Weiss' 50 Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2008 (#50-26)
50. Redman ft. Oh No-"Lay You Out"
You couldn't pay me to be a kid today: anaconda jeans in vogue, MySpace as courting ritual, "Lollipop" as teenage head-anthem. (Wherefore art thou Akinyele?) But no matter how much I love the themes to Magic Johnson's Fast break and Marble Madness (word to Jones and Soderberg) the kids have us beat on video game soundtracks. Listening to Redman and Oh No's contribution to Street Fighter's HD release on XBox and PlayStation, makes me feel like a 8-bit octagenarian. Four Hadoukens out of four.
49. 2ew Gunn Ciz ft. Nico the Beast, M.O.G., Reef Da Lost Cauze-"CrushRock"
48. Praverb-"The King"
Wale might have been the first DMV MC to break nationally, but Northern Va's, Praverb, demostrates the talent pool runs much deeper than just Mr. Folarin. Rocking a sample from Run DMC's last great single, the Pete Rock-helmed, "Down With the King," Praverb channels the spirit of '93 without falling until the underground sandtrap of maudllin, unremembered nostalgia. * Though, I suppose you could sort of make a case for DJ Kool.
47. Termanalogy-"Watch How It Go Down"
In his first single * from '90s homage-cum-debut, Politics As Usual, Boston-bred Termanalogy claims to be the second coming of Big Pun, an eye-rolling gesture for any fledgling artist, let alone a guy born hundreds of miles from the Boogie Down. But give him credit for spending the next four minutes kicking a respectable imitation over a Primo-laced beat that sounds unearthed from the Moment of Truth sessions. Term might lack the original style of his deceased inspiration, but ranks as one of his best disciples. And we can all probably agree that he's better than Cuban Link. * Yes, I know this is two years old. However, it was officially released in '08.
46. Mighty Joseph ft. Vordul Mega-"Blood Sport"
All things considered, Vast Aire sparked a nice comeback between the Mighty Joseph record and his solo jaunt, Deuces Wild. But you know how it goes, The Cold Vein, blah, blah, blah. So this is the place where I make my annual plea for Vast and Vordul to get back together, call El-P and live happily ever after. Of course, I'm pretty sure they aren't listening and I'm mainly doing this to egg the ex-Cannibal Oxer into wasting a MySpace blog post on me, a la Ben Westhoff. Jealousy's a motherfucker.
45. Scarface ft. Lil Wayne & Bun B-"Forgot About Me" Zac Efron was so far-fetched?). "Ultimately, this song's only purpose is to be good and really, no better reason exists.
44. Camp Lo-"Nah Right" Eskay stays winning. All I can say is, hey man, next time you talk to Cheeba and Suede, tell them to do a Passion of the Weiss song. I'll pay. I think I have some Bar-Mitzvah money stashed around here somewhere.
43. Del tha Funky Homosapien-"Raw Sewage"
Del's return from ex-girlfriend-tried-to-kill-me hiatus drew mixed reviews, with most fans pleased to see the underground linchpin rapping again, yet slightly disappointed that 11th Hour didn't meet the sky-high bar he's consistently met through his career. But over stabbing horns, vinyl cuts and eerie synths, "Raw Sewage" sustains hope that Deltron 2 will satisfy every rap nerd's dream. Should it ever arrive.
42. A.K. of Do or Die & Layzie Bone-"Guard My Life" Po' Pimp, A.K. of Do or Die, Layzie amply carries the slack. On "Guard My Life," a harrowing halo of mortality and fear is inescapable. If these two have more music in them like this, let's hope their prayers are answered. (And if not, I suppose I wish to confine them to the eternal flames of Hades.)
