If you’re anything like me, you may have skipped over “The Legend Of The Mask And The Assassin” the collaborative effort between DJ Muggs (of Cypress Hill) and Sick Jacken (of Psycho Realm). Honestly, the only reason that I peeped the album was based on Dart Adams’ (of Poisonous Paragraphs) inclusion of the LP on his “Top 50″ albums of 2007 list. ”The Legend…” is a very dark, haunting album, pretty much what you’d expect beat-wise from Muggs…..eerie tracks with a slight psychedelic influence. Also, the majority of the tracks on the album also featured Cynic of Street Platoon, who is also a member of Sick Symphonies. While the majority of the tracks on the album are a little too dark for my tastes, “Land Of The Shadows” isdarkness at it’s finest. “Land..” finds Muggs re-visiting some of the production techniques that made the earlier Cypress Hill joints so enjoyable. You’ve gotta’ give Muggs his props, over the years he’s remained as one of the few producers who has neglected to conform to much of today’s main-stream production. Meaning, from Cypress’ self-titled debut to his collabo with Gza (“GrandMasters”) to “Legend….”, Muggs has kept it gritty and grimey with dusty beats and samples that have enabled him to become one of Hip Hop’s true innovators on the boards.
Okay, so Akir’s “Legacy” may have very well been released in ’06. However, if I’m not mistaken (judging by an ’07 release on Amazon.Com), the album was actually given it’s proper release in ’07. Nevertheless, “Legacy” was a dope album from a very impressive emcee who lyrically evokes images of a young and hungry AZ (think “Life’s A Bitch” AZ). “Treason” is just one of many tracks featured on “Legacy” that could have made the cut, solely on the basis of the lyrical ferocity displayed by this cocksure emcee. Admittedly, some of the album’s production could have been fine-tuned just a bit more, at times, it feels as if the quality of the beats don’t quite cut the mustard when paired with Akir’s fierce vocals. Still, I highly recommend this album to all the “lyrics” lovers out there. Akir IS the future of Hip Hop.
“My Daughter found Nemo/I found the new Primo”….uhh, not quite Common. Even though the tag team of Common & Kanye did find the old (no pun intended) Primo, who showed up on the cuts (literally) for “Everything I Am” (from Ye’s “Graduation”) and “The Game”. Although Common’s “Finding Forever” had me on some “hate it or love it” ish’ for the majority of the year, looking back, it was indeed a fairly solid album. “The People” was a great single to get the album going so to speak, even though the album’s lead single “The Game” just seemed bland to me. Kanye’s production is on point on “The People” and the D’s crooner of choice, Dwele, gives the single that much needed push to get it over the hump. Question, is it just me or did Common take a step backward with the lyrics on “Finding Forever”?
One of the few “originals” from Jay’s ”American Gangster” that I actually liked, “No Hook” was laced quite nicely by Diddy and……well, LV and Sean C. However, little known Small Pro came outta’ left field with the remix featured on “Crooklyn Gangster” and totally changed the whole feel of not only “No Hook”, but rather the whole album. To hell with Small Pro’s reworkings being labeled as the some of the “best remixed singles of the year”, it’s safe to say that “Crooklyn Gangster” is one of the better albums of the year….no bullsh*t! Lifting the same sample that many will identify from Kool G Rap’s “Take Em’ To War” off of his solo effort “4, 5, 6″, “No Hook” possesses that same “dark alley” feel that other cuts on “Crooklyn..” share….namely “Say Hello”. One listen to Small Professor’s “Crooklyn Gangster” will have you wondering “just who in the hell is this guy?” and why is he not lacing beats for emcees that are the caliber of the beats featured on this beautifully produced piece of work?
Hate on 50 & Akon all you want, but there’s no denying the fact that DJ Khalil of Self Scientific is lacing cats with some HEAT!! Between this and Evidence’s “All Said & Done” Khalil is gonna’ give cats a “rate increase” on his beats in turn making his pockets even fatter. Too much emphasis was placed on the sales competition between “Curtis” and Ye’s “Graduation” that it unfairly stole the shine from many quality underground releases that hit the streets around the same time that both of the aforementioned albums dropped. 50 on the other hand…well, me personally I’d say “Graduation” may very well be the better album but “Curtis” contained a few tracks that packed enough testosterone to make you wanna’ choke the shit outta’ someone just for lookin‘ at you sideways. However, in typical 50 form, don’t expect too much substance lyrically.
Music with a message. Not too many emcees have the heart or the matter-of-factness to craft a record that is the caliber of Mr. J’s “Constance”. Sh*t, to be quite honest, not only is Mr. J trying to make a difference on this track but he also delivers a heartfelt message on nearly every track from his impressive solo debut “Of Gods And Girls”. The thing that I love about this record is that Mr. J discusses the controversial topic of the exploitation of underage youth for porn, yet he still managed to lace “Constance” with beautiful underlying production to get your head nodding. That’s quite a difficult task to pull off if you ask me! Just the opposite of “I’ll Still Kill” and 50 Cent, Mr. J Medeiros is an emcee that is actually sayin’ somethin!
