It's been a pretty interesting year for hip-hop music in my opinion. Lots of diverse projects came out to shake music industry a little bit. Too much anything gets old after awhile, so I enjoy when the "Industry Shakedown" (as my man Bumpy Knuckles would say) type music projects come about. A lot of the fickle "I like sh** to stay the same" type rap fans avoid the more diverse hip-hop artists that dwell on the underground circuit like smelling somebody's vomit. Then they complain that hip-hop music sucks in 2006 because they have limited selections to choose from. Whenever I share a list of my top music choices for the year, I realize that most people probably haven't actually heard many of the projects that I present. That's a good thing though. It gives folks that may have missed out on this hip-hop goodness something to check for later. People maybe shocked that many of the more popular rap albums didn't make my list? That's because I don't pick albums just because they went platinum or that everyone else is saying they're the best. What's the best to you may not be the best to me and vice versa! As far as I am concerned, it's all about artistic expression. Of course the music has to be good too though. I know I haven't heard every hip-hop album that has dropped in 2006, so I realize that there are probably some other candidates that could have made this list that I didn't get around to hearing. If so, tell me about them. It's never too late to catch up on some good music. Also, I do a TOP 20 list instead of the normal Top 10 chumpy that many others do. There was just too much good music to limit myself to only 10 choices dammit!
Oh yeah, as far as the order of this list of hip-hop projects is concerned ...don't worry about it too much because I didn't. Just know that all of the projects had there share of spins in the whip this year, and I rotated through all of them at one time or another. This list consist of albums, compilations & mixtape CD releases.
BEST HIP-HOP PROJECTS OF 2006
01 - J DILLA - THE SHINING: Jay-Dee was definitely ahead of his time when it comes to being an artist. From playing instruments, to producing dope tracks, discovering talent, making others better and setting trends, Jay Dee could do it all. Some folks think that his legendary status has only evolved because of his untimely death, but the reality is he was a living legend before he died. This album is an underground classic in my book, even if it was slept on by the masses. The Shining is a true example of what hip-hop could be.
02 - DJ DRAMA & LITTLE BROTHER - SEPARATE, BUT EQUAL MIXTAPE: Personally, I am not a big fan of mixtapes. In most cases there is entirely too much DJ jaw-jacking and not enough dope tracks. This mixtape is the exception though. Not only are the tracks doper than dope, but they actually flow well in this mix. Actually, some of the tracks should have placed on an LB album instead of having them scattered on a mixtape, but it's damn sure better than nothing!
03 - DE LA SOUL - IMPOSSIBLE MISSION PART 1 MIXTAPE: De La Soul is one of the most underrated hip-hop groups in the industry. I can't understand why. They have lyrics, flow, chemistry and creativity, but I guess since they've been in the business for almost 20 years some folks think that they've lost there step. Nope! This mixtape came out of no where. It's a nice mixture of unreleased older tracks and some new ones as well. The best thing about it is there is no big mowf DJ yelling over every track about nothing.
04 - THE ROOTS - GAME THEORY: I am big Roots fan, so I hold them at a very high standard on every official release. They have experienced some experimental musical missteps over their years in my opinion, but their worst is better than most. This joint has solid lyrics and solid production. The complete hip-hop package!
05 - GHOSTFACE KILLAH - FISHSCALE: Ghost is the only member of the Wu that I give a damn about at the moment. All of Ghostface's albums have been great by my standards, but he seems to be getting better as the years pass us by. I enjoy his extravagant-exaggerated wordplay, plus his interesting beat choices. Fishscale is the right title for this joint, because this album is definitely hip-hop crakk!
06 - GHOSTFACE KILLAH - MORE FISH: When I realized Ghost was releasing a second album in the same year, I figured it was just a bunch of leftover crap from Fishscale that didn't make the cut. Nope! Ghostface used this album to highlight some of the members of his crew The Theodore Unit. This joint is almost better than Fishscale (if that's possible). How come Ghostface can release a two dope albums in one year, while most others can't create a halfway decent album in 3 years? He has single handedly put the Wu on his back.
07 - NAS - HIP-HOP IS DEAD: Nas is a pioneer and he deserves his respect, but his previous release (Street Disciples) was hot garbage at best! A big let down for his fans, but he seems to have found his way back from the grave with this new release. Expressing his true feelings about the state of hip-hop, Nas seems focused about his message this time around. This album is hip-hop music with true knowledge and substance, which has definitely been missing in hip-hop these days. I'm glad to see Nasir is back on his game again.
08 - NICOLAY - HERE: When I think of hypnotic beats, the first producer I think about is Nicolay. After meeting him in person, I realize that he is a very humble dude from the Netherlands that is just glad that people like his music. I don't think he's realized his genius just yet? His beats are well-developed and thickly-layered, instead of the typical repeat sampling techniques that have saturated the production scene these days. This album is full of guest appearances from underground artists showcasing their talents over Nic's production. Lookout for his artists like Black Spade and Kay. They'll be coming your way real soon.
