9. Tim Fite - Over the Counter Culture
You know how I spent the whole year complaining about how hip-hop has no life, no verve, none of the sense of adventure or immediacy that made it such a vital form in the first place? Well, singer-songwriter/hip-hop folkie Tim Fite knows what I was talking about. Far flung beats, live instrumentation, even some scratching are to be found here, along with some of the most darkly comic and creative wordplay I've heard in a long time. On album opener "Place Your Bets," Fite gets deep on some anatomy shit: "Tell me true/ Can you ever win back the limb you lose?/ Or do you just lose your limbs again and again/ Until your life lies limbless/ There's limits to how much independence you can give an appendage/ Before the end of the hand is definitive/ That's why this tale is regenerative." Another highlight is "I've Been Shot," an ode to taking a cap to boost your record sales. "You know that I'm better than the next guy/ Even though we both sound exactly alike/ Is that Jadakiss or is that Tim Fite?" muses Fite on "It's All Right Here," winking at the stagnant rap scene he's trying to single handedly represent. [NOTE: I finalized my list and wrote this summary before realizing this record came out in February of 2007. Typical late discovery for me, but you know what? I don't care, this record was huge for me this year, and you can just comment your heart out if it bothers you.]
9. Q-Tip - The Renaissance
Having this album on my list is huge for me. Apart from some random singles (like the wonderful Dilla-d out "Let's Ride" and "Get Involved," a Saadiq collaboration from the PJ's soundtrack) Tip's solo career has been less than titillating for me. However, with this new record, we finally get the passion and essence of the former ATCQer that we have been missing. Even his track with Norah Jones is dope. With cameos from Saadiq, Amanda Diva and the mighty D'Angelo, The Renaissance eschews all that flashy "Vivrant Thing" bullshit and brings Tip back to basics. He produced the whole record himself, apart from the Dilla beat used for "Move," and the result is strictly butter.