Chances are, what you’re about to read is the latest 2007 wrap-up amongst the hip hop blogosphere. And I don’t mean “latest” as in the “newest”. I mean “latest” as in everybody has done this before we did, and as a result, we’re late. Like how you wouldn’t want your girl’s period to be.
To that, we say this — how could you truly wrap up 2007 when 2007 is still going on?
Here’s how we’re wrapping up 2007 ML-style, in this, the first of several “Best of 2007″ posts. First, each of us here at ML — DJ01, HangoverMonkey, DSuper, Aaron M, and yours truly, Buhizzle — compiled our own personal list of the top 10 albums of the year. Then, on some quasi-NCAA-poll-type shit, we compared lists and compiled a (somewhat) comprehensive top 10 list based on all of our picks. Here at ML, we pride ourselves on having 5 different contributors with 5 different personalities and unique tastes in music generally, and in hip hop specifically — after the jump, peep how our personalities and tastes overlap.
A quick administrative note so that what follows makes more sense: the numbers in the parentheses following each album title correspond to how many of us selected that album in our personal top 10 lists, and where in those lists the album ended up. For example, the #1 album in our comprehensive list (which I won’t name yet, so as to not kill the suspense, even though you can probably see the album cover without having to scroll down) was the only album which all 5 of us put within our respective personal top 10 lists — three of us thought that it was the 4th best album of ’07, one of us thought it was 7th best, and one of us thought it was 8th best. And if you see an “H” in there, that stands for “Honorable Mention”.
And, to ensure our safety from internet haters, as well as to keep some sort of aura of mystery around the site, we’re keeping our personal picks anonymous. So, if you want to tear a new asshole into one of us for not thinking that [insert album title here] was good enough… well, best of luck to you!
1. UGK – Underground Kingz (4, 4, 4, 7, 8 )
Favorite songs off Underground Kingz…
- Aaron M: “Chrome Plated Woman”
Dearly departed Sweet James and Bun B wax on about how awesome their cars are by comparing them to a beautiful honey dip. It’s so simple but it works so well. That’s the UGK time-tested formula at work: flossing with flavor over funk, blues and soul samples. Here, Pimp C loops Aaron Neville’s funk classic “Hercules” to great effect. Something to play in the ride on a warm summer day.
- Buhizzle: “Quit Hating The South” featuring Willie D and Charlie Wilson
The late Pimp C — damn, it feels weird typing that — acted as sort of a crusader against all the anti-South sentiment coming from angry and/or jealous hip hop fans. I’d say it was sort of a misguided response against misguided feelings — hip hop fans (well, the true ones, at least) weren’t “hating the South,” they were more so hating the artists coming out of the South who were making bullshit records. I can’t recall everyone hearing anyone say that they “hated” Outkast, or 8Ball & MJG, or Scarface, or UGK. All in all, Willie D summed it up best in his guest verse — “There’s some trash in the South but I promise you/ From the East to the West, some of y’all garbage too”.
- DJ01: “Cocaine” featuring Rick Ross
UGK and cocaine tales are like Stockton and Malone — the perfect match. I LOVE the way Pimp C intros and goes into the track, his vocals are so crisp on the beat. The tempo is slow but the beat still manages to bump and not putting you to sleep. The Rick Ross guest spot is definitely one of his best from 2007, riding the beat something perfect.
- DSuper: “International Players’ Anthem” featuring Outkast
Quite simply history on wax. Two of the most respected, diametrically opposite groups collaborating over a beat that was made by another member of southern Hip Hop royalty is a D-Boy’s dream. The spoken word/rap intro by 3 Stacks, the words of pimping wisdom from Pimp C (God bless the dead), the triumphant verse from Bun B, and the cool, calm flow of Sir Luscious was an aural treat without match this year. Note to other rappers, this is the blueprint for future collaborations to come and an example of why not mailing in your verse leads to instant classics. You can hear the respect these guys have for each other in every bar. No grandstanding or upstaging. Just common respect for their respective legacies. A beautiful moment for hip hop.
