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  • Hip Hop LP of 2008

    1. Q-tip - The Renaissance

    Fans have waited patiently nearly ten years since the release of Amplified for another solo album from seminal leader of the innovative A Tribe Called Quest squad. In this time, Q-Tip has recorded several albums' worth of material that never saw the light of day due to label politics. Such is the life of an emcee in an industry that favors quick hits with a short shelf life over slow-cooked grooves from veterans. Fortunately, the dolor of business drama is scarcely detectable over the smoothly unfolding euphony on The Renaissance.

  • 2nd Best Hip Hop LP of 2008
    2. N*E*R*D - Seeing Sounds

    After Pharrell Williams's pedestrian solo debut and some lacklustre production work (Gwen Stefani's The Sweet Escape), it seemed as though Williams and his Neptunes/N.E.R.D partner Chad Hugo had lost their vice-like grip on inventive pop. Happily, their new album suggests a thrilling second act. Flanked by fellow bandmember Shay Haley, they are again pushing the boundaries of the popular song. From Everybody Nose, a horn-looped look at Hollywood's re-infatuation with cocaine, to the drum'n'bass-meets-baile-funk of Spaz, this album is a superb reminder of why we fell in love with them in the first place.

  • 3rd Best Hip Hop LP 0f 2008

    3. Sir Smurf Lil - A New Bloodline

    ?A New Bloodline?; Sir Smurf Lil? teams up with the current cream of UK producers ? Jehst, Apa-Tight, Beat Butcha, LG, Conspicuous and Asaviour ? all men well known for their dusty Hip Hop beats. Don?t take that the wrong way though; on paper ?A New Bloodline? may seem like a quick tracing of the UK rap outline but in reality the uniquely stylised rendering of Smurf makes this more than just a carbon copy.

    Sonically and topically this is a nicely diverse album presenting Sir Smurf?s creative streak. On ?Blossom? man/woman relationships are explored over a beautiful backing whereas on ?Words are Weapons?, a menacingly lilting beat accompanies determined fighting talk. The title track opens up raucously whereas closer ?The Lord?s Chorus? laments the loss of a loved life. Single ?Candlelight? still sounds fresh as does it?s B-side ?That Sound? featuring T-Bear and Big Cakes.

    Other microphone guests are partners-in-rhyme The Colony (Grimlok, Conspicuous and Willo Wispa), Dubbledge, Kashmere and Jehst all of whom make worthy contributions to the overall piece.

    ?A New Bloodline? is a mature second album from an MC who deserves to gain recognition and momentum in this thing we call rap.

  • 4th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008

    4. P Brothers - The Gas

    Straight New York street talk is rarified air in hip hop these days. More specifically, the bleak second wave of ?realness? after Wu, Nas and Black Moon emerged. Records like Mobb Deep?s The Infamous or Group Home?s Livin? Proof sounded like kids trading blunts and rhymes in ciphers in the projects, nodding their heads as Rakim spit, ?I guess I didn?t know the ledge.? The soundscapes were almost as dire, but always injected with a shot of soul. Nottingham?s P Brothers ? DJ Ivory and Paul S ? preserve this connoisseur?s strain with the care of curators.

    The Gas is hip hop that hits from the waist up. Tinted-jeep music with heat stashed in the armrest, toting a handful of reality-check anthems on par with O.C.?s ?Time?s Up.? Chase C.R.E.A.M on the low, hit pads like Kris Jenkins. On ?Cold World,? Trey Bag extrapolates: ?Ratata/ Think about consequences after / Black master / Gun blaster / Middle finger to the pastor.? To everybody involved, hip hop is religion.

  • 5th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008

    5. Elzhi - The Preface

    Always one of the most talented emcees in the Michigan hip-hop scene, Elzhi's substance-over-style approach has consistently deviated from the mainstream rap environment. When he initially joined Slum Village in the early part of this decade ? after super-producer J Dilla went solo ? the group was primarily regarded for its soulful backdrops and carefree vibes. Although they eventually gained the recognition they deserved, Elzhi is in a similar position as a solo artist nearly a decade later: His emphasis on technique and thought-provoking lyrics differs from the formulaic McDonald-ization of today's commercial rap scene. And with his proper debut, The Preface, Elzhi is still eschewing trends and sticking to his guns with impressive results.

