I spent so much time collecting and editing the OTHER Year 2007 in Reviewarticles this year that I honestly didn’t have the time to sit down and write out a top ten list of my own. (Please give a round of thanks to the RapReviews staff as they did a TREMENDOUS job on this year’s update.) After having a few days to think about it though and an excellent late night bull session with Rafi from OhWord.com to sort out the issues in my mind I’ve come up with a list I’m comfortable with. The thing I’ve been going over time and again was whether or not 2007 was a good year for rap music, but I finally concluded (with no pun on Redman intended) that this year was like a glass full of muddy waters. Pour the water through a filter to clean out the bad stuff (Soulja Boy, I’m talking about you in particular) and when you drink the result it’s still clear and refreshing. Even through a tulmutuous year personally and professionally these albums lifted my spirits and reminded me of everything that’s good about hip-hop music and culture, so the Bill O’Reilly motherfuckers of the world can suck my cock! Scapegoat rappers for all the problems in this world all you like (problems that were around long before the arts existed) but when I think back on 25 years of rap I know that O’Reilly is wrong and Lupe Fiasco’s song got it right – “Hip-Hop Saved My Life.”
TOP 10 RECORDS OF THE YEAR
5. Little Brother: Getback
I don’t think I can say it any better than I did in my review so I’m just going to leave you with this nod to both the review and the album – the LB’s started out “Strictly Business” when they hit the rap scene but by now it’s “Business As Usual.”
4.Lupe Fiasco: The Cool
The only bad thing about this album was that Lupe Fiasco has already announced his intentions to retire from rap after just one more release. In a year without bangers from Kanye, Jigga and the kings of Port Arthur this would have easily been #1 with a bullet due not only to Lupe’s skilled lyricism but the ability of his friend Soundtrakk to craft a sound with universal appeal far beyond the shores of Lake Michigan. Speaking of universal appeal, even though Lupe proudly professes his Muslim heritage to the world in every interview you get almost no sense of it other than the album’s cover artwork. Lest you think there’s an agenda in that statement I would say the exact same thing if he professed his Christianity yet did a whole album without rapping about God. Lupe speaks to broad themes and does so with a poignant and soulful delivery.
3. Kanye West: Graduation
If you only look at the superficial aspects of Kanye West’s album you might want to deny him a spot in the top ten. Haters will say his album was too pop, too braggadocious, too crossover. Unless I missed something though West has never claimed to not be any of the above. He may throw temper tantrums like a spoiled brat at awards shows but to be perfectly honest I’m not sure he would be such a musical genius if he wasn’t a little bit crazy and to me this album is GENIUS. Even off the singles alone I’ll be humming the melodies and lip syncing to the words for years to come and the non-singles are just as good if not better. You did it again Mr. West!
2. Jay-Z: American Gangster
Hello Brooklyn! After threatening to retire for good just a few years ago, the self-appointed God of New York himself Jay-Hova has come back with a vengeance on his last two albums. Ostensibly this album was supposed to support Denzel Washington’s movie but between the two I’ll spend far more time listening to this CD than I will watching the eventual DVD. Even if Washington is nominated for best actor, Jay-Z deserves a Grammy for best rapper. The way he flips flows on “Say Hello” and “Party Life” had my mind blown, and as always he sneaks the messages in with cuts like “American Dreamin'” and “I Know.” When you stop to consider how long Jay-Z has been on another level, you can understand why even being the CEO of a major record label no longer feels like a challenge to Shawn Carter. The only thing left may be to run for President.
1. UGK: Underground Kingz
A lot of people have been complaining that UGK is getting undeserved and excessive praise because of the recent sad departure of Chad ‘Pimp C’ Butler. To those people I would note that this album was reviewed four months before his passing and that it will stand as a testament to his career forty or even four hundred years from now. If you had to go out on a high note C and his partner-in-rhyme Bun B did so with the DOUBLE album their fans had been waiting for years to hear. I really can’t say more than was already said in the review – this album was a masterpiece. UGK may have told people to “Quit Hatin’ the South” but I’m gon’ flip it and say quit hatin’ on the South’s SUCCESS.