06 Spit: Top Hip Hop Albums
#2 – Tha Alkaholiks- Firewater- Ho hum, Tha Liks put out a flawless CD, complete with funny punchlines and metaphors, bangin’ beats, and tales of drinking. The same formula from the first four Liks’ CD makes their farewell release a classic. J-Ro, Tash, and E-Swift, bring in Danger Mouse for some of the production and E-Swift handles the bulk of the rest. “The Flute Song” and “Chaos” are standout tracks. Guests include King-Tee, Stylistic Jones, and Bishop Lamont, but no Xzibit (it’s touched on the CD that’s there no beef with X.) Highlight: “Handle It” finds the crew spitting over the old Rodney O and Joe Cooley beat “Everlasting Bass.” J-Ro even pays homage to the old track with the bar “Yo the bass is in the place, sho' nuff shrugged your face, like R. Kelly gettin sprayed with a can of mace.”
#3 – Lupe Fiasco- Food and Liquor- The Chicago MC debuts with an album worthy of all the critical praise it’s been receiving. Whether touching on skateboarding on “Kick, Push”, outshining Jay-Z on “Pressure” or tackling social ills and conspiracy on “American Terrorist,” Lupe stays on point, consistent, and lyrically deep. Guest appearances are really limited, and the production (Kayne West) and beats are perfectly suited for Lupe’s style. Highlight: Without a doubt it’s the track “Daydreamin’” featuring Jill Scott on the hook. Lupe’s second verse is a sarcastic commentary on a “typical” rap video shoot, one in which he asks a model “please put her titties closer to the 22s.”
#4 – Ghostface Killah- Fishscale- Wu’s Tony Starks hits hard with his first 2006 release, complete with old school Wu beats, a wealth of Wu associates, drug tales, and old school reminiscing. The Just Blaze track “The Champ” finds a Rocky-inspired narrative on taking back Ghost’s place among the elite, how he hasn’t had it since Supreme Clientele, plus the ill line “Im James Bond in the Octagon.” Other producers include J Dilla, and Pete Rock, who produces the bouncy “Be Easy” where Ghost regales in taunting those with “fake frowns” and advises then to “sell em on eBay.” It also has something that I haven’t enjoyed in years: a good filler skit (“Bad Mouth Kid”) Highlight: The track “9 Milli Brothers” brings together all of the Wu-Tang clan, including ODB, over a delicious MF Doom beat...a Wu-Tang track at it’s finest.
#5 – Jedi Mind Tricks- Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell- Vinnie Paz and Stoupe are back hard with perhaps the most socially conscious album of 2006. The group touches on the Iraq war, the administration, slave and child labor, and religious strife. Of course, Vinnie Paz has some personal introspection on “Before the Great Collapse” which is essentially a suicide note to his mother. Stoupe produces his calling card string-driven melodic beats, some of which makes you feel as if you are sitting at a symphony. Guests include Ill Bill, Sean Price, and Chief Kamachi. Highlight: One of the few times I can remember a song dealing with the Vietnam War is “Uncommon Valor.” R.A. The Rugged Man spits the year’s absolute top verse, weaving a complex and flowing narrative of a soldier’s and vet’s life.
#6 – Mr. Lif- Mo Mega- The top label in Hip Hop, Def Jux, gave us their best release of 2006. El-P spins the signature Def Jux sounds throughout most of the album, including the intricate title track that features Acrobatix and Blueprint. The track follows a young MC as he grows up through a abusive family, a jail stint, and the tough NYC streets. Lif isn’t all serious though, he spits an old school sex track on “Long Distance” and urges all women to “Washitup!” Murs makes an appearance as Lif’s PR rep on “Murs Iz My Manager;” a humorous account of trying to get on a track with Al Gore, how he actually put Kanye “up to saying all that,” and securing a “ghostwriting job for Ben Affleck.” Highlight: The Def Jux posse cut “Take, Hold, Fire” with El-P and Aesop Rock.
#7 – Method Man- 4:21 The Day After- This is the album that Method Man fans have been waiting for since 1995. The word that keeps coming up when describing this album is Meth is once again hungry. Wu cameos include ODB, Raekwon, Rza, and Inspectah Deck, as well as a few Erick Sermon produced tracks. The requisite Redman collabo “Walk On” finds the How High duo flipping it back and forth for six verses. “Ya Meen” is another hot collabo with a decent verse from Fat Joe and an absolute ill verse from Styles P (“You don't like me, you can get what's right above the testicles, S.P., turn your top five into vegetables.”) Even the radio single, “Say” with Lauryn Hill is a catchy track with a bit of the ol’ 95 Mary J vibe. Highlight: The Rza produced “Presidential MC” shines with Rza and Rae wordplay, a hot track that will leave many reaching for their Wu-Tang translator.
