Happy New Years to everyone out there. Hopefully everyone had a safe and fun filled New Year’s Eve. By the time this post comes out, I’ll hopefully be snuggled away safely on a couch, a park bench, or maybe even a bed somewhere. As long as it isn’t under a house in a crawl space like I did in my senior year of high school on New Year’s Eve. Who knows…. my New Year’s Eves have a history of being somewhat unpredictable. I have tickets to a Doomtree show tonight at the Knitting Factory, but I’m still not sure what the night holds for me. We shall see……
With the sheer number of albums and projects released this year, it means there is just an mind numbing number of songs out there. There is just a pure glut of tracks out there. When I look at Eric’s list over at When They Reminisce, there is a good chunk of songs that I’ve ever havent’ heard, or heard once and twice and moved on. That’s not to say Eric doesn’t have good taste, he and I listen to a lot of the same music and artists. But there is just soooo much out there. Back in the 90′s (I know some of you cringe when you read that) people’s list would contain many of the same songs. There was just less songs and the good stuff came to the forefront and the mediocre stuff stayed “local”. The present day, anyone can release a song. It could be one of the greatest songs ever, but with so much stuff to wade through, it could very well get lost in the shuffle. Sure, you might have some obscure blogger stumble his way on it, but he listens to 10-20 albums a week and he may or may not remember running across it. And even if he does, and pumps it up on his blog, maybe only the eight to ten thousand people that visits his blog in a week might here it and out of those, maybe only a few hundred actually check the song out. See where I’m coming from? It’s just insane to rank or list songs this year, even more so than it has been in the past.
We kick it off with the first part of four with our top 100 tracks. We have 100-76 with two tracks tied at 100 (I forgot a song that I had to put in there today, and I already listed 101, so 99 moved into a tie with 100). Feel free to disagree, but remember, it’s just opinions…..these are my personal favorites and not the written word.
100. Edgar Allen Floe feat Mal Demolish – The Dirt (From: Road To Streetwise mixtape)
Not only does he have one of the dopest hip hop MC names, Edgar Allen Floe is also one of the more consistent artists out there. That usually translates into being slept on, like he was this year with his The Streetwise LP, which was solid from start to beginning and should have at least been on the radars of all the Justus League “stans” out there (myself included). This particular cut though was found on his equally impressive “Road To Streetwise” mixtape, which honestly was one of the best mixtapes I heard all year. In fact it blew three quarters of the so-called “albums” out of the water. “The Dirt”, incorporates a nice violin sample or a knockin’ drum track as well as some nice old school sound effects (you should recognize them when you hear them). It’s really a vintage “JL” sound, although the production came from unknown Erv. Lyrically it features Mal Demolish of EAF’s Undefined group, who doesn’t possess the presence of Floe, but does a nice enough job. Floe just comes with it like he is capable of doing, using his strong mic presence to make up for any shortcomings he might have rhyme wise. “The Dirt” could have easily been featured on The Streetwise, it’s that good.
(Tied) 100. Mekka Don – Death Is Life (from: self released single from Mekka, himself)
Mekka Don gave a proper tribute to two important characters to both music and the silver screen that was lost this past year. We lost both Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac within a week of each other and that caught a lot of us off guard. Mekka caught that feeling perfectly as he questioned mortality of both men as well as others we have lost in the past. All this was done over a soothing track that fit the mood PERFECTLY. Of course it is easy for me to say that when the producer that created the track is someone I’ve considered one of my best friends for the past fourteen years plus. I’m proud of my man Goosebumps as he caught his first break as a producer, blessing this special track.
99. Pacewon & Mr. Green – Four Quarters (from: Their LP “The Only Color That Matters is Green”)
I’ve long been an Outsidaz fan since I first heard them on their EP “Nightlife” back in ’99. Although Young Zee was my favorite MC out of the bunch,
Pacewon was a close second. While Pace has dropped good solo projects in the past, this year it seemed you always had to kind of cringe when you heard a veteran was dropping an album. Not so with Pace, as he dropped one of my favorite albums of the year with producer Mr. Green in the form of “The Only Color That Matters is Green”. In the essence of classic hip hop, it was all about one MC and one producer and these two were perfect for each other. “Four Quarters” is a perfect example of that. With haunting synths, echoing the triumphant return of Pace and drums banging loud and clear, the track is pure hip hop.
