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Top Reggaeton & Hip Hop Albums

Top Picks for 2007

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Looking at my picks for 2007's best rap/hip hop albums, 8 out of the 10 artists are from Puerto Rico, home of reggaeton. Half of the albums are pure reggaeton - from old-school classic to some interesting new developments. There's also a nod to Cuba with the Orishas and to the Dominican Republic with Fulanito.

1. Ivy Queen - Sentimiento

Ivy Queen - Sentimiento
Courtesy Univision
Ivy Queen is one of the few female voices in reggaeton and Sentimiento is her best album yet. Instead of selling the music with skull-crunching decibels, she uses her strong, rich, deep voice to bring every bit as much force to her songs. Her lyrics are about honest emotions that brim with real life situations. Sentimiento is also interesting in its turnaround technique of using male guests to sing any song that even smacks of a ballad. I love this album, which contains the hit single "Que Lloren".

2. Calle 13 - Residente O Visitante

Calle 13 - Resident O Visitante
Courtesy Sony BMG Latin
Calle 13 seems to be the Latin Academy's darling, taking home more urban music prizes than any other group. I didn't think it was really warranted with their 2006 debut album, but it made a lot of sense with 2007's Residente O Visitante - though it was a tough call when they went up against Ivy Queen's Sentimiento.

Residente O Visitante is an innovative, silly, thoughtful, raunchy, daring spree of an album that is hard to resist.

3. Orishas - Antidiotico

Orishas - Antidiotico
Courtesy Univeral Music Latino
Cuban hip hop? There's not much of that around and it's not surprising, considering that the Cuban powers-that-be did not even acknowledge that hip hop was part of Cuban culture until 1999. The Orishas got around that by moving to Europe (Okay - they probably didn't move because of the hip hop taboo).

Antidiotico contains a compilation of songs from their past repetoire. The band does a dynamite job of fusing Cuban rhythms with hip hop, rap and other more modern elements. This album rocks!

4. Wisin y Yandel - Los Extraterrestres

Wisin y Yandel - Los Extraterrestres
Courtesy Machete Music
Wisin y Yandel were probably 2007's most popular reggaeton duo; Los Extraterrestres, their first new studio album since 2005's Pa'l Mundo, is not as spacey as the title suggests - it's just good, straight reggaeton without much of the experimentation that other artists in the genre are currently playing with. The album contains the hit single, "Sexy Movimiento".

5. Zion - The Perfect Melody

Zion - The Perfect Melody
Courtesy Universal Music Latino
Zion's first solo album is a hit in my book. It's interesting that he titled the cd The Perfect Melody since the concept of melody is usually secondary with most reggaeton artists. What Zion does here is bring rap/hip hop to an approachable, almost pop plane with tracks like "The Way She Moves".

6. Los Cocorocos

Los Cocorocos
Courtesy Universal Music Latino
Los Cocorocos are some of Puerto Rico's biggest musical artists getting together to experiment with the fusion of reggaeton and salsa. Andy Montanez did it last year with his Salsa Con Reggaeton, but that was really much more salsa with a dollop of hip hop. Los Cocorocos swings more strongly towards reggaeton and hip hop.

Some of the great artists performing on the album include Tego Calderon, Voltio, Zion and Don Omar (representing Puerto Rico's reggaeton school) and Victor Manuelle, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Tito Nieves and Domingo Quinones (representing salsa). This album is one of my favorites of the year - in any category.

7. Tego Calderon - El Abayarde Contra-ataca

Tego Calderon - Contra-ataca
Courtesy WEA Latina
Puerto Rico's Tego Calderon no longer wants to be known as a reggaeton artist, preferring the hip hop label. In El Abayarde Contraataca, the granddaddy of reggaeton surely mixes it up with nods to a number of Caribbean rhythms; his poetic raps are a counterpoint to a rhythmic background based on merengue, cumbia, salsa and more. But make no mistake: El Abayarde has not deserted his roots, he's just let those roots grow and flower.

8. Voltio - En Lo Claro

Voltio - En Lo Claro
Courtesy Sony BMG Latin
For a slow-down in pace, Voltio is just the ticket. His music can put you in a trance with its bare-bones rhythms punctuated by electronics. I really liked his use of brass on this album and the way he mixes up rhythms adding rumba,vallenato and salsa to a more mature hip hop sensibility.

9. Alexis y Fido - Sobrenatural

Alexis y Fido - Sobrenatural
Courtesy Sony BMG Latin
Alexis & Fido get a lot of help from their friends on 2007's Sobrenatural, with spots from (among others) Voltio, Toby Love and Nejo y Dalmata. Their rap style is uniquely their own, the songs were produced with care and most have the potential for becoming big single hits. "Los Reyes del Perreo" have another winner on their hands.

10. Fulanito - Vacaneria

Fulanito - Vacaneria
Courtesy Cutting Records
The tempo of contemporary merengue just keeps getting faster and faster; couple that with some serious rap done to merengue rhythms and you have some idea of Dominican hip hop courtesy of Fulanito. (Sometimes you wonder how anyone can rap that fast!) The albums not all merengue-based hip hop, the versatile band varies the pace with some traditional reggaeton dembow rhythm, a little salsa and cumbia rhythms. This album is a verbal and rhythmic blast.

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