"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 2007 Annual Not A Blogger End Of Year Hate-off Spectacular - Part II: Hip Hop That Doesn't Suck (Sort Of...)

Welcome to Part Deux Of Not A Blogger's three part year end wrap up. In this installment, we look at the best music that 2007 had to offer or more accurately the music that only sucked slightly less. All kidding aside, as I was writing this piece I found there was a lot more records that I liked than I actually remember so I expanded this piece out to include 25 of my favorite songs and 20 of my favorite albums. I mean clearly the best I can I say about 2007 that it certainly wasn't 2006 or (god forbid) 2005, in terms of the relative quality of the music that came out. Perhaps, I'm just getting soft in my old age. Warning though, everything in this list is 100% true and accurate and should be accepted as canon in terms of the correct ranking. After all, I am a doctor.

Top 25 Hip Hop Songs Of The Year

25. 8 Ball & Devius - Jus Ridin’

If “Jus Ridin’” was the type of Southern Music that got promoted on the radio and all over BET than I wouldn’t be such a hater towards it. This songs sounds like a more Southern version of the opening track to Common’s “Be” with its wailing guitar and 808 drums. This is the type of song that Pimp C made famous and if songs like this that are influenced by his legacy are still being made than perhaps all is not lost.

24. Nas - Where Are They Now (West Coast Remix)

Outside of the requisite controversy courting album title, Nas had a quiet musical year. The most noise musically he made all year was the “Where Are They Now” remixes that he released in early January featuring every single forgotten rapper in the history of existence ever. The West Coast Remix was my favorite and the strongest of the bunch so its get the nod. Sir Mix-A-Lot kind of kills it on this. My only complaint...No Skee-Lo.

23. The Game - My Bitch

This Doctor’s Advocate outtake features a pretty sinister post-2001 Dre synths and its one of the more hilarious of Game’s 50 Cent disses. Its also kind of notable for the fact that Game pretty much outright attacks Jay-Z on the track after year’s of denying he has any beef with Jigga. I kind of wish this was on Doctor’s Advocate.

22. David Banner - Bitch Ass N*gga

I’m quite sure how this song didn’t gain more notoriety within the blog community than it did. Banner samples Colonel Stinkmeaner from the TV Show “The Boondocks” for the hilariously over the top offensive and extremely catchy hook. Lyrically, Banner is full of fire and bluster as he spits pretty hungrily defends T.I.’s and Michael Vick’s recent legal troubles.

21. Young Buck - Driving Down The Freeway

Buck The World was a G-Unified paint by the numbers mess and served as further proof that the G-Unit era is dead but Young Buck proves once again that he’s better than the rest of the clowns on that label as he makes a pretty dope track featuring 2Pac’s old weed carriers, the Outlawz. “Driving Down The Freeway” is a slow, sad rolling piano driven track produced by Hi-Tek that reminds me of a warm, spring day. If this is the type of music that Buck is gonna make outside the influence of 50 Cent then somebody for the love of God needs to get Buck as far away from Curtis as possible.

20. Nas/Kanye West/Rakim/KRS-One - Classic (Nike Remix)

Over a classic Primo track, three legends and a legend-in-the making put on a lyrical clinic. Honestly, what more can you want. Rakim, once again, proves that he’s the best rapper alive when he still wants to be (outside of Lil Wayne, of course...) and his verse is just wicked on this.

19. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony Feat. Akon - I Tried

I don’t hate Akon’s voice as much as some people do. He wouldn’t be nearly as annoying as he is if he wasn’t on every song on the radio this year. Like literally every one except the ones featuring wack ass T-Pain. However, I like the fact although he can’t really sing, he really can project emotion through his voice. “I Tried” featuring Cleveland’s own (Holla!) Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to me was really a beautiful, unexpected song and I really am a sucker for “The Ubiquitous I’m Sorry I Sold Crack” songs. I really wished Bizzy Bone would’ve blessed this song instead of being high on crack or something or whatever he’s doing these days, though.

18. Wyclef Jean Ft. Akon, Lil’ Wayne & Raekwon - Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill) Remix

One of the weirdest unspoken trends that went on this year is the sheer amount of songs that ripped off the hook to “C.R.E.A.M” that invaded the radio, most of them were ass awful terrible but Wyclef’s remix to “Sweetest Girl” really works. Now usually these days if I see the words “Wyclef Jean” on a song, I know to immediately fast forward because its usually gonna be some reggae-ed up abortion (and I fucking hate reggae) and the original version of this song is pretty awful but if you throw Raekwon and that classic Charmells flip on it and you’ll make me happy.

17. DJ Khaled Feat. Akon, T.I., Fat Joe, Rick Ross, Baby & Lil’ Wayne - We Takin’ Over

Hey, look it’s Akon, again! Let me get this one thing straight, I hate (hate, hate, hate, HAAAAATE) DJ Khaled. His miraculously more awful than even Jazze “The Worst Producer Ever” Pha style introductions manage to ruin nearly even the most quality track. His fat awkward ass had to go and just ruin everything on “We The Best.” However despite all that “We Takin’ Over” is still pretty great, anyway. Perhaps because DJ Khaled’s presence is almost non-existent on this song. Jesus Christ, I hate that man.

16. Raekwon - My Corner

If and when Dr. Dre decides to get off the steroids and release another album it better be “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II” because judging by this awesome, epic gem, Raekwon has still got it. Dusty soul samples, moaning horns, disembodied vocal samples and Raekwon reminiscing about his life and career. This song sounds like it could be the opening track to a real monster of an album.

