Public Enemy #1: AllHipHop’s Year End Spotlight

What a year! 2007 will probably go down as one of the strangest, loudest, most interesting years that Hip-Hop has ever gone through.  The highs of many comebacks. The lows of fleeting record sales and dropped artists. A host of collaborations both expected and non-traditional.  Khaled was the BESSST!!! The Hip-Hop cops were the worst.  We lost Stack Bundles. We lost Pimp C. Some of us lost our minds.50 and Kanye fought for stylistic supremacy, while Common did it for the people. The Wu dropped, KRS-One & Marley Marl dropped, Redman dropped, the Fugees did not. Looked like the 90s were almost back.  Lupe dropped the robots and got cool. Scarface got M.A.D.E. Jay-Z made an album we didn’t know he was still capable of and an apparently Wu’d out Ghostface went to Rehab after Amy refused. Even Styles P after his much ballyhooed radio blowup with 50 got another album to drop. Joe Budden got dropped, according to him on purpose. TI got clipped. Remy got clipped. Akon got clipped. CEOs got clipped (Dee from Ruff Ryders, Cash Money). So much Drama even Drama got clipped.  Hip-Hop was center stage all year. The revolution may not be televised but the Resurrection of Hip-Hop was in full effect on TV, LP and EP (Young Berg), DVD (everybody and they momma) and CD.But in the face of all that was great, once again we returned to the 90s and Hip-Hop was seemingly fully restored in its spot as public enemy number one.  Suddenly the bogeyman was back with beats booming, b*****s with boobs and booties bouncing and  shaking American morality to its core. Bill O’Reilly nightly, Oprah daily. Sharpton and Jackson when the cameras were rolling (what did he think the nizzle in fo’shizzle my nizzle stood for?). Surprisingly even Russell seemed to side with the devil on the censorship issue. Don Imus’s racist ramblings really railroaded Rap. The word N****r became a nuisance and once happy video vixens became crusaders against the maltreatment of women by Hip-Hop.  Didn’t they catch both seasons of Flavor of Love? Was Hip-Hop to blame for society’s ills? School shootings, mall shootings, church shootings. We had it all in 2007, and every attempt was made to attach Hip-Hop to it  in some way or another. Shout to Jason Whitlock whose overzealous crusade to demonize Hip-Hop allowed the logical to see what a ridiculous notion it was. But in an American Landscape where there was a 50% chance a Mormon, a woman, or a Black man could be president, Bin Laden hadn’t dropped a mixtape in a minute, North Korea had too many nukes to bad mouth, and that leaves Hip-Hop squarely in the crosshairs.  We won’t pour more dirt on Killa by mentioning 60 Minutes (no snitch).It’s okay. We’re used to it. The late C. Delores Tucker would be proud. What we have come to realize is that it’s not up to the O’Reillys and the Winfreys and the Sharptons to determine where we go from here.  We hold that power ourselves and our uzi weighs a ton. Without further ado, AllHipHop presents Hip-Hop: Public Enemy #1, the 2007 Year End Wrap-Up.ONES TO GROW ONWhen there is a lack of complete albums, there automatically is a dearth in album cuts. You know, those inspiring and moving songs that jam despite not having a video on TV or a budget YouTube clip. Here are are of the year’s best…

AllHipHop’s 100 Ones To Grow On (zShare, PDF)

BEST MAJOR LABEL ALBUMS

2007 was a damn good year for Hip-Hop music. It’s a longshot to say that Nas’ late 2006 “Hip Hop is Dead” diatribes were the impetus, but for whatever reason, plenty of acts got it together. For those who can only think in categories, Common and Talib Kweli held it down for the conscious set, Jay-Z surprised the Big Willie wannabes via cinematic inspiration and before we lost Pimp C, UGK refused to cede Houston’s time in the rap spotlight. Even Freeway got in on the party with his ridiculously late sophomore effort while Ghostface Killah and Scarface continued to be models of consistency. Here’s our Top Albums, in no particular order in case you’re reading along. Buck the World by Young Buck (G-Unit/Interscope)Underground Kingz by UGK (Jive/Zomba)Desire by Pharoahe Monch (SRC/Motown)Ear Drum by Talib Kweli (Blacksmith/Warner Brothers)Finding Forever by Common (G.O.O.D./Geffen)Graduation by Kanye West (G.O.O.D./Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)American Gangster by Jay-Z (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)MADE by Scarface (Asylum/Rap-A-Lot)Free At Last by Freeway (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella) The Big Doe Rehab by Ghostface Killah (Def Jam)Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool by Lupe Fiasco (Atlantic)BEST INDEPENDENT ALBUMS

Note to Hip-Hop detractors, album sales in music across mutliple genres are down, not just Hip-Hop, you ravioli heads. Seeing that the odds of making enough of a killing at sales registers to recoup those pesky marketing and promotion costs at a major label, the indie route looks pretty nice. The days of Koch being called a graveyard are numbered after all. Here are some under the radar burners that we dug all year, ahem, pause.

