Top 27 Rap Albums of 2007

What makes a great rap album? It's about style. It's about artistry. It's about challenging the norm. It's about staying in control of your music, rather than chasing trends. There were many such albums in 2007, so narrowing this list to 27 was a bit challenging. Without further ado, I give you the 27 best rap albums of 2007.

Honorable Mentions: Bayani (Blue Scholars), How You Sell Soul to a Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? (Pubic Enemy), and Port Authority (Marco Polo).
27
of 27

Consequence - Don't Quit Your Day Job

Consequence - Don't Quit Your Day Job. © G.O.O.D. Music

New rappers often gripe about the state of hip-hop before they even get a chance to release an album. The problem with rookies is that they do all the talking that their music should be doing, and eventually they succumb to the status quo. Consequence, who has been around since the days of A Tribe Called Quest, doesn't waste his major debut lamenting hip-hop's poor health. Instead, he offers his wit and creativity as cure.

"Don't Forget 'Em" [Video]
"Grammy Family" (ft. Kanye, John Legend, & DJ Khaled) [Video

]

Many of the Clansmen are still grounded in Wu-Tang's hit-you-in-the-face mantra, but group captain RZA now makes soundtracks in his spare time. So, the reunited Wu-Tang clan have to bridge aesthetic galaxies just to make music. This new sense of direction became the perfect catalyst for musical exploration on 8 Diagrams.
25
of 27

KRS-One & Marley Marl - Hip-Hop Lives

© Koch

This ambitious effort from hip-hop thespian KRS-One and veteran producer Marley Marl arrived less than 5 months after Nas' controversial Hip-Hop Is Dead ,so it's no surprise that it was barely mentioned in conversation. Still, it's hard to ignore the Teacha's hardbody rhymes backed by Marley's Midas touch.

"Hip-Hop Lives" [ Video]
24
of 27

Chamillionaire - Ultimate Victory

Chamillionaire - Ultimate Victory. © Universal Motown

Ultimate Victory boasts some of 2007's best unheard tracks, but Chamillionaire's clean-rap approach left some unimpressed. Critics argued that the album sounds stiff without the N-word and other cuss words that make hip-hop go around. A closer look at Cham's early discography, however, reveals that he never cussed that much to begin with, and this album is barely groundbreaking in that regard. Instead, what sets Victory apart is Koopa's ability to switch from political commentary to street anthems in one breath. He rails against the Bill Reilly's of the world ("Morning News"), pontificates on the essence of hard work ("Won't Let You Down"), and still finds time to elope to his beach house ("Ultimate Vacation").

23
of 27

CunningLynguists - Dirty Acres

CunningLynguists - Dirty Acres.
Dirty Acres, the fourth album from Kentucky's CunningLynguists, is such a joy ride that even their regional shoutouts ("Georgia," "Mexico") are sprinkled with brilliance. Whether tackling spirituality or sensuality, these southern rap vets explore the topics with the same seriousness.
22
of 27

Black Milk - Popular Demand

Black Milk - Popular Demand. © Fat Beats

With its balanced dose of deft production and decent rhymes, quickly established Black Milk as a Rookie of the Year contender. Collaborations with Slum Village, Phat Kat, and Guilty Simpson cohere so well, serving as a testament to Black's own imaginative production.

21
of 27

Evidence - The Weatherman

ABB Records
Music is more captivating when artists delve into personal accounts. Evidence, one-third of Dilated Peoples, exploits this prominent ideology on The Weatherman LP. The album is consistently dark, as Ev explores topics that he couldn't fully address on group albums. After losing his mom to cancer, he locked himself in a studio and recorded the heart wrenching "I Still Love You." Ev also uses his artistic freedom to reflect on the depression that ensued from his mom's death ("Chase the Clouds Away") and poke fun at his lazy style of rapping ("Mr. Slow Flow").
20
of 27

Scarface - M.A.D.E.