15. Kanye West Feat. Lil’ Wayne - Barry Bonds

Ignore the fact that Lil’ Wayne throws snake eyes on this track with his needless to say “underwhelming” verse, “Barry Bonds” is still a monster track. Nottz’ fuzzed up organs and dusty “punch you in the face” drums provide the perfect atmosphere for a banger and Kanye really comes correct with his verse. Konichiwa, bitches!

14. T.I. Feat. Busta Rhymes & Alfamega - Hurt

T.I. vs. T.I.P. was an unfocused mess with a completely superfluous tacked on gimmick (and nowhere near as good as King) but there were a couple of great songs that managed to trickle through cracks on the T.I.P. side. “Hurt” is the type of track that T.I. best excels at, the fast uptempo hardcore bangers that work best when Tip is using his mile-a-minute bullet flow. The video is pretty great, too.

13. Common - The People

It’s completely unfair to criticize artists like Common for making somewhat shallow, platitude infused “I’m Doing It For The Struggle” type boom bap joints and then turn around and breathlessly suck off Mims for making shallow, pointless club bangers because you like the production. Well, I love the production on this song and Common still is a good rapper so I played this a lot over the summer. Finding Forever was a mess but “The People” wasn’t.

12. Saigon Ft. Swizz Beatz - C’mon Baby

Dear Saigon,

If “The Greatest Story Never Told” is full of these Just Blaze laced heaters than please for the love of God, don’t retire!!! The game needs you, man. Stop being a bitch.

Hip Hop

11. Wu-Tang Clan - The Heart Gently Weeps

I love the album version even more than the Loud.com released version I reviewed back in October but this record continues to sneak up and grow on me. When RZA’s musical forays into guitars and live instrumentation work, they really work and Ghost, Rae, and Meth all kick vivid stories. 8 Diagrams is kind of disappointing but Rae and Ghost are crazy if he thinks that this song is wack.

10. Kanye West - Can’t Tell Me Nothing

For all Kanye’s critical nut slobbing that he received this year (and I was one of those who was....uh, let’s not finish that thought) for Graduation, its kind of interesting that the two best songs on the album (in my very un-humble opinion), “Barry Bonds” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” were not produced by Kanye. I couldn’t decide if I liked “Stronger” or this song better but I decided ultimately liked this one better because I thought it had a more epic and larger scope than the chaotic, post apocalypse funk of “Stronger.” Eh, sue me.

9. Jay-Z - Fallin’

And the winner of the best “Ubiquitous I’m Sorry I Sold Crack” song of the year goes to...Jay-Z for “Fallin’.” Although, I ended up highly praising the album after hating it on the first listen, “Fallin” was the one song on the initial listen that I really, really loved. The vocal sample that Jay-Z uses sets the song perfect for Jay’s thoughts on the emotional toll and consequences of selling crack that serve to connect the album together with the Ridley Scott homage that he wanted the album to be out.

8. Lupe Fiasco - Paris, Toyko

Lupe Fiasco is lying through his teeth if he says he listened to 8 Ball & MJG growing up and not A Tribe Called Quest because this sure sounds like an outtake from Midnight Marauders. This record has all of the jazzy cool of Q-Tip packed into one breezy fun song. The best song on The Cool for sure.

7. Little Brother Feat. Carlitta Durand - After The Party

On every one of Little Brother’s album, there is one or two songs on the album that could be huge crossover hits but for some reason the group or the label decides to go with some other weaker song for the single. For Getback, it was Khyrisis produced “After The Party.” How this song didn’t get a video or single is beyond me? Phonte if you are reading this, I’ll gladly direct a video if you want for free. Holler at me.

6. 50 Cent - I Get Money

Curtis was an atrociously bad album but “I Get Money” is my shit. I will freely admit that I lose my shit when this song comes on the radio and I’m alone in my the car. 50 Cent is hip hop’s greatest villain and their is something truly sinister in this song as 50 Cent is able to channel his absolute priceless asshole swagger that if you were braver man that I am would make you want to punch him in his face but it makes this song transcend the fact that its an absolute obvious bite of Cassidy’s “I’m A Hustla.” The “Quarter Water” line is the absolute pinnacle of brag rap. See Curtis, you can still be a good rapper when you aren’t focused on re-making “Magic Stick” for the 80th time.

5. Ghostface Killah Ft. Method Man & Raekwon - Yolanda’s House

Trap rappers from the South, G-Unit, the asshats in Dipset and various clowns in the New York mix tape rap scene, please take note, this is how you do crime rap. Method Man sounds amazing on this record and he sounds more focused than he has literally since Tical. I love this song too much for words.

4. Jay-Z Ft. Beanie Sigel - Ignorant Shit (Album Version)

This would be the best song of the year if not for the fact that it hadn’t already been released two years prior to it’s “official” release and for the fact that Jay-Z almost ruined it by allowing Beanie Sigel to rap on it and because he tacked on atrociously off-beat final verse. It’s #4, anyway simply because this song is just stunning. Who else but Jigga would release a song where the hook was “N****, fuck, shit, ass, bitch, trick plus ice” and make the song sound pop.

3. Devin The Dude Ft. Snoop Dogg & Andre 3000 - What A Job

I’m really glad that Devin the Dude got this year’s annual “Cameron Giles Memorial” requisite hipster nut hugging instead of say like Plies or somebody. Devin makes such a warm and likable music that really is unappreciated. “What A Job” is a song about something somewhat profoundly uncool as loving what you do. In a time where rappers are desperate to be seen as anything but being actual rappers, Devin makes a song about his love for being a rapper. Andre 3000 continues his campaign to prove that he actually can still rap and The Corpse Formerly Known As Snoop Doggy Dogg manages to rip it up too. Great song.