Black Hollywood by Camp Lo (Good Hands)Return of the Mac by Prodigy (Koch)How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? By Public Enemy (SlamJamz)I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by El-P (Definitive Jux)Return of the Magnificent by DJ Jazzy Jeff (BBE/Rapster)HoodTREASON by NYOil (PEM/Masta Mix)Popular Demand by Black Milk (Fat Beats)The Offering by Killah Priest (Good Hands)West Coast Vaccine (The Cure) by Turf Talk (Sick Wid It)Below The Heavens by Blu & Exile (Sound In Color)Guilty By Affiliation by WC (Lenchmob Record)Getback by Little Brother (ABB)The Brick by Joell Ortiz (Koch)

BEST PRODUCERSWith all the good music pulsing, there were plenty of sonic architects responsible for the tasty musical vibrations. DJ Toomp abosultely got busy this year, particularly with the work he hooked Kanye West and Jay-Z up with. It makes you wonder what exactly T.I. was thinking. While Polow Da Don took his hands off the white girls enough to hook up Young Buck. The relative sleeper is Danja Handz, who arguably helped Timbaland get his mojo back while hooking up joints for DJ Khaled and T.I.

Kanye West: Common “The People”

, Talib Kweli “In The Mood”

DJ Toomp: Kanye West “Big Brother”, Jay-Z “Say Hello”

Polow Da Don: Young Buck “Get Buck”

, Rich Boy “Let’s Get This Paper”

Danja Handz: T.I. “Hurt”

, DJ Khaled “We Takin Over”

The Alchemist: peep Prodigy’s Return of the Mac

Swizz Beatz: Eve “Tambourine”

, Cassidy “My Drink And My 2 Step”

Timbaland: 50 Cent “Ayo Technology”

, Fabolous “Make Me Better”

Madlib: check Percee P’s Perseverance & Talib Kweli’s Liberation

Sean C & LV: Jay-Z “Roc Boys (The Winners Is)”, Ghostface Killah “We Celebrate”

will.i.am: Common “I Want You”

, Talib Kweli “Hot Thing”

BEST MIXTAPES

The vitality of the mixtape game wasn’t really put in jeopardy by the RIAA and its shenanigans. The real threat is the obscene amount of suspect DJs dropping glorified complilations featuring Lil Wayne outtakes found on every other mixtape on a weekly basis. Quality, not quantity, please. Here are some of our favs.

Liberation by Talib Kweli and MadlibTru York by Tru Life and DJ J-Love The Bar Exam by Royce da 5’9” and DJ PremierBlack Wall Street Radio by Nu Jerzey Devil and DJ Haze Can’t Tell Me Nothing Mixtape by DJ Plain Pat and Kanye WestCalitroit by Black Milk & Bishop LamontMarch 9 by J. PeriodThe Draught 4 by Lil Wayne & DJ KhaledMaster P by Sean PriceShesus Khrist by Remy MaHood Treason V by TermanologyMood Music 3 by Joe BuddenSLEPT ON

So many albums, so little time. If you blinked you might have missed these for various reasons ranging from lack of promotion, indifference at video and radio outlets, regional hate or plain listener malaise. Do yourself a favor and seek these out.

Red Gone Wild by Redman (Def Jam)Port Authority by Marco Polo (Rawkus/Soulspazm)Shock Therapy by Timbaland (Mosely/Blackground/Interscope)Renaissance Music: The Introduction by Rugged Intellect (Expertism)How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? By Public Enemy (SlamJamz) HoodTREASON by NYOil (PEM/Mast Mix)The Last Testament by Plies (Atlantic)Getback by Little Brother (ABB)BIGGEST DISSAPPOINTMENTS

Our rap heroes may try, but they can’t always be perfect. Most times, their stumbles are relative. Case in point, it’s not that Curtis was a wack album. By no means. 50 Cent on an off day is still better than 95 percent of you MySpace rap acts that need to stop, now, please. But when weighed against his back catalog, it just didn’t compare, save for “I Get Money.” Same deal with T.I. As for Chamillionaire, the critics dug it, but it registers just weren’t ringing similar bells. Oh, and we’d still prefer to hear Mos Def rap instead of sing.

