Our long winding journey is coming to an end. The grandest twenty five singles of the year will soon fill your computer screens and everything you have come to know will suddenly have a giant shift and everyone will think like me. Or you’ll just chuckle, mumble “chump” underneath your breath and continue to surf the internet while watching out for your boss.
The year of 2007 was an interesting year for hip hop, to say the least. I probably listened to more hip hop than any year since the early 90′s. There was a bounty of quality material invading our ears, but I still don’t think of anything as “classic”, at least not in the sense of the way we used the word in the 80′s or the 90′s. I don’t know if it’s because the music isn’t as good or if its our own personal mindset that has changed. Just last night, I downloaded 14 albums. In one night. Most of them were the old and out of print variety, but there was a handful newer titles in those as well. I’m sure I’ll “preview” more new titles this week. For the sake of our discussion, let’s say I preview 20 albums just this week. I know during even my most record/tape/CD buying days, that I didn’t purchase anywhere near close to 20 albums a week. Probably not even 20 albums a month. We had more time to really get into an album.
I can remember listening to “Raising Hell”, “Bigger & Deffer”, and “Licensed To Ill” over and over for almost a year. I knew the albums inside and out. We don’t do that these days. Technology is the main reason for that admittedly. I contribute to that problem myself with this blog. Unless an album really stands out to me with in the first listen or two, or one of my fellow bloggers really pumps an album up, I’m not going to give it much of a chance. As a “consumer”, I just don’t have the time and/or desire to give things much of a chance if they don’t stand out those first few listens. This might be a pitfall for both the consumer and the artist. If you are a new artist, you have to keep that in mind. As a listener, I’m sure I’m skimming over albums that I might fall in love with down the road, but I’m not going to have that chance.
Alright, the intro went longer than I planned but its some food for thought. On to my personal top 25. My top 40 albums and the prestigious Pantie Awards (isn’t that an oxy-moron) are all scheduled for rearing their ugly heads this week.
TOP 25 of 2007
Link For All 25
How can you not like someone who took their name from a 1980′s major league pitcher? Alright, most likely, 90% of you don’t know who the original Storm Davis was, but don’t make that same mistake twice. The hip hop version of Storm Davis is a New England MC that released his creatively entitled “Kegstand Peotry for the Recovering Alcoholic” (one of the best names for an album ever) in 2006. Like Rip Van Winkle, I was fast asleep on it until a blog posted the album up in May of ’07. On the strength of the name alone and Krooked giving it his approval, I downloaded the album. It would become my second favorite album of the year that wasn’t released in the year 2007 (Juggaknots take home the first place prize, being mentioned as first on my blog). The anchor song for the album would “Kegstand Poetry”, a fun sing-a-long song that would be great in any karaoke bar after nine to ten cold frosty ones. There were multiple nights this past year that I would be singing at the top of my lungs along with this song in my apartment after a trip to the bars. Would have liked to seen this released as a single or further up in the track listing and this could have been every drunken b-boy’s theme song.
I’ll probably get some gruff for including this in the list, but I couldn’t get this out of my mind for most of the summer. Actually this song is probably a prime example of why I DON’T like Kanye West, because of his larger than an elephants ball sack ego. This was originally a duet with the Teriyaki Boys, but this stripped down version started making it’s way around the internet and it’s what I heard initially, so it stuck. The beat is what really grabbed me, with it’s trumpeting horns and strings that just glide along with the track. The chorus is catchy as fuck as well. So, while I think Kanye is a jackass, this song is also a prime example of why I just like his music. Crazy as it is.
When I think of a classic Primo beat, this beat fits into that category . It is shrouded in that classic Primo sound. It’s hip hop, plain and simple. You have the scratched in chorus, the classic hip-hop drums the way they should sound, then some beautiful strings that swirl around within the track. It’s beats like this that make me consider Primo the best hip hop producer to ever do it, hands down. The NYG’z aren’t the best MC’s to grace a Primo beat, but they aren’t no Group Home either. Besides, I’d probably sound decent over a Primo beat…..then again.
Nezbeat and iD are clearly on of my favorite groups of the year. Another song from their Dekagon release, Bleed For Them, this Lawrence, Kansas duo proves that quality hip hop can come out of anywhere. The beat that serves as “No Gods” soundscape is one of pure beauty. Nezbeats takes a string/horn sample and layer it over a vocal sample that really sets the tone of the song. “No Gods” could be interpreted in many ways, my personal interpretation is live life according to your own rules. No iD conveys the mood excellently and couples the lyrics with the beats to give the listener a song with soul, meaning and thought.