2. Young Buck - Get Buck

Rarely, I agree with Tom Breihan but this song is just an absolute monster. If club raps were more like this, menacing and evil, than perhaps I would go to “da club” much more often than I do. (As is, I generally try to stay away from places where T-Pain’s voice can be heard prominently. I don’t like my ears being aurally raped by T-Pain’s “big meat” in vocoder form.) “Get Buck” just plain bangs and Buck delivers a song that is full of passion and completely defiant. He really, really, really is the best rapper on G-Unit by a wiiiiiiide margin. Not like that's saying much but it's something.

1. UGK Feat. Outkast - International Player’s Anthem

R.I.P. Chad Butler. Such a tragedy. This song is just too good to really give it justice. The only song is this entire list that could honestly break into the 100 Greatest Rap Songs Of All-Time and not feel out of place. Andre 3000 spits the verse of his life, Bun B and Big Boi just black out on the track and Pimp C is just memorable, hilarious and charismatic on this track. Sweet Jones!

Top 20 Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2007

20. Common - Finding Forever: The Fourth Time I Listened To It

Wait? What? Didn’t you say that “Finding Forever “ was the fourth worst album of the year? Yeah, I did. So how the hell can it be the twentieth best rap album of the year? Are you seriously saying that Crunchy Black’s album is better than this? Of course, not. Well what? Make no mistake, “Finding Forever” is a stll gigantic, pretentious mess that is in no way better than it’s predecessor,“Be”, and anybody who tells you that is either lying to you, putting you on or is a Rich Boy fan but “Finding Forever” is one the rare albums that sucks that manages to stop sucking and start becoming better and better the more you listen to it. So by the fourth time I listened to it, I actually liked this record enough to place it on my list. Barely...I’m not forgetting the fact that I wanted to kick my speakers in the first time I listened to it. It’s not better than Be, though. That’s just some bullshit.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: “The People”, “Southside”, “The Game” and (inexplicably) “I Want You”

19. Sean Price - Jesus Price Supastar

Much like Ghostface inexplicably going from Wu-Tang second-stringer to by far the biggest star of the group, Sean Price’s rise from Boot Camp Clik also-ran to the group’s most recognizable name has been pretty inspiring. Sean Price doesn’t do anything that’s particulary ground breaking on this record. It’s pretty much your standard collection of “Knock Your Teeth Out Mosh Out” anthems over post-9th Wonder Boom-Bap beats but Price is able to sell it with his delivery and wit.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: “P-Body”, “Stop”, “Violent”, “Da God”

18. Chamillionaire - Ultimate Victory

Chamillionaire is one slept-on rapper. He’s too mainstream to gain the true respect for the hip hop heads, too Southern to gain respect of the East Coast, and too smart to be understood by people from the South (I kid, I kid.). All of this goes to explain why “Ultimate Victory” went plastic wood grain this year despite the fact that it’s a better record than multi-platinum sensation,The Sound Of Revenge. That and the fact that “Hip Hop Police” was no “Ridin’ .” Although, not many records are.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: “The Morning News”, “Hip Hop Police”, “Standing Ovation”, “Industry Group”

17. T.I. - T.I. vs. T.I.P.

“T.I. vs. T.I.P.” is half of a great record (Hint: The half of record by the version of Clifford that got his dumb ass locked up for attempting to buy Saddam’s missing WMDs) that is as good as anything on last year’s suprisingly great, King. It’s too bad that T.I.P. didn’t have T.I. snuffed and dropped in the back of the ocean for allowing him to release anything as nauseating as “My Swag.” Still Tip continues to prove why he’s better than Lil’ Wayne when he makes songs like “Hurt” and is the best young rapper from the South.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: “Hurt”, “You Know What It Is”, “ “Watch What You Say To Me”, “Help Is Coming”

16. Black Milk - Popular Demand

Since J-Dilla’s tragic death last year, there has been a surprising number of great young Midwestern rappers and producers that have been coming up in the indie rap scene that have been channeling his spirit and making some great music in his tradition. Detroit’s rapper/producer Black Milk crafted such a warm and lovely debut with Popular Demand, a record full of the sweeping disembodied vocal samples and tough ass nail drums that Jay Dee made famous.

Songs that Should Be On Your iPod: “Popular Demand”, “Sound The Alarm”, “Play The Keys”, “One Song”

15. Scarface - Made

With all due respects to Bun B, Scarface will always be the King Of The South, no matter how many Panzer Tanks Clifford Harris attempts to purchase from undercover ATF agents. I will never have a single ill word (well, maybe one or two but I have an addiction for hate. I need help...) for a man who has not only been remarkably consistent throughout his career but is a true pioneer. Made isn't Face's best album (but yet again, how many records are "Mr. Scarface is Back"...) and is a slight disappoint considering his last record was five years ago and was "The Fix" but it's still full of the moody, depressing crime rap that we have come to associate with Brad Jordan. This record might rank higher if not for the presense of "Big Dogg Status" which may in fact, be the worst song Mr. Scarface has ever recorded. Still, a very good record.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Never", "The Suicide Note", "Girl You Know", "Git Out My Face", "Who Do You Believe In"