98. Akrobatik – Absolute Value (from: “Absolute Value” LP)
For our year end awards (which will be posted next week), I sampled a large collection of bloggers, artists, DJ’s, and other people who’s opinions that I vaulue and I’ve already seen a few people mention Akrobatik’s Absolute Value LP as one of the slept on albums of the year. And I have to say I have to agree with them as well. Being one of the first “good” albums of the year, I guess a lot of people have short memories and forgot about it. The title track demonstrates Ak in all his goodness, as he attacks the mic like a madman. Ak usually has one speed and that is high and straightforward. You won’t here no mushy, soft spoken rhymes from dude. The best part is he does it all over a noisy ass J-Zone beat. We didn’t get to hear many Zone beats outside of his Chief Chinchilla project, so it was good to hear Ak rhyme over a classic Zone beat. These two should have hooked up more often, that’s all I got to say.
97. Analogic and Rashid Hadee – Explode (From: “Serenade For The Moment” EP)
I kind of got tired of the chipmunk soul sample thing this year. It just got played out. It probably got played out two or three years ago, but I was just a little later than other cats in growing tired of it. However, if you can hook it up right, I’ll still latch onto it. That’s what Analogic did on “Explode”. Cut in the same mold as 9th Wonder and the others, Analogic crafted a beat that is driven by the speed up vocal sample, but made it just hard enough that Chi-Town favorite, Rashid Hadee, could get loose on it and do his thing. It’s a perfect pairing of MC and producer, as Rashid really flexes his lyrical muscles and he simple rides the beat like a bull rider on a full eight seconds. His flow is simply perfect on the spattering of keys and hard drum track found on the beat. These two need to do a full album together ala the pair previously mentioned at #98.
96. Citizen & Livin’ Poetry feat Maintain and Self Advocate - Goodlife (from: The Free LP “Live Free, Die Hard”)
Nah, it’s not Kanye West, it’s the early form of The Understudies, who were just featured on WYDU in a New Artist Spotlight. This was from the Citizen & Livin’ Poetry release “Live Hard & Die Free”, that dropped for free earlier this year. One of the things I did this year was dug even deeper into the underground music, and if that meant some cats that haven’t gotten shine yet, so be it. I just got sick of a lot of hip hop vets putting out mediocre bullshit. Hence, while a lot of people may not have heard of Citizen or his crew outside of the Bay Area before this year, if they keep making tracks like “Goodlife”, they should turn more than a few heads. The four MC’s all do they thing over a beat that would describe as….bouncy, I guess, and maybe that’s not even doing it justice. It’s got shades of disco, 80′s new wave and electro all wrapped up into one. It’s a head nodder and hand clapper all in one.
95. Freddie Joachim feat Aloe Blacc - 24 Hours 7 Days (From: “In With Time”)
Freddie Joachim got a lot of buzz on some of the other blogs, but I guess I didn’t see the what the fanfare was about. Maybe I didn’t give him en
ough air time, but nothing he did seemed to really grab my attention, except for “24 Hours 7 Days”. In my older age, I have a lot bigger appreciation for the the smooth, sing songy joints that I did in my younger days. And that’s exactly what this song is, it’s a smooth R&Bish tinged track which features Aloe Blacc of Emanon fame, a group that I was long into before the whole Exile craze that seemed to happen since his album with Blu dropped last year. Over a nice acoustic guitar sample that with the other elements, almost gives it a spanish flavor to it, Freddie kicks about a female. Apparently not just any female. This chick is special. You get the drift. Aloe Blacc handles the chorus, as he continues to sing more than rhyme, which is actually okay with me.