09 - JAY-Z - KINGDOM COME: Talk about one of the most anticipated albums of the year! Jay's return back to game definitely shook up the music industry, but could his album live up to hype? In my opinion it definitely did. No, it's a Reasonable Doubt, but it would be almost impossible to duplicate a classic like that. Actually, Jay is no longer that dude in 2006. He's a true celebrity/businessman now. Less gutter and more polish this time around, but I still enjoyed it. Jay is still one of the best that ever did it!
10 - LUPE FIASCO - FOOD & LIQUOR: I heard this kat's name over the last couple of years, but I never paid him any attention. When I heard the track "Kick, Push" I was a fan. Lupe has that 90's feel to his music with nice wordplay and catchy themes. Folks may clown on his clothing choices, but you can't deny his rhyming ability.
11 - TANYA MORGAN - MOONLIGHTING: Here is another dope group and album that has been totally slept on by damn near everyone! Don't get it twisted though, this is not a female solo artist. It's a 3 man rap crew! This album is fun to listen to, because these dudes don't take themselves that serious. Plus, they actually clown on the artists that are full of themselves. I found myself laughing out loud on some of their songs, but these katz ain't no joke though.
12 - KENN STARR - STARR STATUS: Reppin' the Low Budget Crew, Kenn Starr is nice emcee. This album is one of those joints you just throw in the deck and just let it play. The vibe of this album is mellow, but it definitely kept my head bobbin'!
13 - MURS & 9TH WONDER - MURRAY'S REVENGE: On the solo tip, I am not really a big Murs fan. It's strange, but for some reason when he works with 9th Wondra (9th Wonder) he seems sounds much better to me. Kinda like when CL Smooth rhymes over Pete Rock beats. This is the second release from the duo, and it's just as dope as the first one. Murs transforms his simple escapades into hip-hop adventures when he spits them over 9th's beats.
14 - BOOT CAMP CLIK - THE LAST STAND: BBC was ish back in the 90's! Blackmoon, Smif-N-Wessun, Helter Skelter..come on playa, can't front on their impact in the hip-hop game. Even with years of being missing in action for the most part, they came back hard like trying to listen to Nasir's "Street Disciple" double album without hitting skip button several times. Now, that's HARD!!
15 - THE CLIPSE - HELL HATH NO FURY: The Clipse seem to be limited to drug story telling for the most part, but it actually wasn't their lyrics that got them a spot on my Top 20 list. It was actually the production that moved this album out of the "Just Another Crappy Crime Album" into the "These Tracks Are Musical Crakk" category! Pharell and them boys set the Clipse off with something real nice on the beat tip this time around. Definitely, a head-banger!
16 - OH NO - EXODUS INTO UNHEARD RHYTHMS: Oh No is a dope producer. Even being Madlib's younger brother has not intimidated one bit. He challenged himself this time around by making his beats for this album only using samples from the great composer Galt MacDermot. When I first found out Oh No was only sampling MacDermot, I thought it was going to be a total disaster. I was totally wrong! With guest appearances from artists like Buckshot, Planet Asia, Wordsworth & Jean Grae, this could be a future classic.
17 - HI-TEK - HI-TEKNOLOGY 2: Hi-Tek & Talib Kweli (Reflection Eternal) go together like peanut butter and jelly, but when they parted ways I began to wonder would happen to Hi-Tek's career? Following in the footsteps of his first solo release a few years ago. This compilation is full of hip-hop bangers that can't be overlooked. Now, that Reflection Eternal has been resurrected to some degree, I hope their new album will make my 2007 Top 20 hip-hop list.
18 - STYLES P - TIME IS MONEY: I have been a fan of the Lox for awhile. Jada is definitely my a favorite from the group, but Holiday Styles is definitely a close second when it comes to mic skills! I like his straight-laced delivery and wordplay. The kat is no doubt gifted with the gift of gab, but this time around his production on point as well. Even though this album snuck up on the hip-hop headz in the late part of the fourth quarter, I hope it finally gives P the recognition he deserves.
19 - GNARLS BARKLEY - ST. ELSEWHERE: Gnarls Barkley (Cee-Lo & DJ Dangermouse) is like the hip-hop version of the Adam's Family. Strange and kooky are two adjectives that I use to describe them. These dudes seem strange by many hip-hop standards, but it was difficult for me to ignore their sound. Some asked, "Is this even hip-hop?" Hell yeah, in rare form too. I dig GB, and I love the way they pushed the boundaries of what hip-hop is and what it can become. I actually took me a few listens to totally appreciate and digest this album, so I can understand if the project is not your thing.
20 - THE GAME - THE DOCTOR'S ADVOCATE: The Game acts like a clown in my opinion, but he's a helluva emcee though. As much as the fake hip-hop critics and the G-Unot stans have crapped all over The Game's every move since his departure from Aftermath, they can front on his lyrical skill. If he could stop beefing with everyone and cease the wack publicity stunts trying to gain useless attention, The Game could be a force to reckon with on the Westcoast. Most counted him out without Dre and 50 on his team, but he quieted the doubters. I still like The Documentary better, but The D.A. is a very solid album by many standards.
Okay, I'm done! If I left some other projects off that deserve to be on this list in your opinion, let me know. Maybe, I didn't get a chance to hear it?