The oft-repeated whining that hip-hop is dead (or dying) is reductive, unhelpful and lazy. But it is true that the genre is suffering from a dearth of great full-length albums. Though there may be no denying the brilliance and execution of recent favorites such as Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale, J. Dilla’s Donuts and The Roots’ Game Theory, no one’s mistaking ’06 for ’96 (which itself was once considered a “down” year). Compare the two for a minute and you get something like:
Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt, which is better than Fishscale
DJ Shadow Endtroducing… > Donuts
The Roots Illadelph Halflife > Game Theory
OutKast ATLiens > The Clipse Hell Hath No Fury (overrated, btw) (Ed.: lies!)
Nas It Was Written > Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor
2Pac talking in his sleep > The Game’s entire discography
Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst, The Fugees The Score, Ghostface Ironman > you get the point
2007 has been even less fruitful. Now, this is the part where I say that UGK‘s Underground Kingz is that great album we’ve been waiting so long for this year. But it isn’t – the double album format all but guarantees far too much filler, and sonically there’s little venturing done outside of the group’s once-pioneering, now-traditional Southern Rap(TM) style. What it is, almost by default, is 2007’s best hip-hop album thus far – or at least the only one so clearly gunning for the title. Underground Kingz is the veteran Port Arthur, Texas duo firmly taking hold of its cultural moment. Pimp C and Bun B come hungrier than ever – Pimp, especially, has noticeably improved as an MC since the days of Ridin Dirty, and he again provides most of the production (with a little help from the likes of Jazze Pha and Lil Jon), which at its best alternately and so satisfyingly veers between hard/smooth as fuck.
UGK feat. OutKast – “International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)”: mp3
(Underground Kingz is out now on Jive)
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