Top 25 Albums of 2007

posted December 18, 2007 12:00:00 AM CST | 239 comments

DX enthusiasts, loyal readers, passer bys, haters, and baby mama’s, it’s that time of the year again. ’07 is nearly in the can and it’s safe to round up our favorites. This year the list was decided by audio guru Joel "Shake" Zela, Gotdamn Editor-In-Chief Andreas Hale, wunderkind Jake Paine and myself (code name: J-23). It may have taken 7291 emails to reach a conclusion, but we’re here. Sure, we’re missing some great stuff but you’ve gotta draw the line somewhere. So we drew it, here are the 25 albums we feel you should have bought (yeah, right) in 2007.

P.S. In order of their release date, in case you’re wondering.

Sean Price – Jesus Price Supastar

What We Said Then: “The artist formerly known as Ruck returns on 2007 as our savior, Jesus Price Supastar. With the Justus League’s 9th Wonder and Khrysis handling the bulk of the albums production again it takes on a familiar feel of P slapping around bitch ass rappers over soulful backdrops. It works best on joints like the 9th Wonder produced, Skyzoo assisted You Already Know, or Tommy Tee’s throbbing Church featuring the Loudmouf Choir.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: More or less, this is Monkey Barz 2. The "is this really Ruck?" factor wore off, but the dope rhymes and stick-up-rapper element still kept me interested. "Hearing Aid" might be Khrysis' best beat to date, as Sean Price used his revamped popularity to push Duck Down into uncharted waters - going beyond Brooklyn in so many ways. The success story of ‘05 isn’t going anywhere. Rating Now: 4/5 – Jake Paine

Black Milk – Popular Demand

What We Said Then: “From the Bomb Squad-style in-your-face assault of Sound the Alarm (featuring Guilty Simpson) and the head-bobbing syncopated funkiness of Insane to the string-laden soul of the cinematic Shut It Down and the double dutch handclaps and jazzy bassline of the rollicking Watch ‘Em (featuring Que Diesel and Fat Ray), the album leaves no doubt that Black Milk is one of the most promising up ‘n’ coming producers on the hip-hop scene.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: In short, “Sound the Alarm” STILL bangs from my speakers. And after nine months, an album with Aftermath’s Bishop Lamont and countless bangers with Pharoahe Monch, Guilty Simpson and more; I’m convinced that Black Milk is the real deal. Proving doubters he’s not just a Dilla clone, he’s creating his own lane and pushing the petal to the floor. The 4/5 stands but don’t be surprised if he pulls a 5 out with a future project! – Joel Zela

Evidence – The Weatherman LP

What We Said Then: “Overall, the album has a good number of standout tracks that will interest a majority of the independent hip-hop fans, especially the Alchemist and Slug tracks, where Evidence seems at his most honest and most hungry.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: Evidence has never been the most dynamic lyricist, his voice drones after a while and his beats generally sound pretty similar. Needless to say I wasn’t expecting much from an entire album of just him, boy was I wrong. The Weatherman LP featured some of the year’s best production from The Alchemist, a great guest list and Ev really spreading his wings as an artist. Most definitely a 4 out of 5. – J-23

El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

What We Said Then: El-P's hyper-intelligent paranoia raps are every bit as cinematic and affecting as his 2025 post-apocolypse New York soundtracks. Decipher it as you may, but I'll Sleep When You're Dead is such an incredibly fitting title, for reasons you can’t even really articulate.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: El-P has always had one song on every album that sticks with me. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead followed on the complete-creativity seen with Cage’s Hell’s Winter as another ‘90s underground non-conformist caters to hipsters and hardcore Hip Hoppers with an album that challenges Lil’ Wayne and Juelz on its “can’t feel my face” factor. I’d never play it for anybody besides myself, in headphones or alone in the whip, but El-Producto became El-Super-Producario with some help from his friends. Rating Now: 4.5/5 – Jake Paine

Devin The Dude – Waiting To Exhale

What We Said Then: “For really, rappers just don’t get more likable than The Dude. On his classic Who’s That Man, Moma? he told us “look at these balls, they’re so big/the hairs on’em look like two big old afro wigs,” a line made infinitely funnier when heard with his sleepy, smoked out drawl.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: I'll always love a rapper who rhymes about the problems of a Blues singer: weed, wine and women. Although it falls short of the classic Just Tryin' Ta Live in timelessness and originality, Devin, a modest, blue-collar emcee, really stood out in his state and the state of Hip Hop. "What A Job" belongs on the concrete definitive 2007 playlist. Rating Now: 4/5 – Jake Paine