14. Freeway - Free At Last

I don't quite understand all the hyperbole surrounding Freeway's sophomore record but "Free At Last" maybe the best, pure Roc-A-Fella record released in years. It has the blazing horns and soul riffs that we have grown accostumed to since Just Blaze and Kanye West toted their MPC's through Dame Dash's hallways. An immaculately produced record. Too bad, Freeway's voice sounds more annoying than Lil' Wayne's.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "This Can't Be Real", "Roc-A-Fella Billionaires", "When They Remember"

13. 9th Wonder - Dream Merchant, Vol. 2

Despite the fact that it's was truly sad to see one of my favorite groups to split this year, I was certainly glad to see that both 9th Wonder and Pooh and Phonte landed solidly on their feet and release strong records this year. Dream Merchant is full of the typical revivialist boom bap beats, dope rapping from 9th's Justus League cronies and posse cuts but 9th makes it work.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Brooklyn In My Mind", "Sunday", "Baking Soda", "Let It Bang", "Reminisce"

12. Joell Ortiz - The Brick: Bodega Chronicles

Joell Ortiz is one of the new breed of New York rappers that give hope to the AIDs infested, (metaphorically speaking, of course...) diseased New York mix tape rap scene. Joell's, an insanely gifted emcee and his independent debut, The Brick: Bodega Chronicles, is one of the best pure New York rap records to come out this year. If the world was even remotely fair, Dr. Dre would stop using the HGH that he copped from Roger Clemens and Timbaland and lace Joell with the production and attention that he gives 50 Cent and The Shriveled Husk Of Eminem for Ortiz' Aftermath debut.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Brooklyn Bullshit", "125 Parts 1 -4", "BQE", "Hip Hop"

11. Devin The Dude - Waitin' To Inhale

Mr. Copeland delivers another slow funk infused ode to wine, women and weed. Granted, it's a relatively shallow album but Devin has charisma for days and the type of songs that just make you wanna relax and get blunted. This may also be the most hilariously disturbing record of the year what with Devin's Pedophilia/Weed metaphor on "Cutcha Up" and "Just Because" might be the out and out hilariously morbid and misogynist record since "Ain't No Fun" what with it's Quiet Storm jazz cheesing it up all over the place.

Songs That Should Be on Your iPod: "What A Job", "Cutcha Up", "Shed Useta Be", "Just Because"

10. El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead

When Our Great Leader inevitably declares himself emperor and leads us into the Jesus reviving apocalypse as foretold in the Book Of Rove, this will be the soundtrack. El-P delivers us an incredibly, dense record full of buzzed out synths, bugged out drum patterns, and off beat rhymes about who the fuck knows. I may have no idea what El-Producto is talking about but it sure sounds awesome. Def Jux is back, baby!

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Smithereens (Stop Cryin')", "Flyentology", "Poisenville Kids No Wins/Reprise", "Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)"

9. Blu & Exile - Below The Heavens

This is the indie rap record of the year. Below The Heavens is a stunning record from West Coast rap rapper/producer duo, Blu & Exile. Blu is an exceptionally talented emcee, full of warmth and wit that is quite the talented story teller. He kind of reminds of early Mos Def before he discovered that rock music was actually created by black people. These guys have a bright future.
Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "The Narrow Path", "The World Is...", "Soul Amazing/Steel Blazing"

8. Wu-Tang Clan - 8 Diagrams

So, ok, yeah, 8 Diagrams is still really disappointing but yeah (and I can't believe I'm about to utter this phrase. I think I'm gonna need to shower after saying this.), Tom Breihan's right about this album (no hipster). It really is great. It took a few more listens than it actually clicked for me, RZA is just on some next level orchestra rap shit on this one. Let me ask, the nay sayers about this record. If this record was released by any other group other than Wu-Tang Clan would people say it sucked? Well, yeah but those type of people also like Dipset so fuck 'em on principle but for most people, the standards for the first Wu-Tang Clan album since the Towers came down are fucking impossible for our heroes to attain. Still, they come damn near close. Straight up!

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Campfire", "Take It Back", "The Heart Gently Weeps", "Wolves", "Rushing Elephants"

7. Prodigy Of Mobb Deep - Return Of The Mac

If there is ever a case for repealing sampling laws, it's Return Of The Mac. It's full of so many lush, '70s era blaxploitation era soul samples, that it's crime that 99.9% of rap albums today can't sound this bad ass because they would have to pay up the wazoo for all those clearances. As great as the album is it's still pretty flawed, while The Dessicated Corpse Of Prodigy is the most focused he has been in years on this record, he still isn't the same rapper that he was pre-Jay-Z turning him into a walking punchline. The Alchemist really brings it though and for a few shining moments, we see glimpses of the old Prodigy on this record that makes this record a frustrating but ultimately, pretty bad-ass listen. Here's hoping this record is enough for P not to get passed around like Tupac in prison.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Mac 10 Handle", "Stuck To You", "New York Shit", "7th Heaven"
6. Jay-Z - American Gangster

This record should have been terrible. A Post-Post Retirement Jigga making a crack rap record using Puffy's extorted weed carriers and the Rotting Fleshbag Formerly Known As Pharrel as the primary producers. Count me the fuck out. However, Jay-Z proved my ass so wrong and he dropped one of the best rap records of the year. I'm still deducting points for the fact that Kindgom Come was miraculously worse than the movie that it was based on. Eww.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Roc Boys (And The Winner Is...)", "Fallin'", "Ignorant Shit", "Success"

5. Kanye West - Graduation

Who would have thought that the guy that brought us the awfully stunning "genius" line as "I'm killing y'all with this lyrical shit/Mayonaisse colored benz, I push miracle whips" than act as if he just quoted Shakespeare would be the biggest star on the planet, right now. Graduation serves as a fitting coronation for a dude that has brought self importance to stunning new heights. You guys are all tripping with "Drunk And Hot Girls" not being fresh, hot steaming garbage, though.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Barry Bonds", "Can't Tell Me Nothing", "Good Life", "Stronger", "Everything I Am"

