One Block Radius: Long Story Short

A complete contrast at ten, Lil’ Wayne has worked his way up to rank as one of commercial Hip-Hop’s elite while One Block Radius took 2005 to hit listeners with their full length debut effort. Always strapped with a fantastic flow and unique voice, Wayne’s “The Carter II” was noticeably better than last year’s “The Carter” both lyrically and production-wise. If people don’t respect what this man’s doing in rap music now they probably never will. One the other end of the spectrum, One Block Radius is a newcomer to most. In 2005 the trio put together an album that is clearly influenced by the days when Hip-Hop started both in subject matter and sound. Though updated significantly for the times, one can’t help but notice the 80’s influences in their beats as well as all the fun they’re having.

9. The Chapter: Us Vs. Them

This Las Vegas duo gives a lot of credit to ?estlove for putting them on the map and you know what, ?estlove knew what he was doing when he helped put them on. The Chapter mixes dope production with meaningful lyrics and their debut LP, “Us vs. Them,” has numerous tracks that are worthy of the repeat button.

8. The Game: The Documentary

You’d have to have been in a coma not to have heard at least half of this album being played on the radio throughout the year. Having Dr. Dre as your producer never hurts, but The Game’s lyrical content is what set him apart from his former friends over at G-Unit. The Game digs deeper than most mainstream MC’s and it’s a safe bet he’ll do just fine even without 50 and friends.

7. One Self: Children of Possibility

One Self’s “Children of Possibility” is just one of those really dope albums. Imagine an updated version of Digable Planets with a little more singing and you have One Self. Everyone I know who’s heard this album has liked it.

6. Prince Paul: Itstrumental

Some call him a genius, some call him insane, the truth of the matter is he’s probably a little bit of both. This year Paul gave us “Itstrumental,” another album filled with fantastic beats and a common theme running through the entire joint. Some of his individual concept songs can stand alone, but like most Prince Paul albums, “Itstrumental” should be listened to as a whole.

5. Danger Doom: The Mouse and the Mask

MF Doom and Danger Mouse combined with the cartoon characters of Adult Swim. What could be bad? The answer is nothing. The DangerDoom combination proved to be one for the ages and the addition of characters like Master Shake and Brak to the album make it one both Hip-Hop and cartoon fans can enjoy.

4. J-Live: The Hear After

Now in Philly, Brooklyn’s finest came with heat in 2005. “The Hear After” doesn’t have a single track that will have you hitting the skip button as J-Live brings listeners true reality over fantastic beats. He openly states he stays on the sidewalks rather than the streets, and that’s part of the reason his views are oftentimes so much more interesting.

3. Atmosphere: You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having

It was really hard to say anything was doper than this album. Atmosphere had slipped a bit in recent years, but with “You Can’t Imagine…” Slug and Ant launched themselves back into Hip-Hop’s VIP section. The lead single, “Watch Out,” is a definite nominee for record of the year.

2. Will Smith: Lost and Found

The Fresh Prince was another artist who made a triumphant return in 2005. While “Switch” was a good first single the real meat of the album is in tracks like “Lost and Found,” “If You Can’t Dance,” “Mr. NiceGuy,” “I Wish I Made That” and “Ms. Holy Roller” where he reminds listeners that he is one of rap’s all time greats and should be mentioned along side the likes of KRS-ONE and 2Pac. Unlike most of today’s rappers, however, he does this more so by SHOWING why he should rank there rather than just saying it.

1. Hot Karl: The Great Escape

No longer saddled with a major label’s wants and needs Hot Karl released a modern day Hip-Hop classic. Never before has someone so precisely pinned down suburban life in a rap album. “Home Sweet Home” leaves listeners wondering about every upper / middle class burb in America, while tracks like “Let’s Talk (feat. MC Serch)” prove Karl’s no one trick pony. The back to back songs “Just Like Me & You” and “Dreamin” are easily the best storytelling songs of the year. If you love Hip-Hop you need to have this album in your collection.