"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 2008 Not A Blogger End Of Year Hate-Off Spectacular - Part One: 50 Songs That Did Not Suck


"A Class Photo Of My Break Dancing Class"

When you’re gifted with such flawless taste as I am, there is one special time of year where you can flex your perfectly formed muscles and show off immaculate ability to correctly judge things of merit. List season! It’s a holy time for me at the Shaolin Temple where I was trained in the art of hip hop on Mount Olympus: Brooklyn Edition as list season is like a spiritual journey in which I delve deep within my soul to discern what sucks and what does not. I disappear for a weeks as I refuse human contact and ruminate over all aspects to determine canon. It’s lonely, solitary process but the world demands perfection from a master of hip hop such as myself. It’s a burden.

First up...Great Songs!

Ah, hip hop, my confusing, cold hearted mistress. Even if this year was a bloody, botched, back seat of a car while fundamentalists set your vehicle on fire abortion in terms of hip hop albums, in terms of great hip hop songs, this year was loaded. I had trouble weeding down the field to just fifty songs. As per usual, this is the definitive list of great rap music this year and should be immediately transcribed into Wikipedia as canon. You will be banned from this site permanently if you disagree. There must be consequences for blasphemy.

50. Three Six Mafia - On Some Chrome [Feat. UGK]

It seems that anytime that Juicy J and DJ Paul connect up with Bun and the Pimp, great music seems to flow out of the speakers. This is the last song that Pimp C ever recorded before passing last year and “On Some Chrome” does not disappoint. Using a sample of “The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairies” and borrowing from UGK’s classic “Pocket Full Of Stones," the last song that Chad Butler ever worked on is a fitting legacy to his life and music.

49. Elzhi – Audio Cinematic

Over the last few years, great storytelling raps have become virtually an extinct species in rap music but Elzhi resurrects the art-form with a perfectly constructed hip hop “Rashomon.” Rapping from the perspective of three different people, Elzhi tells a story of robbery of convenience store gone murderously wrong. Elzhi tells a story weaved artfully, full of suspense, black humor and social criticism. Rarely do storytelling raps get so detailed and poignant as “Audio Cinematic” does. This is an exhibit that highlights the boundaries that hip hop lyricism can reach.

48. A.B.N. - Who’s The Man?

Here’s a little insight into the soul of the Good Doctor Zeus - you can soothe the savage beast within by playing a nice little, slow southern crawler that creeps along smooth and lovely. Z-Ro and Trae’s “Who’s The Man” fits the bill perfectly. The slow, smooth G-Funk synthesizers dance over a simple, bass heavy track that thumps as Z-Ro and Trae go in over the beat.

47. Pacific Division - Taste

It seems these days every rap act in the underground wants to sound like Dilla. It’s understandable but it leads to a lot of half-assed hacks falling flat on their face as they try to rape James Yancey’s literal corpse. Pac Div’s “Taste” is not one of those songs. It has that woozy, airy impossible to copy feel of vintage Dilla and yet sounds distinctly west coast which easily makes it one of the year’s best.

46. Solange Knowles - Fuck The Industry (Remix) Feat. Wale

It’s hard to believe but Solange Knowles, the Johnny Drama of female R&B singers, made a song way better than her infinitely more famous big sister this year. Although, her voice is slight and nowhere as powerful as Beyonce’s, Solange is able to convey a powerful combination of disgruntled pain and defiant will in the face of an indifferent music industry who has written her off as the less talented, wig-brushing hanger-on of a superstar sister. It’s a song that anybody can relate who has ever felt overshadowed by a sibling. It’s inspiring, actually that she could write something like this. It doesn’t hurt that Wale is on this and Green Lantern produced the song.

45. GZA/Genius - Life Is A Movie [Feat. RZA & Khan-Acito of The Outlines]

I found Pro-Tools to be a real disappointment this year considering how much I loved “Grandmasters” but this epic song off the album is as as good as anything GZA and RZA have done in recent years. Borrowing heavily from ‘80s New Wave pop, “Life is A Movie” features GZA in grand storytelling mode and RZA sounds more focused and coherent than he has since he lost his damn mind smoking angel dust sometime after “Wu-Tang Forever.”

44. Lil Boosie - Don’t I Act A Donkey

Granted, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Lil' Boozer since I find his voice to be unimaginably grating but his forays into wanton ignorance have been glorious (and I can always support wanton ignorance). Boosie, actually, had a pretty solid year crafting a bunch of songs and guest appearances that I thoroughly enjoyed. “Don’t I Act A Donkey”, a song relatively subdued, reflective song for a southern banger, was my favorite. Plus, it’s really fun to go around asking people if I act a donkey in Boosie’s high pitched, slurred parlance.

