12.28.2007

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

Time to combine two of the things that we love the most – rap albums and lists. Without further ado, we present to you The Realests’ Top 5 rap albums of the year.

(Editors’ Note: Jim took no part in the making of the list. This is mostly due to the fact that he listens to this song called “Strawberry Wine” on repeat on his iPod. His rap rights have been revoked – not even watching Season 4 of The Wire in 3 days will save him. And yeah, I do have the audacity to blast Jim after he kept this blog afloat for the last 3 months. You know what we call that? The audacity of real. Word to Obama.)

On second thought, I can’t do 5 albums. Mostly because I’m rusty and don’t know how to blog anymore, but moreso because it’s tough for me to think of 5 CDs from this year that I know that I’ll listen to in the future. And that’s the standard by which I’m listing these CDs. So, here it is:

4) 8 Diagrams – The Wu-Tang Clan


While it’s true that you’re never going to get a very upbeat album from Wu-Tang, this album’s whole sound seems targeted toward a more somber and laid back vibe. Of course, some of that has to do with the fact that ODB isn’t on the album. And his presence is missed because he could add a jolt of life to some RZA beats that seem to plod along. But the beats aren’t a problem at all here. A lot of people have complained that RZA lost his damn mind on the CD – but I’ll flip mctwerk it and say that those people have lost their minds. I think, if anything, RZA going off and doing soundtrack work has really helped him expand as a producer and the beats are the better for it.

“Campfire” is very ominous and a tone-setter for the album. Also, thankfully, Method Man has the opening verse on the album and he actually sounds interested for the first time in years (except for the Justin Timberlake reference – it seems forced). Ghostface and Cappadonna finish out the song – Ghost coming in and saying “On anything that RZA throw, Ironman’s invisible” gets me pumped up anytime. And Cappadonna used to drive a cab last year. Now that’s real.

I also love how jarring the beat on “Unpredictable” is – I think it would be perfect for a car or foot chase in a movie. And you know what? I think RZA envisioned a lot of these beats as accompanying movie scenes. I’ll bet money on it. Someone get him on the phone.

“The Heart Gently Weeps” was one of the more celebrated songs off of the album because of the supposed Beatles sampling, but even aside from that it’s a great song – Meth, Ghost, and Rae rap on it and all of them sound great. Ghost is in story telling mode and hearing his verse makes me feel ashamed that I’ve underrated him for so long. Hearing him tell a story is just absolutely fantastic – his mix of details (most of them absurd) with humor is perfect. (I’ve also gone back and listened to Ironman recently – it’s better than most albums released this year, you should get it if you don’t have it – don’t waste your 13 dollars on some other garbage). Oh, and one more thing – I don’t get what Rae’s problem was with this album. I’ve never really liked him that much – except for when he raps with Ghostface – but on this album he sounds incredibly on point in every verse. Don’t know what he’s mad about.

“Wolves” is incredibly weird with a sort of spaghetti-western/Kill Bill/tribal-chanting beat. U-God is on it and even though I hate his guts, he does a good job. Also, anything with George Clinton rambling incoherently is a winner in my book (see: PCU starring (bald) Jeremy Piven, Synthesizer by Outkast).

The only odd song is “Life Changes” which was supposed to be the ODB tribute. It just doesn’t sound that sincere. There’s not that much put into the verses and that’s a sad thing. Because if there was one thing ODB was all about, besides the children, it was putting everything you have into it.

At the end of the day, I’m just happy to have another Wu-Tang album. True, there isn’t a “Triumph” or “C.R.E.A.M” on here, but it’s still a solid CD.

3) American Gangster – Jay-Z



I’ve already slurped Jay-Z for this one and there isn’t a lot more that I can say about it. “Hello Brooklyn” still sounds great every time. I’ve gained a new appreciation for “American Dreaming,” “Pray,” and “Party Life.” I still listen to “American Gangster” every time I go running (it helps to listen to very fast music when your attempting to break the heralded sub-10 minute mark for a mile).

