The consensus on the Internets re: hip-hop in 2007 seems to be that last year sucked balls and this year isn't going to be any better. For example, there was a post at Straight Bangin' the other day called "2007 Blows so Far."

And I was talking to this kid the other day and he was saying how there are hardly any really big rap songs on the radio right now other than Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's," which a) is retarded, and b) came out last year. To which I could only more or less agree.

However, it looks like things might be about to heat up. While the first couple of months of 2007 were as dry as an older woman's barren hoo-hah, this month there's already been two really good rap albums, both of which I happen to like more than anything that came out last year.

The second one will have to wait until next week, but the first one is Popular Demand, the new album by Black Milk, a young producer slash rapper out of Detroit hoping to follow in the footsteps of local legends such as Proof and J Dilla - except for the whole dying part.

I reviewed the album on my own site a couple of weeks ago:

And there's also a free mixtape his label Fat Beats put out that has some hot shit on it, including tracks from the new album as well as some of the tracks he produced for the post-Dilla era Slum Village.

Here's the thing: I tend to enjoy albums by producer slash rappers anyway, provided the rappin' isn't really, really bad. I don't mess around with any of those Neptunes albums, but albums like Diamond D's Stunts, Blunts and Hip-Hop and both of RZA's Bobby Digital albums are right up my alley. Nullus.

I wasn't as crazy about either of Kanye West's albums because the production on the first one didn't do a whole lot for me, and the rappin' on both of them could get pretty shitty - and not charmingly so, like on his remake of Rich Boy's "Throw Some D's" or the remix to that Fall Out Boy song.

On Popular Demand, Black Milk strikes what I think is a pretty strong balance between good rappin' and good producing, though he obviously excels at the latter more so than the former.

As an MC, he's not breaking any new ground in terms of subject matter, but he's got a flow at least as good, if not better, than the vast majority of cats who aren't considered primarily producers, let alone the likes of Kanye West.

Truth be told, Black Milk's production isn't exactly groundbreaking either. Essentially, what's he done is take the old Dilla sound and make it somewhat less idiosyncratic. In that sense, Popular Demand works in more or less the same way that those post-Dilla Slum Village albums did.

Let's face it: before Dilla was every 18 year-old d-bag on the Internets' favorite dead producer, he was known primarily as the guy who fucked up the fourth Tribe album and the second Pharcyde album. Not to discount the man's work, but I'd say Popular Demand is as enjoyable, if not as innovative, and anything Dilla ever did.