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Low-end theory 

The year snap went wack in Atlanta

How bad was Atlanta hip-hop in 2007? Let us count the ways.

Too many rappers seemed content to bank their careers on a ringtone and a prayer, hoping the simplest of ditties would gain viral traction among the nation's impressionable youth. If 2006 was the year of the snap, then 2007 was the year snap went wack, thanks to annoyingly subpar releases by Soulja Boy, Yung Joc, Rasheeda and Shop Boyz.

Meanwhile, an ever-growing contingent of street rappers made joyless epics that substituted menacing frowns and one-syllable vocabularies for personality and lyrical wit. Playaz Circle (a one-hit wonder thanks to its "Duffle Bag Boy" single with Lil Wayne), Boyz in Da Hood, Young Jeezy's USDA crew and Gorilla Zoe made yawn-inducing albums that were not only boring to the average consumer, but also to hardened fans of the thug-rap genre.

T.I., the one superstar who showed up to work, turned in an album that was both tentatively pleasing and distressingly middling. T.I. vs. T.I.P. was full of rehashed concepts, from the single "You Know What It Is" (a hook better used on "The Undertaker" from King) to the title itself (from a song on Trap Muzik). Hopefully an upcoming album, Paper Trail, informed by his recent legal troubles, will mark a return to his usual excellence.

There was a slender silver lining to this dark cloud of mediocrity. Crime Mob made an unappreciated album, Hated on Mostly, which suffered from a lack of promotion. Unfortunately, the group seems close to dissolving by year's end, with half of its members gone due to incarceration and business disputes. Despite felony charges on bootlegging hanging over him, DJ Drama turned in a big-budget version of Gangsta Grillz with choice cuts from OutKast, among many others. Alternately, with their disparate guest vocals for UNK, Lloyd, Devin the Dude and UGK (rest in peace, Pimp C), Big Boi and Andre 3000 may be 2007's cameo kings.

It's not good when the best hip-hop Atlanta can offer is a group that only made guest appearances on other people's songs and a DJ-helmed compilation. But with new albums from Big Boi, Ludacris, Killer Mike and – cross your fingers – Lil Jon on the way, next year should be an improvement on 2007's diminishing returns.

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