43. Maino - Hi Hater

I don’t care what anybody says this is just a really fun, unimaginably catchy, goofy little club anthem. As one of the few songs that you couldn’t escape from living in New York summer , I really, really liked it. Occasionally, Hot 97 gets one song to arbitrarily beat to death right. Now Maino, please go away to a cave and disappear.

42. Crooked I - Swagga Like Crook

Crooked I’s mixtape, "The Block Obama", was one of my favorite mixtapes released this year and “Swagga Like Crook” was my favorite cut off the album. The song is sort of a West Coast re-imagining of “Swagger Like Us” but instead of four superstars half-assing their verses in an inexplicable contest to seem who wants to seem like they care less about rapping well, you get Crook murdering his verse with some of the year’s best rap punchlines. And seriously, an ass-whipping to any rapper who never heard of Harry Allen!

41. Mos Def - Life In Marvelous Times

I know, I know! A Mos Def track on a Best Of... list in 2008?! What is this ten years ago? And it doesn’t feature ill-advised rock guitars or guest shots from pussy ass R&B singers? What are you taking "pillules de fou"? I’m dead serious. “Life In Marvelous Times” is the type of track that you thought Mos Def forgot when he inexplicably decided he’d much rather help ruin film adaptions of classic science fiction books and make bloody awful rap-rock fusion. Welcome back, Mos!

40. Bun-B - Swang On ‘Em [Feat. Lupe Fiasco]

So, yeah... I guess Lupe Fiasco is a fan of UGK, after all! I stand utterly corrected. Who knew?! “II Trill” was sort of a hot mess but this song was the definition of a curb stomping, trunk rattling banger. This is the sort of oddball pairing that rappers need to take chances on more often.

39. Game - Game’s Pain (Remix) [Feat. Keyshia Cole, Jadakiss, Bun-B, Pusha-T, Fat Joe, Young Buck & Queen Latifah]

The original song wasn’t all that much to write about but Game’s all-star remix of the song is something truly special. Over a re-imagining of Biggie’s classic hip hop ode to youth that was “Juicy”, Game et al. reminisce over their favorite hip hop acts growing up. For once, Game’s endless name-dropping works completely within context. Kudos, good sir!

38. Ludacris - Everybody Hates Chris [Feat. Chris Rock]

Oh, Christopher! How we missed thy legendary sense of humor and endless, pop culture reference filled punchlines! It’s been awhile so please forgive us if we assumed you lost the program while you were making terrible, conscious songs with Mary J. Blige and getting your ass-whipped by Terrence Howard (twice!!) in Oscar-winning films. “Everybody Hates Chris” is in the grand tradition of great, poppy singles that Luda’s been dropping since “Southern Hospitality" and that is always most welcome.

37. Foul Mouth Jerk - Small Town U.S.A. [Feat. Masta Ace]

This song is just loaded with the dusty, soulful grooved goodness and poignant, quirky rapping that only Masta Ace can provide. Masta Ace and Foul Mouth Jerk craft a soulful little ode to life as rapper on the road and the small town’s that help support an artist's livilihood.

36. Prodigy - My World Is Empty Without You

It’s true that more often than not Prodigy is going to embarrass himself these days when he is on a track but it seems if you can get the man to focus and reflect on his life, Albert Johnson can still craft a monster of a song. “My World Is Empty Without You”, Prodigy’s ode to his God, is a powerful response to those who thought he was hating on God on his legendarily blasphemous verse on “Pearly Gates”. It is the type of a track that proves that the man can still really fucking rap when he wants to. Hold your head, dunn.

35. Charles Hamilton - Pure Imagination

Yeah, Charles Hamilton ain’t exactly the world’s most talented rapper but he has a knack for crafting catchy, little ditties that sample from the most unlikely sources. “Pure Imagination” builds on Gene Wilder’s rendition of “Pure Imagination” from the classic children’s film, “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” to craft a Dilla-esque ballad about romantic, teenage love.

34. Bishop Lamont - Grow Up

It seems being a Dr. Dre protégé in the year 2008 must be one of the most frustrating experiences an artist can go through. On one hand, you will never get your album released because Dre’s too busy doing steroids and making a run at Axl Rose’s record for most wasted studio sessions wasted making a surely disappointing album. On the other hand, Dre occasionally will lace you with something truly amazing as he does on Bishop Lamont’s breakthrough song, "Grow Up", in which Lamont crafts a powerful ode to taking adulthood, seriously. Songs that invoke responsibility are rarely this fun and catchy.