- HangoverMonkey: “How Long Can It Last” featuring Charlie Wilson
A eulogy for Pimp C. This song hit me the hardest after he died. The scary thing was that Pimp was talking about himself. He lived a fast life. How long could it last? (Plus, Charlie Wilson killed the hook.)
2. Talib Kweli – Eardrum (2, 3, 6, 10)
Favorite songs off Eardrum…
- Aaron M: “Country Cousins” featuring UGK and Raheem DeVaughn
This is one of my favorite tracks off the album, where Kweli and UGK each rap about their shared experiences as Brooklyn and Texas residents, respectively. The beat is chilled, smooth as butter, and DeVaughn’s crooned hook tops off the package. Kweli’s syncopated flow usually sounds crowded on a more East Coast-sounding track but here he gets a chance to stretch out his bars to fit the beat and it sounds dope. Pimp and Bun deliver knock-out verses as well, and Pimp even quotes “Award Tour”. If “International Players’ Anthem” didn’t exist, this would be a close choice for jam of the year, at least for me.
- Buhizzle: “The Nature” featuring Justin Timberlake
I reviewed this album — or, at least, a version of this album — back in June, and was extremely impressed with the effort from Kweli. With his success working with Mos Def as Black Star and with Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal, I felt that Eardrum was the album that would earn Kweli the respect as a solo artist that he deserves. The official version of the album release came in August, and fortunately, none of the tracks from the version I reviewed were taken off — in fact, 3 tracks were added as a bonus, one of them being this gem. Props to Talib for utilizing JT’s talents in a manner that’s pretty much the complete opposite of “Ayo Technology”.
- DSuper: “Everything Man”
“Your alpha and your omega, your beginning and your end/ Your father, your brother, your lover, your friend” is a contender for verse(s) of the year, in my opinion. Talib brought the heat as this year as expected. The Madlib beat that speeds up and slows down the tempo while following a heart beat? Crazy. The most creative beat of the year by far and large. Way to start off an album. “They say you can’t please everybody”… well, this was as a good start as any.
3. Kanye West – Graduation (1, 3, 4, H)
Favorite songs off Graduation…
- Aaron M: “Everything I Am” featuring DJ Premier
Damn, Premier was everywhere in ’07. With good reason, of course. Here, he tears up a Chuck D sample over Kanye’s mellow keys and soothing backing vocals. As Kanye informs us at the start of the song, “Common passed on this beat, I made it to a jam”. Kanye reflects on his rise to fame, haters, and his own ego. One more Kanye-ism to leave y’all with: “People talk so much shit about me at barbershops/ They forget to get they hair cut”.
- DJ01: “Champion”/”Stronger” (tie)
Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” sample — what else do you need to say? He flipped the sample so perfectly. The segway that “Good Morning” does for this track is genius — you wake up and then you are ready to conquer the world with Kanye. You know it’s major if it won MP over. [UPDATE: Here’s what that sentence means. DJ01 can predict the future, if you didn’t know.] And if you need any explanation of why “Stronger” is on here, do the following: unplug your DSL cable and quit the internets, at least don’t come back to ML. You. Must. LEARN! (Be sure to check out our boy Burntpiano’s remix here.)
- HangoverMonkey: “Flashing Lights” featuring Dwele
A song about high profile romantic relationships. Very simple lyrics. One of the best songs on the album. Dwele does the hook incredibly, and the beat is one of the hottest of the year. Should’ve been a single.