The lyrics on the album get better with each listen and I find myself catching something new each time. But I’ve recently faced a somewhat ethical dilemma with the album. Someone mentioned that it seemed kinda backhanded of Jay to do all that talking on Kingdom Come about how he was too grown up to be talking about selling crack, etc. and then he goes and puts out American Gangster. True, he said that he was just inspired by the movie to go back and talk about his crack slinging days, but come on – seems a little fishy right? I mean, just come out and say that you want to talk about this shit because it’s infinitely more interesting and because it sells records.

2) Graduation – Kanye West




Now here’s an album that I REALLY slurped. It’s still great though. But after a few months removed, I’ve gotten a better appreciation for it. Most notably, when Kanye messes up, he messes up big time. Going back and listening to the CD now, I have to skip “Flashing Lights” and “Drunk and Hot Girls” every time through. Also, “Big Brother” comes off a little too whiny and obnoxious now. And “Stronger” seems to get a little weaker with every listen (no pun intended).

But “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” gets better with every listen, and I mean every listen. The woman singing in the background gets stuck in my head for days at a time. And “The Glory” is still sick. My favorite line of the year might be “cameras flash so much that I gotta do the Yayo dance.” “Good Life” has kept its charm with T-Pain growing on me and “Barry Bonds” is such a simple song, but I listen to it all the way through every time it comes on and then I listen to it again.

1) The Cool – Lupe Fiasco


Hands down the best CD of the year.

I know “The Cool” was a song on Lupe’s debut CD, where he told the story of some hustler that died and then came out of his coffin and went back to the hood and then died again. The whole thing was absurd but it was told with such intensity and complete fluidity that you couldn’t help but be sucked in. And that’s the way it is with this whole CD.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a rapper tell a story the way Lupe does and it is a breath of fresh air. Nowadays you are lucky if one verse on a song happens to stick to the same topic. Sometimes, your lucky if two lines a row make any sense when put together. The beauty of Lupe’s music is that he makes songs around concepts and he sticks to those concepts for the whole song. He tells stories with such intricate wordplay that it’s easy to get distracted for a minute and think, “Damn, I have to start this track over because I want to know everything that’s going on.” At least that’s the way I am. It just seems that he really put effort into these songs. And I don’t understand the whole concept of the album yet – I don’t know what “the cool” is or what “the game” is supposed to represent but I love hearing the songs within this album. Some reviews have said that the CD is a little disjointed and that may be the case, but I don’t mind.

I can’t go through this CD song by song and tell you which ones are hits and misses but the ratio is probably 90/10. And that's even more impressive when you consider the fact that there are 19 songs on the CD. I also can’t tell you which songs have the best lines because I’m constantly finding new ones (here’s a great one I found today – “they want me to leave my Dame like that dude from Marcy”). I will tell you that “Paris, Tokyo” is about love and longing, “Intruder” is about fear, “Superstar” is about potential, “Little Weapon” is about anger, “Dumb It Down” is about arrogance, “Gold Watch” is about bling and Streetfighter, and “Go Go Gadget Flow” is about rapping really, really fast.

The Dude and I had a conversation in college about why "conscious" rappers couldn't make music that people really enjoyed listening to. Lupe would probably fall into that "conscious" category, even though I'm hesitant to label him with that. And I think that The Cool answers a lot of the questions that we had. I mean, if you rap as well as he does on this album it really doesn't matter what you are talking about because it sounds so damn good. Not to get carried away, but Lupe transcends a lot of things on this album. I'm not sure what or how or if I can explain it to you. Just listen to the CD.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Albums I Need To Listen To More That Could Be Very Good:

1) Big Doe Rehab – Ghostface
2) Free At Last – Freeway
3) Underground Kingz – UGK
4) Eardrum – Talib
5) Finding Forever – Common

Albums That Were Awfully Disappointing:
1) The Solution – Beanie Siegel
2) TI v. TIP – TI
3) Curtis – 50 Cent
4) Carnival 2 – Wyclef

Singles of the Year:

1) Can’t Tell Me Nothing – Kanye
2) International Players Anthem – UGK and Outkast
3) Umbrella – Rihanna
4) I Get Money Remix – 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Diddy

Song Most Likely To Give “Since You’ve Been Gone” A Run For Its Money:

1) No One – Alicia Keys

Most Idiotic/Genius Song of the Year:
1) Crank Dat – Soulja Boy

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