33. The P Brothers - Digital B-Boy [Feat. Milano]

Fact: If you listen to the P Brother’s “Digital B-Boy” while riding on a crowded subway train in New York, the world will start to melt away and you will be able to see the Matrix in it’s natural, digital form. This is the type of post-apocalyptic gutter music that makes the winter seem a little more colder and dystopic than it actually is.

32. Asher Roth - I Love College

Fuck the haters (and Rivers Cuomo's holier than thou ass, too for that matter...), this song is great! This is the type of wistful, fun frat rap that died out when the Beastie Boys discovered Tibet. If you don’t like this song, you either:
A. Never attended colllege.
B: Don’t like fun.
(or C. Don’t like Weezer which is slightly more acceptable reason to hate this song. Actually no, “The Blue Album” is classic. You still suck.)
I will not accept opinions to the contrary.

31. Busta Rhymes - Don’t Touch Me (Throw Da Water Em ‘On)

While Busta Rhymes was busy frolicking with Spliff Star, the Ghost of Yasser Arafat, and some stereotypical Arabian shahs on a golf course in Dubai, the world totally missed this infinitely superior single from Busta’s ultra delayed album, "Back On My B.S." (or whatever dumb ass name, Busta is calling this upcoming flop this week). Busta Rhymes rhymes with more passion and fierce intensity than he has since he inexplicably decided to front like he ever sold drugs (and no, selling a bag of weed to Q-Tip in 1992 does not count). Plus, this song is latently about Busta’s inexplicable (self-hatred?) homophobia which is just ironically hilarious! Self-delusion is always amusing.

30. Scarface - Emeritus

Emeritus” like last year’s “Made” was a slight disappointment but the title cut off the album was simply titanic. The beat sounds like vintage Geto Boys, and Scarface sounds authoritative and postively king-like on a song that is both self-reflective and gloriously defiant about Mr. Jordan’s towering achievements in the rap genre for over twenty years. This is a fitting tribute and moment of earned self-glorification for one of the titans of the genre. Brad Jordan is a man who never fell off.

29. C.R.A.C. Knuckles - Pop Dem Boyz

Blu and Ta’raach’s collaborative album was a real stinker but this song was the one cut from the album that unequivocally worked. The beat positively bounces with a sense of rodeo swagger and while both emcees murder their verses, Blu proves why he belonged to be crowned as one of XXL’s next great emcees.

28. Statik Selektah - On The Marquee [Feat. Little Brother, Joe Scudda & Chaundon]

Say what you will about the Justus League but over the years, they just keep churning out the type of music that I love without reservation. The beats are always so warm and breezy that you can’t help but just crack a smile as you listen to it on your iPod on a beautiful day. “On The Marquee” is my favorite cut of Statik Selektah’s underrated sophomore LP, "Stick 2 The Script", and this song is just a real spirit lifter.

27. Black Milk - Long Story Short

Black Milk is the best young producer working these days. Let’s just end the discussion now. He produced the vast majority of three of the year’s best LP's and he has the uncanny ability of not only building on Dilla’s signature sound but morphing into his own and making it decidedly his. “Long Story Short”, the opening cut from this year’s “Tronic”, was Black’s best lyrical performance on the album and when you combine it with a beat that just fuckin’ KNOCKS you get a song that's easily one of the year’s best.

26. Lil’ Wayne - A Milli

There is a reason this song spawned more freestyles and remixes than any song ever recorded. The beat is hypnotic and truly innovative. The song is unimaginably weird but in a way that you don’t instantly notice and thus it keeps offering surprises. And yeah, Weezy actually kind of kills this track thus for once living up to the Breihanic levels of hype he’s received. Besides a hookless freestyle epic becoming the song of the summer is always going to be welcome on my stereo regardless of who is making it.

25. El-P - Drunk On The Edge Of A Cliff

If you want further proof that El-P is the best producer alive right now. I give you “Drunk On The Edge Of A Cliff,” three minutes and forty-four seconds of buzzing video Game Boy instrumentation colliding with cold, menacing steel drums in a manner that makes you completely forget that it’s a crying shame nobody’s actually rapping over this monster of a beat. It’s like El-P decided to take the Clipse’s “I’m Not You” and make it even more dystopic and anti-social in the process. Just because he could. This is the perfect rainy day in New York when you’re pissed off at the world music.

24. Kurupt - Yessir

Kurupt has always been one of the forgotten, great emcees of his generation. In the Death Row glory days, Kurupt’s popularity was always eclipsed by Snoop's, Dre's and Tupac’s which is a shame because he was a better emcee than all three of them. “Yessir” produced by Pete Rock is a defiantly epic jam that serves to remind people that nobody on the West Coast was fucking with Kurupt back in his prime.