94. Now On feat Buff 1 - The A (from: “Tomorrow Already”)
The first of what’s sure to be many Detroit based artists to be featured on the list. Now On, a group consisting of three cats, is by far the most slept on from the area (get used to that term “slept on”, I have a feeling I’ll be using it a lot). The track, “The A”, is similar to the previous track, in that it has that mellow singing vibe going for it as well. The two MC’s, Jackson Perry and IX Lives both deliver their verses with precision that just adds to the song. WTR & WYDU favorite Buff 1 (Eric more so than myself, but I’ve championed his releases often as well) shows up to drop a great verse as we come to expect from the Buff 1. This is all done over one of the best Lab Tech tracks I’ve heard on any project. Strings, pianos, and soft melodies drift all over the place to really make this an excellent track that could have easily been ranked higher.
93. Rapper Big Pooh, Chaundon, & Joe Scudda – Plastic Cups (from: “Rapper’s Delight”)
I’m a card carrying fanboy of the Justus League, so when you have three of the top members of the HOJ (or is it JL, hell I don’t know anymore) all on one track over a J Dilla beat, you know the shit has the possibility to spontaneously combust and it almost does. Five years ago, you would probably automatically assume that Chaundon would run away with the show out of the three. Fastfoward to 2008, and that’s not the case anymore. Pooh has improved in leaps and bounds the past few years and really drops one of the tighest verses I’ve ever heard from him. And while I haven’t heard a lot from Scudda the past year or so, he’s been improved as well, and that continues on this track. Chaundon might be responsible for one of my most disappointing LPs this past year. He drops a short, but to the point verse on this one. The beat is a recycled Dilla beat, just from where is drawing a blank from me and I’m too lazy to go digging for it, but it’s a dopy horn loop over typical Dilla drums.
In case you missed it: Rapper Big Pooh – Rapper’s Delight Free Download: http://www.sendspace.com/file/d4m6t6
92. Emilio Rojas – That Time (From: the upcoming album, “Nouveau Slick”)
I’ve shied away from Emilio Rojas in the past, simply because his voice always kind of bugged me. He’s got that Talib Kweli tone that ends up driving me nuts before an album is over with. So when I checked the video for “That Time” earlier this year, all the other components involved in the track just over muscled Emilio’s voice. With M-Phazes on the beat, it’s almost too good. It sounds like something I’ve heard before and eerily similar to something I’d hear out of Primo, which I suppose is a good thing. It’s certainly a catchy as fuck beat, one that should get any b-boy’s head noddin’.
91. Heltah Skeltah – Everything Is Heltah Skeltah (from: “D.I.R.T.”)
You can go back to when I first posted this track up on WYDU. I politely said I hated it. Not those exact words, but it was what I was implying. But this is one of those tracks that just grew on me. Is it the hook? Maybe. Is it the catchy beat from Illmind? Possibly. Is it just the fact that Rock & Ruck just sound so fucking great together? That is part of it. In reality, it’s all those things. They cooked up a catchy as fuck hook. The shit gets stuck in your mind and the next thing you know you are singing it out loud at work and fools be giving you some strange looks. Then there are some excellent lines dropped by the two. It doesn’t hurt
that these two still have that chemistry that made them so good in the first place. As far as the beat goes, Illmind is one of those dudes that either makes a beat that I absolutely love or something that sounds like complete shit in my opinion. I guess it’s good in the fact that he won’t get cornered into having a specific sound. My original problem wasn’t with the beat on this one, as it’s perfect with its minimalistic approach and serves as the point guard, setting up the scoring drive as Rock and Ruck deliver. Good to see these two back.
90. DJ Revolution feat KRS-One - The DJ (From: Rev’s “King of the Decks”)
I’ve been a long time KRS fan and supporter. True, Kris doesn’t always say the right thing, he can be contradictory, and comes off as straight arrogant at times. The thing is though, despite all this, he is most definitely one of the most important figures in hip hop, ever, and at least in the top three MC’s ever to grace the mic. The problem is, he has fallen upon hard times this year. After dropping a fairly nice project with Marley last year, KRS released a couple lack luster projects this year that honestly I only listened to once, in fear of looking at him differently, sort of like I did the last Run DMC album (which I never have listened to in its entirety). The best thing KRS was featured on this year was “The DJ” off of DJ Revolution’s decent offering, King of the Decks. The concept isn’t really anything new, but KRS does it in typical KRS fashion, with his booming voice, dropping classic rhymes that leaves ones head noddin’. The beat contains some crazy drums, the big hallow bass sound and the crazy strings. It’s nothing new, just classic hip hop that I dig.