  • 6th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008

    6. ABN - It Is What It Is

  • 7th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008
    7. Jazz Liberatorz - Clin D'oeil

    I don't know much about the Jazz Liberators, but I instantly became a fan after one listen to this album. From what I've been able to gather around the internet, it would appear that these guys are three producers from France -- DJ Damage, Dusty, and Madhi. They have some 12" singles scattered about but, from what I understand, no albums until now. From the intro, once I heard famous jazz samples being played over what sounded to me like live instruments, I was hooked. They enlist the services of rappers like Sadat X, Buckshot, Asheru, J. Sands, J-Live, Apani B. Fly, Tableek (from Maspyke), and former Pharcyde members Tre Hardson & Fat Lip...amongst others. Though all the tracks are immersed in jazz, they all vary in sound -- from the thump laid down for Buckshot to the floating keys offered up for Sadat X.

    As far as drawbacks associated with this release, you'd be hard pressed to find any. There were some songs that stood out more than others, but they're all great. Be warned though, this album is heavily influenced by jazz, so don't look to get hype to this. It's all laid back stuff.

    If you like your rap music with a heavy dose of jazz, then this album needs to be a part of your collection. Clin D'Oeil is the best rap album I've heard so far this year. Jazz Rap doesn't come much better than this. I highly recommend adding this LP to your music collection. It won't disappoint. Guaranteed.

  • 8th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008
    8. EMC - The Show

    Ace is back. This time with the underground super group, eMC. eMC consists of Masta Ace, Lyrical Lounge legends Punchline and Wordsworth, and Milwaukee underground veteran, Stricklin. Their new record, The Show, is underground hip hop at its finest and a virtual deadlock for one of the top five hip hop records of the year. The Show is a stylistic successor to Ace?s previous two concept albums as it follows the loose story of the group preparing for the night?s out-of-town performance. We follow the group as they frantically call their manager to pick them up at the airport to their check in at the hotel, to their radio appearances promoting the show, to backstage fucking groupies and finally their curtain call. The record is held together by a series of humorous skits that link the thematic elements of the story with the songs that expound on these themes.

  • 9th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008

    9. Nappy Roots - Humdinger

    Nappy Roots hearken back to a time in southern rap when lyricism was king, ruling over plodding beats and guttural, unintelligible yelling. After a brief stint on a major label and a hit album?2002's Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz?they're back on their own label, with their best album yet, The Humdinger.

    And they don't waste any time addressing their current situation. Opener "Beads and Braids" is a head-first assault on an industry that spit them out, capped off by the sarcastic question, "Why y'all ****** don't rap about money?" It brings up a good point?it's not that Nappy Roots don't rap about the traditional southern rap archetypes that we've come to expect, they just do it more realistically. They rap about strip clubs ("Pole Position") but stop to wonder aloud if their mothers are going to hear it; they rap about cars ("Good Day"), but mostly because they aren't sure if their cars are going to start.

    The Humdinger shows Nappy Roots to be funny, down-to-earth hip-hop stars who care more about their craft than they do about their shoe deals. It's something their southern rap peers could learn from.

  • 10th Best Hip Hop LP of 2008

    10. Fat Ray & Black Milk - The Set Up

    Black Milk and Fat Ray?s ?The Set Up? is a straight gutter, battle rap release - period. Every now and then I need a balance of my hip-hop music to include the street-inspired presentations like ?The Set Up.? As of lately, I have been on some personal ?rename random albums,? and this album I renamed ?Punchlines & Amped Beats Vol. 1? - as there are plenty to go around. A true fan of battle raps will be in heaven with this presentation. Innovative in some regards yet the ?same ole, same ole? in others, more than half of this release is captivating. But other areas, such as gun talk, violence and drug use, is nothing my ears haven?t received before.

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