I’ve mentioned many times that I’m a sucka for a Just Blaze beat. I love the feel and energy found in his beats. He incorporates many elements that I like in a beat; bad ass strings, blaring horns and lots of energy. For that reason, he often is credited as the producer of many of my favorite songs the past few years, including “Breathe”, “Touch The Sky”, and “Oh My God”. “C’mon Baby” is another Just Blaze banger in the traditional sense of the word. It’s also the reason I’m anticipating a Saigon album more than I probably otherwise.
e Scholars – Second Chapter (from Bayani)
“Second Chapter” is in all true sense, an intro to their album “Bayani”. Coming in at a short minutes and fifty four seconds, it’s like a hot nun in a bikini, just a tease. The quite possibly is my favorite beat of the year, if not in the last five years. I like it that much. It’s sad that this wasn’t a four or five minute song. Hell, I could have handled if it was one of those songs that just played for five minutes after they got done spitting their lyrics.
A lazy piano loop announces the arrival of “I’ll Be Honored”, then the slurring chorus comes in declaring they are honored to rock for you. No iD drops positive verses as the piano continues to play that induces a head nodding seizure of monumental porportions. The boys from Kansas continued to drop some of the best music of the year and this happened to be one of my favorite songs from the re-released “Bleed For Them” LP.
Again, I’ve always liked Slug and Ant’s music. It’s something that I’ve always been able to identify with. Case in point, the song “Sunshine” from their Sad Clown Bad Dub effort number nine. I can’t recall how many times I’ve stumbled out into the summer light with a killer hangover. I might not have stumbled down any stairs (there was that one time…..), but usually, a bright and shiny summer day can cure any hang over. The song could quite possibly be this generations “Summertime”, as it evokes feelings of BBQ’s, drop tops and b-boy bike rides. All of this over a simple yet, thought provoking beat from Ant.
Here it is, “Still Got Love”, my favorite track from the superb “Bayani” LP. A lot of times, my favorite track on a certain album will change with time, but “Still Got Love” was my favorite from my first time listening onwards. Not sure if it’s the rubber band like bass line or if maybe the horns have something to do with me liking it so much. The positive message adds a certain token of likeness to the song as well. There are a lot of memorable lines that Geo drops. As you can tell, positivity was a big thing for me this year.
If I had to choose a second favorite beat of the year, it would be hands down “Smilin’ On You” from The Smile Rays. This beat is drenched in funk. I miss the funk, it’s something that isn’t seen in hip hop much these days. A thick sax sample highlights some boomin’ drums that makes you both smilin’ and snarling all at the same time. Then you combine some “at your throat” verses, both in terms of delivery and lyrics from both Akrobatik and Therapy. To top it all of, Da*sey drops her best chorus of the album on this track. Everything is just a beautiful, yet pure hip hop song I’ve heard in a while.
The first time I heard “The Game”, I would have bet anyone any amount of money that this beat was done by Primo. Much to my surprise, Kanye did his best Primo imitation and in some aspects, even better than Primo. By now, it’s no surprise that I wasn’t a big fan of the Common album, not even in the least. The joint though did grab my attention with the first listen, since it’s my “type” of hip hop (like Latinas, Italians, and Greeks are my type of women). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked Common’s music for the most part, but that album was just……bleah. I’ll take this though, until he makes something decent again.
As many of my “underground” counterparts are declaring this the album of the year, and while I’m not going to drop my two cents on that subject just yet, I think you’ll see with the onslaught of Blu & Exile tracks my thoughts of that project. “No Greater Love” is another track just stands heads and shoulders above 86% (14th out of 100) of the music out there. The thing I found so great about “Below The Heavens”, was that the standout tracks were on some classic shit. Exile’s beats coupled with Blu’s lyrics just puts them in that upper echelon.
Starting to see the pattern here? Archetype drops by again on the list, this time with my favorite song from the “Bleed For Them” LP, “Keep It Comin’”. I can’t really decide which I like more when it comes to the group, the production or the lyrics. Again, both elements are top notch quality, even with Nezbeats dropping a verse. Nez is defiantly a producer first and an MC second, but he doesn’t detract from the overall greatness of this track. A Jackson 5 sample is the major element of the beat, giving the track an almost disco like flavor, yet still true hip hop. I look forward to more coming out of this group in the future.
The match up of Marco Polo and O.C. conjures up vision of ’94 again in this old hip hop junkies head. Grand illusions of dark, dingy clubs, with DJ’s spinning the highest quality hip hop scatter my memory bank and I’m whisked away to a time when hip hop was the greatest art form there was. There was no crappy radio singles, there was no marketing tools such as the internet and myspace. It was all about the music. That’s “Marquee” make
s me thing of. This is head noddin’ music at it’s finest. The falling sound of bells, the dusty drums, it’s all a thing of beauty. OC brings his finest effort to the table as well. Only if there was more music like this.