4. UGK - Underground Kingz

For sentimental reasons, I want to place this as the top record this year and had this been a single disc than it damn, well sure should have been but as is, it's just waaaaay too long to top this list. Still, UGK dropped the album of their career and the rest of the world finally payed homage. If you don't smile the second, "International Player's Anthem" plays you don't have a pulse.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Swishas And Dosha", "International Player's Anthem", "Chrome Plated Woman", "The Game Belongs To Me"

3. Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab

The approximate moment I knew this record was gonna be awesome was about 0.2 seconds into "Yolanda's House" when Ghostface uttered the words "skinned up, Nikes are scuffed, still buggin'" I just knew this was gonna be another typical wild ride that Ghost always provides. If anything the only flaw to Big Doe Rehab is the fact that it's almost too typical. He's not offering anything groundbreaking as Supreme Clientele or as arresting as Fishscale but Ghostface is still in fighting form on this record and that's enough to make it #3.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Barrel Brothers", "Yolanda's House", "Walk Around", "Killa Lipstick."

2. Little Brother - Getback

I'm still personally kind of amazed that some people hate Little Brother. I mean I know they have a sense of entitlement but after three classic records in a row, you'd figure people would drop the whole played-out "They Just Some Boring Ass De La Biters" bit, people have labeled them with since The Minstrel Show had the balls to state the obvious, "that most rappers were wearing modern day blackface." Getback is their most accessible, likeable record yet and proves that Pooh and 'Tay can do it without 9th.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: "Sirens", "Good Clothes", "Dreams", "Can't Win For Losing", "After The Party", "That Ain't Love"

1. Lupe Fiasco - The Cool

You know, maybe there is something to Lupe's claim that "Food & Liquor" was his homage to "It Was Written" last year because Lupe's career arc is coming more and more like Nas. Like Nas, Lupe is a phenomenonally gifted lyricist that consciously and arrogantly defies mainstream musical pandering which of course engenders both intense stannery and intense hatred. You, either, worship the ground the man walks on or you spend your days going on message boards making hate threads about how he, his family and his career lost. The Cool is Lupe's Illmatic. I'm sorry but if you disagree than you simply aren't trying. You're the clownish dude on the hook to "Dumb It Down" who complains that Lupe is going over his simple, cars, rim, and bitches formula. Sorry, but it's true.

Songs That Should Be On Your iPod: Pretty much everything but specifically "Go Go Gadget Flow", "The Coolest", "Little Weapon" "Superstar", "Paris, Toyko" & and yes, "Dumb It Down"

That's all for part II. Stay tuned for Part 3 where I hand out my special year-end awards for achievement and non-achievement in hip hop music today. It's gonna be awesome.
Click Here For Part I.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lupe Fiasco - The Cool: Review

Every once in awhile, a rapper makes “the Leap.” “The Leap” being defined, of course, as the moment a rapper simply goes from “very good” to “great.” It happens very rarely but when it does happen it’s instantly recognizable and it’s truly an awe inspiring, beautiful thing. Some examples of rappers making “the leap” are Nas on “N.Y. State Of Mind”, Rakim on “Paid In Full”, Common on “Resurrection”, Eminem on “The Way I Am” and Ghostface on “Impossible.” Today, we have a new rapper who just made the mythical “leap” from merely “very good” status to “greatness” and his name is Lupe Fiasco. All hail the Best Rapper of the new generation.

Lupe’s new record, The Cool, is a dense and remarkable record. Other than maybe Graduation, nothing sounds anything like it this year. The post apocalypse pop funk of post-Graduation Chicago hip hop is full in effect on The Cool. The production on the record handled mostly by Soundtrakk and Lupe’s F&F weed carriers is full of synthetic strings, violins, off-beat samples, sweeping hooks and boom bap drum kicks, this album is the sister album to Kanye’s latest masterpiece. Its a better record as well. For one, Lupe is thrice the emcee than Kanye even wishes he could be. He employs a swift, nimble flow that darts around the beats and not only is technically flashy but is able to utilize dense and often difficult metaphors. It also a darker and more savage record than Graduation. The beats are darker, muddier and outside of the fantastic lead single, “Superstar”, there is nothing as joyous as “Stronger” and “Good Life” on the record. Lupe has much bigger fish to fry on this album.

Following the en vogue trend of hip hop concept albums, The Cool tells a loose story of “The Cool”, the undead hustler first introduced on Food & Liquor, as he navigates the world being lured into the temptations of the nefarious, “The Game” and “The Streets.” This concept allows Lupe wax poetic about a variety of social and personal ills. However, it’s a testament to Lupe’s talent that it doesn’t sound preachy, pandering, nor pretentious. Lupe is able to work in moments of sly comedic asides in an otherwise darker than dark rap record. Take for example the somewhat unjustly maligned early street single “Dumb It Down.” Outside the context of the album, the song appears somewhat annoyingly self-righteous and assholic with a shallow and obvious message of the evils of selling yourself out for radio but within the confines of the record, it appears to be the perfect counterfoil to the dark melodrama of the rest of the record. The chorus becomes defiant instead of self-righteous as he lets the genius of the rest of the record contrast the ignorant pleas of the the streets and white record labels to dumb down his music because it’s either not “what’s poppin’ in the streets” or “it’s shedding to much light.” It works so much better when it’s surrounded by the rest of the work.