41. Johnson & Jonson-"Hold On John"
40. Killer Mike-"Bad Day/Worst Day"
The Willie D of the blog-generation, Killer Mike's voice absolutely drips with contempt and alienation on this alternately hilarious and damning diatribe against pretty much everything but Kevin Arnold of The Wonder Years (presumably, left for Ghetto Extraordinary II). In just 2 and a half minutes, Mike mows down Kobe, Don Cornelius, BET, Al Sharpton, Q-Tip, Andre 3000, Sisqo, Creflo Dollar, Murder Inc, and lets it be known that he's up for "toe-tagging Grand Dragons." By the way, if you're Aryan Nation, "Fuck Hitler." Mike and him share the same birthday--that bothers him too.
39. Kurupt-"Yessir" ---Renato Pagnani
38. Jake One ft. MF Doom-"Get 'Er Done"
When he wasn't duping fans with a metal-masked doppelganger, 2008 marked Doom's gradual re-emergence from his underground cavern, with the madvillain popping up twice on on fellow Rhymesayer, Jake One's White Van Music, and once on Babu's Duck Season 3. "Get "Er Done" is the finest of the trio, with Jake mimicking Dumile's own cartoons, sugar and Saturday morning aesthetic and Doom actually not mailing it in. Presumably, because he couldn't find a good vocal duplicate.
37. EMC-" Traffic" ---Renato Pagnani
36. Statik Selektah ft. Freeway, Young Chris & Peedi Crakk-"All 2Gether Now"
Few crews have squandered their promise like State Property. Had these guys stayed out of jail and record industry limbo for most of the decade, the above trio (plus Beanie) could've been Philly's answer to Dip Set. That grand plan of ascending to be Roc-A-Fella royalty isn't happening, but if they can crank out more ready-made anthems like this, there's time left to fulfill their potential.
35. Kid Cudi Vs. Crookers-"Day N' Nite Remix"
Until I caught the video for Crookers' remix of "Day 'N' Nite," this spot was originally reserved for the Cudi/Wale collabo, "Is There Any Love." It's not that the above clip is that good, but more that there's something endearing to Cudi's breezy nonchalance and willingness to play the fool without worrying about coming off soft. For the all shit "hipster rap" gets, it's difficult to dislike a major label-signed artist who remembers that rappers are musicians not thug caricatures. Most interesting is the iconoclastic move to shoot the video for a remix done by an Italian house duo. Electronic and rap often don't mix well (see Khalifa, Wiz), but Cudi's humor and versatility certainly do. I wouldn't be surprised if he blows up soon.
34. Tobacco ft. Aesop Rock-"Dirt"
Superficially, the pairing of Aesop Rock and Black Moth Super Rainbow front-man, Tobacco would make for a strange mix. They're hippie-freaks from the woods outside of Pittsburgh who play Richard Simmons videos at their concerts and name themselves after cash crops. Aesop is a misanthropic, hyper-syllabic B-boy from New York who used to call himself "Bazooka Tooth." Then again, last year's Dandelion Gum, with its woozy drum machines, cavernous mellotrons and cotton candy and LSD vibe, felt more like a cross between Moon Safari-era Air and Edan's Beauty and the Beat record than it did "indie rock." On "Dirt," Tobacco's fractured pop conjures a lazy Summer aesthetic, while Aesop craftily falls back into the pocket of the bubblegum beat and rides things out smoothly.
33. Zilla Rocca ft. Nico the Beast-"Raw to the Floor"
The beat for the last song on Bring Me the Head of Zilla Rocca succinctly summarizes why it--and by extension--the mixtape succeeds. It's a combination of everything that you liked about hip-hop when you were growing up*: a timeless Bob James "Nautilus" sample, Primo's Livin' Proof-era formula of head-bobbing scratches and esoteric sounds, and a patina of Reggie Noble ad-libs swiped from "How High." On the mic, Clean Guns have evolved into unique characters with agile rhyme skills. Forever South Philly but not above making goofy retainer and Karate Kid references, or sarcastically using the phrase "Rootin' Tootin," Clean Guns aren't popular among hip-hop bloggers because of nepotism, but because they're pretty similar--except one group is really good at rapping. *Excluding those born after '88.