23. The Roots - Rising Down [Feat. Mos Def, Styles P & Dice Raw]

“Rising Down”, the title track, from the Root’s excellent recent album is full of dark, brooding synths, fierce lyricism, memorable guest verses and proves that the Roots still have their fast ball when called upon. Why are these guys playing themselves by whoring themselves to Jimmy Fallon when they still have songs like this in them? Is the NBC money that much sweeter?

22. Kid CuDi - Day N Nite

Confession: I went to high school with Kid CuDi and didn’t realize it until very, very recently. I have seen him in concert twice over the last year and had written about him before on my blog but it took a yearbook photo and a couple you remember Scott Mescudi's to realize why I recognized this dude. “Day N Nite”, Cudi’s infectious stoner anthem, would be one of my favorite songs of the year even if he didn’t hail from motherfucking Shaker Heights, Ohio like I do. It has this quiet, hypnotic quality that you can zone out and vibe to while you watch the city slowly fall asleep. It’s beautiful.

21. Young Buck - My Interview

Personally, Young Buck had a rough year what with his ass getting booted out of G-Unit for some imagined disloyalty towards 50 Cent (or some bullshit) and then he was caught on tape crying his eyes out, begging Curtis to take him back. However, musically, Buck has been killing everything he touches the last year and “My Interview”, Buck’s deeply affecting personal response towards the controversy is one of the year’s best. With every word, Buck seemingly bleeds onto the track letting the world feel his pain and it’s a beautiful moment from a guy whose been perpetually had to play the background to appease the ego of Curtis Jackson. Get ‘em, Buck! You deserve better.

20. Q-Tip - Gettin’ Up

If you asked me the chances of Q-Tip being able to make a great single in year 2008, almost ten years after his last solo record and almost twenty years since the first A Tribe Called Quest record, I would’ve said that the chances were highly, highly against him. Lo and behold, Q-Tip stormed back into relevance by dropping the feel-good dance anthem of the year. “Gettin’ Up” proves that the Abstract Poet has still got it.

19. eMC - Grudge

There really is a whole record full of great ones to choose from but “Grudge” off eMC’s stellar debut album, "The Show", was the most affecting for me. Over a pounding guitar lick-driven beat, Masta Ace’s supergroup wax poetic about those personal grudges you accumulate over the years that can only be satiated by the sweet serenity of requited vengeance. The joys of schadenfreude have never been articulated so presciently.

18. Jay-Z - Brooklyn Go Hard [Feat. Santogold]

Jockin’ Jay-Z” was an unmitigated mess and “Swagga Like Us” was too to an extent so it came as shock to me that “Brooklyn Go Hard” was such a good song. After all, it did feature Santogold the Fake M.I.A., the corpse of Jay-Z affecting a shitty Jamaican accent and Kanye West doing his best to make people forget that he once produced “The Truth." It’s inexplicable but I can't imagine Jay-Z capable of making a better song in the year 2008 than "Brooklyn Go Hard." I mean he gets eaten up the chorus but still...

17. B.o.B - Fuck You [Feat. Lil’ Boosie & D.G. Yola]

B.o.B’s “Fuck You," maybe technically classified as “hip hop,” but at it's core, the song is straight up blues music. B.o.B, the best young rapper in all of the South, has the heart of Robert Johnson in his body and “Fuck You” is a song that as moody and mournful as anything, Mr. Johnson cooked up at the Crossroads. B.o.B , Boosie and D.G. Yola craft a song about self-reliance in the face of adversity and the desire to say “fuck you” to those who stand in your way.

16. Wale - The Kramer

If there was anything this smart or as good as Wale's "The Kramer" on Nas' “Untitled” this year, then perhaps it would not be the giant garbage heap it was. Wale’s treatise on race and the N-word was one of the standout tracks on his excellent, medium re-defining mixtape, “The Mixtape About Nothing.” It is music like this that is going to make Wale a star very, very shortly.

15. Raekwon - Necro [Feat. Ghostface Killah]

Seriously, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II" still hasn’t come out yet? It can’t be because of lack of quality because Raekwon continues to release monster tracks on the internet every year and yet, he still cannot get a label willing to release the album. “Necro”, a vintage Rae and Ghost collaboration, has the type of gutter street talk, immaculate chemistry, bass heavy, eerie RZA-esque production, and one of the most oddly hilarious, sexist raps, Ghost has done since “Wildflower.” Put the damn album out already, Rae!

