Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HFTB's Ten Favorite Albums of '08.. Plus More!

*Slick Rick voice* And heeeeeeere we go..

1. Nas - Untitled

From the first piano chord of Jay Electronica's beat on "Queens Get The Money" and Nas' phenomonal verse ending with "Bring back Arsenio/ Hip-hop was aborted so Nas breathes life back into the embryo/ Let us make men in our image/ Spit it, I'm Huey P in Louis V at the funeral throwin' molotovs for Emmitt... I'm the shaky hand that touched George Foreman in Zaire/ The same hand that punched down devils that brought down the towers," I knew Untitled was one for the ages.

Beyond all the uproar about the title, Nasir focused on speaking his mind without a damn care in the world for the haters. He addressed politics, the industry, the media, Obama, and still had time to holla to the streets. From the amped-up revival anthem of "Hero," the venemous attack on U.S. media of "Sly Fox," and the uplifting tone of "Black President," Nasir did his damn thing to resuscitate the very music that he deemed lifeless just years ago.

2. Q-Tip - The Renaissance

Amidst all the golden era acts trying so damn hard to become relevant once again (Marley Marl, EPMD, etc), Q-Tip returned effortlessly with his second solo disc. The Abstract flows smoothly over the LP's 14 tracks (self-produced except for one, I might add), gliding through the female-friendly "Gettin' Up" and feel-good-yet-still-raw "Official."

The best part comes during the J Dilla-produced "Move/ Renaissance Rap," as the late producer reinterpreted a Jackson 5 groove for an (gasp!) intelligent dance song. Then, just when the listener thinks it's over, the beat switches up to a laid-back boom-bap as Tip spits, "Gather around, the renaissance, man it's finally appeared/ And I'm astonishing rap characters and causin the tears/ Quasimoto in the quotables I speak from my mouth/ And no doubt, we rubbed you wrong I'm rubbin you out."

Though I doubt it will cause any true change in hip-hop's tendencies, the disc plays as a modern-day throwback to an era gone but not soon forgotten.

3. The Roots - Rising Down

Adopting a darker sound that emerged on Game Theory, the hardest-working group in hip-hop delivered a politically-charged, conscious record with Rising Down. Drummer ?uestlove admitted that they branched off from their standard live sound by using more synths and exotic instruments, and it worked.

Lead MC Black Thought is one of the most underrated lyricists of our generation, ripping through various tracks like the lyrical onslaught of "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)" and "Rising Up" featuring Wale & Chrisette Michele.

The stand-out joint here comes early in the disc with "Rising Down," as Mos Def and Styles P aid Thought over a synthy-bass sonic backdrop. Thought expresses his anguish with today's bullshit, spitting furiously, "Yo I don't wanna floss, I done lost my passion/ And I don't wanna climb, I done lost my traction/ They makin' me break, my contents under pressure, do not shake/ I'm workin' while the boss relaxin'."

Yet another quality release from the Philly pioneers.

4. Black Milk – Tronic

Talk about a repeat. Detroit producer/MC Black Milk had an outstanding ’07 with his across-the-industry production credits and debut full-length solo album Popular Demand, so what does he do? Return stronger than before with a refined lyrical game and extended prowess on the boards.

Tronic is just a raw album from the jump with in-your-face heater “Bounce” and multi-layered single “Give The Drummer Sum.” The rest of the disc follows in a similar vein, with Black Milk at his best on “Hold It Down” and “The Matrix” alongside Pharaoh Monch, Sean Price & DJ Premier.

Thankfully, Black stepped up the only aspect lacking previously – his ability on the mic – for arguably the most solid all-around self-produced effort of ’08, save Q-Tip’s aforementioned album.

5. Common - Universal Mind Control

Longevity - it’s what an artist strives for yet seldom achieves. But Common isn’t your ordinary MC. Though many complain that Universal Mind Control resembles Electric Circus too much, I gotta disagree.

Yeah, Common went a little outside of the box for UMC – especially with the Planet Rock-influenced title track and bouncing pop tune “What A World” with Chester French – but he never strays too far from what has made his career, and that’s socially-relevant, fresh rhymes. Take the the album’s best track “Inhale” for instance, where Comm rhymes “I breathe deep like a old man in a deep sleep/ Or Indian peace-piped in a tepee/ The beginning, the end, the first, the last/ Breath into eternity, the verse will last.”

The experimentation is well-intended here as Comm pushed past conventional hip-hop, a daring move that always seems to bring along its fair share of haters.

And rounding out my Ten Favorite Albums of ’08 are..

6. Murs - Murs For President

Best Tracks: “Everything,” “Lookin’ Fly” ft.

7. Jake One - White Van Music
Best Tracks: “Bless The Child” ft. Little Brother, “The Truth” ft. Freeway & Brother Ali

8. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III

Best Tracks: “A Milli,” “Mr. Carter” ft. Jay-Z

9. Pete Rock - NY's Finest

Best Tracks: “Till I Retire,” “Best Believe” ft. Redman & LD

10. Kanye West - 808's & HeartBreak

Best Tracks: “Heartless,” “Welcome 2 HeartBreak” ft. KiD CuDi

Honorable Mentions:

Elzhi - The Preface

Best Tracks: "The Preface," "Motown 25" ft. Royce Da 5'9

Tanya Morgan - The Bridge EP

Best Tracks: "The Bridge" ft. Elucid, "Got 2 Get Done"

T.I. - Paper Trail

Best Tracks: "Whatever You Like," "I'm Illy"

Statik Selektah - Stick 2 The Script

Best Tracks: "To The Top (Stick 2 The Script)" ft. Cassidy, Saigon & Termanology, "So Good (Live From The Bar)" ft. Naledge, Reks & CL Smooth

EMC - The Show
Best Tracks: "EMC (What It Stand For)," "Traffic" ft. Little Brother

Cool Kids - Bake Sale EP

Best Tracks: "88," "Mikey Rocks"

The Game - L.A.X.

Best Tracks: "Big Dreams," "My Life" ft. Lil' Wayne

Little Vic - Each Dawn I Die

Best Tracks: "The Exorcist," "The Evil That Men Do"

Jay Electronica - Style Wars EP
Best Tracks: "Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)," "I Feel Good"

Common Market - Tobacco Road

Best Tracks: "Gol'Dust," "Winter Takes All"

There you have it. I'll be back soon with my favorite mixtapes and tracks but your boy needs to go get ready to party like it's 2009..

Happy New Year!


  1. I feel so out of touch I really didn't listen to any of these albums just heard the singles from a few of them lol

  2. Jay Electronica actually sold Style Wars? I need to get a copy asap

  3. .......... you know something the only album on that list that i actually paid for (lol) was 808's and heartbreak....sad

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