FINALLY!! It comes down to the Top 25 songs of 2008. I’m sick of 2008, that’s all I know. And we still have our year end wrap up coming up sometime this week. Until then, comment, argue, debate, agree…do whatever. Probably some weird choices, but what can I say? I have some complicated tastes I guess. Not saying it’s better, it’s just what it is….
25. Kurious feat Max B – From Up Under (From: Single from Amalgam Digital)
Let the hate begin. When I posted up the latest Kurious joint, “From Up Under” last summer, a lot of y’all didn’t like it and got a little pissy with me when I said I did. So be it. I still stand by my opinion of the track, obviously. Most of the people not down with it were expressing their displeasure with Max B on the hook. While not to hate on anyone hating on someone (make sense?), I really think it’s the Dipset thing blinding people. To be truthfully honest, I don’t listen to much Dipset, so I honestly wasn’t really sure who Max B was. I still haven’t ever heard one of his songs. That aside, I think the sung chorus is a nice touch to the otherwise classic Kurious sound. Jorge does his thing on the mic, in typical Kurious fashion, with his effortless flow on the rhymes. Dame Grease, I thought did a nice job of creating a Kurious-like track. To me, it’s like classic Kurious, and I’ll keep jamming this track until the LP drops, hopefully this year.
24. Common – Gladitor (From: “Universal Mind Control”)
Wow, how the mighty have fallen. At one time, I was a pretty big Common fan. But I could really care less about Common in his current state. I listened to “Be” a total of five times, “Finding Forever” even less. I think I have three listens on the “Universal Mind Control”, but Common can still produce the banging song or two. I guess “Gladitor” is the banging jam from UMC. This is the reason I liked Common in the first place. Dude is a beast on the mic when he still wants to and the beat is….yikes. I love bangin’ drums, and this has them. It’s just classic Common, it’s just too bad that this is the only classic Common jam on the album.
23. U-N-I – Yesterday (From: dubFrequency’s “Creme de la Creme: The Mixtape”)
Up until this year…nah, scratch that…..up until the past three months or so, I didn’t know much about U-N-I nor did I pay attention to them. My man DJ Low Key out of Denver told me they were working with Ro Blvd and slipped me a track. Now, I was already hipped to Ro Blvd, who is dope in his own right, but I was pretty impressed with the mic skills shown by U-N-I. I tracked down their “Fried Chicken & Watermelon” mixtape that was dropped earlier in the year, which was good. Then my man Citizen played “Yesterday” from U-N-I on the GOD Hour earlier this year and I thought the song was freaking amazing. I’m usually a beat person, and this song would have had a strong showing just on the dreamy beat itself, but it’s their catchy lyrics that really put this one over the top. I’m not saying they are the greatest lyricists of all times, but they have a bunch of memorable lines, lines that posses feeling and emotion, and are just down right memorable.
22. Elzhi feat Phat Kat – Yeah (From: “The Preface”)
I’ve been well aware of Phat Kat since the early part of this decade. While he has dropped some good tracks and I would say that generally I like the dude, he wasn’t anything that I would have went out of my way to listen to. His album, “Carte Blanche” was good, but nothing I played a whole lot. But on the Elzhi track, “Yeah”, Kat comes with vengeance! It’s not that he is the lyrical dude ever, but the presence an attitude he brings on “Yeah” is in the same vein why cats liked Busta or ODB back in the day. He’s just NASTY! Of course Elzhi just does his thing. The beat is a simple loop, but that sax sample goes a long way.
21. The Roots feat Mos Def & Styles P – Rising Down (From: “Rising Down”)
I never thought I’d have another track that had anything to do with Mos Def in my top 25 ever again, but I guess I was wrong. Then toss on Styles P and if this has the makings of the surprise track of the year. Of course it helps that it’s a Roots track, who although I’ve fell somewhat out of love with (pause), I still consider them talented enough to drop some banging tracks, like “Rising Down”. Of course, it’s the wicked bassline and stark production that really lets all three MCs run like a beast over the track. Good shit, and good to see Mos dropping decent rhymes over good tracks.
WYDU’s favorite MC that is named after a 80′s Major League pitcher is back at it again. Along with his boys, Reason, Dox, and Sterbyrock, he brought along friends in the form of Ams Uno and Prolyphic. I guess that even though I had a lot of mellow jams early on in the countdown, it’s the adrenaline pumping jams that got the high marks, and “Fat Back Burners” is no exception. A fuzzy, thick bassline give the track a backbone, then they utilize one of my favorite instruments (only if done right), the electric guitar and a crazy horn loop over the the chorus and you have some shit that makes you want to jump up on the bar in a drunken haze and imagine you are Run of Run DMC, kickin’ lyrics to the masses.