14. Nas - Esco (Let’s Go) (Also known as “What It Is”)

One of the more inexplicable things that happened this year was that Nas miraculously managed to leave all of the good songs on his excellent “The Nigger Tape” off the thoroughly mediocre “Untitled.” “Esco (Let’s Go” was the most egregious of all as this song could and should have been the best Nas single since “Made You Look.” Building from a scorching, anthemic DJ Khalil banger, Nas does what he does best and kick potent, cinematic lyrics. Why, Nasir, Why?!

13. New Jack Hustle - 2 It

As one of the three people that actually listened to New Jack Hustle’s “Sound Check” this year, I was thoroughly disappointed that this gem was not actually on the album (because I still cannot find an MP3 of this song anywhere on the internet and I'm getting seriously annoyed I can't play this on my iPod) but “2 It” remains one of the best, decidedly old school sounding bangers that have come around lately. New Jack Hustle consisting of Shawn Jackson and Giant Panda’s Newman craft a funky, Tribe-esque party jam over a stuttering, funky-horns-from-‘88 infused beats that will guarantee make you want to dance like Adam Goldberg in “Dazed & Confused.” Plus, Shawn Jackson has flow for days...

12. Erykah Badu - Honey

9th Wonder absolutely laced Ms. Badu on this track with a blipping, gurgling banger that is just the perfect platform for Erykah to perform her usual, weird ass Baduizm. See 9th Wonder can totally make beats that don’t sound like he's jacking De La Soul circa 1993! He can also sound like he's jacking Mannie Fresh from 1999, too!

11. Raphael Saadiq - Sometimes

I love soul music. I guess it’s the influence of my mom consistently playing Majic 105.7, the oldies’ station in Cleveland, growing up while we drove around to soccer practice in her car. “Sometimes”, as was the rest of Rapahel Saadiq's brilliant “The Way It Is”, is a song so defiantly old school that it drips with ‘60s soul instrumentation and it’s almost a shock to find out that it wasn’t recorded with Berry Gordy in the ‘60s. This song is so lush and gorgeous that you can’t but help a shed a little tear. (Yeah, I know this isn’t technically hip hop but this is my favorite song released regardless of genre. If the MP3 on my ipod were a vinyl record, this would be completely unplayable via all the scratches accumulated from playing it so freakin' much.)

10. Jay Electronica -Exhibit A (Transformations)

How Ace Hood got on XXL’s Freshman 10 cover and Jay Electronica did not is one of the great travesties in the history of time, music and travesties. Jay Electronica makes what I like to call orchestral rap as his music just seems lusher and more fully formed than his peers. The synths and organs swirl around the plinking pianos to give a sense of grandeur to the proceedings on the song and it certainly does not hurt that Jay Electronica is one of the most prodigiously talented lyricists working today. This is what rap would sound like if Mozart was a hip hop head in 2008.

9. Re-Up Gang - 20 K Money Making Brothers On The Corner

The Clipse have to be the most frustrating artists in all of hip hop. For every unabashed, snarling antisocial anthem these guys make like “Keys Open Doors”, they make one equally flaccid facisimile like “Fast Life” from the insipid Re-Up Gang full-length this summer. Luckily, “20 K Money Making Brothers On The Corner”, a vicious, frothy, foaming at the mouth posse cut, is the former. The Brothers Thornton et al. deliver their trademark, coke-infused verses with the type of the fiery hunger and passion that keeps me coming back to them despite all of their well-regarded lack of subject diversity. When they make cuts as angry and furious at this, it doesn’t even matter what they rhyme about… and Jesus Christ, where the hell has Dame Grease been since “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot?!” I forgot he even produced “Stop Being Greedy.”

8. Kanye West - Coldest Winter

A “Tears for Fears” song, mournful soul-searching, auto-tune and emotional devastation make this THE song off “808s and Heartbreak”. The song is just absolutely heartbreaking and if you don’t feel something you’ve never had a broken heart. I’ve personally co-opted the meaning of the song and it has become my personal anthem for the last couple of weeks of my life. This is the song that ties “808s and Heartbreak” together and without it wouldn’t be half as good. Just devastating.

