Thursday, December 25, 2008
Best Of 2008: Top 25 Albums (Entries 20-16)
Previous Midwest Broadcast Best of 2008 Posts:
Top 15 Mixtapes
Top 25 Albums (Entries 25-21 + Honorable Mentions)
On with Midwest Broadcast's top 25 albums of 2008! This time, we're at numbers 20-16. As usual, feel free to voice your opinion by dropping a comment or sending me an email.
20. The Game: L.A.X.
This album got a fairly mixed reception from critics. Some said it was Game’s worst album yet, while URB hailed it as one of the year’s best. I adopted a more favorable stance on this album. I feel that Game has been a rather consistent artist throughout his whole career, and although he may never make a classic, he does have a handful of pretty good records under his belt, L.A.X. being one of them. The production, as per usual on Game’s albums, was pretty great (“House Of Pain,” and “Big Dreams,” off the L.A.X. Deluxe Edition, are bangers). Game’s lyrics were pretty sharp, as well. Despite a few cliché tracks, his passion for rap music was as evident as ever on L.A.X. Key Tracks: “Bulletproof Diaries ft. Raekwon,” “House Of Pain,” “Never Can Say Goodbye ft. Latoya Williams,” “Letter To The King ft. Nas”
19. Jake One: White Van Music
Chalk it up to Seattle-based producer Jake One and Rhymesayers Entertainment to recruit what was by far this year’s most impressive collection of rappers for a single album. Jake One’s White Van Music had the best of all worlds. M.O.P., Little Brother, Posdnuos, Slug, MF Doom, Freeway, Brother Ali, Evidence, Busta Rhymes, Blueprint, Bishop Lamont, Young Buck, Casual, Royce Da 5’9”, Black Milk, Elzhi, and various others all made guest appearances on the album. That covers the Midwest, West Coast, East Coast, down South. That covcrs mainstream and underground artists. That covers intellectual rap, battle rap, storytelling rap, stream-of-consciousness rap, etc. But wait, with so many different styles represented, how was this album not a complete, for lack of a better word, clusterfuck? Well that can be attributed to Jake One. Each beat was tailor made for each rapper’s individual song; yet each song still meshed together to make the album a cohesive effort. If only Young Buck and Keak Da Sneak’s throwaway tracks were replaces with other material, this album would have been even better. Oh, and “The Truth ft. Freeway and Brother Ali” was the best song of the year, mark my word. Key Tracks: “Gangsta Boy ft. M.O.P., “The Truth ft. Freeway and Brother Ali,” “Oh Really ft. Posdnuos & Slug,” “Trap Door ft. MF Doom,” “Scared ft. Blueprint,” “Glow ft. Elzhi & Royce Da 5'9"”
18. GZA: Pro Tools
With Pro Tools, GZA released what is probably his best material since his seminal classic Liquid Swords. He was more lyrically sharp than he has been in recent years, and the production on this album was spectacular. His chorus on the track “Alphabets” is mind-blowing, as is the Black Milk produced “Seven Pounds.” I saw him perform a couple of these tracks earlier this year, and it was pretty impressive. This album is a must-have for any Wu-Tang fan. Key Tracks: “Alphabets,” “Seven Pounds,” “0% Finance,” “Life Is A Movie ft. RZA & Khan-Acito”
17. Atmosphere: Strictly Leakage
I gave myself one free pass by allowing Rhymefest’s Man In The Mirror Mixtape to be on the 2008 mixtape list even though it came out in late December of 2007. Well, I’m doing the same thing with Atmosphere’s free album, Strictly Leakage, as it was released on December 26, 2007 (Download). Sluggo and Ant put Strictly Leakage together after creating Lemons. So with all these extra songs sitting around, they chose to give it away for free (though Slug has since admitted the tracks could never be sold because of sampling issues). The album has more of a party vibe than anything else they have ever done, but Ant’s sampling is as flawless as usual. Slug, on the other hand, adapts a more sarcastic, easy-going, party mentality for his rhymes on Strictly Leakage. The album still gets plenty of rotations on my iTunes, and was a pleasant change of pace from the Minneapolis duo. Key Tracks: “YGM,” “Little Math You,” “Full Moon,” “The Things That Hate Us,” “Crewed Up”
Side story: Just two nights ago, I was out in Dinkeytown celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday. We were walking down 14th Street, and I saw Ant just chilling outside of the Dinkeytowner. I stopped to talk to him briefly, and mentioned how I saw his show in London this past summer and spoke with him for a while at the pub afterwards. He remembered, which was personally satisfying for me. It’s great to see that Ant and Slug have not lost their down-to-earth, humble, and personable relationship with their fans. Just last year they gave away an album for free. Slug and Ant always hang out at their concert venues with their fans before their shows. The track “Crewed Up,” off of Strictly Leakage, shows love to plenty of emerging local artists (Muja Messiah, St. Paul Slim, Toki Wright). It’s relieving to know that there are still some truly genuine artists in hip-hop, doing it for the love of the music. And with Lemons setting record sales number for Rhymesayers, it’s just as reassuring that these artists are still being supported by their original fans.
16. Murs & 9th Wonder: Sweet Lord
After that little digression, we’re back to the list. How about another free album to crack the year’s top 20? Most of the hype surrounding Murs in 2008 was focused on his major-label debut album, Murs For President (Review). However, that wasn’t even his best album of the year. That title is reserved for Sweet Lord, produced entirely by 9th Wonder, and released for free online this past summer (Download). The album follows the same formula as the past Murs/9th Wonder collaborative efforts: short (10 tracks) but sweet (9th’s soul samples, Murs’ love raps). These two have an unparalleled chemistry together, and will hopefully please fans by working together more in the future. Key Tracks: “Nina Ross,” “And I Love It,” “Pusshhhhhh,” “Love The Way”