Hip-hop for the Holidays


Published: November 15, 2007

Freeway-“Free At Last”

If “Roc-A-Fella Billionaires,” featuring Jay-Z, is any indication, “Free At Last” is skip-able. If you can’t make an enjoyable song with Hov on it, something is wrong with you. Another already released track, “Paper Gangsters,” is also forgettable. “Lights Get Low” is pretty good, but that’s more of a credit to its production and appearance by Rick Ross. Judging by these three tracks and his previous work, Freeway’s lyrics are nothing special, and there’s nothing about his style or voice that stands out among other MCs.

The Final Call: Don’t waste your time.
Release: Dec. 11


The decision by Nas to title his album “Nigger” has sparked a ton of controversy, specifically within the African-American and hip-hop communities. According to MTV.com, the Rev. Al Sharpton has been vocal in his disapproval of the title, while Def Jam executives L.A. Reid and Jay-Z have demonstrated support. Much like last year’s “Hip Hop is Dead,” I think the title will inevitably distract attention from the content, which will probably address the country’s existing race relations, at least once. No tracks are confirmed. As far as musical quality, “Surviving the Times,” a new song released on his greatest hits album, is jaw-dropping and further affirmation that Nas isn’t falling off anytime soon.

The Final Call: Strongly recommended. Nas is a legend and can turn over a classic at any time.
Release: Dec. 11

Wu-Tang Clan-“8 Diagrams”

The Wu-Tang Clan’s first album in seven years will contain contributions from all nine original members, including archived recordings by the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. “Life Changes,” a tribute to ODB, is moving. The single “Watch Your Mouth” is solid, but the mundane beat takes away from what could’ve been a great song. Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah and Inspectah Deck come with tight lyrics, while the other guys’ verses are underwhelming. The Clan branches out in “The Heart Gently Weeps,” an interpolation of The Beatles’ “My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Ghostface, Raekwon and Method Man come strong on this one, which looks promising for the group.

The Final Call: Recommended. Enjoy it while you can. Recent radio interviews with Raekwon and Ghostface suggest that there’s dissent within the ranks of the Clan.
Release: Dec. 11

G-Unit-“Shoot To Kill”

While I don’t think G-Unit’s second album will be better than average, it has potential to surprise. Coming off the sorry excuse that was “Curtis,” 50 Cent impressed on the Whoo Kid mixtape that followed. Along with the dull uninspired lyrics, the primary flaw of “Curtis” was the overabundance of guest appearances and pop songs. Unfortunately, the brutal “Magic Stick” featuring Lil’ Kim, the only confirmed track on “Shoot to Kill,” fits this billing. I expect 50 to come strong if he stays away from the love songs. If you know G-Unit, you know what to expect—hard beats and violent lyrics. Buck’s gotten better over the years, Banks is mediocre and Yayo’s still horrible. Don’t be surprised by an LL Cool J appearance.

The Final Call: Take your chances.
Release: Dec. 18

Lupe Fiasco-“The Cool”

In 1994, a 21-one-year-old Nas debuted with the classic album “Illmatic,” and every album that he has put out since has been unfairly compared to it. 25-year-old Lupe Fiasco may have also set an impossible standard for himself to live up to with last year’s “Food and Liquor.” However, Lupe is off to a fine start with “Dumb It Down,” an incredible song that is ironically packed with clever references, convoluted riddles and well-thought out metaphors. Another hot track is “Superstar,” the video which has already received airtime on MTV and VH1. “Wherever I Go (Paris, Tokyo),” the third and final leaked track off “The Cool,” is also above average.

The Final Call: Strongly recommended.
Release: Dec. 18

Lil’ Wayne-“Tha Carter III: The Leak”

This album primarily consists of previously leaked material that was reserved for Lil’ Wayne’s early 2008 release. Because so much of the material had made its way around the Internet, Lil’ Wayne decided to release two versions of the album, as he explained to MTV news. “Tha Carter III: The Leak” will contain a few new tracks as well. This year, “Weezy” has taken the country by storm, as evidenced by his recipience of the 2007 MVP accolade at the BET Hip Hop Awards, despite not having put out an album all year. If you’re not familiar with Weezy beyond “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy,” “The Leak” is your chance to see what all the fuss is about.

The Final Call: Recommended.
Release: Dec. 18