7. Kidz In The Hall - Driving Down The Block (Remix/West Coast Remix/El-P Remix)

How do you improve on a song that’s an already pretty damn good on it’s own? Break out the rolodex and call literally everybody you have ever met in your life and ask them if they’d be willing to spit a hot sixteen over it? That’s what the Kidz in The Hall did when attempting to remix, their (quasi-) hit single, “Drivin’ Down The Block”, this year. It worked out absolutely masterfully as each new remix provided a new spin to the song. The West Coast Remix transformed “Drivin’ Down The Block” into vintage Death Row G-Funk. Pusha-T, Bun-B and the Cool Kids provided menace, growl and swagger to the proceedings. And as for El-P, he morphed the song into an apocalyptic trunk rattler perfect for when the inevitable zombie apocalypse transforms earth-realm into a demonic hellscape. Rarely, do remixes these days get so disparate and veer so widely from their original sources. In a world when 80,000 emcees lazily spit over “A Milli” and then call it a remix, the “Drivin’ Down The Block” Remixes remind us of a time when Pete Rock, Primo (and Puffy) used to regularly take a hot song and just make it hotter.

6. Elzhi - Motown 25 (Feat. Royce Da 5’9”)

While the Allen Iverson trade has been systematically murdering the Pistons chances of being a playoff contender this year, Detroit has been carving out it’s reputation as the place in the country for hardcore underground hip hop. “Motown 25”, a world-beating collaboration of three of the Detroit underground crown royalty in Elzhi, Royce Da 5’9”, and Black Milk, was the crown jewel of this year’s scene. This song is a stunning exercise in the power of raw, lyrical-ass lyricism and a testament to what happens when you put two great emcees together and have try to top one another. Watching El and Royce trying to top each other is a such a thing of beauty and passion that causes one to shed a lonely tear…

5. T.I. - No Matter What

“No Matter What” is the type of song that can only be born when staring face to face with great adversity and you feel that your entire life can be taken away from you in an instant. T.I. facing possible incarceration for the rest of his natural born life for assault weapon charges crafted this defiant, moving “Fuck The World” anthem designed for those times when you feel down and out and the entire world is against you. It’s an inspiring moment of naked emotion and proves that T.I. can hang with the lyrical titans.

4. Killer Mike - God In The Building

There is only word for this song: Epic. Killer Mike has always been one of those artists who seems like if had he been born in a different time and place would’ve been pastor or a civil rights leader inspiring thousands to march with them had not a twist of fate sent him to Earth in a drug scarred Atlanta in the 1970s. You can feel the preacher in him when you listen to “God In The Building” because it positively swells with righteous intensity. The song driven by a gospel choir sample swirls around the beat and makes it seem as if the song was seemingly sung from the bowels of hell. It’s titanic bass powers Killer Mike’s furious invocation of God’s wrath that you just feel like you’re in the eye of a torrential hurricane. Paint from the walls peel off when you play this song on full volume.

3. Big Boi - Royal Flush [Feat. Andre 3000 & Raekwon]

You have to wonder at this point what form of twisted, unholy alchemy keeps two souls as widely different as Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin making such brilliant music together almost fourteen years after their debut album. It’s totally and completely inexplicable that the two men who made songs as different as “Kryptonite” and “Prototype” on their own could mind-meld and make songs as perfect “Royal Flush.” Everything on “Royal Flush” from Big Boi’s hungry and furious rhymes, to Raekwon’s detached, king-like authority to the way the drums seem to smash so hard that they sound like their causing the beat to decay and crumble sounds like the way great hip hop should sound. And that’s not even mentioning, Andre’s continued streak of unblemished, lyrical manslaughter that has been going on for almost two years now. This song is a worthy sequel to the threesome’s 1998 monster collaboration “Skew It On The Bar-B” in every way imaginable. Dre and Big Boi, please get the heads of your asses and make another album together. The world needs you.

2. Wale - Back In The Go-Go (Also Known As “The Feature Heavy Song”) – Feat. Bun-B & Pusha-T

What attracts me to Wale so much is that not only is he capable of writing songs that are as thought-provoking and meaningful as “The Kramer” but he is capable of crafting a song as undeniably fun and funky as D.C. go-go influenced “Back In The Go-Go.” The song borrowing heavily from go-go music is one of the more upbeat and danceable tracks on Wale’s uber-praised “The Mixtape About Nothing” and remains the mixtape’s show-stopping highlight. From the first, few seconds of this song, you can tell the song is dripping with creativity. The drum patterns provided by D.C. underground producer, Best Kept Secret, are as crazy and inventive as vintage Pharrell as congos pound next to rough snares and funky xylophones. Vocally, Wale does his thing kicking funny and memorable lines while Pusha-T and Bun-B, this year’s co-winner of the Busta Rhymes Memorial Award For Ubiquitous and Inexplicable Guest Appearances, tear up the track in their own right. You really can’t do much better than songs like these. This is the year’s most original track.

