Mental Note: Avoid guys with the nickname “Mad Dog.”
14. Redman-“Blow Treez”
Why did we have to wait until 2007 for Redman, the man who taught a generation of impressionable youths how to roll a blunt, to sample Bob Marley, the greatest blunt roller of them all? Flipping the halcyon palm-tree sway of “Sun is Shining” from 1978's Kaya, Reggie Noble enlists Method Man and whoever the fuck Ready Roc is to create the stoner anthem of the year. It's a bit reductive to tell you to bump this from a booming system stoned on an impossibly sunny spring day, but hey, sometimes that's just the way things were intended.
13. Kanye West-“Everything I Am”
Let's talk, Common. I can live with the Gap ads. I can even handle the weirdness of the B.F.F. relationship with Ari Gold, but something's gone terribly awry when you pass up a beat like this It's simple but soulful, twinkling piano keys, somber Southern Baptist wails, and soft trembling drums. Stir some Premier scratches directly into its heart and you get arguably the best beat on Graduation. Kanye does it justice too, rattling off a litany of his flaws, spazzing out at Awards shows, not being as black as one of the dudes in Blackstreet (?). It reads a little calculating but plays as one of the few humanizing touches that manage to make Graduation endearing in spite of its arena-sized ego.
Video of the year. Not for any sort of technical complexity or originality, but for its ruthless ability to achieve its goals. With his Premier/Pete Rock homage, Polo's beat sounds like it was made while drinking a Yoohoo and smoking a Philly at D&D. If you listen hard enough, there's even a snippet of “Mass Appeal.” The video sketches out the idea in faded colors, a throwback to the Yo MTV Raps! days of grainy low-budget video after low-budget video, full of hooded scowls, dim Brooklyn afternoons and Bodega runs. The song's called “Nostalgia.” It succeeds.
11. Prodigy-“Stuck on You”
I'm sure that the “Return of the Mac” will wind up pretty high on a lot of Year End Lists, but it just had too many dud tracks for me. Prodigy sounds prematurely old these days, huffing and puffing to catch up to the beat, fumbling with new ways of saying the same old things. And let's never speak of “Blood Money” again. Yet with “Stuck On You,” Alchemist slows things down, tossing heavy sedated drums over a sample of “I'm Hooked on You.” Rapping like a clumsy, ursine, past his-prime George Foreman, Prodigy throws a haymaker and connects soundly.
10. Klashnekoff-“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised On Channel U”
You're probably wondering who Klashenekoff is. This is because you're probably American and Americans don't like British rap. Unless of course, its done by Dizzee Rascal, and then that's really just Americans attempting to like British rap because it seems strangely exotic even though it's not very good. But you'll probably like Klashnekoff. He released one great album, The Sagas of Klashnekoff, and waited three years to finally release a record called Lionheart: Tussle With the Beast. Needless to say, tussling with beasts wasn't about to get any American distribution. Nor were songs about “Channel U.” I didn't even know what “Channel U” was until Dom Passantino's reviewed the record for Stylus. It kind of doesn't matter. The song sounds like early Mobb Deep, stabbing strings, warehouse-big drums and rhymes simultaneously hard-core and darkly poetic. Download it, go to his Myspace, try remember this guy's name (Admittedly, not an easy task.)