4. Ghostface – The Big Doe Rehab (5, 5, 5, H)
Favorite songs off The Big Doe Rehab…
- Buhizzle: “Yolanda’s House” featuring Method Man and Raekwon
Yes, the beat is ill, and Ghost’s storytelling ability and knack for detail are fully put on display, and Method Man sounds charged up like he did on his other appearance on this album and all of his 8 Diagrams verses. But, my question is this — where does Raekwon come from on this song? Is he calling Meth on his cell or something? I mean, Ghost mentions having to run up some steps, so I highly doubt Rae just popped his head in the window on some “Howdy, neighbor!”-type shit. And I sure hope Rae wasn’t just kicking it in the room while Meth was going in raw on Yolanda’s sister. All of that aside, a solid track from yet another solid GFK album.
- DSuper: “Toney Sigel a.k.a. Barrel Brothers” featuring Beanie Sigel
and Styles P[Fucked up that SP's bridge on the song didn't make the final album]
I always wondered why these guys hadn’t cooked up something earlier, but better now than never. Oh shit, the grimiest song of the year. Lyrics and delivery galore. The way Beans threw in some Shaolin slang to pay homage to Ghost. Wow. The only way it could get any better is if they do a remix with Raekwon and Jadakiss.
- HangoverMonkey: “Shakey Dog Starring Lolita” featuring Raekwon
Part one of this song was on Fishscale and it may have been the best song on there. Part two is just as good. It follows the story of the robbery back at the trap house and focuses on the pursuit of Lolita, “the big titty bitch”. Raekwon is on this one, so it makes it extra sweet, because we get some of that classic Tony/Lex back and forth that I love so dearly. Classic beat from those Hitmen.
5. Jay-Z – American Gangster (1, 2, H)
Favorite songs off American Gangster…
- Buhizzle: “Sweet”
I kind of wrote this song off upon my first listen of American Gangster — the beat wasn’t as captivating as others, and the hook was a pretty blatant rip of “Allure” off The Black Album. Jay’s lyrical performance on this track, however, is worthy of consideration. “I could walk down the hall of mirrors in Versailles/ And be so satisfied when I look myself in the eyes”… when a MC gets to the level that Jay is at right now, they tend to lose the desire to come up with some shit like that.
- DJ01: “Blue Magic”
The track that had you running to google Oliver North. Yeah, the song was a “Bonus” and didn’t fit in with the other concepts, but it deserved to get it’s shine, no doubt. If Skateboard P & Jay-Z took a time machine to 1988, this is would be the exact result. It’s sounds so authentically throwback that you can’t help but vibe with it. The bar about Feds being like wack rappers replayed in my head all off fall. Pharrell singing the hook from En Vogue was icing on the cake (and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve bought En Vogue records).
- DSuper: “No Hook”
Monster of a song. The way the beat builds up dramatically, it follows along perfectly with the subject matter. A pissed off Jay? “So fuck Dehaven for caving, that’s why we don’t speak/ Made men ain’t supposed to make statements” destroyed what little credibility his ex-hustling partner had left. The way Jay time travels on this track is incredible because he still ties it all in together. Watch and see, it’s one of those songs you’ll listen to in a couple of years and discover something new. Like oh shit, that’s what he meant. And I don’t need no period for this shiiiit
6. Freeway – Free At Last (3, 10, H)
Favorite song off Free At Last…
- Aaron M: “Walk Wit Me” featuring Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss
Free finally put out Free At Last to high critical acclaim this year, and this is one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year. Don Cannon delivers a stellar beat with an insistent piano line and an organ sample that weaves in at select parts. Sampled female vocals demand that you “walk[s] with me”. Busta and Jada deliver stellar verses but best is Freeway’s assertion that he’ll have “the entire world walking with me.” Free’s never been the most lyrical rapper dude (word to Fizzy and Danzini), but his intensity and energy are infectious and convincing, especially on this song. Powerful stuff.
7. Redman – Red Gone Wild (7, 8, H)
Favorite song off Red Gone Wild…
- DSuper: “Gimmie One”
Redman over a Pete Rock beat? Holy shit. “Promoting Red Gone Wild with no backing/ Doc get 5 on the mic like Joe Jackson”… if anyone thinks Red fell off, listen and hear the master of the punchline do his thing. He brought the pain, broke the speaker over your head, and left the mic smoking by the time he was done. Vintage Red. He made hip hop fun again. So Gimmie One!!!!
