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Wes’ Top Hip Hop Records of 2006

2006 was actually a rather strong year for quality Hip Hop releases. Here’s my (Wes’) official Top 10 Hip Hop Records of 2006.

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20061. Ghostface Killah – Fishscale [BUY]

The hunger is back in Dennis Cole, and we were blessed with a whole record of it. Fishscale, the first of two records the suddenly prolific Ghostface Killah released in 2006, has great soulful beats (even without RZA), great voice, great swagger, and great rhyming. I could do without the seven interludes though. Is it 1998? Just stop with them already.

And though the title seems to imply it, Ghost’s end-of-year follow-up More Fish was not a Sufjan Stevens Avalanche-to-Illinois collection of outtakes. It was also not as great as Fishscale, but still is a decent record where Ghost shines in the center of a group rather than on his Fishscale-like own.

GET A GHOSTFACE MP3: Bernie has “Shakey Dog”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20062. Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor [BUY]

Food & Liquor is the best debut release of the year, and perhaps even of recent years. Lupe Fiasco writes meaningful lyrics that matter, and the album showcases interesting in-house beats, consistency, diversity, creativity and truth. Also – check out the coolest non-traditional cover image of the year.

GET A LUPE MP3: Glamorama has “Daydreaming”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20063. The Game – Doctor’s Advocate [BUY]

Doctor’s Advocate is the best sophomore record of the year. I love The Game because unlike all these cool “I’m not a rapper, I’m a hustler that raps” guys, he’s a real fan of the genre and it shows. He might be crazy, but he’s relevant, and oh so hungry and eager to impress. This one also wins the “Best Dr. Dre Production Impression” award.

GET A GAME MP3: Still Listen has “Compton (Mick Boogie Remix)”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20064. The Roots – Game Theory [BUY]

After the disappointment of The Tipping Point, and even Phrenology, I was a little bit worried about this release, but WOW. I’m gonna have to go out on a limb and say Game Theory is the best Roots album, or at least very-very close to it. It features great outside of the box thinking on the lyrical, and song concept, side of things. The always-thorough Black Thought delivers more introspection than before, and explores new themes with old vigor. Great record.

GET A ROOTS MP3: Beat Lawrence has “Don’t Feel Right”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20065. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury [BUY]

Slightly disappointing, but only because their first album Lord Willin’ was nearly perfect. Hell Hath No Fury is a solid release with some great highlights – and a miss or two. We get quality wall-to-wall Neptunes production for the first time since…well, since the first Clipse album. That’s a good thing (except for that Trill track, ugh). Great tag team rapping + actual lyricism (even though the topic matter is limited) – sounds like something from the 1980’s, but Clipse is doing it right in 2006. Also winner of the “Best Delivery” award.

GET A CLIPSE MP3: Ear Farm has “Wamp Wamp”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20066. Murs & 9th Wonder – Murray’s Revenge [BUY]

Murs & 9th Wonder (of Little Brother fame) come together for a second collaboration (3:16 being the first) and perfect their chemistry. Murs is one of the most underrated rappers in the game and probably will remain so for the rest of his career when it comes to mainstream acclaim, but listen to this guy and hear originality, spirit, diversity, emotion and a great sense of humor. 9th delivers, as he generally does, and gives us a great throwback sound updated with some more modern touches. More please.

STREAM A MURS SONG: @ Murs’ Myspace

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20067. Jay- Z – Kingdom Come [BUY]

Everyone is complaining about this album – calling it a disappointment. It may not be Jay-Z’s best, but it certainly is one of the best albums of the year. Chris Martin (Coldplay) contributes one of the strongest productions, Just Blaze and Dr. Dre take care of most of the rest, and The Neptunes deliver the worst song on any of the albums in this list. Without that one song the album would’ve sounded a lot better.

Kingdom Come is one of the first-ever efforts of a mature rapper in the post-gangsta era of his-or-her life. As they move into their mid-to-late thirties rappers have a tendency to either lose touch and relevance, focus their attention to the female demographic (*cough*LL*cough*), or sadly not even make it that far, but Jay-Z shows maturity and growth on a personal level and his artistry evolves in a natural way. Now if we can get him to be a little more hungry again, the next one will probably top this list.

GET A JAY-Z MP3: Ear Farm has “Lost Ones”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20068. Nas – Hip Hop Is Dead [BUY]

For the first time on Def Jam, Nas returns, and delivers the 3rd best album of his career. Greatly improved beat selection is the key here – lyrically he was never questioned. A stand out track features The Game (with Dr. Dre production), just like a stand out track on The Game‘s album features Nas (and Just Blaze production). Now can we please get our holy grail: the Nas/DJ Premier album?

GET A NAS MP3: Glamorama has “Hustlers”

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20069. T.I. – King [BUY]

One of the hottest albums production wise with a fired up T.I. throwing down. The topic matter is unfortunately somewhat monotonous (with some exceptions), but T.I. brings it. Just Blaze, again, supplies the highlights with his urgent production and crazy horn energy.

STREAM A T.I. SONG: @ T.I.’s MySpace

Best Hip Hop Albums of 200610. Obie Trice – Second Round’s On Me [BUY]

Surprisingly strong effort from the Shady Records rapper. Amazingly improved flow, great wordplay, a simmering anger and drive underneath most of the words, and real urgency. The production is solid, but not amazing – if that can be changed on the next record, I can see some beautiful things happening for Mr. Trice.

STREAM AN OBIE SONG: @ Obie’s Myspace

Honorable mentions to Snoop Dogg (The Blue Carpet Treatment), Ludacris (Release Therapy) and Killer Mike (Da Grind) for dropping some of the very best songs of the year, but not good enough albums to make this list.

Disappointment of the year: Busta Rhymes – The Big Bang

When making lists I always worry about blanking out and forgetting a record I really loved, and of course I haven’t heard EVERY hip hop record released this year, so if I missed a great record please let me know in the comments.
-Wes

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Wes writes the weekly hip hop post, but sometimes-BV-contributor Nick Brassbonanza has just as much passion for the genre. Here’s his top 10….

Best Hip Hop Albums of 20061.NAS – Hip Hop is Dead
2.LUPE FIASCO – Food & Liquor
3.J DILLA – Donuts
4.MOS DEF – Tru3 Magic [INFO]
5.GHOSTFACE – Fishscale
6.CLIPSE – Hell Hath No Fury
7.THE ROOTS – Game Theory
8.MURS & 9th Wonder – Murray’s Revenge
9.THE GAME – Doctor’s Advocate
10.LORD JAMAR – 5% album

Nick’s biggest disappointment: Jay-Z – Kingdom Come (Wes’ #7 – see above)

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Lupe Fiasco & J Dilla also made “My 40 favorite albums of 2006

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