The Best of 2008 by Patrick Taylor
Here is my list of favorites for 2008, in alphabetical order:

1. Atmosphere, “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold” and “Strictly Leakage.” While not every track on “Lemons” works for me, about half that album is pure genius, mixing up innovative beats and insightful lyrics. While other rappers try hard to prove they are winners, Slug tells stories of the losers of society, the waitresses who hate their jobs, the homeless, the drug addicted, the working father on the verge of collapse. “Strictly Leakage” proved that he and Ant could still drop a mean battle rap and party rhyme, while on “Lemons” they experimented with being the Springsteen of rap.

2. Erykah Badu, “New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War).” Ms. Badu teamed up with hip hop producers like Madlib and Sa-Ra, channeling Billie Holiday fronting Funkadelic while singing some serious post-millennium blues. Part Two hasn’t appeared yet, and I’m hoping she doesn’t pull an Axl.

3. Black Milk, “Tronic.” Evidently Dilla wasn’t the only great rapper/producer Detroit produced. Black Milk does electro right, and holds his own on the mic.

4. The Cool Kids, “Bake Sale.” One of several groups taking hip hop back to its roots as party music, complete with old school beats.

5. Elzhi, “The Preface.” This took a while to grow on me, but it is a solid effort of pure hip hop.

6. Invincible, “Shapeshifters.” Invincible’s debut impresses with banging beats and intelligent lyrics.

7. “Machete Vox Presents Sneak Preview.” This sampler from Bay Area label Machete Vox is what hip hop should sound like.

8. Q-Tip, “The Renaissance.” Well worth the wait, Q-Tip stays relevant 20 years into the game.

9. Red Ants, “Omega Point.” Seriously dark and paranoid.

10. Steinski, “What Does It All Mean?” Your hip hop history lesson, and essential for any fan of the genre.

Honorable Mention (AKA how to stretch your top 10 to a top 18):

Cecil Otter, “Rebel Yellow.” Jack Kerouac meets Woody Guthrie meets El-P. Different, but intriguing.

Jake One, “White Van Music.” Worth it for Brother Ali’s verse on “The Truth” alone.

Murs, “Murs For President.” It’s not all gold, but when Murs is on, he is unstoppable. Check out “The Science.”

The Roots, “Rising Down.” Although the Roots remain a group I respect more than I actually want to listen to, this is worth owning, especially for the title track and “75 Bars.”

Sankofa. Go to and download the many free joints he released this year, all of which are worth your time.

Serge Severe, “Concrete Techniques.” Serge Severe offers battle rhymes over some of the best production this side of 1990.

Tanya Morgan, “The Bridge EP.” Between this EP, mixtapes, and a whole lot of free stuff (including a wicked freestyle over N.E.R.D.’s “Everybody Nose”), Tanya Morgan kept fans’ appetites sated while they finalize their sophomore effort, due in early 2009.

Viro the Virus, “The Sharpest Blade.” Viro combines wicked rhymes, a laconic delivery, and solid production.

Album I probably should have bought, but didn’t:

Lil Wayne, “Tha Carter III.” I reached maximum capacity for Lil Wayne through his mixtapes, and just couldn’t work up excitement for this album, no matter how amazing it is. Plus, dude already made a bajillion dollars, so I’d rather give my money to an indie artist who actually needs my support.

Favorite song of 2008: “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. A year and a half after I first heard this song, I was just about starting to get sick of it. Then I saw “Slumdog Millionaire,” where it plays over a montage of two homeless Indian orphans getting their hustle on, and I fell in love with it all over again.

Things I want to see more of in 2009:

  • Live instruments
  • Wale
  • Rappers being honest. Keeping it real should mean owning up to your flaws and shortcomings, and not pretending you are a kingpin when really you are a low-level crook and/or former corrections officer.
  • Recession rap. We are in the worst financial crisis in years, and hip hop has a duty to talk about how it is affecting people.

Things I want to see less of in 2009:

  • Autotune. So played out it isn’t even funny. It was only half interesting the first 100 times it was done, and by now it just needs to go away.
  • Rappers getting murdered
  • Rappers getting arrested
  • Tacky-ass jewelry. Children in Africa are dying mining diamonds so that you can have a medallion of yourself? Really?
  • Rappers bragging about money they don’t have. The music industry is dying and the country is in economic turmoil, so if you are blowing your advance on expensive booze and expensive women, you need a new financial advisor. Unless you are Lil Wayne, in which case you have more money than God and will probably OD before you spend it all.