“Leon Phelps” is another song that is from ’06, but if you’ve been a reader of this blog through the year, you would know I was on a HUGE Juggaknots kick at the beginning of the year. I still kick myself in the ass for not listening to “Use Your Confusion” until after the new year as it would have been in the top five in both last years list or this years list. A quality beat employs dope lyrics and a catchy chorus, and the Juggaknots have the formula for a dope ass song. Breezly Brewin has one of the dopest flows in the game and that’s exactly what he does, flow. He also hooks up the beat on this track, with some killer keys that just bring the whole track to life.
I love strings, what can I say. Couple some dope strings with some nice horn stabs and incorporate a nice drum track, you’ll win me over. That’s exactly what “Pretty Baby” does for me. A nice soul sample also accompanies the rest of the goodies to become a song that got a lot of burn for me. Buff1 of the Detroit’s Athletic Mic League crew dropped his solo debut, Pure, that made some noise for the blog circuit. I’ve seen various people list songs from his album on the year end lists, but I think I’m the only pumping up this track this much. The message is one that should be heeded as well.
One of two tracks from Blu & Exile with “Amazin” in the title, “Simply Amazin” originally was my favorite track from the album. It still rates high enough to wind up in the top 10 of the year. What can I say about Blu or Exile that hasn’t been said already? This track is one of the more up tempo tracks on the album, which is what originally drew me to it. It still posses angelic strings and an ill bass line, that just race around while Blu just spits pure venom. Blu raps his ass off as the listener bobs and weaves to the track like championship boxer. It really is a great track and another example of why the “Below the Heavens” album is one of the best of the decade.
The Juggaknots bless us with another dope track for all the older heads in “30 Something”. Breezly hooks up more dope keys that really bring the track to life. While the beat is dope as hell, it’s the lyrics and the song subject that really hook me. As the second generation of the hip hop movement grows older and gets into their thirties, songs such as they will become more prevalent, as the subject matter has already been heard on a few cuts before this. Sadat X drops a verse on this as well, cementing greatness to an already dope track.
“Mr. Slow Flow” is another track that follows my type of beat. Produced by Sid Roams aka Joey Chavez, a bass line with the organ type keys dominate the track that just screams hip hop. Nice scratched cuts in the chorus make this an incredible track that deserves to be heard with the volume all the way up. Despite this being the only track from Evidence’s “The Weatherman” LP, I thought the album was a solid effort all the way around. Evidence isn’t the greatest MC to ever grace the mic, but he always does a more than adequate job and in small doses such as this, he comes off incredible.
6. eMC – What It Stand For (from the forthcoming The Show)
My Masta Ace “stan” like compulsive behavior rears its ugly head once again. We all know that the forthcoming “The Show” LP from the Ace led eMC crew is by far my most anticipated album of the coming year (March ’07 FOOLS!!). For those of you that either live in a dark basement, or have never been on this blog before, eMC consists of Masta Ace, Wordsworth, Punchline and Stricklin. All four are more than capable on the mic going for dolo, but you put these cats together, amazing shit can happen, evidence of this track or if you’ve ever been to an Ace show (he usually has one of these cats with him at a show) or the newly launched eMC tour that is going to be in Denver, Colorado (FUCK!), Park City, Utah (FUCK!) or sunny Southern California in Hollywood. The beat is amazing, something that I haven’t heard before from Nicolay. The drums are just some pounding kick drums that just explode through the headphones. Just a taste of whats to come.
5. Royce Da 5’9 – Hit ‘Em (from Bar Exam)
Royce is probably my current favorite MC as far as the traditional sense of an MC goes. He reminds me of a young LL Cool J back in the late 80′s as far as how they both come across on the mic. He’s a MC’s MC. Straight hardcore lyrics, aggressive on the M.I.C., and just embodies what hip hop should be. Then of course you put all that over a Primo beat, you have magic. Premier has the ability to bring out the best in certain MC’s, Nas, Biggie, Jay, Jeru (obviously) and Royce falls into that group as well. “Hit ‘Em” was my favorite joint at the half way point this year. It slid a little bit, which has more to do with the quality of second half stuff than me losing much interest in the song.
4. Blu & Exile – So(ul) Amazin (Steel Blazin) (from Below The Heavens)
Any other year, “So(ul) Amazin” probably would have been number one on the list. Again, it just goes to show that this was a hellva year for song quality. As I previously mentioned, I was all about “Simply Amazin” for the first month or two (I got the advance of this pretty early in the year), so when the video for “So Amazin” dropped, for some reason, this just hit me like a ton of bricks and I played the song at nauseating amounts. And I still didn’t get tired of it. The song really is amazing, and like most Blu & Exile joints, partly due to the production and partly due to the lyrics/MC. A familiar drum beat inhabits this beat (I should know the name of it, but I’m at a loss) as Exile sprinkles beautiful keys and of course my favorite, strings to the track that provides the head nod factor along with the type of music that makes you close your
eyes so you can concentrate more on the sweet noise invading your ears. Damn, what a track.
