Honorable Mention: O.C. - Starchild
This would probably be #1 if it weren't for the fact that I already got the Japanese import, and appearently they're going to release it in the states. There'll be a few bonuses, to be sure, but obviously since I already have the "International Version" I don't feel that excited.
05: Sean Price - Monkey Bars
Burning Question: Can Sean Price make a great album?
This album could be the return of the BCC and Duck Down Records. Very little is known about this album at this point, but the expectations are pretty high. To my knowledge tho, there will be little outside help for this album. Which is fine, but are the in-house producers, etc. up to the task?
04: Beanie Sigel - The B-Coming
Burning Question: Can Beanie Sigel ever be great like they promised us?
The legend goes that Jay-Z was so impressed with his first meeting with Beanie, he signed him on 1 freestyle. But Beans has never done anything to be considered "great". He's always been the second guy behind Jay-Z, never making much noise commercially or critically. Can he do it now? The production is there (DJ Scratch, Aqua) the guests are there (Redman, Busta Rhymes, Heavy D), its all up to Beanie. It's pretty hard for me to beleive Beans can make a great album if there are appearences by Peedi Crakk and the like. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, tho.
03: MED - When Push Comes To Shove
Burning Question: How good is MED as an MC?
To tell you the truth MED is an enigma to me as an emcee for the most part. I've only heard him on Peanut Butter Wolf's "Stones Throw 101" Mix CD on 2 songs. But its the production that really gets me. Peep the lineup (for an underground artist!): Madlib, Oh No, J-Dilla, Diamond D, Just Blaze. I can't give this top honors because I don't know the guy that much, but by the people promoting and on this album, I have high expectations.
02: Da Beatminerz - Fully Loaded With Static
Burning Question: Can a producer's album have great guest appearences and be cohesive?
Da Beatminerz are good, and they have gotten a collective of MC's you can't look away from. Just check some of the guys in the line-up: Black Moon, KRS-One, J-Live, Wordsworth, Chali 2na, Dilated Peoples, Last Emperor, Krumbsnatcha, J-Zone, Poison Pen, Jean Grae, Tony Touch...But with the dizzying array of guests, how can you know that each will be at the top of their game? How can you make the album cohesive?
01: AZ - Final Call
Burning Question: Can AZ break the curse?
Think about this: AZ debuted on the classic album "Illmatic", and he kicked one of the most amazing verses possibly ever. AZ's smooth yet somehow gritty flow, skills, etc seemed to be the perfect ingredients for becoming a star. Yet, after dropping Illmatic's little cousin, "Doe or Die", people still found him to be Nas's sidekick instead of his partner. AZ still dropped a good amount of good material, but he still is kinda left out. But AZ can make it all right now. Appearing on the incredible Nas collabo "Serious" has only shown that the skills are still there. Is "Final Call" going to break the "Illmatic Curse"? Only time will tell.