As for the songs on the record themselves, there ain’t a weak song within the bunch which is pretty remarkable when you consider that even Kanye, Jay-Z and Little Brother had one or two weak songs on an otherwise fantastic albums. I personally really like “Paris, Toyko” which either proves that Lupe is absolutely full of shit when he says he’s not a fan of A Tribe Called Quest because the song is vintage Tribe or after the events of Fiascogate, Lupe was basically shamed into listening to Midnight Marauders because this song sounds exactly like “Electric Relaxation.” If you are gonna bite, bite from the best. “Little Weapon” is another highlight as it’s a powerful, epic anti-gun screed with haunting Gregorian-esque chanting and a dark satanic vibe. On other notes, “Hip Hop Saved My Life” tells the story of a Houston Mike Jones-clone rapper who falls to the temptation of “The Streets.”

I’m actually kind of mad at Lupe after listening to this record. The Cool has completely screwed up Part II of my Year End Wrap-Up that I was planning to release very soon as he messed up my rankings for the best albums and songs of the year. I haven’t had enough time with the record to determine if its better than that new Ghostface, UGK, or Little Brothers this year. My gut tells me this could be better than all of them but I need three or four more listens to be sure. Anyway, this record is triumph for Lupe as he reached the promised land of rappers. This might just go down as Lupe’s Midnight Marauders after all. Fuckin’ A.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 2007 Annual Not A Blogger End Of Year Hate-off Spectacular - Part I: Hip Hop That Sucked

It’s that time of year, ladies and gentlemen - err... actually, more like gentlemen and gentlemen...Well, more than likely...Hi, Mom! - the time of year when there is magic in the air. Christmas carols float ethereally over the radio warming the cold and broken hearts of the masses, people give their change willingly to drunken hobos on the street not out of fear or annoyance but because of the goodness in their hearts and a bunch of self-righteous (“not a”) bloggers with too much time on their hands make lists of the things that they think is the best. Yes, it's List Season, folks and I couldn’t be more excited. I plan to do like a three part series over the next couple of weeks as the year draws to a dramatic and hopefully spectacular close so As I have stated on numerous occasions before I am not a blogger so I will start by bucking the trend and posting the things that drew my considerable ire the most this year.

And what a year it was for hip hop that was bad. I mean for a large, significant portion of the year, the best album that was released was by the Desiccated Corpse Formerly Known As Prodigy so you can just imagine how much I had to lower my standards to keep myself from listening to (god forbid...) “rock” music. I shudder thinking about it. Anyway, here’s my list of the worst of aural ear bleeders...Be warned.

Top 10 Worst Rap Songs Of The Year

10. Kanye West Feat. Mos Def - Drunk & Hot Girls

What?! It’s 2007 and a song that features a Mos Def guest shot is the worst song on your otherwise great album? You’re kidding me? I’m shocked! SHOCKED! I tell you!!! You mean the man that brought us the slightly retarded black guy with the heart of Gold from “16 Blocks” and “The New Danger” could help ruin your album? I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe it. I won’t believe it. Seriously, though, what the hell was Kanye thinking with this song? A slow, boring pretentious mess. C’mon now.

9. USDA - Corporate Thuggin’

Quick Math Equation: Young Jeezy + Untalented Weed Carriers + Budget Ass Production = Abortion. Uggh.

8. Ja Rule - Body

Just when you thought Lil’ Wayne and Baby’s shirtless XXL cover had beaten Hip Hop’s all-time record for homo-eroticism, here comes the defending champion, Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins, swooping in like Tobey Maguire to save the day. Oh, Jeffrey! Oh how have we absolutely not missed you so?

7. Wu-Tang Clan - Sunshine

RZA...RZA...RZA...there is a time and a place for a slow, abstract, off beat, off key rant about your weird and confusing religious mysticism and it’s called a Bobby Digital album. Please take note and keep this far, far away from any future Wu-Tang Clan album that the rest of the Clan may or may not allow you on. This ain’t ‘97 no more, Bobby, and this ain’t Wu-Tang Forever. We aren’t gonna tolerate this shit. Just bring da ruckus from now on. Thanks.

6. Jay-Z Feat. Pharell - I Know

And for the sixth consecutive album the worst song on a Jay-Z record is produced by....THE NEPTUNES!!! Let’s give them all a standing ovation for consistent achievement in consistent sucking. Why does this keep happening? “Give It 2 Me” isn’t even that great of a song. Pharell must have slept with Jigga and he has pictures. Only explanation.

5. 50 Cent Feat. Justin Timberlake - Ayo Technology

I don’t hold Timbaland in high regard as some but I’ll give him credit for one thing. Timmy selling a third rate rejected beat from FutureSexLoveSounds to 50 Cent and getting him to think this was gonna be a huge hit has got to make him a genius in some form or another. 50 Cent manages to get eaten up by Justin Timberlake on his own record. Good job there, Curt.

4. Yung Berg Feat. Jim Jones & Rich Boy - Sexy Lady (Remix)

The original one was terrible enough. Some random ass R&B singer singing through a vocoder, bootleg Scott Storch synths, Yung Berg...but when you add Joseph Guillermo “You All Still Remember Ballin’ Right? That Was A Big Hit!” Jones and Mr. I Look Like An Alien With Down Syndrome himself, Rich Boy. You get a song that’s off the charts bad.