1. The Knux - Cappuccino/Cappuccino (Remix)

You have to seriously wonder who the hell is running the Interscope marketing department because the fact that the Knux’s sickeningly catchy “Cappuccino” was not plastered over top 40 radio this year was one of the great injustices of modern pop music. The Knux crafted two of this year’s best singles in “Cappuccino” and it’s equally brilliant remix and should have been huge, crossover smashes hadn’t some completely incompetent, unimaginative coked-out marketing intern assigned to the the project hadn’t been completely sleeping at the wheel. Seriously, this is how you sell the Knux - you market the guitar-driven original to top 40 pop radio as you package the vintage Outkast in ‘98 remix to hip hop radio. You do whatever it takes for the disc jockeys to play it and you have a huge hit because you have built two separate audiences for their debut. This is so exceedingly obvious I’m offended I have to suggest this. If the motherfucking Black Eyed Peas can crossover so can the Knux. You should be ashamed of yourselves, Interscope.

33 comments:

Praverb said...

nice list fam...

Jason said...

Yeah the list is pretty good. One glaring omission would be either "Real Estate" or "Unsuccessful Club Night" off the vastly under appreciated Cadence Weapon album. I think Pro Tools was a good album, and I like The Knux, but was Cappuchino(remix) really the best track of the year? Other than that, top notch sir.

DocZeus said...

It was my favorite which is really only my criterion for ranking songs. You can really only do these things subjectively.

Really, any of the songs in my top 6 could have easily been #1 but I decided basically by the number of times I had played it on my iPod which is why "Cappuccino" won.

tray said...

"My World Is Empty Without You"! I was trying to remember the name of that for my top singles of the year. However, I don't think it was a single, and it's not from 2008 so it's alright.

Marcus said...

Any criticism for Swagga Like Us is welcome except if its towards TI's verse. Even for a hardcore NY purist like urself, you'd have to admit he went in.

jp said...

I think I got an epileptic fit after watching the video clip to New Jack Hustle - 2 It

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_MPCf3IirA

DocZeus said...

"Any criticism for Swagga Like Us is welcome except if its towards TI's verse. Even for a hardcore NY purist like urself, you'd have to admit he went in."

Well, I wouldn't call myself a "New York" purist (a little less than half of the songs on this list are from the South and all of the top 5 are) but yeah, T.I. is the only one who acquits himself on Swagger Like Us.

Zilla Rocca said...

Good lookin' on GZA's "Life as Movie"--terribly slept on song.

"I got a smile that'll make the mirror crack..." he KILLED that shit!

Marcus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

'long story short' doesn't grab me the same way 'give the drummer some' or 'the matrix' do, i just can't take BM's style without some space or guest appearances. but it is pretty good, though i feel like he raps with more energy on 'losing out.'

tray said...

RZA actually had a stunning verse on the last Masta Killa album...

Jay (d)eff Kay said...

Nice list. Only a few points I disagree with.

How is A Millie beat "truly innovative"? its pretty basic and one of Bangladesh least-innovative beats imo. I really like the dude's recent work, but the first time i heard a millie, i thought it was the runners. And the neptunes already did that whole skeletal beat schtick with "drop it like its hot", so its doesn't even have that "oh-that sounds different" novelty factor to it. Wayne does take it over the top though.

Also, i gotta seriously stop sleeping on these statik selektah albums - I just always associate any DJ/producer-helmed album in the 21st century to be something along the lines of Drama or Khaled. I remember hearing only one track from selektah's first album called 'stop look, listen' - it had styles p, termanalogy and q-tip on it, but the breezy beat was totally the highlight

DocZeus said...

Jay Def Kay-

What I'm getting at is that the beat is basically driven by a vocal sample. Like all it is some screwed vocals, some bass and some drums. I can't think of anything off the top of my head in which the melody of the song is a vocal sample. That's innovative.

DocZeus said...

Jesus-

"Give The Drummer Sum" doesn't quite do it for me the same way it does everybody else. I infinitely prefer this. "The Matrix" sounds a bit too Boot Camp by the numbers these days. Neither of them are wack songs by an stretch of the imagination but "Long Story Short" just sounds a bit more epic.

tray said...

Give me a second and I might think of someone who made a beat in just the same way. Well for starters, isn't this largely the 'Oh Boy' trick taken to extremes?

DocZeus said...

"Well for starters, isn't this largely the 'Oh Boy' trick taken to extremes?"

Sort of but "Oh Boy" isn't using it's vocal sample as melody. The context it's being used as almost a hook for the song in lieu of an actual chorus. It's used to punctuate Juelz and Cam's verse. It's not the same thing.

It's not as if "A Milli" is the first beat to use vocal samples that's obviously not true. Dilla and 9th Wonder are absolute masters at flipping vocal samples but it's the way it was used I thought was innovative. Bangladesh, basically, ONLY uses a vocal sample. And he's using it as the melody.

