When I started to make a list of the albums I liked over the past year, it started out to be a list of about 45 albums. When looking at the list, most between 25-45 were pretty much interchangeable. At about the 22 mark, they started to separate themselves from the pack, so I kept this at a top 20. Here we go.
20) Stic.man of Dead Prez – Manhood
This narrowly edges out Devin the Dude’s Waiting To Inhale and Evidence’s The Weatherman for number 20. A really solid album with one of my favorite tracks of the year “Traffic”.
19) Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
I absolutely hated his first album, but this was a real solid effort. I doubt I’ll ever be a huge fan of his, but this was an enjoyable album.
18) Senim Sella – The Name, the Motto, the Outcome
I was a little surprised I liked this album so much. One Be Lo gets all of the notice from Binary Star, but Senim’s album was better than OBL’s The Rebirth.
17) Hell Razah – Razah’s Ladder
After being a little disappointed by his previous solo releases, he found producers that matched his style and lyrics perfectly.
16) KRS-One and Marley Marl – Hip Hop Lives
I was never a huge KRS fan, but this was a refreshing album to hear.
15) Jean Grae – The Orchestral Files
The best female emcee out right now. Period.
14) Special Teamz – Stereotypes
I don’t know if I would call this a supergroup like some people. But this was a very enjoyable album, lyrically and production-wise.
13) Smif N Wessun – The Album
I know a lot of BCC fans didn’t like this album, but I really liked it. They changed their production up and went to more introspective lyrics. I think most of those that didn’t like it were probably just disappointed that they got something they didn’t expect from Tek and Steele instead of more of the same. But they took a chance and it worked.
12) Jay-Z – American Gangster
Individually, the tracks range from average to bad. However, when you listen to the album as a whole as the concept album that it was meant to be, it’s very good. I’m not sure if the album has a ton of replay value because of this concept though. Still, a solid album.
11) Common – Finding Forever
He’s one of the most reliable MCs out there. Another very good album.
10) Kanye West – Graduation
I wasn’t anticipating liking this album. I didn’t like his last one much. So I was a little surprised when I finally heard it. Solid production and lyrics, although some of the tracks, especially “Big Brother” are getting overplayed and sampled to death already.
9) Marco Polo – Port Authority
Terriffic album from a producer I had never heard of before. He was able to bring in artists that complimented his beats perfectly.
8) Black Milk – Popular Demand
He’s quickly becoming one of my favorites and he seems to have a lot coming in the next year of two. With Eminem not doing anything good in recent years, Black Milk and Royce da 5-9 will have to carry Detroit. Something tells me that they can do it.
7) Chamillionaire – Ultimate Victory
Everyone has that commercial artist that they shouldn’t like but do and this is mine. I really liked this album. He went with the gimmick of not using any profanity and this had mixed results. I don’t mind the no profanity thing, but if he’s going to do this again, he has to let the guest artists in on it. It was a little annoying the way he had to censor out the profanity from the featured artists.
6) Talib Kweli – Eardrum
Once again, he puts out a great album with little promotion. It’s too bad too. Hip hop needs more albums like this to get noticed.
5) Scarface – Made
The more I listen to this, the more I like it. Typical Scarface album, but that’s a good thing. A very good thing.
4) UGK – Underground Kingz
I have never heard a double album that didn’t have some filler and this was no exception. However, it was extremely limited. Too many good tracks for just one album, not quite enough for two. Plus, Jazze Pha just gets on my nerves now. Besides those two minor points, this was a great album. It’s great to see UGK is finally getting some critical notice after all their trials and tribulations. It’s just too bad that Pimp C won’t be around to enjoy it.
3) Blu and Exile – Below the Heavens
The first time I heard this album I hated it. But, considering I was listening to it while fighting traffic with a splitting headache, I gave it another try. I’m glad I did. Exile’s production is near flawless. Blu mixes his flow with the beats almost perfectly. I still think some of his lyrics could use a little work, and I don’t put the “classic” label on it that some do, but this is a great album.
2) Brother Ali – Undisputed Truth
This was my top album for most of the year. I was already a fan and this just solidified it for me. He’s able to spin his lyrics about his life and his religious beliefs without being preachy. There was one or two club type tracks on here that I didn’t really like, but you can’t really blame anybody for making these nowadays considering that’s all that gets played on the radio or TV. He’s someone to really keep an eye on because he just seems to be getting better and better.
1) Cunninlynguists – Dirty Acres
I already wrote a review of this so I’ll keep this short. This is hands down my favorite album this year. Great production, great lyrics. Every time I listen to this I like it more. They are able to weave between more lyrical tracks, political, etc. without any of it sounding forced. Kno’s production is perfectly compatible with Deacon’s lyrics and flow and vice versa. I had heard some of their previous albums, so I thought I’d enjoy this, but this exceeded my expectations.