89. Ariano feat C4mula of the Half Click Project – When the Trumpets Blare (from: The free LP “Friendly Fire”)
02.R.I.P. To The Radio (Ft. Cuts By Ld)
03.They Told You Wrong
04.All We Have (Ft. 2mex & Liferexall As Smartyr)
05.That New Thing
06.Moving On (Ft. Lmno & Hochii)
08.When The Trumpets Blare (Ft. C4mula Of Half Click Project)
09.Get Your Shit Together
10.Dreamers (Ft. Thelostart & Bobby Famoso)
11.Two Fingers Up
To be honest, I don’t even remember how I came across this track. I only heard of Ariano from his project with another fairly unknown cat, Castor Pollox. They released the free LP “In The Name of the Father”, which was one of my favorite “new discoveries” of the year. Going through my mp3′s on day and I noticed this track from Ariano and decided to listen to it and the rest is history. The track is kinda of on some Jedi Mind Tricks/Army of Pharaohs steez. A slow, menacing track with the angelic samples that gives that holier than thou type of feeling to it. Ariano vocally is kind of the same as the beat, a slow and deliberate flow, but yet menacing as well.
88. Kooley High – Kool With It (from: Their EP “Summer Sessions EP”)
Kooley High was one of the nicest crew of “new jacks” that dropped on the scene in ’08. Consisting of five members, the newest sensation of North Cackalack makes their first appearance on the list with “Kool With It”. The track has the female of the group, Rapsody, spitting the hook which just takes over the listeners thoughts after a few listens. The beat is 9th Wonderish in nature but is actually produced by in group producer Foolery. A must for any JL fan that hasn’t heard them yet (read: hasn’t been on this blog before).
87. Black Milk – Give the Drummer Some (From: “The Tronic”)
Black Milk dropped one of the best albums of the year in my opinion, but like a lot of my favorite albums, I had a hard time picking favorite tracks from them. I guess because if I like an album a lot, it’s more to do w
ith the entire package than a few individual songs. That was the case with Black, as I don’t have a lot of his songs in the list, but I loved the album. I initially didn’t care for “Give The Drummer Some” all that much when I first heard it. It was too “busy” for me I suppose, which is kind of weird in some ways coming from me. Regardless, I guess I’ll chalk it up to learning appreciate the horn stabs and the crazy drums, because it grew on me over time. Black Milk was simply that dude in ’08.
The newest discovery by the Molemen, Astonish came with the heat rocks with “Can U Hear Me”. Over a jazzy Molemen beat, Astonish kicked rhymes to his haters, showing that he could hang with whoever. It had everything that catches my ear, a great beat, a catchy hook and just that “vibe”. The kind of vibe that I could just close my eyes to and nod my head to the beat.
Speaking of great albums, with very few tracks on the list, Slug’s opus “When Life Gives You Lemons…..” is a perfect example of that. Possibly one of my favorite albums of the year, I think this is the only track that made it in the top 100. Go figure. Slug paints a picture of pissed off waitress that is on the real grind, just trying to live. Shit doesn’t get more real. This is done all over Ant’s new production style, which had me reminiscing of a smokey room in some underground club. Not that it’s jazzy in nature, not at all, it’s just that underground rock club vibe, while still being hip hop.
84. Tanya Morgan – Hip Hop is Dead II (from: “The Bridge” EP)
TM appears for the third year in a row on my top tracks list. They are just one of those groups that makes quality music year in and year out. “Hip Hop Is Dead II” was one of those songs that I caught myself playing over and over in my head for a few weeks straight. Drum hits and hand claps get your head nodding and the soothing soul sample paints the perfect backdrop for Ill, Will, and Von Pea to do their thing in typical TM fashion.