#8 – Ghostface Killah- More Fish- Two albums in one calender year on a Best Of list? Probably hasn't been done since the early Rakim days, but if any part of the Hip Hop game could pull it off, it's Ghost. This album dusts off the more underground producers: Madlib, more MF Doom (looking forward to that full length collabo in 07), Hi-Tek, and even Mark Ronson. It also highlights much of Ghost's crew, the Theodore Unit. One of those members is Sun God, also known as Ghostface's son. Redman guests on the melodic "Greedy Bitches" and the Lox's Sheek Louch kicks a fierce verse on "Blue Armor." Absent from the disc are any Wu members sans Cappadonna, but that gives members of Ghost's crew to shine. Highlight: The opening tack "Ghost Is Back," one of the few solo Ghost tracks. Ghost kicks it mixtape style over the 1992 Eric B & Rakim joint "Know The Ledge (Juice)"
#9 – Murs and 9th Wonder- Murray’s Revenge- The only thing that holds this album back is the fact that it’s only 10 tracks long and 30 minutes in length. Otherwise, Murs and 9th Wonder weave a great disc complete with LA life, sex and love, and raw lyricism. The track “Dark Skin White Girls” at first listen seems a bit campy, but it is actually a great tale of a young girl caught in between two cultures. “LA” is a tour of Los Angeles with Murs highlighting all his favorite haunts, big upping the Chucks and Khaki culture. “Dreamchaser” recounts Murs days coming up on the LA streets. Make no mistake, Murs isn’t claiming any set, he doesn’t flaunt any gangster image, he simply reps great music. Highlight: “I understand that you broke, you tryin to get money, but you don't start gangbangin in your mid-20's” Murs bellows to all the studio gansters on the track “Murray’s Law.”
#10 - Lord Jamar- The 5% Album- The Brand Nubian member brings forth his debut CD just a mere 17 years after his group's initial blast. No worries though, as Jamar (who many of you may know from his role on HBO's Oz as Supreme Allah) preaches over most of the CD. The Gods, Suns, Earths, Mathematics, Ciphers, and The Nation are all covered on the various tracks. Jamar breaks it down in simple terms on tracks like "Supreme Mathematics" and "Study Ya Lessons." Guests include his Nubian chorts, Sadat X and Grand Puba, as well Wu's Raekwon and Rza. Beat wise, you won't find many hard-hitting bangers like In God We Trust, but more mellow, non-complex music to match Jamar's melding of 5% ideology and Hip Hop. On "Advance The Game" they do let the beat drop, as Jamar challenges so-called MCs: "How many murders can you do on one album? Put em all together, must've did 1000." Highlight: A 90 pg booklet about the Nation Of Gods And Earths, more commonly known as the 5% Nation.
#11 - The Game- Doctor's Advocate- If you're looking for a classic, hard-core, West Coast rap album, this is the one for you. With Dr. Dre not affliated with this project at all, the Game seemed to have stepped his rep up even higher, spitting strong and passionate verses and clever punchlines. The all-star lineup of big dog producers (Scott Storch, Will.i.Am, Kanye West, Just Blaze) seems to embolden The Game. "Its Okay (One Blood)" the lead single, is a banging track with Dancehall legend Junior Reid chanting the chorus. The stripped down "Compton" is just what the title implies, a rugged trek through the infamous 'hood. Guest artists read like the West Coast hall of fame: Xzibit, Snoop, the Dogg Pound, and Nate Dogg. Highlight: The Hi-Tek produced "Ol' English" in which Game big ups the tattoo font, the malt liquor, and the LA gang culture he came up in.
Others Receiving Votes:
Masta Killa- Made In Brooklyn- The Song "Iron God Chamber" is reason enough to cop this CD from one of Wu-Tang's "lesser" members. Strong production and guest appearances from most of the Wu.
Dialated Peoples- 20/20- LA's underground kings bring a strong CD, Raaka and Evidence are joined by Defari and Talib Kweli amomg others. DJ Babu's cuts are always the highlight of their albums, and this has that throughout the tracks.
Soul Postion- Things Go Better With RJ And Al- One producer (RJD2) and one MC (Blueprint) make this a solid, flowing album. On "No Gimmicks" Blueprint kicks: "no slogans, no 20 inch rims rollin, no gold fronts, no publicity stunts."
Clipse- Hell Hath No Fury- It's easy to hate on Pharrell, but he puts together a great Sophmore album with the VA Pyrex duo. As far as radio play songs go, "Wamp, Wamp" is one of the few that gets love even from the underground.
People Under The Stairs- Stepfather- This LA-based duo keep it real simple: bare tracks, tight lyrics, and a relaxed pace throughout. Highlight tracks include "Pass the 40" and "Letter to the Old School."