The RR staff sees the good, the bad, and the ugly, but we are fortunate to have these rare occasions of exemplary music that rise above the rest. 2008 has provided us with a wide array of choices that stem from the new and old, to the classic, and to the more conceptual, but in the end has provided us with some damn good music.

10) Kublakai-“The Basics”

Of my own volition, I probably wouldn’t have picked this album up, but was fortunate to have reviewed it otherwise in the early months of 2008. Yes, I must boast, these are the perks of an RR writer as solid music is thrown at you left and right with Kublakai’s album being one of them. As the underdog of my list, Kublakai thrives without a major label or help from well-known artists and has proven his worthiness in the rap sector far more than other underground artists I have listened to this past year.

9) 88 Keys-“The Death of Adam”

I still laugh when I think about this album as it was hands down, the most humorous of 2008. An entire album dedicated to “the power of the punani.” Need I say more?

8) 9th Wonder and Buckshot-“The Formula”

The continuation to their 2005 debut album, “Chemistry,” “The Formula” has only further displayed the strength of the partnership between 9th Wonder and Buckshot. Buckshot clearly defines the album integrity as he once said, “I am The Formula and I found The Formula with 9th Wonder. I’ve always had a certain sound within Hip-Hop and 9th Wonder helps bring out my unique style.”

7) Jean Grae-“Jeanius”

..and who said females can’t rock the mic in 2008? Well, Jean Grae has been doing it for over ten years and this time collaborates with 9th Wonder as she still spits sixteens like no other femcee. It’s been rumored that Jean Grae is retiring soon and if it’s at all true, it would definitely be a loss to the hip hop community.

6) Atmosphere-“When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold”

Slug and Ant come back together in their sixth album full of storytelling. Not the fantasy type of storytelling, but storytelling about the average Joey and his daily qualms. As the title entails, it is optimism that keeps us thriving while Atmosphere demonstrates this beautifully.

5) Q-Tip-“The Renaissance”

Who knew Q-Tip was ready for a comeback after this many years away from the limelight? This unexpected drop from Q-Tip proves his abilities as an emcee as he takes on the project entirely solo with no guest appearances and no other vocals to cloud judgement. This only brings us back to the good ol’ A Tribe Called Quest days…ahhhh.

4) El-P- “WeAreAllGoingToBurnInHellMegamixx2”

A rarity only previously sold on tour, El-P shares this mix of unreleased cuts full of esoteric, vintage sounds. It only gets better as the mix also features six previously unreleased tracks initally recorded for Company Flow and includes the abstract nature of El-P in its purest form. Luckily for many, it is still downloadable for free on the Def Jux site. Yay!

3) Living Legends-“The Gathering”

As a long time fan, it is always exciting to see yet another album released from the Living Legends collective. It’s amazing to see how each artist has developed on their own, but in the end unite as a cooperative group. They now consider themselves as a “Los Angeles-based hip hop group,” but I beg to differ as they will always represent my hometown of The Bay!

2) Vast Aire-“Dueces Wild”

I heard “A Man Without Fear” before the official release date and was hooked as I knew this was going to be something special for 2008. Vast Aire’s unique and recognizable voice still flourishes as his rhymes are still unmatched after all these years. For all you Cannibal Ox fans, Vordul Mega makes some guest appearances, minus the El-P production, but in the end it is still quite impressive.

1) Santogold-“Santogold”

Some might say Santogold’s genre isn’t quite rap, but realistically she goes beyond just that. Her incorporation of hip hop, dancehall, electronic, dub, and 80s pop proves her talents as an artist, thus displaying her versatility. Although many compare her to M.I.A. (my number one pick of ’07), Santogold’s sound is her own. Her multifaceted abilities are incomparable as her innovative singing/rhyming style remains visionary.