Another thing I’m a sucka for is old samples from 30′s and 40′s doo wop type of music. That’s what drew me to Blu Rum & Koobs “Reluctant Affair” track. Over a funky sax loop, Blu Rum drops a different style (yet still undoubtedly familiar), as he spits about being the unwilling player in a partnership….yeah, you can hear the rest for yourself. The music and vibe was just something different that made me gravitate toward it. I don’t know anything about the duo themselves, but the Tether EP that this appears on is a nice listen.
EAF pops up back on the scene with a track off of his “Streetwise” LP this time. Joined up by fellow J Leaguer, Median. The lead off track for the album, this provides all the goodness that JL fans come to expect out of two fo the founding JL members.
81. Ali Vegas – Everyday Is War (from: A street single)
What’s an year end list without a DJ Premier track? I know some cats were saying Primo fell this year, just like they have the past five years, but sorry, I just don’t see it. Primo provides the mixtape king, Ali Vegas, with an ill string based beat and a funky horn/synth sound that kills over the typical Primo cuts and drum track. Ali Vegas is hit or miss with me as an MC, but he does his thing on “Every Day Is War”, a nice effort from both.
80. Pseudo Intellectuals – Resourceful Illery (from: The LP “Resourceful Illery”)
Hip Hop in Buffalo? Yeah, it’s true. I didn’t hear many cats say much about this ill(ery) effort from the cats, Pseudo Intellectuals, but for fans of the smooth jazzy shit, this should be on their list of groups the check. The title track from their LP “Resourceful Illery” is a window to their sound, as they come over a jazzy piano loop that gives way to a horn sample over the hook and it even contains some nice scratching as well. To top it off, they use some vocal samples from some of the old Peanuts (as in the comics) TV specials that any 70′s/80′s babies should recognize. Great track from a great album.
79. Knux – Cappuccino (From: “Remind Me In 3 Days”)
I’m going to let you all in on a little secret. The best mainstream album of 2008? It’s not Kanye, it’s not T.I. nor is it that crap you call music in Lil Wayne. Nah, it’s The Knux’s “Remind Me In 3 Days…” I’ve been jamming the album since it came out. I’m not going to say it’s one of the best releases of the year, but it’s a damn good one, and one of the few “mainstream” influenced bands I could get down with. The shit just…..sounds good, a hodge podge of interesting sounds that all come together to form something different. I’m all for it. “Cappuccino” was the first track I heard from the group and I was immediately hooked. I’ll agree I have no fuckin’ clue what the track is about, and the chorus is kind of…..corny I guess is the word, but once again, in the world of mainstream music, that doesn’t always matter. It’s catchy, but instead of doing what everyone else is doing, they did something creative and different, so I’m good with a song that makes no sense, I’ll just keep on jamming it.
78. Tha Connection - Love Song (Sax Remix) (From: “Trapeze”)
My boys Tha Connection make their first appearance on our top 100. To be honest, they had several tracks that I was really feeling through out the year, but the smooth, silky, sax induced and piano laden beat really had me going through out the year. It’s a short simple song, with only one verse from Hus (I believe) and the sax blaring for the other two plus minutes on the song. That’s okay, cause it caused me to hit “rewind” more than once this past year.
77. Canto I feat Has-Lo – To The Sky (From: “While You Were Sleeping”)
Canto I deserved a lot more hype for their “While You Were Sleeping” LP than it got. The duo provided listeners with an enjoyable album that contained a nice variety of music. One of the more varied track on the LP was “To The Sky” which was a bit more upbeat than some of the other tracks found on their album. They kick their lyrical missiles over a nice funky guitar lick and some nice blues sounding strings. All this is done despite some cat named Has-Lo taking the track down a notch or two. Actuality, this is one of my favorite performances from Has, as he himself comes more upbeat than found on some of his solo material and he lets his perky sense of humor shine through on the track and really adds to the overall quality of the track.
76. Tanya Morgan – Bout To Be Some (From: “DJ Soul Presents Tanya Morgan: Tanya Morgan Is A Rap Group”)
I love joints that incorporate that old late 80′s/early 90′s flavor and still sound good. That’s exactly what “Bout To Be Some” reminds me of. Lots of energy and flavor on the track with some familiar golden age sound bites. It brings out the versatility of Tanya Morgan.