Redman – Red Gone Wild

What We Said Then: “Don’t be foolish enough to expect any new and improved Reggie Noble, he may not be permanently clad in a bubble goose, timbs and a tissue stuck up his nose that PPP shit, but Red Gone Wild is still some good ol’ Brick City mashin.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: This album was the first Redman effort that worked without the visual aid of dope videos. Though I'm forever bound to Reggie Noble over Erick Sermon production, "Put It Down" deserved to be the single, as Redman (along with Ghost) were the artists that upheld the Def Jam name in '07, despite fickle marketing budgets. A great set-up for Gilla House to be Jersey’s Theodore Unit. Rating Now: 4/5 – Jake Paine

Brother Ali – The Undisputed Truth

What We Said Then: “The Undisputed Truth comes at a pivotal moment for Hip Hop, as honest music is becoming as rare as a snowless winter in Minneapolis. Just as critical, in this day and age of manufactured, one-dimensional rappers with the depth of a cardboard cutout, Brother Ali is the genuine article in every sense of the term.” Rating: 5

What We Say Now: What else can I say that my comrade J-23 hasn’t already spoken on? Brother Ali has the album of the year as far as I’m concerned. Ali + ANT = Perfection. The truth is definitely here. 5/5. – Joel Zela

Joell Ortiz – The Brick

What We Say Now: “Ortiz definitely shows that there still is plenty of talent in the game right now. The only thing that bricked this time around was the album’s title. The rhymes were all net. Didn’t KRS once ask ‘who’s got next?’” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: It isn’t often that a guy comes around who can spit like Joell; just pure lyrical ferocity. Don’t expect to see his Aftermath album anytime…ever, so keep this one within close reach. The production isn’t anything to write home about, but this is still a 4 cause the lyrics are that good. –J-23

Marco Polo – Port Authority

What We Said Then: “The real gem here has to be The Radar with one of hip hop’s all-time great producers in Large Professor on the mic. If you weren’t sure Marco was a dedicated student of the game, just listen to how well he channels Extra P on the boards here, crazy shit.” Rating: 3.5

What We Say Now: With a line up boasting the likes of Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, Largo Pro (on the mic!), OC and more, hopes were high. From the “hip hop is not dead” callings on the intro to the left field J*Davey finish, PA is hip hop. Though it’s not the classic I’d hoped for it’s definitely worth the purchase. 4/5. – Joel Zela

KRS-One & Marley Marl – Hip Hop Lives

What We Said Then: “Hip hop these days really isn't much different than a Happy Meal; cheaply manufactured, mass-produced, no nutrition, childish, full of gimmicks and unsatisfying, fake beef. 20 years ago, before the game became likened to the Golden Arches, Hip hop's beef was slow cooked and left you drooling for more. In those days, if you tried to sit at the table with KRS One, you got ate.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: Truth be told, Kris and Marley uniting nearly 20 years later looked better on paper than it truly sounded. Though Marley could have retooled some kicks and snares for some nostalgia sake, this album got Kris the attention he deserves, and reminded me that Koch does more than Dipset lately. After a bunch of rushed releases, this is arguably the most meaningful album since Tha Teacha left Jive, and a really elaborate press campaign (50 interviewing KRS) brought me in further. Rating Now: 4/5 – Jake Paine

Pharoahe Monch – Desire

What We Said Then: “A title like Desire can be taken in any number of ways. One way is to assume he is alluding to his desire to create timeless art. When so much music is just churned out in the interest of making a quick buck, it is impossible not to take notice when an artist of this caliber displays their craft at the highest level.” Rating: 4.5

What We Say Now: When I first heard Desire I took the role of a “new” fan. Rather than bitching and moaning about not having this 10 years ago, I popped the disc in with no expectations. Consensus: Pharoahe is dope! J-23 hit the nail on the head by saying “other” rappers need to step their fucking games up. 4.5/5 – Joel Zela

Common – Finding Forever

What We Said Then: “Finding Forever is in some ways a follow up to Be, but in some ways it’s also what Be should have been. In hindsight especially, Be lacked a real edge in the latter half of the album and drifted into boredom. Finding Forever doesn’t suffer from that affliction, and the slower joints are among the best of the LP.” Rating: 4.5

