For all of the complaining I have done about the rap/hip-hop game this year, when it was good, it was really good.
#4 Common Finding Forever
It might not be Common's best, but it was still one of the best in the game. After his most successful album to date, Be, gained crossover success, Common decided not to mess with a good thing on Finding Forever. With help from Kanye West, Will.I.Am. and DJ Premier, Common pleased pop fans and hip-hoppers alike with stellar story-telling on "Drivin' Me Wild", "The Game" and "The People". The only thing missing was a few more J-Dilla beats.
#3 Jay-Z American Gangster
Jay-Z must have been watching "Godfather III" in between viewings of "American Gangster" because just when you thought he was out, he got pulled back in. Young Hov decided to postpone retirement again and create a concept album inspired by Denzel Washington's most recent amazing performance. American Gangster easily eclipses his last effort and created a dark landscape as close to Reasonable Doubt as it gets. "I Know" is classic song writing taken from the view of heroin, while "Pray", "Success", and "Fallin'" exploit the highs and lows of S. Carter's hoodlum past.
#2 Kanye West Graduation
The ever controversial Kanye West added a sales war with 50 Cent to his resume with the release of Graduation. Not surprisingly, it lived up to the hype. "Stronger" used a Daft Punk sample to get pop fans interested, but gems like "Flashing Lights" and the earnest approach on "Everything I Am" impressed hip-hop purists and pushed Mr. West to the head of the class.
#1 Lupe Fiasco The Cool
Kanye and Common weren't the only Chicago MC's to show the world how Chi-Town does hip-hop. Lupe Fiasco's semi-concept album, The Cool barely made it into consideration for 2007, but won't be easily forgotten. He continues where he left off on Food & Liquor with the story of a mobster who rises from the grave on "The Coolest", while he introduces new characters The Streets (the gritty "Streets On Fire") and The Game ("Put You On Game"). Lupe Fiasco is particularly compelling on the intergalactic sound of "Intruder Alert" and military style of "Little Weapon" While using each verse to describe 3 different stories, "Intruder Alert" intracatly details the experiences of a rape victim, drug addict and an immigrant. The hypnotic beat by Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump on "Little Weapon" echoes the entrancing story of child soldiers in Africa. Lupe's composed delivery while dropping refreshing knowledge is apparent no matter who's point of view he spits from.