Top 20 Must-Check Hip-Hop Albums of 2006

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Although Nas made “hip-hop is dead” a catch-phrase in 2006, fans around the world have been saying it for years. After narrowing down our Top 10 Mainstream and Independent Hip-Hop Albums of 2006 lists, we realized that there were a whole bunch of other albums that needed some love this year. If you’re one of those people that have been saying hip-hop is dead, here are 20 more reasons to shut you up.

honors_aceyalone.jpgAceyalone – Magnificent City
If you’ve already read through the Independent list, you’ll have noticed that RJD2 came together with Blueprint in 2006 for another Soul Position record, but before the release of that album, RJD2 teamed up with well-known west coast heavyweight, Aceyalone, for Magnificent City. The collaboration of these two artists is enough to warrant a spot on this list regardless of the outcome, but luckily for hip-hop fans everywhere, the two deliver. RJ’s soulful horn heavy production, and Acey’s playful flow—developed in his Freestyle Fellowship days—make Magnificent City another perfect pairing of producer and MC.

honors_clsmooth.jpgCL Smooth – American Me
Introduced to the world as part of the legendary duo with producer Pete Rock, CL Smooth has been out of the radar of most hip-hop fans for years. That didn’t stop him, however, from coming back strong in 2006. Despite the inclusion of only one Pete Rock cut on American Me, CL Smooth delivers his signature smooth flow, reminding original fans why they fell in love with hip-hop, while simultaneously introducing himself to a new wave of listeners.

honors_dilated.jpgDilated Peoples – 20/20
Evidence and Rakaa are two of the most hated on “wouldn’t be where they were without a producer” lyricists in hip-hop since Guru hooked up with Primo. Fuck the haters, although they may not be the greatest group of all time, Dilated Peoples consistently comes tight with it, and their most recent effort, 20/20, is no exception. Ipod worthy tracks include: “Back Again,” “You Can’t Hide,” “Kindness for Weakness,” and check out “The One and Only” to hear DJ Babu get busy for a whole four minutes. A DJ with his very own cut on a commercial release? Unheard of today!

honors_ghostface.jpgGhostface – More Fish
Two albums in one year? Damn Ghostface really is the God MC. Despite the fact that More Fish is really more of a collabo album than a solo, Ghost’s presence is felt throughout the disc where he leads his new school rap disciples through 14 of the 17 tracks. Not quite measuring up to his previous release this year, More Fish still delivers, proving that Ghost got his cook game on in 2006 – none of these items are leftovers. Appearances by Trife Da God, Cappadona, Redman, Killa Sin and others show strength in numbers on More Fish. Even Ghost’s son, Sun God stops in, spitting alongside Ghost on “Street Opera.” Not a spectacular release, but definitely worth a check, More Fish is another solid effort from Ghost.

honors_hitek.jpgHi-Tek – Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip
One of hip-hop’s most underrated producers, Hi-Tek, teams up with some of hip-hops best MCs to drop his sophomore effort Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip. A definite contender for Top 10 of the Year, we had to leave this one out of our mainstream and independent lists, but that’s what this category is for! There are too many ill MCs on this record to name, and mention of any combination of them would be an insult to those left out. We’ll just say that besides a few sleepers, a number of unlikely collaborations between some of today, and yesterdays, best artists, make this album a near classic. Hi-Tek himself even stops the party to get in the booth himself, showing that he can rock with the best of them. A cohesive record, complemented by live instrumentation, and R&B hooks, Hi-Teknology 2 is a must check in 2006.

honors_kos.jpgk-os – Atlantis: Hymns for Disco
Best known for infusing hip-hop with reggae and soul vibes, Canadian artist k-os is back with another offering. Atlantis: Hymns for Disco sees k-os expand his repertoire even further than past efforts, as he mishmashes his previous music influences with more hints of rock, blues, and punk. Although there are some terrible experiments littering this album, the songs that work, work well, bringing together soulful singing, and b-boy alpha flows on-top of upbeat productions that sound like The Neptunes got a bit more sample happy. Original stylings like “flyPaper,” “Mirror in the Sky,” and “The Rain” keep Atlantis moving, and although this isn’t a great album all together, it’s certainly worth checking for some of the tracks.

honors_obie.jpgObie Trice – Second Rounds On Me
Criminally slept-on by both the public and the media, Obie Trice’s sophomore record, Second Rounds On Me, was a solid 2006 release. From story-telling and introspection, to brash confidence, to straight up gangster shit, this album is classic Obie. Perhaps it was the semi-weak singles that turned off fans from this album, but dig deeper, and you’ll find great tracks like “Wake Up,” “Cry Now,” and “Mama.” Banging beats, heavy, multi-syllabic flows from Obie, and minimal Eminem involvement, make Second Rounds on Me one of the best sleeper albums of 2006.

honors_raycash.jpgRay Cash – Cash on Delivery
Listening to Ray Cash, it feels like he hasn’t completely developed his own style. Dude sounds like a mix between T.I., Lil Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z, and Joe Budden, and you know what? We’re not complaining. Ray bleeds swagger all over Cash on Delivery, where he drops street poetics a la Beanie Sigel or Obie Trice. Enough with the comparisons, it’s just that seeing Ray Cash in all his lean and bespeckled glory, makes you think dude can’t get down. One listen to “Payback” or “Bumpin My Music” with Scarface will show you different, as Ray proves he is a real hip-hop head, creatively dropping the names of artists he bumps in the whip. Ray Cash gets our vote for most underrated artist of the year, and Cash on Delivery, although not a Top 10 album, is an almost perfect debut.

honors_rhymefest.jpgRhymefest – Blue Collar
Although Rhymefest has been in the game for over 10 years, it wasn’t until 2006 that the general public finally got a taste of the Chicago-bred MC on his debut mainstream release, Blue Collar. Fittingly titled for an MC that had yet to make any real noise until ghostwriting “Jesus Walks” for Kanye West, the album surveys Rhymefest as an artist, and more importantly, as a human being. Humble, down-to-earth, and humorous, Rhymefest keeps Blue Collar fresh and entertaining throughout, rapping over the perfect mix between hip-pop style production, and hard hitting boom-bap beats.

honors_thecoup.jpgThe Coup – Pick A Bigger Weapon
Finding the perfect mix between humor and political commentary, The Coup have always been a group to check for, and their 2006 release, Pick A Bigger Weapon, is no exception. Influenced by funk and funk-inspired rap, the album brings several musicians onboard to play live which adds flavor throughout. Boots keeps it lyrical, educating with his verses, but in the accessible way that has always made him a fan favorite.

10 More Must-Check Albums from 2006:
Apathy – Eastern Philosophy
Black Milk – Broken Wax
Ludacris – Release Therapy
Method Man – 4:21 The Day After
Molemen – Killing Fields
Saigon – The Yardfather
Scarface Presents: The Product – One Hunid
Snoop Dogg – Blue Carpet Treatment
Tanya Morgan – Moonlighting
Tech N9ne – Everready: The Religion

Shane Ward

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