What We Say Now: After a few months I’ve come to realize Finding Forever wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. It just so happened to be a good album amongst a stale Hip Hop scene. Common’s lyrics at times are poignant (“Start The Show” and “The Game”) and other times it feels like he’s on cruise control (“Break My Heart” and “I Want You”). Compared to some of the better releases this year, it doesn’t hold up and it’s replay value is diminished. I’ve gotta knock this one back to a 4 out of 5. – Andreas Hale

UGK – Underground Kingz

What We Said Then: “Truth is, if UGK had cut their output in half, they would have had the true definition of a ‘classic’ long player on their hands. Ultimately, what UGK is a real contender for 2007 album of year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: A double disc suffers the same problem it did in 1998 – a little too much fat on the steak. But with so much to say after so long apart, I never excused it more than with UGK’s swan song. “International Player’s Anthem” drew so many in, but this album really had a carefully constructed theme and reintroduction to the kiddies. With Gang Starr, Pete & CL and so many duos going out with beef and bitterness, UGK not only surprised charts, it was a role model to Hip Hop. I’m proud to look at this beauty on my CD tower in the box-set slot with The Temptations and Rolling Stones. Pimp C’s tragic death makes this disc the one for historians to begin with in their truest understanding of slab genius. Rating Now: 4.5/5 – Jake Paine

Talib Kweli – Eardrum

What We Said Then: “There is still room for improvement, but this largely the album from Kweli that everyone has been waiting for. He sticks to production that fits his style rather than try and force himself outside of the box, and pens an album full of lyrics that remove any doubt as to why he has the reputation that he does.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: To be honest, I wasn’t expecting greatness with Eardrum. I was dead wrong. Talib delivers in every way shape and form. After the shock that hit me over Talib picking a production team and sound that actually WORKS I’m still blown away. I’d bump this to 4.5/5. – Joel Zela

Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

What We Said Then: “Labor Days is easily the crowd favorite and there is nothing here that can touch Daylight or No Regrets, but there are also isn’t three snoozers here anchoring down the last half of the album. Time will tell which body of work is better, for now, just enjoy one of 2007’s dopest albums.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: I’m still in a trance from the hypnotic beat of the title track. Aesop Rock is an acquired taste, but if you sit and analyze him long enough, you too will realize that None Shall Pass is way ahead of its time. Ghostface’s melanin deficient brother from another mother to has done it again – even if you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about until listen 77,627. The 4 out of 5 stands – Andreas Hale 

Blu & Exile – Below The Heavens

What We Said Then: “While “keeping it real” seems to be the “cool” thing to do with most rappers, Blu does this simply because he wants his story to be heard. Comfortable enough in his own skin, he lays it ALL out there … not just concentrating on the extremes.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: Sometimes an album falls into your lap and you look up and thank God for blessing you with it. Below The Heavens is one of those albums. Don’t know where to get it (legally) so this is one of those times I thank the digital gods for bootlegging and file sharing. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have heard of Blu and one of the finest debut albums in years. Easily a 4. – Andreas Hale 

Kanye West – Graduation

What We Said Then: “Graduation was built around a concept that Kanye wanted an album to sound good while he performed in front of tens of thousands in huge arenas with ear popping sound systems. Production wise, Kanye accomplishes this for the most part. Big sounding production sprinkled with synthesizers is prevalent throughout the album and accomplishes exactly what Kanye set out to do.” Rating: 4.5

What We Say Now: It isn’t flawless by any means, but even a few months later I think this one is going down as a classic. I can’t put my finger on it, the album has just got that special feelings to it. Say what you want about Kanye, but more artists need to care about their music as much as he does. I’ll call it a 5 now and get ahead of the curve. – J-23

Little Brother – Getback

What We Said Then: “Without 9th anchoring the album, it most definitely has a different feel. Not anything too radical, but surely more dynamic. I would rank it somewhere between The Minstrel Show and The Listening at this point, but we’ll see how it plays in time. Either way, whomever, whatever or where ever they were getting back, they got it.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: After a few months of bumping Getback, I realize that LB didn’t need 9th Wonder to craft a fantastic album. With Phonte staking claim as today’s finest everyman emcee and Big Pooh shutting down naysayers who questioned his ability (check his verses on “Sirens” and “After The Party” for proof), Little Brother is the group everyone will appreciate long after their gone. The honesty, humor and knack for weaving interesting concepts with exceptional lyricism forces me to bump that 4 to a 4.5.

