Another year for hip-hop and another series of ups and downs. It seems that as soon as UGK drops a classic and stands up against east coast elitism on “Quit Hating The South,” Pimp C’s death marks the tragic end of one of Hip-Hop’s legendary groups. Before that, Big Moe, another Texas legend, died of a massive heart attack. To say the last few months have been tough on me as a rap fan would be an understatement. On top of that, you have a year that marked more “hating on the south” from so called “hip-hop heads” and east coast rappers. The fact that New York is largely absent from my list is no personal grudge, but in all honesty only Sean Price, Talib Kweli, and Pharoahe Monch garnered any legitimate attention for best of the year. Price didn’t make the cut, while I haven’t had time to give “Desire” a full listen despite it sitting on my desk for months. I have no doubt Monch would make the list otherwise. The west coast also failed to produce an gems outside of Evidence’s solo masterpiece. The south on the other hand continues to produce quality rap music both over and under the radar. Outside of those listed, groups like Cunninlynguists and Little Brother held it down for the underground. Cunninlynguists were new to me despite hustling for years, while Little Brother lost a producer and gained a fan. Most praise 9th Wonder, but I truly feel the group is better with the diverse sound found on “The Getback.” All in all, another great year musically for rap fans, but a tragic year for the lifestyle that accompanies the music.
TOP 10 RECORDS OF THE YEAR
10. Lil’ Flip – I Need Mine: Let me guess, you could kind of understand or justify some of my unconventional picks but this one has really thrown you for a loop? I admit, even I failed to give this album over an 8 out of 10 when I reviewed it, but the truth is that the best albums of the year are those you find yourself playing more than others. Lil’ Flip found a way to sneak into my play list probably more than any artist on here, except UGK. I admire the fact that Lil’ Flip responded to continuous leaks and release date delays by giving fans EVERYTHING he worked on during that time. Sure you end up having to shift through a few filler tracks, but in the end you get to choose what you consider are the best and trust me when I tell you there is at least one disc of classic Lil’ Flip on “I Need Mine.”
9. Common – Finding Forever: Call me a sucker for British accents, but I’ll be bloody damned if I can’t stop playing the Lily Allen assisted “Driving Me Wild.” Add 11 more classic tracks and you have another five star album for the Chicago native. While some purists have criticized Common as of late for “selling out” and “dumbing it down” to go platinum, I see a man who has grown up as an artist and learned to make universal music. Don’t get me wrong, Common was dope back when he was bumming for spare change, but today he’s learned to be dope while balancing on that narrow line between mainstream and underground.
8. Devin the Dude – Waitin’ to Inhale/Coughee Brothaz – Waiting Our Turn: I cheat yet again. What can I say, I love me some Devin the Dude. The man makes albums centered around smoking weed, being broke, and hollering at females. Yet time and time again I’m impatiently waiting for the next Devin album. “Waitin’ To Inhale” didn’t disappoint despite not being The Dude’s best effort. It’s hard to go wrong with Devin’s melodic voice and universal messages. The Coughee Brothaz album on the other hand was a reuniting of the Odd Squad, the group that first put Devin on the map. If Devin is entertaining on his own, imagine a group of similarly minded individuals coming together for the ultimate jam session.
7. Evidence – The Weatherman: I’ve never been a big Dilated Peoples fan despite owning a few of their albums. I admit that at times I can be too critical of underground back pack acts. Thankfully, Evidence has Flash in his corner. His sparkling review sparked my own purchase and I was never more satisfied with a CD. The production is brilliant and classic hip-hop production. Mr. Slow Flow also does his job by cramming more meaning and emotion in two lines than most rappers put in a whole verse. My only complaint is that Evidence should up his distribution next time around as my purchase of ONE CD equaled a sell out city wide in Austin, Texas.
6. Talib Kweli – Ear Drum: Talib Kweli and Justin Timberlake? What a sell out. But seriously, Kweli just keeps getting better as a soloist. This time around we get better and more consistent production AND some heavyweight guest spots. Kweli also manages to remain as lyrically dope as ever while he reaches a new fan base. While this isn’t Kweli’s “Be,” one can only hope that with a little more patience and time the man will get the mainstream shine he deserves.
5. Kanye West – Graduation/Consequence – Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Yes, I do this to cheat and be lazy. Yes, this really isn’t fair to Kanye or Consequence, but what can you do? Consequence and Kanye share a label – or more specifically Kanye is Consequence’s boss – so that is enough for me to group them together. Consequence exceeded all expectations with his debut. After a lot of lackluster mixtapes (some were so bad Sandbox was giving them out FOUR at a time), Consequence stepped his game up and created a gem. Kanye’s production helped him peddle his everyman raps, but Cons was the true star as he crafted something we could all relate to. Kanye on the other hand kept up his legacy with another strong CD. People can nitpick and compare all they want, but Kanye is still a better artist on his worst day than most cats on their best.
4. Chamillionaire – Ultimate Victory: They said it couldn’t be done, but King Koopa gathered his minions and showed us that the evil Mario that is curse words could be defeated successfully. Corny video game jokes aside, the man came through with a dope album that was curse free but still relevant and still popular. It hasn’t sold nearly as much as his previous CD or spawned a hit as big as “Ridin'” but it cemented Chamillionaire’s place amongst hip-hop’s elite. Plus, should anyone really be complaining about moving over a hundred thousand units in this day and age?
3. Tech N9ne – Misery Loves Kompany: My favorite Tech N9ne album to date, and I’ve peeped everything except the ridiculously overpriced “Celcius” and “Calm Before The Storm.” The production was crazy on this one and Tech N9ne’s flow and creativity was let loose like never before. What’s even more impressive is that fact that technically this was more of a compilation in the spirit of Scarface’s “My Homies” and Pimp C’s “Pimpalation” rather than a Tech N9ne solo. While I admit that if Tech N9ne was looking to put on his Rogue Dog Villain crew with this one he failed miserably (no pun intended), he did manage to drop one of the year’s best all the while keeping his flame burning strong for fans who enjoy quality music.
2. Witchdoctor – The Diary of an American Witchdoctor: In 2006 Killer Mike pleaded for someone to bring back Witchdoctor and in 2007 Adult Swim’s new music label complied. Though Witchdoctor had never gone anywhere, hustling albums exclusively through his Myspace page, only a faithful few realized the man had never left the game. This CD, half compilation/half new material, captures the soul of the south in a way few have been able to do since Outkast’s first album. Witchdoctor’s wickedly distinct voice and deeply spiritual lyrics are the perfect balancing weight to the light weight fluff rap that rules the radio. I’m not saying you can’t have a good time, but go to church on Sundays!
1. “UGK – Underground Kingz: I was at the same time UGK’s biggest skeptic and their biggest fan in 2007. “Dirty Money” and “Side Hustles” were both disappointing and I’ve never approved of the Boosies and Webbies on Pimp C’s Trill entertainment. The album getting pushed back from an early summer release date after being pushed back from a late 2006 release date also made me nervous. Despite my worries, UGK came back as hard as ever in 2007 delivering two disks of that classic funk that made them famous in the first place and giving us Hip-Hop’s best double disk album ever. Yes, I did consider Tupace, Biggie, and Eightball when I came to that conclusion. Am I biased? Growing up listening to UGK for well over a decade would probably make me so, but if you refuse to peep the Underground Kingz or give them their credit you’re more of a fool than I’ll ever be. R.I.P. Pimp C.