“H.I.P. H.O.P., H.I.P. H.O.P., H.I.P. H.O.P.!”, yet another gem from Jazz Addixx’ (Mudd & DJ Ragz) tweaking of 2005′s “Oxygen”, “Oxygen Refreshed”. If you’re a regular visitor of W.T.R. you should already know the time on this album….great production, great lyrics and exceptional scratches make this one of my favorite “ode to Hip Hop” cuts of all time. If your ever in one of those “Man, why don’t they make Hip Hop like the old days?” modes, pump this back to back with Marco Polo and Masta Ace’s “Nostalgia” and I can promise you that you’ll be satisfied. Can’t wait to hear more from this talented duo in ’08. Jazz Addixx’ “Don’t Judge” also made the “Top 100″ and I’m sure that we’ll see them once again before it’s all said and done.
Damn, when regular visitor Big Fonz dropped me a link to the video for “En Why Cee” near the beginning of the Summer, I’d have sworn that this single would have taken New York by storm as the new anthem for the five boroughs. For reasons unknown, “En Why Cee” basically fell off of Hip Hop’s landscape and it’s safe to say that little known Juganot may have fallen victim to the all too familiar ”one hit wonder” status. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to hear more from Juganot (as well as Joell Ortiz…Uncle Murda? Nah, ya’ll can have him) but it’s just mind-boggling how this cat and single was the talk of the town in blogosphere (damn Trav, you shoulda’ given that word a copyright) for nearly two weeks then suddenly…..gone! On the brighter side of things, there’s alot to like about this track. The production from Frequency (or is it Scram Jones?) is top notch, there is an undeniable chemistry between Juganot and Joell and the vocals from Tess are pure butters. The track could’ve have sufficed without the less than inspired Uncle Murda verse (I mean, listen to it….sh*t is pure garbage!), but even so, “En Why Cee” still possess that laid back, breezy, summertime vibe that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Who knows, maybe we’ll see more from Juganot in ’08…let’s hope so.
A tie? WTF? Well, being that “Imwityou” is only only 1 minute 35 seconds in length and Blue Scholars’ “Second Chapter” is 1 minute 55 seconds long, and it just so happens that both of the aforementioned cuts serve as each of their respective albums’ “openers” it’s only fitting, right?. Also, I think I missed a track back in the “90′s” on this list so know we can “overlook my oversight”. The similarities don’t stop there, both “Imwityou” and “Second Chapter” were crafted by little known duos (Uncut Raw’s Selfish & Fluent, Blue Scholars’ Sabzi & Geo) prior to ’07 that blasted on the scene with very exceptional albums in their own right. Also, the production on both of these joints is pure sickness. “Imwityou” is as unconventional as unconventional gets, Lo-Fi at it’s finest, pause mixing, dusty, soulful sh*t! ( “First Toke” follows much of the same format). On the other hand, “Second Chapter” is as crisp as a fresh pair of Levi’s, masterful production from Sabzi (“Bayani” also follows much of the same format).
The only downside of both of these cuts is that they are entirely too short! Had both of “Imwityou” and “Second Chapter” been….say….3 minutes or longer, they would have undoubtedly found themselves in my “Top 10″, no question. Even so, you gotta mix the good with the bad and both “Bayani” and “First Toke” were two of 2007′s finest offerings Hip Hop had to offer, even if “First Toke” was subjected to MF Doom comparisons (definitely not the case, give me “First Toke” over anything Doom has dropped anyday!) Plus, I’m sure that Uncut Raw won’t “no show” you for a live performance!
Man, I HATED Lupe’s sophomore follow-up “The Cool” after the first few listens. Hell, I shouldn’t even say “first few listens” because I truly had one helluva’ time making it through the album from start to finish. Thankfully, I’m glad that I didn’t totally give up on “The Cool” as it’s gained more than it’s fair share of spins in the ride and the Ipod over the last few weeks, enough to make it one of my 10 favorites of ’07. Initially, the biggest peeves that I had with the album was it’s length (not since “Mecca & The Soul Brother” have I witnessed 18 solid cuts) and…so I thought…less than stellar production. However, the production has grown on me like a bad fungus and Lupe is far superior, lyrically, than 95% of the emcees out there today. I love the way that dude writes and the he constructs a song in a manner that is simply amazing. “Hip Hop Saved My Life” is ahighly visual narrative from Lupe in which a “down South” aspiring emcee escapes the ghetto’s perils and attains a lifestyle that once seemed out of his grasp thanks to the artform we love, Hip Hop. Produced by Soundtrakk, “Hip Hop Saved…” is a bass heavy track that is simple yet captivating with it’s sprinkled piano keys and sultry vocals from Nikki Jean. Even though Lupe may have fronted on the Tribe earlier this year, there’s no fronting on dude’s talent. “Hip Hop Saved My Life” is an excellent case in point.