If you strip out the sample from the rest of the song it's basically just snares and a bass line. I mean do people realize that voice is Phife from a rare ass "El Segundo" remix?

And speaking of which, part of the reason "A Billi" is so lazy is that Jay-Z could have easily commissioned Bangladesh to flip the rest of the sample to change "A Milli" to say "A Billi" because the full line that samples Phife goes "A Milli, Billie, Billie Bum." How hard would it be to make the song go "A Billi, A Billi, A Billi..." This is why Jay-Z sucks so consistently now. Half-assing it.

Jay (d)eff Kay said...

I see where your coming from doc, but i really hear a millie, as 0.5%'oh boy'-style homage (as tray mentioned), and a 95.5% basic screwed up chorus-helmed production a la everything the Runners have ever done. I mean take Rick Ross' Hustlin' Hustlin' Hustlin Hustlin' Hustlin' Hustlin' for example. The only dfference between that and A Millie I can figure is that as opposed to the synth lines that lace up the Hustlin' verses, Bangladesh uses really spare snare lines (which again are heavily reminiscent of the ones used on Drop it Like its Hot). Just saying.

btw didnt know that was phife. interesting

Kyle said...

Hey man, just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I think you got it spot on. Wale has most certainly killed it this year, and rightfully so he appears very often on your list.

As for turning me onto The Knux with your review of the XXL mag, all i can say is thanks. They are truly original and deserved of a top ten spot.

DocZeus said...

Kyle-

Thanks for reading. It's always nice to have new fans of my writing.

Badmon3333 said...

No Mighty Underdogs? ("Hands in the Air," "Aye") Oddisee? ('101' is about to top my list for slept-on '08 albums).

I'd take "Try" off of 'Tronic' over "Long Story Short," although the first verse is an all-time classic. And I'd probably go with "Love Lockdown" over "Coldest Winter," since it turned out to actually be the best song off '808s,' and probably representative of what Kanye was actually GOING for...

Jordan said...

Jay- The difference is that hustlin is just the hook- what is innovative about a milli that doc was trying to say is that the vocal sample is used as a percussive element in the beat itself. It works as another rhythmic drum track underneath the verses rather than as a hook (Hustlin) or an embellishment (Oh boy). I don't know if that's been done before.

Doc- Solid list. I am puzzled by your love for Don't I Act A Donkey, as I liked the kinda serious Pac-biting shit on that mixtape much better. But whatever, it's pretty cool and surprising to see you not front on Boosie.

tray said...

I just think that, while it may be innovative (although I'm sure someone did just this before, I'm just blanking on who), it wasn't done very well on that track. I never liked the beat and I still don't, and Wayne is less than stellar on it. I guess the original "La La" came out at the tail end of last year, but that might be my pick for Wayne song of the year, that or, of course, the unfortunately slept on Lollipop remix, which doesn't have anything as cliched as "pop em like Orville Redenbacher" and a lot of really great shit.

DocZeus said...

"I guess the original "La La" came out at the tail end of last year, but that might be my pick for Wayne song of the year,"

I'm convinced you don't actually believe half the things you say.

tray said...

The original La La, not the awful one. Remember, "born in New Orleans, raised in New Orleans, I will forever remain faithful, New Orleans... thank you Holygrove, that's been my hood since a snotty nose, I come through the hood, suicidal doors, I used to come through the hood on handlebars..." - that's a great song! A Milli on the other hand, what's so good about it.

DocZeus said...

I didn't realize there was another "La, La" floating about.

tray said...

Ah, look at up. Oh, here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7n6P2ge6kw

However, this is back from August '07, apparently. He really was rapping better a year ago.

Charlie Hilton said...

There are some great choice there.

I think Say You Will was better than Coldest Winter though.

No Blu & Exile songs?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge fan of Cappuccino, but maybe that's just me...

Trey Stone said...

^ same here, the beat's kinda middling. plus i prefer my party raps with more gratuitous sex and violence

d. b. cooper said...

"24. Kurupt - Yessir
...
18. Jay-Z - Brooklyn Go Hard [Feat. Santogold]
...
3. Big Boi - Royal Flush [Feat. Andre 3000 & Raekwon]"

Yes yes yes. Along with most of the Q-Tip album, these were my favorite rap songs of the year. To me, the only bright spot of this year in hip hop was Old Man rap.

jp said...

Yo Doc when are you going to do the worst songs of 08??

Jordan Paladino said...

"75 Bars" by The Roots is my number one. Black Thought is my second favourite MC of all time, behind Eminem.

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