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What Was Hip-Hop's Worst Year? We'll Tell You

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Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 3:43 AM
click to enlarge Nas - DEF JAM RECORDS
  • Def Jam Records
  • Nas
Everyone seems to agree that 1994 was hip-hop's best year. We don't exactly disagree

But what was hip-hop's worst year? No it's not, as so many stick-in-the-mud hip-hop traditionalists say every year, "this year."

In fact, it was, unequivocally, 2008. And here's why. 


The Gnarls Barkley Effect

As much fun as Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse’s “Crazy” was in 2006, it led to the awful trend of, how should we put it, rappers not rapping on their rap albums. At all.

Call us old fashioned, but we tend to like our rappers best when they’re, you know, rapping. Thanks, auto-tune.


Delays 

It's ironic that, the same year Chinese Democracy finally arrived, rap albums were delayed like crazy.

When works like Three-6 Mafia's Last2Walk and Del tha Funkee Homosapien's The Eleventh Hour finally did arrive, they were underwhelming.


Mixtapes
Remember the phrase, "it's not an album, it's a mixtape"? In 2008 that's how it worked for seemingly everything.

Rappers would put original verses on original beats, charge money for them in retail outlets, and then call them "mixtapes."  

Why? Who knows. Perhaps it was an effort to make the works critic proof, as if to say “Oh, forgive that flaw, it’s just a mixtape.”


Promotions Departments Took the Year Off

It seems like all throughout 2008 one would walk into a record store and see new releases from established indie labels, that hadn't received a shred of promotion.

We understand that budgets were slashed that year, as the sky was falling, but if there's one thing we learned from hip-hop, scared money don't make no money.


Compromise
Nas' record label told him not to title his album a certain "N-Word." So he didn't. 


The R-word

Just about every rap song that wasn’t plastered with auto-tune somehow arbitrarily included the word “Recession.”

Granted, there was a recession going on, but we may have heard it even more than "Yo" that year.


The Best Was Not All That Good


Sure, we had Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III and Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, but c'mon. 808s is basically the fifth best Kanye album, while III was essentially a 16 song drop-m-the-bucket of the 100+ (no exaggerate) Wayne tracks we were getting at that time.

And, ok, Z-Ro's Crack, Rick Ross’ Trilla and Atmosphere’s When Life Gives You Lemons featured some of those artists' best work, and the year also had excellent (actual) mixtapes from 50 Cent, Peedi Crakk and Lil Boosie.

Still, all told, it was by far hip-hop's worst year. Suck it, 2008. 

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