2006 was a year filled with comebacks, delayed releases, and pleasant surprises. With the eruption of the Gameâ€™s Doctorâ€™s Advocate, the critical content of The Roots Game Theory, the seemingly unbelievable track â€œBlack Republicanâ€ from Nasâ€™s Hip Hop is Dead, the undeniable consistency of Ghostface, and the comeback of the year from Jay-Z with Kingdom Come, 2006 had it all. Here are the Top 10 Mainstream Hip-Hop Albums of 2006.
10. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
After years of dropping several classic mixtapes and a maintaining a buzz that seemingly never dies, the Clipse, or shall we say, their record label finally released their long awaited sophomore album Hell Hath No Fury. The word is hip-hop heads are really split on this album, either they like it or they donâ€™t. With executive producers the Neptunes behind the boards who appear to keep tracks on ice strictly for the VA duo, the Clipse deliver again. With tracks like â€œRide Around Shiningâ€ featuring Ab-Liva, and â€œKeys Open Doorsâ€ the duo manages to produce that vintage Clipse feel.
9. Busta Rhymes â€“ The Big Bang
Everything about Busta Rhymes this year was fresh. From the clipping of the locks, to his physical fitness, Busta came in with a bang, but wasnâ€™t received well, at least from a record sales standpoint. The Big Bang was one of the better albums since Extinction Level Event. Attempting to reclaim hip-hop from the Southern dominance, Busta drops â€œNew York Shit,â€ but the other records like â€œI Love My Chickâ€ contradict his claim, making it hard for people to take him seriously. Although it didnâ€™t garner the attention that many other albums did, Bustaâ€™s The Big Bang was a quality slept-on release in 2006.
8. The Game – Doctorâ€™s Advocate
Considered one of the best albums of 2006 simply because there was no one else on the West Coast that did what he did after the dismantled friendship between him and 50, Game dropped Doctorâ€™s Advocate in 2006. From spitting lyrical content discussing video vixens and their influence on young women, to delivering updated stories on West Coast culture, the Game has resurrected Cali and made people reminisce about the days of N.W.A., and Ice T.
7. T.I. – King
The South had a lot of major players this year, but the one who led them all was T.I. aka the King. From the billboards to the streets, 2006 was T.I.â€™s year. Donâ€™t let the slim frame fool you, dude is a monster! With the debut of his acting career in the film ATL and the release of the single, â€œWhat You Know,â€ T.I. ran shit in 2006. Able to both describe the other side Bankhead as well as do tracks with the likes of Common, T.I. is a force.
6. J. Dilla – The Shining
One of the illest producers to do it and to this day hip-hop has not given him his shine. Everybody needs to understand the genius that is James Yancey a.k.a. Jay Dee. The innovative Detroit producer was also a beast behind the mic. The fact that The Shining was produced from his hospital bed is a feat in itself. Featuring the likes of Common, Pharaoh Monche, Dâ€™Angelo, and Guilty Simpson The Shining saw Dilla craft backdrops suitable to each artists unqiue style. Where most producers in 2006 unsuccessfuly tried to mesh their styles with artists, Dilla had a way of making everything work regardless of the artist featured. Dropping Dillaesque tracks like â€œWonâ€™t Doâ€ and futuristic b-boy instrumentals like â€œOver the Breaks,â€ James Yancey showed the world what he was about with the The Shining in 2006.
5. Nas – Hip Hop is Dead
One of the first mainstream artists in the industry to really go public, Nasir Jones told the world that Hip Hop is Dead in 2006. You can hate if you want but at least the dialogue has begun; the real question is how long will it last? Hip-hop has grown to a place where it has become stagnate. Although production was decent overall, tracks like â€œMoney Over Bullshit,â€ â€œCanâ€™t Forget About You,â€ and â€œStill Dreamingâ€ were bangers! Nas was lyrically on point throughout, which made-up for some of the production on the album.
4. Jay-Z – Kingdom Come
Jay-Z is back. Hovâ€™s return was needed in hip-hop and the businesses oriented Sean Carter couldnâ€™t have picked a better period to release Kingdom Come. Easily able to send subliminal messages without mentioning a name, Jay addressed former and current attacks on his name, and reminded us that New Orleans still exists and people are still dealing with the aftermath of Katrina. With beats predominantly from Just Blaze and Dr. Dre plus a taste of Kanye West, Pharrell, and Chris Martin from Coldplay, Jay-Z went 12 for14 on this album, which to many would be a great night. When you are the Mike Jordan of the game, some people will never be satisfied. On â€œPreludeâ€ Jay summarized the current state of hip-hop with one verse and people still donâ€™t get it.
3. The Roots – Game Theory
It seems like everyone besides The Roots understands what and where their market is. Even with a major move to the Mecca of record labels, Def Jam, with Jay-Z at the helm, the expectations were not met on Game Theory, but itâ€™s all about perception and reality. With Dilla and Katrina as undertones and inspirations for this classic, yet dark album, Black Thought appeared to reach the zenith of emceeing. As consistent as LeBron James on the court, Through delivers pure energy and raw lyricism. The Roots are the conscious on your other shoulder that says dancing is cool, but how long can you dance before you accept there are issues in this world like the murder rate in Philadelphia, international issues, and the Patriot Act. Game Theory is exactly what the album says it is, a theory that needs to be tested in the hip-hop community.
2. Ghostface – Fishscale
Gambling at the high rollers table for his fifth album relase, Ghostface steers clear of RZA production with Fishscale, instead opting to recruit producers including Just Blaze, Pete Rock, J Dilla, and MF Doom. The result? Pretty Toney wins again, releasing his best effort since Supreme Clientelle. A return to the soul sample puts Ghost in his comfort zone, where he drops wailing, hi-pitched flows, and weaves through Fishscale, carefully crafting crime dramas, cocaine tales, and all around insanity. When chaos gets cohesive, there is no doubt something special has happened. Ghost proves heâ€™s still got it and leaves fans anticipating the Wu project that has been announced for next year.
1. Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor
Having been on the scene for a while but finally surfacing above a deck on four wheels Lupe is here. Skating to his own beat, Lupe has developed a following who believe that critical thought is as important as the size of your rims or the clothes you rock. If the next two albums are as dope as the first, maybe he truly needs to only make three like he has said he will in interviews. Exclusivity is in his blood so be prepared to observe Lupe make moves outside of the booth in 2007. There are many ways to get a message across and the Westside Chi-town native has simply tapped into one.