2007 was one hell of a diverse affair for hip-hop. It was the year Lil Wayne was announcing his immediate arrival as the Best Rapper Alive, it was the year 50’s run was finally over, it was the year Jay-Z truly made his comeback and it was also the year of Kanye West.
Here are the top five best rappers alive of 2007.
5. Lupe Fiasco
Notable releases: The Cool
Key guest appearances: Musiq Soulchild’s “B.U.D.D.Y. (Remix),” Fall Out Boy’s “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race (Remix),” Blake Lewis’ “Know My Name.”
Lupe’s debut album, Food & Liquor, established him as one of rap’s most promising and unique talents, but it was his sophomore project, The Cool, that cemented him as the genre’s most fearless and creative voices.
Between the two releases, Lupe went through some tough times – losing his father to diabetes as well as his business partner Chilly to a prison sentence – so it’s not hard to see why The Cool is much darker than Food & Liquor.
“Hip-Hop Saved My Life” and “Dumb It Down” are scathing looks at the music industry although “Paris, Tokyo” does ease things up a little bit when shit gets too tense. Then there’s joints like “Go Go Gadget Flow” that are just lyrical marvels and testaments to Lupe’s ability as a pure lyricist.
Notable releases: Below the Heavens (with Exile)
Key guest appearances: N/A
Every now and then, an artist will just seemingly come out of nowhere and drop a bomb on the game’s head. That’s exactly what Blu did when he teamed up with Exile for the classic Below the Heavens.
In an era where the South were taking over with their trap and crunk sounds, Below the Heavens was a quiet, unassuming soulful masterpiece that boasted incredibly relatable blue collar rhymes from Blu and beautiful jazzy production from Exile.
While other rappers tend to cram as many big name producers as they can on one album, Blu and Exile worked together perfectly as one unit, resulting in a masterful, cohesive project – a throwback to the Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Gang Starr and Pete & CL Smooth days.
As a rapper, Blu’s rhymes are nimble and his flow melts perfectly with Exile’s boom-bap beats; he stands out because he’s human, vulnerable, broke, grinding and blue collar – everything we all once were at least.
3. Andre 3000
Notable releases: N/A
Key guest appearances: Devin the Dude’s “What a Job,” Jay-Z’s “30 Something (Remix),” Lloyd’s “You (Remix),” Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s (Remix),” UGK’s “International Players Anthem (I Choose You),” DJ Drama’s “The Art Of Storytellin’ Part 4.”
Maybe its the fact that a 3 Stacks verse was so rare post-2003. Andre 3000’s last pure rapping project was 2000’s Stankonia. Since then, he’s been in and out of the game, acting, singing and doing whatever it is Andre 3000 does.
But when he does drop a verse. It’s a fucking event. On DJ Drama’s “The Art Of Storytellin’ Part 4,” on Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s (Remix),” on Devin the Dude’s “What a Job.” On the remix of Jay-Z’s “30 Something” where he totally blows Hov out the water. On UGK’s “International Players Anthem (I Choose You),” where he completely outshines Bun B, Pimp C and Big Boi.
An Andre 3000 verse is like magic. They’re completely random, totally unpredictable and always come out of left field. You never know what you’re going to get with them.
2. Lil Wayne
Notable releases: Da Drought 3
Key guest appearances: DJ Khaled’s “We Takin’ Over,” Birdman’s “Pop Bottles,” Playaz Circle’s “Duffle Bag Boy,” Wyclef Jean’s “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill),” Twista’s “Whip Game Proper,” Kanye West’s “Barry Bonds,” Chamillionaire’s “Rock Star,” Jay-Z’s “Hello Brooklyn 2.0.”
2008’s Tha Carter III would make Lil Wayne the international superstar that he is now but Da Drought 3 still stands as his best work ever. The sprawling 2-disc mixtape featured Weezy rapping over anything and everything – if the beat was hot, he was going to chew it up.
Didn’t matter whether it was Mims’ “This Is Why I’m Hot,” Nas’ “Black Republican,” Beyonce’s “Upgrade U” or Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” – Lil Wayne snatched that shit up and made it his own.
A few months after dissing Hov in a Complex interview and claiming the Best Rapper Alivetitle, Wayne took Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got” and destroyed it and any hope Jay-Z had of making a smooth comeback. Weezy was getting mighty close to the throne.
1. Kanye West
Notable releases: Graduation, Can’t Tell Me Nothing (mixtape)
Key guest appearances: The Game’s “Wouldn’t Get Far,” Teriyaki Boyz’s “I Still Love H.E.R.,” Ne-Yo’s “Because of You (Remix),” T-Pain’s “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’) (Remix),” Common’s “Southside.”
Everything Kanye had done in his career to date was leading up to this very moment. Grinding it out in Chicago as No I.D.’s protege, hustling beats for Roc-A-Fella, producing for The Blueprint, trying to convince Jay and Dame he was a rapper, dropping The College Dropout, dropping Late Registration, it was all for this moment.
In 2007, everything clicked into place for Kanye. He had the street anthem with “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and he had the charts on lock with the smash “Stronger.” But when 50 challenged Kanye to a sales battle between Graduation and Curtis, it was still unclear who would win.
This was, after all, the man who moved over a million copies in his first week just a couple years ago with The Massacre. 50 wasn’t easily fucked with. But then it happened. Graduation sold over 900,000 while Curtis moved close to 700,000 copies. The hip-hop landscape shifted completely – gangster rap was done and Yeezy season was officially in.
In addition to Graduation featuring a more sophisticated, stadium-arena sound, it also had Kanye’s best rapping to date. As someone who suffered from clunky bars and awkward rhyme schemes in the early days, he was a full blown beast on the mic. Kanye even stopped Lil Wayne, who was on a scorching feature bodying run at the time, from eclipsing him on the street knocker “Barry Bonds.”