3. Mims - This Is Why I’m Hot

Let me present to you the Good Doctor Zeus’ Guide To Telling If You Are Douche bag:

A. Do you have “This Is Why I’m Hot” As Your Ring tone?

B. Yes? Then you are a douche bag.

2. Soulja Boy Tell’ Em - Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)

This year’s “Ballin’”. Enough fucking said. Yoooouuuu need to stop making Yooouuuutube videos with yoouuuuu doing that stupid dance. Youuuu look like a jackass.

1. 50 Cent - Amusement Park

There is bad. There is bad. And then there is “Amusement Park.” 50 Cent manages to top himself in terms of sheer awfulness. The audio equivalent of “2 Girls, 1 Cup.” *Shudders*

Top 10 Worst Rap Albums Of The Year

10. Young Jeezy Presents U.S.D.A. - Cold Summer

Another math equation: Thug Motivation 101 - Def Jam’s Marketing Team + More Blood Raw & Slick Pulla = Tax Write-Off Weed Carrier Extravaganza. I downloaded this album specifically to hate on it. I was not disappointed. Just bad, bad, bad.

9. Boyz N Da Hood - Back Up N Da Chevy

Yet another math equation: Boyz N Da Hood - Young Jeezy + Gorilla Zoe = No One Giving a Fuck. Why did this have to happen? Is Puffy that desperate for a hit these days that he’ll release an album by Young Jeezy’s Rejected Weed Carriers. Seriously, these guys were so bad that Young “The Lyrical Miracle” Jeezy ditched these guys as if they were Pete Best or something. What made them think that replacing Jeezy with a 5th rate clone like Gorilla Zoe was a good idea. I swear to god somebody needs to hire me at a label as a Common Sense Consultant.

8. Havoc - The Kush

This album is about eight years, too late. It shows.

7. Crunchy Black - From Me To You

I haven’t heard this album and have no desire to it but I can be rest assured that this is one of the worst releases this year. I was just shocked that somebody allowed Crunchy Black to release a solo record. I mean c’mon it’s Crunchy Black. Even DJ Paul and Juicy J kicked him out of Three 6 Mafia for being a terrible lyricist. This can’t be good.

6. [Insert Your Favorite Rapper’s Mixtape Here] - Yes, Yours, Jerk!

I know I said that mixtapes are not albums but if you insist on placing them on year end lists then rest assure they probably belong somewhere on this list. Yes, yours! They are all terrible.

5. Yung Joc - Hustlenomics

How the hell did Yung Joc make the Forbes List of Richest Emcees last year? He had like one song and it was truly, truly terrible. Sometimes I just hate life.

4. Common - Finding Forever: The First Time I Listened To It

The first listening I had of Finding Forever, I was more nauseated with any record I listened to this year outside of Curtis. I have since warmed up to this record considerably and actually say I tentatively like it but I’m placing it Finding Forever because the gut, visceral “Holy Shit! Common is a lame cornball epiphany” moment I had while listening to about the ten straight cheesy love jams was enough to make me want to break Resurrection and the vastly superior Be.

3. DJ Khaled - We The Best

Question Of The Decade: How do you completely ruin an otherwise somewhat enjoyable compilation in one swift stroke? Answer: DJ “I’m Actually Middle Eastern But I’ll Pretend I’m Spanish So I Can Awkwardly Scream The N-Word on A Record As If That Wasn’t Completely Awkward As Well” Khaled. I want to hit that man in the face more than any person outside of Lil’ Wayne and Scott Storch. The definition of trying too hard.

2. Soulja Boy Tellem - Souljaboytellem.com

Remember when teenage rappers were like LL Cool J? Well, I don’t because I was like two but for those who did must look at Soulja Boy and think...Damn, my parenting skills fell off.

1. 50 Cent - Curtis

As if you didn’t see this one coming from a mile away...I’ll just leave you with what I wrote in my actual review of this record: “The album is like listening to 50 minutes of elevator music if only the elevator made death threats every 2.5 seconds or so...”

Well, that’s the end of Part I. Check back soon for Parts II and III.

To Be Continued...Bitches...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Albums You Should Own: UGK - Ridin' Dirty

(*I initially was gonna post my usual sarcastic, hate infused reviews on the new Beanie Sigel, Styles P, Freeway & Scarface albums but since Pimp C passed today, I decided it wasn’t necessarily in good taste so I have instead decided to do an “Albums You Should Own” Feature on UGK’s greatest album.)

I feel sorry for those haven’t heard UGK’s 1995 masterpiece, Ridin’ Dirty, before because chances are unless you are really into Southern rap like that you haven’t heard this album. And it’s a damn shame. Long before Southern rap started to get dominated by the sound of the forces of The Great Evil Of Commercial LCD Rap (I personally blame New Orleans, Master P & Mannie Fresh. Fuck 400 Degreez!) hijacked Southern Rap (And Eventually Hip Hop Itself) and turned into the Worst Music Ever In The History Of Mankind, Evar, Chad “Pimp C” Butler and his partner-in-rhyme, Bernard “Bun B” Freeman, were carving a warm, organic sound that was dripping with soul and funk and didn’t really sound like anything else in Hip Hop (save for early Outkast & The Dungeon Family). It wasn’t the relentless, menacing chopped loops and the drums of hell that beat your head in like the East Coast rap of that period or the slow, swooning synths of G-Funk that dominated the West. Instead, it was soulful, swirling church organs, swinging wah wah guitars, and funk infused horns. It was fresh. It was funky. It was the South. Bun and Pimp managed to perfect that sound by their fourth album, the undeniably classic Ridin’ Dirty, and unfortunately (or maybe just fortunately), it will end up be the record of their career.

