As I mentioned yesterday and also a couple of weeks ago, there've been a few rap albums this year that I've enjoyed quite a bit. Granted, none of them will go down in history as the next Ready to Die, or even the next Reasonable Doubt (heh), but things could be worse. This could be 2005.

Say what you will about last year though, but there was still a smattering, if you will, of quality hip-hop songs on the radio. In the early part of the year, there was the Game's "How We Do," the best 50 Cent song evar, and later in the year there was the Three Six Mafia's "Stay Fly," one of history's more cogent arguments in favor of southern hip-hop.

In 2006, single-wise, I don't know that there's been anything that's risen to that level. T.I.'s "What You Know" may have been the closest thing to date, though I think it fell a bit short. Nothing off of Busta Rhymes' the Big Bang really managed to ignite, and of course radio wasn't about to embrace anything off of Ghostface Killah's Fishscale. The Clipse, for being the most heralded groups in the history of the Internets, haven't had a real hit since like '02.

And the less said about OutKast's Idlewild, the better. With the release date still a couple of weeks out, it's not too late for them to toss the negative for that shit in a closet somewhere and pretend like it never happened. The ill-fated soundtrack album hasn't hit the file sharing networks, has it? Maybe that's the label's strategy at this point: keep as many people from hearing it as possible until its release date. At any rate, none of the three or four singles leaked from it have done anything.

Because I'm still living in what you might call the Blue Card Era, I've still gotta listen to the radio for a few hours a week on the way back and forth to my other job, at the BGM. It used to be the case that I could just throw on the classic rock station and be good for 30 minutes at a time, but these days I end up doing a lot of switching back and forth between stations. Fortunately, hip-hop radio this summer hasn't been completely without its pleasures.

Confession Time: Anytime I'm in my car these days and either Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man," Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous," or Kelis' "Bossy" comes on, I crank that shit way up the way I would any great hip-hop record. I haven't liked any actual rap songs as much in ages, though it's worth noting that there's a bunch of other hip-hop meets R&B stuff that I can't stand. In particular, here's hoping that the Field Mob's tour bus hits a patch of black ice and rolls over on the freeway.

But the best of this new shit I do find genuinely better than any past attempts at combining the two genres. And since there doesn't seem to be any end in sight for hip-hop's epic plummet from its mid '90s peak, I wonder if this isn't really the future of hip-hop and not just some summer-long trend.