Jay-Z – American Gangster

What We Said Then: “Where this ranks amongst Jay’s catalogue will be determined as time passes. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it has a quality that should resonate into something special. Maybe he said it best himself a decade ago; ‘last year when niggas thought it was all up/this year, I did it again…Jigga, what the fuck?!?’” Rating: 4.5

What We Say Now: As one of the few people who really liked Kingdom Come, I have to say that I was pleased with Jay-Z’s drastic gearshift on American Gangster. The rise and fall of the drug dealer is a tale few can weave as intricate as Hov. It was as if he was showing today’s dopeboy rappers that this is how it should be done on record. The lyrics, the production, the concepts are all on point – although I have come to realize that I hate Hello Brooklyn. The 4.5 sustains in my book. – Andreas Hale 

Statik Selektah – Spell My Name Right

What We Said Then: “It’s a rarity to find an all-star cast like this on any album, particularly these days. Spell My Name Right has the distinction of being one of the very few hip hop compilation albums that works as well in practice as it looks on paper, making it definitely worth your while.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: I don’t think there was a more pleasant surprise this year than Statik’s debut album. Everyone knew he was a good mixtape DJ, but to produce a full album this good? He really set himself apart from his peers with this one. 4 out of 5. – J-23

Freeway – Free At Last

What We Said Then: “Though the exceptional outside contributions make it easy to do so, overlooking Freeway’s own performance would be criminal. His freewheeling, high-octane flow continues to contribute as much musicality as his producers’ beats.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: Freeway is a bit of an acquired taste, and really, I only listened to his debut for the red hot production. So with no Just or Ye this time? I was barely interested. Free improved 10 fold and the producers filled in admirably for the Roc stars. I may lean a little closer to a 3.5, but 4 isn’t a stretch at all. – J-23

Cunninlynguists – Dirty Acres

What We Said Then: “Much like A Piece of Strange, Dirty Acres is increasingly refined and mature. The clowning around on Will Rap For Food and Southernunderground is all but gone, as are the up-tempo beats. Gone are fire filled tracks like The South, replaced by a serious and often somber tone.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: “Note to the industry: STOP SLEEPING ON KNO! Dirty Acres is a beautifully produced piece of work that is recommended for anyone who loves good music. Say what you want about Deacon and Natti, but front on Kno and I may be forced to fight you. Sooner or later someone will take notice of Cunninlynguists’ run of great albums. Dirty Acres gets a 4.25 from me. I know it doesn’t exist but that’s what these columns are for and dammit I’m the editor!” – Andreas Hale

Ghostface Killah – The Big Doe Rehab

What We Said Then: It’s not very difficult to track the path of Ghost's success – it all comes down to consistency. Whereas his Wu brethren’s albums saw a great drop in quality after their debuts, nearly every one of Ghost’s albums has lived up to his potential. With his raw lyricism, storytelling ability and charisma, it is ultimately his tremendous ear for beats that has carried him” Rating: 4.5

What We Say Now: The only guarantees in life are supposed to be taxes and tombstones. 7 albums deep and it looks like Ghost is trying to add his name to that ol’ adage. Pretty Tony knocks’em out the box every time, and Big Doe is his best work in a decade. Ironman indeed, easy 4.5. – J-23

Scarface – M.A.D.E.

What We Said Then: “Back with longtime label Rap-A-Lot, Scarface treads plenty of familiar territory; murder, drugs, ho’s, money, love, pain. Doesn’t sound like the most appetizing menu, but when one of hip hop’s greatest lyricists and storytellers is the one cooking it up, best believe you’ll be satisfied.” Rating: 4

What We Say Now: Like KRS-One, 'Face is a man of contradictions - a Muslim who never turns his back on Jesus. A loyal Rap-A-Lot emcee who's always in search of a better deal. Though it falls light-years short of The Fix, this is an album that provided streetcorner wisdom from a name you can trust, as “Girl U Know” and “Never” became the biggest singles of fourth quarter ‘07 that radio expectedly ignored without any reason. This one has longer play than most of rap’s disposable art as of late. Rating Now: 4/5 – Jake Paine

Lupe Fiasco – The Cool

What We Said Then: “As far as narratives go, there aren’t many who can claim the same space of storytelling superiority as Fiasco. The Cool plays out like a novel filled with short stories that relate to each other in some way, shape or form.” Rating: 4.5

What We Say Now: Hard to give any real retrospect to this one, given I’ve had it for all of a week. But yeah…I think dude can rhyme. He’s the Junior Monster of the Double Entendre. Great fucking album, 4.5. – J-23

What's your top 25?

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