19. Zilla Rocca feat Nex Millen – Flow GodZilla (From: the free mixtape “Bring Me The Head of Zilla Rocca”)
Well shit, I was just talking about the rock electric guitar being a favorite aspect of a hip hop song, but ONLY if it’s done right. Well, this dude from…is it Philly?….I don’t remember, but I think it’s Philly, Zilla Rocca dropped this AMAZING track, “Flow GodZilla”. This is that meth music that gets you amped as a muthafucka! The inside story from Zilla himself is that his fellow Clean Guns partner and another cat were playing Guitar Hero and called up Zilla to tell him he HAD to sample a song from Blue Oyster Cult (name escapes me) that was found on the game. Hence, “Flow GodZilla” was born. This track has a lot of swagger (is that cool to say still?) and is just plan nastier than a Gaylord Perry spitball.
18. Black Milk – Hold It Down (From: “Tronic”)
Probably not a lot of people are going to pick “Hold It Down” as their favorite track from Black Milk’s “Tronic”, but it’s the one that had my hitting the “rewind” button. The beat is a bouncy track that utilizes a nice synth line and despite what it may sound like, it utilizes a sample as well. It’s just a dope beat that really gets that old fashioned head nod going. A dope beat from one of the best producers of the year.
17. Pacewon & Mr. Green – Children Sing (From: “The Only Color is Green”)
I wasn’t sure what to think of this track at first. A kid choir? Over a hip hop track? But the shit works. I’ve already mentioned how much I like Pace as an MC, and the position of “The Only Color That Matters is Green” on my personal favorite albums list, you know I’m down with that. Mr. Green turns something that could be rather annoying and with the talent to add the right touches to it, makes it a hadcore track with some gospel overtones to it. Then Pacewon does what Pacewon does, and that’s drop memorable lyrics and just making this a near classic track.
16. All Natural – The All (From: “Elements (Fire)”)
You can probably see a trend happening here. “The All” from All Natural, is another uptempo track that has a lot of energy behind it. A tight organ/synth (?) sample and an ill bassline make this track one of those that just makes you want to punch a hole in a wall. To me, hip hop should be uptempo and have a lot of energy. Look at the original tracks in the park back in the late 70′s. It was feel good music, it made you want to get off the wall, get out of your seat. I’m not saying “The All” makes you want to dance, but you won’t be sitting down when you hear it.
15. Jake One feat Busta Rhymes & Bishop Lamont – Kissin The Curb (From: “White Van Music”)
I like Jake One’s skills behind the boards. I really do. I was probably as excited about White Van Music as anyone was. But in the end I was somewhat disappointed with it. I still liked it, but it was kind of a disappointment. Maybe it was the large expectations I had for the album, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping. The beats just weren’t up to par for most of the stuff I heard from Jake. “Kissin’ The Curb” though, this joint had everything I expected from Jake. To me, “Rock CoKane Flow” on the “Stakes Is High” album from De La is the best Jake One beat ever, and this beat rivals that. It’s like that beats second cousin. More fuzzy guitar riffs rip through it as Bishop Lamont, and MC that I generally tried to ignore throughout the year does his thing over it. Busta is Busta and brings energy to the already energy packed track, and does it without insulting any race or religous beliefs.
14. Fat Joe – That White (From: “Elephant In The Room”)
I do not like Fat Joe. Never have. I’ve never bought any of his albums, nor do I plan to. He is like the Baltimore Ravens of the rap world for me (I hate the Ravens, almost more than I hate the Cowboys). But every once in a while, Fat Joe drops a bangin’ track. It helps that he got one of Primo’s best beats of the year, or the last five years, to make the track for him. Forget what those cats that say Primo has fallen off this year say, “That White” is up there with any track that Primo has ever done. The subject matter does nothing for me, but the beat proves that doesn’t matter and Fat Joe doesn’t make me want to hit the “skip” button, so it’s all good.
13. DJ KO feat Phonte, Wordsworth, K-Hill, and Masta Ace – Ladder of Success (From: “Pictures This”)
Earlier in the year, I had this credited to Pete Rock (that’s what it said when I found the track). In actuality, “Ladder of Success” is produced by up-and-coming producer Analogic. Analogic should be mentioned up there with other up-n-comers such as M-Phazes, he
‘s really that good. I know a lot of cats will say the beat is a 9th Wonder rip-off, but it’s got that…ummm….anagelic flavor to it. You can’t argue with the line-up, Phonte, Words, Ace and K-Hill (bonus points if you can tell me what group K-Hill is in, especially if you’ve been pumping this track up).