True Magic by Mos Def (Geffen) T.I. vs. Tip by T.I. (Grand Hustle/Atlantic) We The Best by DJ Khaled (Terror Squad/Koch)Rap-Murr-Phobia by Keith Murray (Def Squad/Koch)The Kush by Havoc (Nature Sounds) Curtis by 50 Cent (G-Unit/Aftermath/Interscope)Ultimate Victory by Chamillionaire (Universal Motown)Get Money, Stay True by Paul Waul (Asylum)BIGGEST COMEBACKS

Talib Kweli: The Beautiful Struggle was pretty much a dud, but Brooklyn’s own redeemed himself with Liberation and Ear Drum. Bong bong.

Pharoahe Monch: A eight year layoff since Internal Affairs, besides some Diddy ghostwriting, and the ridiculous flow didn’t lose a step.

Polow da Don: Do you remember Jim Crow? Exactly.Bone Thugs N’ Harmony: Hooking up with Swizzy was a good look for these Ohio players.

Jay-Z: Hov has said Kingdom Come was too sophisticated. Yeah, okay. American Gangster is just better.

UGK: The late Pimp C and Bun B rode dirty again for the Soouuuttthhh.BEST NEW ARTISTS

The speed that the Internet offers can make stars out of rappers via clicks on MySpace and YouTube. Whether these artists stand the test of time is a matter of waiting and seeing but for ’07, they were winning.

Rich Boy“Let’s Get This Paper”, “Ghetto Rich” featuring John LegendB.O.B.“Cloud Nine”

, “Haterz” featuring Wes Fif

Joell Ortiz“Hip-Hop”

, “125 Part 3 (Connections)”

Plies”Shawty”

Hurricane Chris”Aye Bay Bay,”

“Hand Clap”

Lil Mama”Lip Gloss”

Gorilla Zoe”Hood N***a”

Soulja Boy”Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)”

TAX WRITE-OFFS

It ain’t nothing personal. Some of these albums, like Redman’s Red Gone Wild were damn good. But the fact that their mention often invoked questions like, “When is it coming out?,” months after their release means their album’s success was an uphill battle, at best. In other cases, like Freekey Zeeky, they could have stood some better “seasoning”.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job by Consequence (G.O.O.D./Red/Sony Urban)We Got This by B.G. and The Chopper City Boyz (Chopper City/Koch)Cold Summer: The Authorized Mixtape by USDA (CTE/Def Jam)Eat or Get Ate by Tum Tum (Universal/T-Town)Back Up in Da Chevy by Boyz N Da Hood (Bad Boy)Freekey Zeeky (Diplomat/Warner Bros.)Young Berg (Epic)Red Gone Wild by Redman (Def Jam)Noreality by N.O.R.E. (Koch)From Nothin’ to Something’ by Fabolous (Def Jam)

GUILTY PLEASURES

Even the staunchest, Soulja Boy decrying Hip-Hop purist couldn’t front on these songs, period.”Throw Some D’s Freestyle” by Kanye West

“Corporate Thuggin’” by USDA

“Cocaine Cowboys” by N.O.R.E.

“Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy

“Wipe Me Down” by Foxx f/ Lil Boosie & Webbie

“Aye Bay Bay” by Hurricane Chris

“Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama

“Make It Rain” by Fat Joe & Lil Wayne

“Freaky Gurl Remix” by Gucci Man

“The Way I Are” by Timbaland f/ D.O.E. & Keri Hilson

CASH IN YOUR FAME RIGHT NOW

Again, this is not personal. So before folks catch feelings, at least hear out our reasoning.

Saigon – only because The Greatest Story Never Told still has not seen the light of day. Cashis – D12 has more anticipation right about now.

Tony Yayo – 50 Cents tax write off, coming soon. (pause)Sean Kingston – like Madonna, soon to be beautiful stranger.Gillie Da Kid  – overcooking that meat (pause, 2x).

Shop Boyz – read this feature, check out the quote about Kurt Cobain, then tell us differently.

Huey — he is/was beefing with Nelly. Nelly. Soulja Boy — we’ll take this back if the next album is classic material. Mims — “I can make a mil saying nothing on a track.” But did he?Jibbs — no explanation necessary.Yung Berg — EP before album wasn’t a bad idea. But there is no album in sight.

