Weiss' 50 Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2008 (#50-26)

Over the next two weeks, myself and a very talented cadre of contributors will be emulating the book above. Unlike said tome, it won't cost money and you'll get free MP3s--which, presumably, serve a tangible purpose. Now go cry into your near-beer, Phillip Ardagh, you lovable rogue.

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"

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"Icky Thump" re-purposed as the sound a corpse makes when it hits the floor. Rhythm J flips Jack White's squealing guitar-as-bagpipe hiss and hands it to some of Philly's finest, who summarily dismember it. Ciz, Reef, and M.O.G. hit Manny Pacquiao-hard, but Nico steals the show with 16 bars of name-dropping that fits nicely next to Elzhi's "Colors" and Edan's "Rock and Roll, " as great "Labels" songs of recent vintage.

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"

People were never going to forget about Scarface. Even the people who

hate Southern rap rank him on their list of all-time greats and Bun B

isn't exactly far behind. As for Lil Wayne, his career might be better

served if he'd let people forget about him for five minutes. Or at

least, agree to never appear at another Country Music Awards again

(Like 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"

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"

"Christian Rock," turns off most discerning souls faster than the

phrase, "Bea Arthur Nude." But this fundamentalist impulse often yields

some of the most stark and powerful songs in rap, particularly when

Bone-N-Thugs N' Harmony are involved. Granted, Bizzy, Wish and Krayzie

are absentia, but aided by ex-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"

Don't tell Yoko about Blu and Mainframe's haunting flip of this Plastic Ono Band prayer

for self-preservation. Departing on similar flight patterns as that

other John, the prolific LA rapper waxes philosophical on life, drugs,

and death, turning in one of his most complete songs to conclude an

already impressive Johnson & Jonson record.

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"


is a sort of litmus test that I have for deciding whether a rap song is

merely a good "rap song" or a good "song": I play it for my girlfriend.

I admit this isn't a flawless test, but it's reliable more often than

not. My significant other knows nothing about Pete Rock and his

contributions to rap, nor much of Kurupt, but she knows that "Yessir"

is four minutes of effortless, distilled swagger from one of the best

rappers no one talks about anymore. Kurupt rides the sparkling piano

keys with a level of self-confidence that makes his ridiculous rhyme

patterns seem that much more impressive. And any song that inspires my

girlfriend to randomly quote Kurupt is truly worth praise. ---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


37. EMC-" Traffic"


first listen "Traffic" sounds like a 9th Wonder track, and I assumed it

was (Little Brother even show up, after all) until I found out that it

was actually Quincey Tones who was responsible for the slice of

stretched soul that plays soundtrack to the sun-drenched bliss that

perfect July days bring. And it's the small things that make this

particular afternoon so special for Masta Ace and company: hollering at

girls while driving around with your friends, kids outside the local

deli playing, old folks sitting on porches reminiscing, impromptu block

parties, loud music and chicken wings. This speaks to the greatest

strengths of the rappers on this track--they sound like regular dudes

who you'd love to kick it with that just happen to rap extraordinarily

well. ---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"

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"


Mos Def,

I'm sorry. I probably told a lot of people that you really sucked. My

bad. "Rising Down" is tangible proof that Hollywood has not harvested

your organs and bartered them in exchange for an Emmy Nomination and

one of Gabrielle Union's toes. Congratulations. What good is a toe


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.


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"


producer thinks they can rock the mic, but Southeast Slim might be the

best to emerge this year (Don't sob Ron Browz). On "The Bomb," the man

behind the beat for Wale's biggest pre-Ronson hit, "Dig Dug," enlists

his fellow D.C. native to flow over a soulful sample of "I Heard It's

the Bomb," from Go-Go giants, The Backyard Band (whose front-man Antwan

Glover is best known for playing Big G/Slim Charles on The Wire). Exhibiting an impressive chemistry, "The Bomb" suggests more excellent collaborations loom in the future.

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)"

Nas just isn't funny. Otherwise, he's pretty much incredible in terms

of diction, pacing, and skill. But as great as he is, he's rarely fun

to listen to anymore. On "Esco (Let's Go)" he eschews the sophistry and

sanctimony for wanting to roll a B-L-U-N-T on watch B-E-T. He asks

Elizabeth Taylor, when did ice turn to bling? She responds that he's

the 5th Beatle and the 10th Member of Wu-Tang. In a discography heavy

on didacticism, "Esco (Let's Go)" is the rare instance where Nas

actually listened to Jay-Z's advice to lighten up. Or as Elizabeth

Taylor told him, "let your nuts hang."

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.


ZIP: Top Hip-Hop Songs ( #50-26)

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