The album opens up with the absolutely stunning and mournful lament of Ronald Isley crooning "Well, well, well, Hello Baby...” on “One Day,” the best song that anybody remotely involved in this song ever made. The song is simply heartbreaking as it speaks to everybody who has ever lost anybody that’s important to them in love, life or in prison. The pathos is palpable and touching and the regret, pain and confusion that Pimp expresses about his inability to understand how his friend’s young son can die in a house fire and killers from the neighborhood get to live and prosper is simply powerful as is when Bun touches on when he laments his brother coming home from prison after ten years inside just as he is about to go in and the pain is just too much for him. What makes this song so interesting and powerful isn’t so much the subject matter as songs like these are present in lots of hardcore rap albums but the sequencing of the song on the album. It’s the second track of the album after the "Intro" so it defies some of the cliches about songs like these which usually is sequenced at the end of the album. Often, these types of songs are placed towards the end of an album to mitigate some of the wanton violence and misogyny as if to show that the artist have a heart and I’ve always seen at it as completely cliche' and disingenuous. I’ve somewhat cynically nicknamed those songs as “The Ubiquitous I’m Sorry I Sold Crack" song but by placing it towards the beginning of the album, it amplifies the power of the song as what follows the song is some of the hardest of hardcore rap music you will ever.

The next five or six songs on the album is like the Murderer’s Row Of Southern Hardcore Rap. Starting with “Murder”, running through “Pinky Ring”, “Diamonds & Wood” and “Three In The Morning” and culminating with “Touched” (the song infamously bit by Jay-Z for the opening lines of “99 Problems) are some absolutely amazing songs. Pimp C’s production positively swings with a warm, organic swagger and both rappers come absolutely correct. Bun B blacks out and practically loses his damn mind on the final verse on “Murder” which is not only a contender for one of the greatest displays of sheer technical lyrical virtuosity but also may in fact, the best verse ever laid down by a Southern rapper if not all of hip hop itself. Seriously, he’s that damn good. Pimp C’s production is equally as good as Bun’s rapping. I mentioned in the previous post that I thought that Pimp C was the Greatest Southern Hip Hop Producer Of All-Time and I meant it. Pimp C’s live instrumented organic Southern funk is possibly one of the more influential sounds in hip hop history. He’s a direct influence on Outkast, Goodie Mob, Post-Geto Boys Scarface, Mannie Fresh and a host of Southern imitators. Prior to UGK, Southern Hip didn’t really have a sound that it was its signature. As amazing as those early Geto Boys records are, they kind of sound like NWA- Era Dr. Dre and somewhat West Coast but Pimp C gave the South a new identity in terms of his musical oeuvre. Ridin’ Dirty is Pimp’s production masterpiece. His earlier work on The Southern Way, Too Hard To Swallow & Super Tight have a somewhat more rawer and less refined sound but by Ridin’ Dirty, it was down to a cold, hard science and Pimp really spreads his wings musically as guitars are layered over horns, organs, and synths that create a warm, musical pastiche of the South. It’s quite brilliant.

The death of Pimp C stunned me today as Pimp had an out-sized personality and a certain “Don’t Give a Fuck” charisma that made him sort of endearing to his fans. He was always good for an outrageous hilarious interview or some ridiculous PCP fueled incident. However, much like Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s death, it didn’t really shock me. Pimp C was as troubled as he was talented. He made no attempts to hide his copious drug use or his penchant for waving guns in the middle of a mall. He wasn’t a saint but it saddens me to see someone so talented and someone I was a fan of die. However, years of living on the edge eventually catches up to a human being and the inevitable hand of death finally caught up with Chad Butler. What we are left with now is his legacy. Pimp C is a much better rapper than his critics give him credit for. His charisma and penchant for outrageous and often hysterical boasts often elevated what on the surface could be seen as a below average lyricism but his delivery was full of passion and it simply carried him. On the year’s best song, “International Player’s Anthem”, he absolutely shined and completely stood his own amidst three monster verses from Bun B, Andre 3000, and Big Boi. He wasn’t wack. In some senses, he’s kind of a Southern RZA (and I think these days he was a better rapper than RZA) in the sense that he was both an extremely influential and pioneering producer but also a pretty talented emcee in his own right. I have a feeling due to the East Coast bias of many critics (including myself...), he’s unfairly criticized as a wack emcee and if he were from the East Coast, he’d be seen much more favoredly. He never comes wack on this album, though.

If we search hard, I think we can find a silver lining in such a strange and tragic death is that Pimp C went out on top. UGK were having up to this point, their most successful year ever. Their double album, Underground Kingz, one of the year’s best albums, was their most successful commercially to date as it landed them for the first time at #1 on the Billboard Music Chart in their long, storied career. It seemed that the world had finally recognized Pimp and Bun’s achievements and Pimp didn’t die struggling to achieve acceptance. They had found it. I think that may be the only comfort they can really have. It’s unbelievably tragic though that they never had a chance to truly capitalize and enjoy their success. I’m sure Bun B will press on. He’s too good of a rapper to be set down for good by Pimp’s death. But they’ll always have Ridin’ Dirty. I’ve been playing “One Day” all day long since hearing about Pimp’s death and it has only gotten more resonant since I first heard it. One day, you’re here baby....

And then you're gone...

(This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Janet O’Keefe, who passed on Thanksgiving this year. She was an amazing, kind and sweet woman and I truly loved her. She will be missed. Rest In Peace, Grandma. I love you.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

One Day You're Here Baby....

R.I.P. Chad Butler. You will be missed. The Greatest Southern Producer Of All-Time.