15.) Van Hunt – On the Jungle Floor – On first listen this album didn’t get to me. But after a while, I was addicted to Hunt’s combination of rock and soul. (Not in a Maxwell way, of course). Van Hunt should be on more people’s iPods cause the dude is a sleeper sensation.
14.) Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere – After all of the hype that Gnarls Barkley garnered this year, I’m surprised that St. Elsewhere is noticeably absent from most people’s “best of 2006” list. St Elsewhere isn’t the best album of the year by far, but Cee Lo and Dangermouse get style points for concept and execution.
13.) The Shining – J Dilla – The Shining didn’t come off as well as Donuts, most likely because most of the involvement did not come from Dilla himself. The production was left in the care of Dilla’s friend Karriem Riggins. But hey, it dosen’t matter. This album got multiple spins on the iPod this year.
12.) Joy Denalane – Born and Raised – German singer Joy Denalane shows America what real R&B should sound like. More on her here and here.
11.) Busta Rhymes – The Big Bang – I was scared when people from Busta’s camp were calling The Big Bang the best album of Busta’s career. Usually when PR people do that, its to hype an album that usually lacking. However, after all the smoke cleared, the truth was revealed: This is a great album, but it unfortunately didn’t bring New York back.
10.) Amy Winehouse – Back to Black – If you live in the US, you’ll have to get this album by…um, illegal means, or pay upwards of $30 for the import (Update: or wait for them to release it in April). Either way, this album is worth it. Other than one song that I find downright annoying, the UK songstress has figured out how to carve out the perfect R&B album, channeling 60’s Motown soul (by way of her backup band, the Dap Kings), but making it unique and not outright humping it a la Joss Stone.
9.) Ghostface – Fishscale – Ghostface put a massive amount of effort into this album and it shows. Although he recruited some of the best producers in the industry (Blaze, Dilla, Pete Rock), it’s still got that classic Supreme Clientele feel. It’s still not good as Clientele, but Bulletproof Wallets wasn’t either.
8.) The Coup – Pick a Bigger Weapon – I’m not putting this on my top 10 out of pity. (The Coup ended a year in a terrible bus accident.) Pick a Bigger Weapon is an album that is just that good. The Oakland duo ditched the turntables for live Instrumentation, making an album that sounded richer than most hip-hop albums that drop this year.I still fine the lily white fan base of these Black Power revolutionaries puzzling, though.
7.) The Roots – Game Theory – Say what you want about The Roots, but for as much hate as they get in the game, they will never die.
6.) J Dilla – Donuts – I’m not going to use this to throw out my “Dilla is the new Tupac” meme. But I will say that Donuts shows the world that Dilla is a first class producer. The fact that the dude did this album on his death bed shows his commitment to the genre of hip-hop.
5.) Wolfmother – Wolfmother – If you think hip-hop is dead then you must be mistaken. Rock music died a long time ago. What it’s been replaced with are emo posers who have become the genre’s equivalent to the ringtone rapper. The Australian band Wolfmother showed people how to rock again. It’s about time.
4.) Nas – Hip-Hop is Dead – It’s tough choice putting Nas at number 4. Hip-Hop is Dead should have been a shoo-in for number 1. But after a few spins, Nasty Nas was starting to get on my nerves. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had to blast some Rich Boy just to get my ears in balance. I guess there could be a problem with too much real hip-hop these days.
3.) Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury – Probably the closest thing to a “classic” hip-hop album that’s dropped this year. Clipse pretty much shows Jeezy who’s the true trap-rap pioneer.
2.) Spank Rock – YoYoYoYoYo – This album isn’t for anyone. It’s like the Arrested Development (TV show) of the rap world. But there is no other album that got more spins on the iPod than this one.
1.) Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor – Months before Nas brought back hip-hop, a little known Chicago MC actually did his job for the genre. This is the closest thing to a classic “real hip-hop” album that you’re gonna get these days. Hopefully this dude will continue to grind in 2007.