And the Award for Hyped-Up Hip-Hop Goes to … 2005!

    Some of us might not believe it, and won’t want to accept it, but as painful as it might be, 2005 was a pretty shitty year for hip-hop albums. That is not to say that there were no quality albums (there were), but the past year was characterized by records that simply didn’t live up to the hype. And with that, here are the Guardian’s 2005 Hip-Hop Awards:

    Most Overrated Album

    This distinction goes to Common, whose album Be received high scores across the board and was viewed as a breath of fresh air in the hip-hop world. Unfortunately, Be wasn’t the 21st century Illmatic it so badly wanted to be, instead becoming a solid album too self-absorbed to appeal to anyone but die-hard Common fans and devotees of the G-Unit-obsessed XXL magazine. Kanye West’s Late Registration could easily qualify in this category as well, not for his album’s shortcomings, but rather because Kanye could crap in a jewel case, sell it for $18, and critics would still sing his praises. Late Registration was pretty damn good, and West is obviously one of the top producers in hip-hop, but his abilities as an MC remain suspect, and much of his material is a genre-defying sort of soulful-indie-hipster-pop that relies far too heavily on sampling.

    Album that Actually Lived Up to the Hype

    Much like Be, Little Brother’s Minstrel Show created a buzz in the industry months before its release, with rumors of “five-mic” and “XXL” ratings abounding. Unlike Be, Little Brother delivered an outstanding and fun album from beginning to end, showing that not all conscious rappers take themselves too seriously. Dangerdoom’s The Mouse and the Mask deserves an honorable mention as MF Doom and Danger Mouse’s superb collaboration received more scrutiny as a cross-promotion with Adult Swim, yet was able to maintain its own flavor and character, living up to both artists’ lofty expectations.

    Worst Commercially Successful Album

    This one’s easy, so we’ll keep it short. Enough of “Candy Shop” and “A Lil Bit” — 50 Cent’s Massacre was a complete disaster of an album. Although Mariah Carey was the only one to top Fiddy in sales, his constant self-promotion, selling out and sacrificing dignity for money has diminished his reputation among rappers, with countless mixtape disses and lack of respect the result. Mike Jones’ Who Is Mike Jones? comes in at a close second, because it’s rarely good if the chopped-n-screwed version is more listenable than the original.

    Best Commercially Successful Album

    MTV plays an awful lot of garbage, but thankfully, Young Jeezy and his solo debut Thug Motivation 101 were thrown in with the lot. In the ultra self-conscious world of hip-hop, Jeezy seems exceedingly comfortable in his own skin, and this cool confidence keeps you smiling throughout his album. Honorable mentions go to the Game’s Documentary for its production and to Paul Wall’s The People’s Champ.

    Surprisingly Good Album that I Didn’t Want to Like

    Having never been a fan of Slug, I didn’t even want to give Felt 2, his second collaboration with Murs, a chance. However, Felt 2 provided some of the best, funkiest production of the year with some of Slug’s least depressing lyrics, making the sequel much better than the original. An honorable mention goes to Edan’s Beauty and the Beat, a well-conceived early-’90s throwback set that many consider the album of the year.

    Comeback of the Year

    This one goes to all of the people of Boot Camp Clik/Duck Down Records. These pillars of mid-’90s New York hip-hop had fallen off the radar until Sean Price, Buckshot and Smif-N-Wessun all released albums this year. While we are still waiting for another Heltah Skeltah project, we’re just happy to have these legends back in the game.

    Album of the Year

    Here is what you have been waiting for, presented clearly in list format, in descending order, the top 10 albums of the year:

    10) Sean Price: Monkey Barz

    9) Cormega: The Testament

    8) DJ Muggs vs. GZA: Grandmasters

    7) Geto Boys: The Foundation

    6) Mistah F.A.B.: Son of a Pimp

    5) Bun-B: Trill

    4) Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask

    3) Cage: Hell’s Winter

    2) Little Brother: The Minstrel Show

    1) Messy Marv: Bandannas, Tattoos & Tongue Rings

    Call it a Bay Area bias if you like, but San Francisco’s Messy Marv released an excellent album, complete with a tribute to Mac Dre, an anti-cunnilingus anthem, a G-Unit diss, an insightful collaboration with Dead Prez, a dedication to his mother, hilarious skits and quality production the whole way through. What more could one ask for?

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