12. Amad Jamal – Postal (From: Single)
Amad Jamal made some noise with a couple 12 inch releases back around 2001. I was a big fan of both of the singles he released, but much to my disappointment, he never dropped anything after that. Until now. Amad Jamal is back, this time backed by his band, The Solutions (what up Kurt!) and he has missed a step since 2001. My attraction to his track “Postal”, has to do a lot with my own crappy job and my feelings toward it. It’s kinda the “Office Space” of the rap world. Not saying it’s driven by humor, but anyone that has had to put up with a shitty job can relate to this. It’s deeper than just that of course, but regardless of what color you may be, you can get down. The beat is somewhat simple, but is dope in its own right. A simple drum track, hand claps and a wicked vocal sample hooks it up just right. Throw in an organ sample over the chorus and you got a joint that is making me tingle with anticipation for the full-length album that I was told should be dropping this year. Can’t wait.
11. eMC – Leak It Out (From: “The Show”)
I liked the eMC album, a lot. But it seemed it was lacking on big time jams, except “What It Stand For”, which showed up on last years year end list. Their lead off track “Leak It Out”, was pure fire as well in my book. I know a lot of y’all expected more from the album, but again, the concept of a whole album won out over individual track. It’s a simple beat, but it’s still nice. And all four members did their thing for a pure hip hop track.
10. Praverb – The King (From: leaked track)
Ever since my man Praverb dropped “The King”, I’ve always said the only thing wrong with the track was it wasn’t long enough. This track is pure hip hop. It uses a familiar sample (a classic in my book), and just crushes it. It’s not often you have a dope cuts, a classic sample and an MC that can still take it out of the park. Praverb is one of those cats that y’all need to be on the lookout for as he drops some serious heat rocks over the dope beat by Teddy Roxpin out of Massachusetts. Simply a classic hip hop track.
9. Castor Pollux – 1979 (From: “Guts & Garbage: A Collection of Shit”)
I’ve mentioned Castor Pollux a couple times now. Admittedly, he is somewhat of a “newcomer”. I don’t know his history, so I’m not sure how long he has really been around, but he’s new to me. I was really happy with both the album he did with Technicali Sounds Ariano, as well as the little project, “Guts & Garbage: A Collection of Shit”. The track, “1979″, has a strong beat that embeds itself into your conscious. I’ve had this beat playing over and over in my head quite often this past year. The sample combines strings and an ill vocal sample along with other cool little aspects to give it that “triumphant”. Lyrically, he sounds exactly like somebody, problem is, I can’t place it. He has grown on me as far as his MC skills go, his tone and energy match the tracks background well. This is one cat I will be on the lookout for in the future.
8. Shawn Jackson – Fix Ya Face (From: “First of All….”)
Shawn Jackson’s “First of All…” was a victim of me liking the overall album more than the individual tracks, hence we only have two tracks on the list. However, it was “Fix Ya Face” that had me reaching for the “rewind” button (or the “back” button on the iPod, or whatever they call it). The beat is a great beat, with it’s subtle keys and smooth synth sounds, but it’s really Shawn Jack’s MC skills and excellent hook that sucked me into the track. Shawn Jackson is an excellent MC, one that demands the listener, especially one like myself who is so into beats usually. He delivers some strong lines, ones that actually make me memorize them, which happens oh so little anymore.
7. Baje One – Mission Statement (From: the free EP, “Weightless”)
Every so often, an MC will drop a verse that you can relate to soooo much, that the song is an instant classic. You just rewind the verse over and over. It’s like if you had the gift that some of these cats have, you’d would have wrote the verse just like that. It speaks to you in a way that very few people can. It’s like someone pried your dome open and ripped out your thoughts and put them in your own words. That’s what I felt like when I heard the first verse for Baje One’s “Mission Statement”:
grabbed the micphone, swore I’d never let go
when I was sixteen, woulda gotten a tattoo
like this is not a stage, not just going to pass through
In the middle of the rottenest apple
Kings of hip hop sat on top of the castle
dayum I was barely a rapper then
came with good intentions on the train with a pad and pen
and that kid, I don’t know where he went to
and truth, I can’t remember half the shit he went through
I see the pictures and all that I think is its not me
I ran from that person, buck naked and scott free (?)