A song from one of my favorite groups of this decade makes is way to number three. “Yellow Lines” is my number song tracked by my Last FM tracker thingy, so yes, it got a lot of play. There are lots of reasons, one is the subtle, yet intriguing beat constructed by one of the best producers in the game in Kno. It has hints of southern flavor with the heavy synth sound, but it also employs some traditional east coast sounds, something that Kno is great at. He has become a specialist at craving his own sound. Another reason for the high number of spins is Phonte’s verse:
She used to call me late at night
Didn’t take long to see that we were a-alikes
On the same page, just couldn’t get it right
McIntosh of my eye, let me take a mega bite
I cordially invite you to come take a ride in my thoughts
Switch memory lanes while we dreamin, wanderin
And in return I’ll strip my inhibitions
And go skinny dipping in your stream of consciousness
She said it sounds tempting
And I don’t want to catch feelings
But this urge is calling me bad
I said well suga, if ya worried bout catching feelings
Chances are you already have
And there’s no need to deny ourselves
I mean, lie to each other and deprive ourselves
Denial’s not a game I’m prepared to play
So I express things most niggas scared to say
Put a spell on ‘em, Forgive me Lord but I’m hell on ‘em
Baby we grown folk, So let me longstroke
And send em back to they man with my smell on ‘em
Let me be quiet before I tell on ‘em
Phonte – Yellow Lines
Not horribly complex, but I had this verse down word for word after about the 5th time hearing it. I’ve pressed rewind (on my discman) more than once listening to the verse. This isn’t taking away from either Natti’s or Witchdoctor’s, especially Witchdoctor’s, who’s verse was excellent as well. The last reason, the song had some personal attachment to some life things going on, again, especially Phonte’s verse. If you can tie a song to personal experiences going on in your life, then of course it will have more of a significant meaning to the listener, as “Yellow Lines” did for me. The other verses had different meanings as well, so tie them altogether and this was just a personal song for me. CL does that kind of thing for me.
I told Eric that Nas’ “Can’t Forget About You” was my number two song and he was quick to point out it came out in ’06. Yes, it did, on the album, but as a single, it dropped early ’07. That was when I really picked up on it. This will probably rank up there as one of my all-time favorite Nas joints and the dude has a lot of gems in is discography. I think what sells me on this is the old school feel, and when I say “old school”, I’m talking 40′s, 50′s Nat King Cole type of vibe, the old soul, blues, doo-wop type of feel to it. Chrisette Michele does a great job on the chorus as well, going against my usual displeasure of singing on a chorus, it adds a lot to the song in general. The beat isn’t brillant, but that drum track pairs up with the rest of the song like peanut butter and jelly. If only Nas could make quality music like this on all his albums.
1. Marco Polo feat Masta Ace – Nostalgia (from Port Authority)
Surprise! Don’t tell me you didn’t already know this was going to be the top joint for the year. In my defense and to spare myself looking like too much of a jimmy rider, I’ve seen more than one other blog site have this as their number one joint (what up Dan!!). All stan tendencies aside, this a classic song in all sense of the word. Marco came correct on the beat with a beat that once again screams of the golden age. Ace drops a memorable performance that induces nostalgic tendencies, reliving the good old days. A true classic from an MC who already is one of the most respected and long lasting MC’s to grace the stage.
That’s it….there are my top 100 tracks of 2007. Truth be told, if 2008 matches up to 2007, I’ll be more than happy. I hope you enjoyed these tracks. I know not everyone is going to agree with me, but thats part of the beauty of it.
And just in case you didn’t get enough of my opinion being forced on you, here are 101-120 honorable mentions…..
Honorable Mentions 101-120
ALL ON ONE LINK
101. Apathy – Maybe
102. Masta Ace – 1′s & 2′s
103. 9th Wonder feat Royce Da 5’9, Naledge & Vandalyzm – The Last Time
104. Atmosphere – Don’t Forget
105 9th Wonder feat The Embassy, Skyzoo & Torae – Merchant of Dreams
106 Soulstic – High As You Wanna
ib Kweli – Hostel Gospel
108 DJ Alibi feat Bamboombox – Champion Sound
109 Special Teamz (feat Devin The Dude) – Long Time Commin’
110 Camp Lo – Black Hollywood
111 Special Teamz – Fight Club
112 RZA feat Big Daddy Kane & GZA – Cameo Afro
113 Boom Bap Project feat One Be Lo – Get With This
114 Busta Rhymes, J Dilla & Mick Boogie – Takin’ What’s Mine
115 Wu-Tang Clan – Watch Your Mouth
116 Masta Ace – Play Hard
117 Pete Rock – Til I Retire
118 Atmosphere – Lyndale Avenue User’s Manual
119 Statik Selektah feat Termanology & AG – It’s Over Now
120 Talib Kweli & Madlib – Funny Money