Jason Fox — he could have been a contender, if he dropped “Aunt Jackie” in like, 1982.THE YEAR’S BIGGEST RECORDS“Throw Some D’s” by Rich Boy f/ Polow da Don (Zone4/Interscope)

“This is Why I’m Hot” by M.I.M.S. (Capitol/Virgin/EMI)

“I Get Money” by 50 Cent (Shady/G-Unit/Interscope)“I’m So Hood”

& “We Takin’ Over”

by DJ Khaled and the rap world (Koch)“Stronger” by Kanye West (Def Jam)

“Duffle Bag Boy” by Playaz Circle f/ Lil Wayne (DTP/Def Jam)

“It’s Me B*****s” by Swizz Beatz (Universal Motown)

“My Drink And My 2 Step” by Cassidy (J Records)“Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama (Jive)

“Shawty” Plies f/ T-Pain (Atlantic)

BIGGEST COLLABORATIONS“Classic (Remix)” by Kanye West, Nas, KRS-One, and Rakim (Nike)

“Hurt” by T.I. featuring Busta Rhymes and Alfa Mega (Grand Hustle/Atlantic)

“International Player’s Anthem” by UGK featuring Outkast (Jive/Zomba)

“It’s Me B*****s Remix” by Swizz Beatz f/ Lil Wayne & R. Kelly (Universal Motown)

“I’m So Hood Remix” by DJ Khaled and all of Miami (Koch)

“I Get Money Forbes Remix” by 50 Cent f/ Diddy & Jay-Z (G-Unit/Interscope)“Wipe Me Down Remix” by Foxx, Boosie, Webby, Jadakiss, Jim Jones, Fat Joe (Asylum)

“Where Are They Now Remix” by Nas and a lot of old school cats (Def Jam)

THE SAUSAGE AWARD: BAD HIP-HOP BEEFVegans and vegetarians got it right all along. Some of this beef in Hip-Hop, whether genuine or manifest just in time for release week, are downright bad for Hip-Hop’s digestive system. Tru Life/Memphis Bleek vs. The DiplomatsCzar Entertainment vs. Tony YayoHuey Vs. NellyT.I. Vs Chaka ZuluD-Block Vs J Hood50 Cent vs. Cam’Ron & Cam’ron vs. Jim JonesSaigon vs. ProdigyLL Cool J vs. Jay-Z & Jay-Z vs. Joe Buddens & Joe Buddens vs. RansomBut, we’d like to stress that the worst—with a shout out to Boss Up—has got to be…

Superhead vs. Morality

THE YEARS BIGGEST SURPRISES

Pimp C passing awayDJ Drama & The Aphiliates Busted for Hawking MixtapesSoulja Boy as Ringtone KingpinTI Busted by FedsDa Brat arrestedKanye Vs 50 CentDonda West Passing AwayFoxy Brown getting a year in the bingLupe Forgetting ATCQ lyricsJim Jones chilling with 50 CentTony Yayo allegedly slapping up Henchmen’s sonWeezy apologizing for saying he’s better than Jay-ZStack Bundles passing awayJoe Budden Leaving Def JamOprah acknowledging Hip-HopPapoose leaving JiveTHE A-HOLE OF THE YEAR AWARD, henceforth called The Bill O’ReillyBill O’Reilly

Billy Boy was almost outdone by Don Imus, who managed to return to radio and convince the smart dumb cats that his rhetoric was somehow influenced by Snoop Doog. But B.O. couldn’t be knocked off his perch thanks to his astonishment at the fact that colored people do indeed eat out at restaurants, and act civilized while doing so. Bong O’Really also had the pizazz to take any rapper’s words out of context in order to make Middle America think every Hip-Hop head is a gun-toting thug.

THE “No +1’s”-WORST ENTOURAGE AWARD

TIE:TI’s bodyguards – we couldn’t resistMike Vick’s posse – his homies dropped dime snitched faster than a guy named Barnes.STILL WAITING ON…At some point all these albums were supposed to drop in ’07—some…ahem, Detox…were even supposed to drop years before. Here’s hoping we’ll finally hear new albums from…Dr. Dre, Q-Tip, M.O.P., Eve, Saigon, Peedi Peedi, Raekwon, Cannibal Ox, The Fugees, The LOX, Juelz Santana, The Roots, Mos Def, Killer Mike, Foxy Brown, Joell Ortiz, Nas, Tru Life, Lil Wayne and so on and so on…

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