8. Pharoahe Monch – Desire (3, 6)
Favorite song off Desire…
- Aaron M: “Welcome To The Terrordome”
When I first saw this on the tracklisting for Desire, I groaned and assumed it would be another throwaway rap cover. Man, was I wrong. Pharaohe channels classic PE steez, down to an intro with a fake Farrakhan speech about the ills affecting the world in ’07. LV & Sean C of the Hitmen (a long while before Jay tapped ‘em for American Gangster, may I add) give the original Public Enemy track a fantastic ’70′s soul makeover, keeping only the James Brown grunts. Monch gives Chuck’s lyrics an impassioned reading and adds a new verse corresponding to recent events in the U.S. of A. Anyone looking to cover classic hip hop, this is how it should be done.
9. Justice – Cross (2, 9)
Favorite song off Cross…
- DJ01: “D.A.N.C.E.”
If you have a set of working ears and have watched TV, listened to any electronic mix, or been in a club in 2007… YOU HEARD THIS SONG. I can see where people hate it and I know a few that do, but there is something so damn catchy about it, I can’t help it (Ferrari, I’m sorry). Those strings over the glossy beat are just too dope, word to my GF, I was on this song from day 1, no bandwagon. If the song is too flashy/glitzy, just listen to Wale murder it (either here or on ML Radio) off the 100 Miles & Running mixtape he did with Nick Catchdubs — that ought to win you over.
10. Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams (7, 8 )
Favorite song off 8 Diagrams…
- Buhizzle: “Get Them Out The Way, Pa”
8 Diagrams may have been short on that “punch you in the face”-music that Rae’s been wanting to share with the world. If anything, this track was “I don’t want to punch you in the face but I will if I have to”-music… doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? RZA’s beat struck a perfect balance with the deep bass, the hand-beaten drums, and the light guitar melody in the background. The Meth/U-God/Masta Killa trio brought it (did on “Wolves”, too), and, well, I’ve always been a sucker for a well-executed call-and-response chorus. I think that 8 Diagrams is the 3rd best Wu-Tang Clan album (after Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers and Wu-Tang Forever, of course), and I’ll defend that statement any day of the week. To all 8 Diagrams haters — there was too little Ghostface, and “Starter” was garbage, and some of the singing was unnecessary… but that’s all I’ll give you.
Others receiving votes: Devin The Dude – Waitin’ To Inhale (7, 9); Black Milk – Popular Demand (2, H); Little Brother – Getback (2, H); Talib Kweli & Madlib – Liberation (3, H); Marco Polo – Port Authority (8, H); Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool (H, H); Blu & Exile – Below The Heavens (1); Common – Finding Forever (1); DJ Jazzy Jeff – Return Of The Magnificent (1); Mark Ronson – Version (4); Scarface – MADE (5); Statik Selektah – Spell My Name Right (5); Daft Punk – Alive 2007 (6); Prodigy – Return Of The Mac (6); Spank Rock & Benny Blanco Are Bangers & Cash (6); Madlib – Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4: Beat Konducta In India (7); Radiohead – In Rainbows (8 ); Collie Buddz (self-titled) (9); Lifesavas – Gutterfly (9); Oh No – Dr. No’s Oxperiment (9); Black Milk & Bishop Lamont – Caltroit (10); Sean Price – Jesus Price Superstar (10); Yesterday’s New Quintet – Yesterday’s Universe (10); Cunninlynguists – Dirty Acres (H); The Fashion (self-titled) (H); Kenna – Make Sure They See My Face (H); M.I.A. – Kala (H)
Check back over the next few days for individual “Best Of 2007″ lists from the ML faithful. And cheers to a great ’08!