He and I, we don’t share the same vision
the same spectrum, the same prism
He was black and white friction and non fiction
I understand now life is contradiction
Like life is wonderful,
but life will punish you
though life is beautiful,
sometimes there is funerals……
I think Baje One, who is one half of one of my favorite groups in Junk Science, tackled the confusion a lot of us “older” hip hop heads are confronted with when dealing with the current state of hip hop. I love hip hop still, but sometimes I wonder what happened to the hip hop I loved as a kid. I know, I know….you are thinking “you old fuckin’ coot, get over it!” and maybe us thirtysomethings should, but I miss those days of running to the record store on Tuesday’s just to see what new releases came out. For that simple reason, this song will be one of the most important of my later years in hip hop.
6. Tha Connection – Take It Higher (Revamped) (From: “Trapeze”)
Tha Connection comes with more what I like to call “mood music”, music that invokes a certain mood or visuals when you listen to the song. That’s exactly what “Take It Higher” does for me when I listen to it. The soft jazzy feel that is emitted from the sax sample just hooks the listener. Then as the light keys and mellow bassline come winding their way through the headphones, you literally look for the nearest “green cigarette” and just get scooped away in the intoxicating vibes of “Take It Higher”. Hus and Smoo Vth both do their part to add to the overall audio/visual, with their rhymes, both of which bring that laid back, cool out vibe to the mic, just really making this track one that I could play over and over.
5. The Grouch – Artsy (From: “Show You The World”)
First off, I’ve never been the biggest Living Legends fan. Not that I disliked them, it just wasn’t usually my thing. That means I don’t make a habit of checking out Grouch’s solo work much either. After more than a few people telling me I needed to hear his “Show You The World”, I picked it up and actually enjoyed the album. The track that stuck out to me though was “Artsy”. Maybe it’s just because I’ve dealt with the fake granola kids and the such through out my life. Again, I guess it’s being able to relate to the subject matter that grabs me.
4. Has-Lo – The Quiet Things (From: The free EP “Small Metal Objects”)
It’s that fuckin’ Has-Lo again. I can’t escape this cat. I try, but I can’t. Has drops a song that some might claim is emo-ish in nature, but fuck that label. True, it makes me want to slit my wrists when I hear it, but “The Quiet Things” gathers up every memory of having my heart ripped out of my chest and shown to me by a “loved” female. It’s like that bottle of Henny, Scotch, Tanquaray, or any poison of choice that you have set aside for those “fuck the world” days. I hope I never need it, but I know this joint will be there for me if I ever experience the dreaded break-up. You can feel that pain in Has’ lyrics, you can tell this cat has been through it before and he expresses it well, as the feeling of lost love illuminates the somber track. Has rides the fine line of hatred and sadness, making this track incredibly powerful and one that will sit in my dark corner in case I ever need it.
3. Ludacris – MVP (From: “Theater of the Mind”)
Never in my life did I think I would have a Ludacris joint in my top three favorite tracks of the year. And if I did, I would have said it was going to be one incredibly shitty year. Well, like that one night stand telling you she’s knocked up and it’s your kid, SURPRISE!!! But then again, I never thought I’d hear Luda spitting over a BANGIN Primo track. Again, I’ve never disliked Luda, he’s had some club type bangers that I could get with, but I’d never consider them the best songs I heard from that particular year. Luda is an accomplished MC, he always has been. He does all the things on “MVP” that makes him a colorful MC, lots of energy, memorable lines and charisma. But then you throw an incredible Primo beat behind him, and you have a classic.
2. 1773 – Sounds Of Life (From: “Constant Motion”)
Feel good vibe? Check. Dope string sample? Check. Head nodder? Check. Dope hook? Again, check. 1773, a group out of Chi-Town drops a feel good jam that any cat that claims music is a huge part of their life can relate to. “Sounds of Life” is simply a ode to the wonders of the power of music in general. It’s someth
ing that any of us that walks around with headphones over their ears for half the day or more can relate to. The power of music can be a big thing, and this track captures that in all it’s essence.
1. P Brothers feat Roc Marciano – Outta Control (From: “The Gas”)
Drum roll please…….And my favorite joint of the 2008 year…..The P Brothers and Roc Marciano’s “Outta Control”. Yup, after talking about feelings, moods, inspirations, I go to a track that just captures hip hop in all it’s glory. And it feels good to have a traditional New York City MC at the top of the list as well in The UN’s Roc Marciano. To be fair, the UK bred P Brothers do New York hip hop better than….well, better than a lot of New York artists. They employ a bassline that is just killer. I haven’t heard it on a strong house system or car system, but it makes the fillings in my teeth rattle with my Bose headphones on. The drums are hard and crisp, it’s just a great hip hop track that reminds me of why I fell in love with the music in the first place.