Best Hip-Hop of 2007 Changes the Game

fromKEXP

This wasn't the strongest year for hip-hop, but 2007 still featured some excellent releases that pushed the genre's boundaries, as well as a few records that reveled, old-school style, in great beats and rhymes. These are the albums I enjoyed the most this year.

Best Hip-Hop of 2007 Changes the Game

Cover for Kala

1. Kala

  • Artist: M.I.A.
  • Album: Kala
  • Song: Paper Planes

M.I.A. took a huge leap forward on her second album, combining hip-hop, club music and occasional rock references with a dizzying variety of other styles from around the world. The sound evokes a lively street corner in a major international city, with her deadpan vocals cutting through the hustle and bustle and lyrics ranging from the playful to the provocative. Pop music that's genuinely cutting-edge, even revolutionary. (Listen: "Paper Planes")

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Song
Paper Planes
Album
Kala
Artist
M.I.A.
Label
Interscope
Released
2007

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Wu Tang cover

2. 8 Diagrams

  • Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
  • Album: 8 Diagrams
  • Song: Heart Gently Weeps

The first album in six years from the legendary Staten Island crew is one of the year's boldest and most adventurous hip-hop records. While all of the group's rappers are in fine form (and Method Man is much more than that), the RZA steals the show with some of his most cinematic production. His trippy, almost psychedelic soundscapes are as intricately crafted as they are borderline bizarre. (Listen: "The Heart Gently Weeps")

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Song
Heart Gently Weeps
Album
8 Diagrams
Artist
Wu-Tang Clan
Label
Street/Universal Motown
Released
2007

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Kanye cover

3. Graduation

  • Artist: Kanye West
  • Album: Graduation
  • Song: Stronger

While he'll never be known as one of the world's great rappers, Kanye West continues to shine as a producer. On his third album, he masterfully blends his trademark warm soul grooves with European electro-house, techno synth textures and an even broader range of cleverly used samples, ranging from Laura Nyro and Mountain to Can and Daft Punk. (Listen: "Stronger") WE WERE UNABLE TO GET PERMISSION FROM THE LABEL TO STREAM THIS SONG

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Song
Stronger
Album
Graduation
Artist
Kanye West
Label
Roc-A-Fella
Released
2007

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Jay Z cover

4. American Gangster

  • Artist: Jay-Z
  • Album: American Gangster
  • Song: Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)...

Taking inspiration from the film of the same name, Jay-Z gets back to what he does best, though his drug-dealing tales are now more reflective than they were in his youth. Lyrically, he's in peak form, dispensing a variety of clever, tongue-twisting rhymes with peerless authority and an untouchable flow. He also takes time to answer rap's critics with a savvy defense of artistic expression. (Listen: "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)") WE WERE UNABLE TO GET PERMISSION FROM THE LABEL TO STREAM THIS SONG

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Song
Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)...
Album
American Gangster
Artist
Jay-Z
Label
Roc-A-Fella
Released
2007

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Dyme Def cover

5. Space Music

  • Artist: Dyme Def
  • Album: Space Music
  • Song: Clap Clap

This young Seattle trio gets back to basics on its high-energy debut of straight-up hip-hop, with one of Seattle's great beatmasters (Bean One) providing hard-hitting production for brash, street-smart battle raps. The Seattle hip-hop scene was hot in 2007, with excellent albums from Blue Scholars, Grayskul, Cancer Rising, the Physics and Gabriel Teodros. (Listen: "Clap Clap")

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Song
Clap Clap
Album
Space Music
Artist
Dyme Def
Label
Soul Gorilla
Released
2007

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Ghostface cover

6. Big Doe Rehab

  • Artist: Ghostface Killah
  • Album: Big Doe Rehab
  • Song: We Celebrate

The latest from the Wu-Tang rapper isn't as strong as last year's classic album Fishscale (or Supreme Clientele, for that matter), but it's still loaded with soul-flavored hip-hop bangers that place Ghostface's engrossing street stories and high-anxiety rapping front-and-center. (Listen: "We Celebrate") WE WERE UNABLE TO GET PERMISSION FROM THE LABEL TO STREAM THIS SONG

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Song
We Celebrate
Album
Big Doe Rehab
Artist
Ghostface Killah
Label
Def Jam
Released
2007

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Pharoahe Monch cover

7. Desire

  • Artist: Pharoahe Monch
  • Album: Desire
  • Song: Body Baby

Eight years after his landmark solo debut Internal Affairs, one of hip-hop's great lyricists makes up for the long wait with a challenging, idiosyncratic album that showcases complex, creative rhymes ranging from the personal to the political. His retooled sound incorporates a variety of soul, funk and gospel influences. (Listen: "Body Baby" ) WE WERE UNABLE TO GET PERMISSION FROM THE LABEL TO STREAM THIS SONG

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Song
Body Baby
Album
Desire
Artist
Pharoahe Monch
Label
Universal
Released
2007

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Blue Scholars cover

8. Bayani

  • Artist: Blue Scholars
  • Album: Bayani
  • Song: Back Home

The Seattle hip-hop duo follows its excellent self-titled debut and the equally strong Long March EP with a stunning album that sets the bar ever higher for Northwest hip-hop. Sabzi's production is still warm and soulful, but it's more confident, varied and distinctive. Geologic continues to grow as a rapper, combining his smooth, laid-back flow with smart, plain-spoken rhymes rooted in being a self-professed ordinary guy. His blue-collar perspective shines a bright spotlight on race and class issues, while also providing stirring inspiration for the city and country to do better. (Listen: "Back Home)

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Song
Back Home
Album
Bayani
Artist
Blue Scholars
Label
Red Urban
Released
2007

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Lifesavas cover

9. Gutterfly

  • Artist: Lifesavas
  • Album: Gutterfly
  • Song: Gutterfly

These veterans of Portland's hip-hop scene offer up an ambitious concept album that operates as a soundtrack to a non-existent blaxploitation film. Gutterfly is highlighted by smart, socially conscious rhymes, funky beats and adventurous production steeped in '70s funk and soul. (Listen: "Gutterfly")

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Song
Gutterfly
Album
Gutterfly
Artist
Lifesavas
Label
TVT
Released
2007

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Ratatat cover

10. Remixes Vol. II

  • Artist: Ratatat
  • Album: Remixes Vol. II
  • Song: Alright

The second volume of hip-hop remixes from this New York indie duo shows that Ratatat can play with the big boys, revamping a great selection of bad-ass hip-hop bangers from the likes of T.I., Young Buck and The Notorious B.I.G. with a variety of imaginative beats and textures. (Listen: Memphis Bleek's "Alright")

This album is available as a free download from Ratatat's Web site.

Featured Artist

Wu-Tang Clan Courtesy of Paramount Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Kanye West. courtesy of Rock-A-Fella Records hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of Rock-A-Fella Records

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