Scarface - M.A.D.E. © Rap-A-Lot

Match Scarface's unflinching ghetto reportage with some jittery, cinematic production and the result is M.A.D.E. Raucous, gripping, and ear-grabbing. The tunes on this 10-song album flow easily, like a conversation overheard through a backyard fence.

19
of 27

Blu & Exile - Below the Heavens

Blu & Exile - Below the Heavens. © Sound in Color

After one listen, you could hardly tell that Below the Heavens is Blu's introductory CD. The 21-year old wordsmith addresses issues that range from label woes to daily struggles with the ease of an O.G. Sound architect Exile provides a coherent backdrop of smooth grooves to back up Blu's clever narratives.

Sean Price's everyman charm and self-deprecating taunts return on Jesus Price Supastar. From the album title to the album closer, Price turns conventional thinking on its head and doesn't apologize for it.
17
of 27

Freeway - Free At Last

Freeway - Free At Last. © Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

Free At Last seems an unlikely album to command devotion -- wryly hypnotic, intensely emotional, rhymes delivered in a grunt that suggests Freeway is tired of being slept on. These conflating ingredients yield a palette of tunes that sound heartfelt rather than affected.

I'll Sleep When You're Dead is metaphysics on wax. From abstract dialogs about falling through space to candid quips about selling dreams, El-P's melodramatic musings make for a unique headphone experience.
15
of 27

DJ Jazzy Jeff - Return of the Magnificent

DJ Jazzy Jeff - Return of the Magnificent.

Jazzy Jeff’s latest album offers a balanced diet of hard-hitting gems (“Hold It Down,” “Brand New Funk 2K7”) and soul-tugging grooves (“All I Know,” “The Garden”). Laudable collaborations with Method Man, CL Smooth, and Dave Ghetto help make The Return of the Magnificent a triumphant comeback from one of hip-hop’s most revered innovators.

14
of 27

Devin the Dude - Waiting to Inhale

Devin the Dude - Waiting to Inhale. © Rap-A-Lot

On his fourth solo album, Devin the Dude evokes laughs and dialogs simultaneously by telling tales that dropped the jaws of everyone who heard it. Waiting to Inhale also gets a nudge from stellar guest verses by Snoop Dogg, Lil' Wayne, and Andre 3000.

13
of 27

Joel Ortiz - The Brick/Bodega Chronicles

Joel Ortiz - The Brick/Bodega Chronicles. © Koch

After listening to upstart Joel Ortiz's The Brick: Bodega Chronicles, you'll swear there's no bright spot in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Ortiz raps about the grave injustices that shroud the streets and his constant quest for survival. But it's the authenticity in his rhymes that makes this album an enthralling musical ride.

"Brooklyn B*******" [ Video ]
"Hip-Hop" [ Video ]
12
of 27

Sharkey & C-Rayz Walz - Monster Maker

Sharkey & C-Rayz Walz - Monster Maker. © Babygrande

As much as we hate to admit it, we're all monsters on the inside. Even the most benign of us aren't immune from reaching a breaking point every now and then. That's the concept behind Monster Maker. It's a well executed concept, as C-Rayz Walz and DJ Sharkey manage to stuff some of the fiercest cutting edge music of 2007 into 12 songs. Best of all, the album's brief run time leaves no room for redundancy. This is "alien music" at its finest.

11
of 27

Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab

Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab. © Def Jam

2007 saw the dramatic fall of many artists who could use some serious rehab, but Ghostface is not one of them. If anything, the lyrics on Big Doe Rehab affirm that Ghost still has a bottomless supply of absurd imageries left in him.

10
of 27

Little Brother - The Getback

© ABB

Don't expect the music on Little Brother's new album to take a nosedive just because their chief boardsman, 9th Wonder, walked away from the group. Jazzy horn sections and thumping drums from Nottz, Illmind, and others provide Phonte and Big Pooh with a backdrop for their nail-biting (and often comical) musings.

