10. Apathy - Eastern Philosophy
Apathy clearly wanted to evoke the spirit of the records he grabbed his crotch to as an unassuming teen at Connecticut house parties. And that he did with relative ease.
9. The Coup - Pick a Bigger Weapon
We're reminded of The Coup's staunch refusal to settle for the status quo throughout Pick a Bigger Weapon, an album loaded with enough politically-fused cannonballs to inject an eargasm in even the harshest Coup critic.
8. T.I. - King
If you have the audacity to name your album KING, then you better drag along some balls to back up your claim. Thankfully, T.I. delivered the goods, giving each track a regal touch and handing us two of the year's best tracks: the Neptunes-blessed "Good Life" and the DJ Toomp-laced "What You Know."
7. Louis Logic & JJ Brown - Misery Loves Comedy
Louis Logic isn't nicknamed The Drunken Dragon for nothing. He has a knack for bullying good beats into submission, especially if those beats are courtesy of longtime collaborator JJ Brown. Louis' favorite topics center around failed relationships and personality chaos, but he approaches them with a unique blend of style and substance that rarely exists in today.
6. Trae - Restless
The first time you encounter Trae's rap voice you'll think he's fighting off a bad cold. After a few spins, you'll think he's a clergyman at a funeral procession. Grim, introspective, thought-provoking.
5. Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
Pusha T, Malice and honorary Clipse member Pharrell served up a percolating, lilting plate of fantasy, brutal reality, and remorse. Hell Hath No Fury is brisk but bold and affords little margin for error with 12 songs that document the Clipse being remorseful, wistful, and trill as it gets.
3. Ghostface - Fishscale
Fishscale was colored by raw emotion and angry ramblings. Just Blaze's bass-heavy concoction on "The Champ" inspires Ghost to kick hip-hop in the groin: "Dog, why y'all stuck on "Laffy Taffy", how did y'all n****s get past me? I"ve been doing this before Nas dropped the “Nasty." Similarly, on the poignant MF Doom-laced "Charlie Brown," the aesthetic is one of asphyxiating toughness. Snares smack and smother each other, while soul samples blare in harmony. Epic Ghostdeini fare.
2. Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
Whether rhyming over rock-inspired beats or dishing social insight atop a soul soundbed, Lupe Fiasco always has his Steve Urkel-esque eyeglasses tightly-fixated on the big picture. This was easily the year's best hip-hop debut.
1. The Roots - Game Theory
The world was going to hell in a hand basket and The Roots wanted people to stop, look, and listen. Themes about confusion, loss (inspired by the Hurricane Katrina debacle), corporate woes, double standards and war are recurrent on Game Theory. It's the ultimate statement album.