I’m gonna get to the point… 2005 was a rough year for hip-hop. No Jigga, no Nas, no Marshall, no ‘Kast. “Detox” didn’t drop, again. Even Snoop took a break and we get something from him EVERY year. As for the indie scene, it’s reaching an inevitable state of saturation. The whole reason indie rap jumped off in the first place was because commercial rap was sounding all the same. Well, now it’s indie cats copying other indie cats. It was bound to happen.

On the bright side, the South is finally getting some hard-earned credit. Not that it hasn’t been booming for a minute now, but the artists are developing and the overly critical heads (including myself) are finally starting to get that country slang. Anyone else see the incredible reviews for Lil Wayne’s latest? I thought I’d never see “Lil Wayne” and the words “critically-acclaimed” and “masterpiece” in the same sentence. The game’s officially changed and this is no fluke. 2005 saw well-received albums from Bun B, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Young Jeezy, and the aforementioned Weezy F. Baby (please say the Baby). Hell, anyone who read my review for the Ying Yang Twins KNOWS I had to give them their due even when I was fully prepared to dump the full bucket of Haterade on them, Super Bowl-style.

As diluted as the indie market may be, it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been any jewels this year. In fact, the number of praiseworthy indie releases has actually gone up; it’s just that the quantity of coasters has quadrupled in the same time. This means that good albums are being lost in the tidal wave of mediocrity. The tough part is panning out the gold nuggets from the stream of pebbles, dirt, and mountain lion feces.

All this said, here’s the “Best of 2005.” Keep in mind that I, like you, don’t have every album to hit shelves, so I’ve only included albums I’ve heard. But for those of you who MUST know, here are 5 omissions that I think will be popular “Top 10” entries for list-makers worldwide:

Beanie Sigel: The B. Coming
Cage: Hell’s Winter
Danger Doom: The Mouse and the Mask
Lil Wayne: Tha Carter II
Paul Wall: The People’s Champ

10. Juelz Santana: What the Game’s Been Missing!

Aye! Aye! Juelz and Weezy dropping great albums in the same year?! Am I dreaming? In all seriousness, don’t sleep on this one.

9. Bun B: Trill

Free Pimp C. He’ll be proud to see all that his UGK comrade has done while he’s been away.

8. AZ: A.W.O.L.

S.O.S.A. just hit a homer. This guy is the definition of resilience.

7. Wordsworth: Mirror Music

True to his name, the guy is a freak of nature behind the mic. One of the most slept-on albums of the year.

6. Big Pooh: Sleepers

The alleged “weakest link” of the Little Brother collective proves that he’s no joke. Considering how good Phonte’s “Connected” was, that’s saying something.

5. The Game: The Documentary

This is a great album, but is it me or does Game sound even better on mixtapes? That’s just scary.

4. M.I.A.: Arular

Call it what you want, M.I.A. proves hip-hop has no boundaries. Militant, sexy, and skilled at the same time? Watch out.

3. Kanye West: Late Registration

Yes, ‘Ye is here to stay. And no, “Late Registration” is NOT better than “The College Dropout.”

2. Little Brother: The Minstrel Show

North Cakalakey trio makes a statement on their sophomore effort. Lucky for us, it just happens to be good music too.

1. Common: Be

It doesn’t get much better than this. After “Electric Circus,” Common now has both feet planted safely on Earth soil. Just don’t call it a comeback.


The best albums that I reviewed in 2005:

Facts of War Compilation

These Canadian emcees address American politics and the war in Iraq more boldly than any Yankee emcee I’ve heard all this year. I don’t know whether to be impressed or depressed.

O.C.: Starchild

D.I.T.C. vet delivers this brilliant, Japan-only album (American version pending). Can’t think of a better way to start off my RapReviews tenure.

Life Before 40 Compilation

British indie label Low Life Records releases a “greatest hits” collection from their stunning catalog. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody. Now.

Honorable Mention: CunninLynguists: A Piece of Strange

This would have definitely made BOTH lists… too bad the release date got pushed back to first quarter of 2006.