09
of 27

Prodigy - Return of the Mac

Prodigy - Return of the Mac. © Koch

Don't let the title fool you; This isn't the album where Prodigy dons his limited edition G-Unit hat, grabs a few groupies and balls out like a pimp. Return of the Mac is, in fact, a back-to-basics, hardcore rap album that hearkens to the 90s era Mobb Deep. Alchemist, who produced the entire disc, keeps the soundscape gritty and cohesive, making it easier for P to focus on his CSI-esque crime tales.

08
of 27

Common - Finding Forever

Common - Finding Forever. © Geffen

Finding Forever picks up where Be left off, with Common unleashing some blistering social commentary and Kanye supplying the gentle soulfulness. But it's the "conscious n***a with more mac than Steve Jobs" attitude that keeps things varied and interesting here.

07
of 27

UGK - Underground Kingz

UGK - Underground Kingz. © Jive

This 2-disc LP is a crash course for those UGK fans who were still in underoos when Too Hard to Swallow became a hip-hop staple. The album kicks off with the catchy "Swishas & Doshas" and leads into the year's most memorable rap song, "Int'l Players Anthem." Listening to this album again serves as a bitter reminder that Pimp C's riveting hooks and production prowess will be sorely missed.

06
of 27

Talib Kweli - Ear Drum

Talib Kweli - Ear Drum. © Warner

If you wrote Talib Kweli off after hearing The Beautiful Struggle, you've been forgiven. While that album had its moments of brilliance, it struggled to connect with core fans of unadulterated Kwelity music. In contrast, Ear Drum is an artistically sound package.

05
of 27

Brother Ali - Undisputed Truth

Brother Ali - Undisputed Truth. © Rhymesayers

Part of the success recipe for Undisputed Truth is Ali's ability to breathe life into Ant's beats with ease, like a translator of oneiric symbologies. I can imagine Ali in the studio bragging, "Ant, give me a beat and I'll tell you what it's saying to me."

04
of 27

Pharoahe Monch - Desire

Pharoahe Monch - Desire
Pharoahe Monch - Desire. © SRC/Universal Motown
Desire, Pharoahe Monch's poignant sophomore album is rich with poetic and insightful excerpts. Pharoahe underpins his fierce delivery with a unique sense of lyrical equilibrium. "Slave to the label, but I own my masters," he rhymes on the politically salient "Free." Then there's the soulful singing on "Push" and "Body Baby" that help yield an integrated masterpiece.
03
of 27

Jay-Z - American Gangster

Jay-Z - American Gangster. © Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam

American Gangster is an improvement on last year's Kingdom Come. Jay puts it this way: Here we go/And I'm a domino/"When it All Falls Down" I'm like Kanye's jaw -- I might break, but I don't fold." Bottom Line: No matter how many times he hits the floor, he can still bounce back stronger ever. Jay-Z the American Gangster keeps coming back. But who knew it would only take a movie and a bucket of popcorn to return Jay to top form.

If hip-hop were college, Kanye West would be the mildly irritating senior -- acing Psychology, kicking it with that sexy young English instructor, and spewing self-righteous jazz in the parking lot. Scratch that. Hip-hop is college in Kanye's world. And Graduation is a class act.

01
of 27

Lupe Fiasco - Lupe Fiasco's The Cool

Lupe Fiasco - Lupe Fiasco's The Cool. © Atlantic

In a year when hip-hop exploded with concept albums, many of them gimmicky, Lupe Fiasco's The Cool stood taller than Yao Ming on a court full of six-footers. Lupe limits the key concept to five songs, but the rest of the album is loaded with random gems that showcase his versatility. From the smoothed out vibe of "Paris, Tokyo" to the frenetic delivery on "Hello/Goodbye," the ever shifting themes never allow the listener to get too comfortable. By crystallizing his divergent interests into one bold work of art, Lupe proves that the elements of progressive hip-hop -- eclecticism, zaniness, swagger -- don't have to be mutually exclusive.