Just to clarify, “not-favorite” doesn’t mean that I didn’t like these albums — I actually liked most of the albums I’m about to mention, just not as much as the albums that made our top 10. Some, however, I didn’t much care for… speaking of which…
50 Cent – “Smile (I’m Leavin’)” (off Curtis)
The fact that Curtis contained the number of average-at-best songs that it did, while this track was held off as an iTunes bonus track, shows how seemingly out of touch 50 is with his fanbase. Hearing 50 talk about meeting Al and Tipper Gore, express his unhappiness with Interscope, and touch upon the criticism he’s received from the likes of Oprah and Bill O’Reilly is much more captivating than hearing about how his gun goes off, how he’ll still kill (though I actually did like that song a lot), and how he’ll murda dem.
Beanie Sigel – “Hustlas, Haze and Highways” (off The Solution)
I felt that ’05′s The B. Coming was one of the best rap albums to come out in recent years — even though Beans shared mic time with a lot of guests, his performances on that album were so powerful in and of themselves. In that sense, I was a bit disappointed with The Solution, and the change in sound that Beans went for. Despite that, this album had a few highlights. Sigel’s verses here exemplify why I think he’s one of the best in the game right now, and the live instruments add a nice touch. Not to knock Jigga, but this is what you call not needing a hook.
Evidence (of Dilated Peoples) – “Mr. Slow Flow” (off The Weatherman LP)
Anyone who’s a fan of Dilated Peoples knows that Evidence is not a dude to run away from criticism — many times, in fact, he’s embraced those criticisms and made them into great rhymes. The heavy beat, provided by Sid Roams (which is actually 2 people, Joey Chavez and Bravo), is tailor-made for Ev to do his thing, and the Jay-Z and PMD vocal samples scratched throughout adds some precedence to the lost art of the “slow flow”. Though it may be an acquired taste to some, it takes great technical prowess to pull off a flow as methodical as Ev’s… perhaps even more than what it takes to rhyme quick.
Freeky Zekey – “Beat Without Bass” featuring Lil’ Wayne and Jha Jha
(off Book Of Ezekiel)
In my opinion, this was Lil’ Wayne’s best verse of 2007. Why this didn’t make the retail version of Zekey’s completely-unnecessary debut album is beyond me. And why anyone thinks Jha Jha is any good is beyond me as well.
Havoc (of Mobb Deep) – “Be There” (off The Kush)
Though not as good as Prodigy’s Return Of The Mac, Hav’s solo debut was a step up from the scattered mess that was Blood Money, at least thanks to Hav blessing the entire album with solid production (which is best exemplified on this soulful, vocal-sampling track). Seeing both Hav and P branch out on their own a little bit made it seem as if there was potential for a forthcoming Mobb Deep album that would find the duo refreshed and bring them back to notoriety… but, with P on the verge of serving a 3+ year bid, that looks like it’ll have to wait. In the meantime, H.N.I.C. 2 is due out in March 2008, and has quite a buzz behind it thanks to the album’s pseudo-MySpace homepage — I’m looking forward to the Yugoslavian version myself.
Lifesavas – “Gutterfly” featuring Camp Lo (off Gutterfly)
Either the major label releases that came out this past year were just really good, or the fact that I had so little time to check for new independent hip hop made the major label releases sound better. Whichever it may be, I definitely missed out on checking for a lot of albums that had received good internet word-of-mouth. One such album that I did get around to checking out (and reviewed earlier this year) was Gutterfly — the fact that the Lifesavas could get on a track with the otherwise-reclusive Camp Lo and sound like they’ve worked together for years prior is a testament to their talent; these guys cannot be slept on for much longer…
Phat Kat – “Nasty Ain’t It?” (off Carte Blanche)
… another such album was Carte Blanche — Kat is an entertaining MC with plenty to say, even when he’s just doing standard shit-talking. “Nasty Ain’t It?” is one of a number of J Dilla productions on Carte Blanche, and presents a good example of the shift in direction that Dilla’s sound had been taking in recent years.
Rich Boy – “Role Models” featuring Attitude and David Banner (off Rich Boy)
Rich Boy’s album contained enough shitty songs to prevent it from getting much positive recognition, but if you overlooked it entirely, you missed out of some quality records. Everyone should know about “Let’s Get This Paper” by now, and “Throw Some D’s” and “Boy Looka Here” were quality radio jams, but this track here really stuck with me, especially Rich Boy’s opening verse (which starts off acapella). Rich Boy ends the verse with a message to the youngsters: “Fuck school, cop 5 more bricks” — exactly the type of tongue-in-cheek humor meant to keep the listener’s attention, and to piss off those who’ll never like hip hop anyways.
Styles P – “Gangster Gangster” featuring Jadakiss and Sheek Louch (off Super Gangster, Extraordinary Gentleman)
I’ve never been too big of a fan of The LOX/D-Block — they’ve got plenty of bangers in their group and solo catalogs, but, with the exception of 2000′s We Are The Streets, none of their albums really jumped out at me as being particularly great (including SP’s late-’07 release). But, nevertheless, hearing all 3 of ‘em on the same track again was like a breath of fresh air. The fact that the track was done by Pete Rock (who has quietly been putting in some great work over the last couple years) only adds to this song’s quality. And, the more I read about their instant classic show at B.B. King’s last week, the more I want to go back and re-listen to their older albums.
Young Buck – “Get Buck” (off Buck The World)
All praises due to Polow Da Don for resurrecting himself from “Where Are They Now?”-type obscurity to become one of the most sought-after producers in recent times. This beat is a prime example why that is — with the combination of marching band horns, synths, and opera-like background vocals, Polow combines the flair of Organized Noize with Timbaland-like accessibility. This might have been my favorite radio single of the year, even though Buck’s performance on it is not one of his best.