The Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2007
2007 was a great year for rap music. In many cases rappers have become more experimental. Their flows are more daring, the music is more eclectic, and maybe most importantly, there seems to be musical maturation amongst many of the familiar faces on the hip hop scene. This is only speculation, but it’s almost as if many rappers upped their game in response to the negative vibes of a year ago. I can keep going on with these comparisons, but the truth is that the music itself is what needs to be heard. So without further ado, we at IGIF present the The 10 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2007.
Sean Price – Jesus Price Supastar
I never listened to this Brooklyn rapper before this year, but I had to check him out after hearing so much hype over his newest release. The beats are mostly done by two North Carolina artists, Khrysis and 9th Wonder, the latter being the former member of the underground group Little Brother. In combination with Sean Price’s confident lyricism, this cd reeks of solid, traditional hip hop. Check out the song “P-Body.” It’s powerfully proportioned between persistent production and purposeful poetry.
Killah Priest – The Offering
Killah Priest, like another artist on this list, Hell Razah, is a Wu-Tang affiliate as a member of both Sunz of Man and the Black Market Militia. There are many religious themes strewn throughout the album. Along with raw beats and Wu-Tang-esque lyrics, the religious tone gives The Offering a very grandiose feel. Sometimes that’s not a good thing, but in this case there is very little, if anything, that is compromised in order to create that effect.
Talib Kweli – Eardrum
He is constantly on the ball with what he has to say, and usually has solid production behind him. Appropriately enough, Eardrum has some of the best-sounding music I’ve heard from Kweli. It’s not raw and minimalist like in Reflection Eternal, but the beats still hold their own in a more mainstream way. But unlike his Black Star partner Mos Def, Kweli has never been the biggest of risk-takers with his music. That’s what you have with Eardrum: a very solid and classic Talib album. Nothing is out of the ordinary, but it’s still very good nonetheless. However, there have been other artists who have taken big risks, whose end result is comparable or better than Eardrum. Good Talib is still good music, and so Eardrum is without a doubt a must listen.
El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
I must give props to El-P, because this album has made me completely question what type of rap listener I am. On one hand I recognize the greatness: incredibly experimental production, well thought-out lyrics, and an overall tone that is relentlessly forward-looking. Truth be told, this album is not for rap fans alone, but for music fans in general. And that is where I see El-P’s creation in a different light. It’s so rock-heavy, something that is generally not my favorite thing in hip hop music. But more importantly, there is so much focus on these rock sounds that the CD is disjointed, where the lyrics and production do not intertwine well with one another. Thus it is easy to view I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead as an interesting collection of sounds that just so happen to have lyrics laced over them. But I have my own musical preferences, just like everyone else, and so to some of you this could be one of the most refreshing rap albums you have ever heard.
Mos Def – True Magic
Yep, I’m aware that this album was released on Dec. 29, 2006. But Mos Def’s latest release simply can’t be ignored because of that technicality. I’ve been a huge fan of him for a long time, but when this album first dropped I did not like it at all. I thought that the lyrical mastery he once spit on Black Star was gone for good. But after listening more carefully, I realized that his skills are still completely there, and in fact are even more developed. The random literal references to Bethlehem and Bruce Wayne’s mansion, while awesome, don’t exist nearly as much. Instead he has become heavily metaphorical, delving into more personal subjects such as failed relationships and racial identity while at the same time remaining very global in his perspectives. There is no doubt that it takes time to appreciate this album, but in the end it is entirely worth it, I promise.
Common – Finding Forever
Ladies and gentlemen, the C-O-double M-O-N. Being the successful artist that he is, Common has some trademark qualities to his music: soft-hitting soulful beats, and conversational lyrics that combine to form some very feel-good sounds. To me, Finding Forever is a focal point of all the qualities that I’ve always appreciated about Common. He is completely in touch with the music, so much so that the clarity in his lyrics accentuates the music to the point that it flows like butter. Still, it is not perfect—Kanye West absolutely ruins the otherwise-awesome “Southside.” It’ll make you never wanna hear the word “side” ever again. Even so, when everything comes together we’re left with some absolute hip-hop gems. Two tracks you must check out are “The People” and “Drivin’ Me Wild,” with the latter including a guest appearance by Lily Allen.
Pharoahe Monch – Desire
Each song is creative, filled with powerful funkiness, clever production techniques, and sharp-as-hell lyrics. Nine tracks into Desire, I was in musical nirvana, convinced that I was hearing an instant classic. Then came track ten, and things suddenly changed. The sounds—they were completely unrelated to everything I heard up to that point. The lyrics were nothing that special, and were straight-up weaksauce on the second to last song. I felt completely shot down. After many more listens, that is still exactly what Desire is to me: a few tracks short of pure hip-hop greatness. Yeah, that sorta sucks, but oh man, those first nine tracks…
Hell Razah – The Renaissance Child
This album is incredibly thorough. Almost every beat is solid and yet unique at the same time. The emcee himself is like a dictionary, filled with so much information that his rhymes are non-stop, and as a result The Renaissance Child feels so complete. In the same light as Sean Price and Killah Priest, this album is straightforward traditional hip hop. The difference, though, is that this CD is firing on all cylinders: a pure hip-hop experience that you need to hear!
Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
Lupe has taken great risks with his hooks & beats—they are weird, chilling at times, but unique in such a progressively beautiful way. Lupe Fiasco has also switched up his flow, daring many times to rap in double time (see “Go Go Gadget Flow” and “Streets On Fire.”) The song “Paris, Tokyo,” reeking of A Tribe Called Quest influences, perfectly reflects the musical grasp that Lupe Fiasco has. Imagine that every word he spits on that song is a musical note, and tell me that his flow isn’t comparable to an instrumental solo by a sax, for example. Most exciting though, is the progression that he has made in his lyrics. They are not overbearingly symbolic, yet not too literal either. He has so much to say, and is inspiringly bold—“Dumb It Down” completely disses the flaws of the music industry, and even the fans who often buy into those flaws. While there are many tracks on The Cool that epitomize Lupe’s hard work, there are also a few that in my opinion don’t stand out in comparison to the rest (“Intruder Alert” comes to mind). But once again, that’s really exciting, cuz despite the great leaps he has made in this album, he still has room for improvement. I just hope that his next cd, LupEND, is not really his last.
Kanye West – Graduation
Yes, the lyrical quality is not top notch. It is filled with lots of self indulgence and does not go into near as much depth as other artists have done lyrically. But with that said, I can confidently say that every other aspect to this album is incredibly close to perfection. The music is addictive as hell—it’s dream-like, eclectic, experimental, hot, devoid of mediocrity, and an amalgam of other adjectives. Like fellow Chicago rapper Common, Kanye has a great musical ear, to the point that his words fuse with the music into a blissful aural experience. More than any other album this year, the music toys with your senses—it drives you to dance, to just let go, ignore everything else, and let the sounds encapsulate your entire body. If you haven’t already done so, listen to “Good Life.” You know you’ve heard those sounds before on the radio in one form or another, but have you ever heard it like that? That may be the biggest compliment I can give to Kanye—he has taken popular hip-hop to a whole new level, to something so fun and addictive that you can’t help but appreciate it. Touché Mr. West.