32. Paper Route Gangstaz-"Woodgrain (EMYND Remix)"EMYND's remix for Paper Route Gangstaz's turns what was once a buoyant ode to car finshing into a sinister, screwed stomp. Straight out of hip-hop backwater, Huntsville, and blessed with the imprimatur of hipster deity Diplo, shockingly, the Paper Route Gangstaz have yet to set the Southern Strategy set on fire. Surprising, considering this is the apotheosis of the Houston takeover fantasia of '05. * Even if it was made by two Alabama rappers from Alabama and a producer from Philly. * I know, I know, it was a slow year.
31. The Roots ft. Styles P & Mos Def-"Rising Down"
Anyhow, someone (not your friends who tell you everything you do is brilliant) needs to tell you you can't kick that genre-fusion shit convincingly. Sorry, you spend most of your time acting. I know, life really isn't fair and yes, I understand that you want to keep pretending that you're in Bad Brains. But people really like this "Rise Above." So do I. Last time I checked, no one was really checking for The New Danger or True Magic. And that bizarre contraction of Wyclef Jean disease* that you exhibited at Rock the Bells this summer was not a pretty sight. Keep up the good work--I'm really looking forward to seeing Cadillac Records. Sincerely, Everyone who bought a copy of Black Star and Black on Both Sides during the Clinton Administration * Temporarily believing you are the reincarnation of Bob Marley and/or a flamingo.
30. Alchemist ft. Blu, Evidence, Talib Kweli, & Kid Cudi-"Therapy"
Alchemist arrives with the head-nodding psych guitar sample, Evidence kicks his admirably consistent slow flow that sinks into the plush pocket of the hypnotic, psych-guitar sample and soft drums. Blu plunders the '07-08, Andre 3000 method, but makes it his own. Kweli sounds resilient and recovered from the ungainly mid-career flirtations with the mainstream. Therapy was never this easy.
29. Southeast Slim ft. Wale-"The Bomb"
28. Method Man & Redman-"Broken Language"
Blackout 2? I'll believe it when I see it. How High 2? I'll see it when I rent it. Unless I'm playing Chicago, Dr. Stephen Cheebahawking holds his breath for no one. Especially not for these guys, who almost certainly have the two most severe cases of "The Fuck It's" on historical record. Take it from the doctor: watched pot don't boil. Better to just let stoners pleasantly surprise you every now and again. Method Man and Redman's "Broken Language 2008," was just that, a surprise, appearing out of nowhere in late February presumably to whet appetites for new Red & Meth material.
It's now 10 months later, there's been a "Still High" tour but still no sign of any new music. Unsurprisingly, "Broken Language 2008" remains a pleasant surprise. Over the beat to the Smoothe Da Hustler classic Red and Meth's version is arguably better than the original in every respect because Method Man and Redman are, in every respect, the best. With teaching-these-rappers-how-to-rap-again lines like "Pearl handled piece keeper / I piss gas and breathe ether" their chemistry sounds every bit as potent as it did 10 years ago. No one's telling anyone to put the blunt down, but a few more surprises like this in 2009 will be more than welcome. --Disco Vietnam
27. Nas-"Esco (Let's Go)"
26. Bun B ft. Lupe Fiasco-"Swang On 'Em"
Acquitting himself for the apostasy commited when Fiasco repudiated the The 10 Commandments* in favor of a golden statue of 8-Ball & MJG, Lupe nimbly skitters across the tuba-thump and hydraulic quake of Enigma's beat. Bun stomps in saber-rattling, boasting that he's got that white, that brown and that purp. It's a verse he's done hundreds of times but due to blunt force, no matter how telegraphed the punch is, when he swings and connects, it always leaves a mark. * Underground rap version.
Download: ZIP: Top Hip-Hop Songs ( #50-26)