With the variety of music that's out in '05, it's been hard to narrow this list down to just 10. But here goes:
- A.Z. – A.W.O.L. – We all thought that AZ would blow up after his verse on illmatic, but still after 10 years or so, the dude is still relagated to weed carrier status. Sad, because A.W.O.L. is a modern classic in the making.
- Common – Be – After taking the psychedelic route (thanks to his former girlfriend Badu) with Electric Circus, the Chicago/Brooklyn rapper comes back to Earth with Be. The album has Common going back to his rap basics, and features production by Kanye West and Jay Dee, and forming a bridge between the hip-hop generation and the soul singers of the 70s.
- Priest Da Nomad – Mr. Moov Sumthin'– For years, DC Hip-Hop has been relegated to weed carrier status, considering that New York, Philly, and Baltimore are within a 4 hour radius. However, DC is Hip-Hop's best kept secret, and artists like Priest Da Nomad prove that the nation's capital can keep up with the rest of the country in terms of lyrical flow, production quality, and consciousness.
- Dangerdoom – The Mouse and the Mask – Combining the two biggest forces in backpack rap is a feat in itself, but combining that force with one of the greatest ideas of all time (Adult Swim) cements this albums classic status.
- Kanye West – Late Registration – How can someone have a top 10 hip-hop album and they can't even rap? Yeah, I'm trying to figure that one out myself. Yes, Kanye can't rap, and the dude still refuses to keep his ego in check, but he might be the most influential hip-hop artist in 2005.
- Damian Marley – Welcome To Jamrock – So some of ya'll may criticize me for putting this in the “Hip-Hop” category, but since I don't have time to create a “World Music” category, I'm making an executive decision and placing Welcome to Jamrock on the list. And why not? Marley not only created one of the best singles of the year (the title track “Welcome to Jamrock”) but he was also able to work with Bobby Brown and not lose any cred. Word.
- Three 6 Mafia – Most Known Unknown – The Memphis, Tennessee group finally breaks out with this year, with “Stay Fly,” leading the charge on urban radio. It's about time, especially since they've been on the grind and in the background for over 10 years.
- The Primemerdian – Da All Nighta – This group has gained a strong following in Chicago without the help of Kanye. And speaking of Mr, West, these guys take the “George Bush does not care about Black people” meme to a new level on Da All Nighta. The Primeridian creates conscious hip-hop that is almost a throwback to the early nineties.
- Various Artists – Big Boi Presents Got Purp (Vol 2) – I usually don't put artist compilations on year end lists, but Big Boi's Purple Ribbon effort stands out. The dude has collected some of the finest artists in new Southern music, combining newcomers like Scar and Janelle Monae, with notables such as Goodie Mob and Bubba Sparxxx.
- Fort Minor – We Major Mixtape – There were a bunch of good mixtapes this year. From Clipse, to DJ Whoo Kid, to DJ Envy's Purple Codine. But the one mixtape that stands out for me comes from an unlikely source: Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. The We Major mixtape gets Hova's blessing and showcases such acts as Ghostface as well as rising stars like Lupe Fiasco over production by Green Lantern.
Albums that didn't make the cut:
Fatlip – The Lonliest Punk
Young Jeezy – Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101
The Game – The Documentary
Gwen Stefani – Love Angel Music Baby
Bun B – Trill