25. Chamillionaire ft. Slick Rick: “Hip Hop Police”
Chamillionaire's a good rapper. His flow kind of reminds me of Krayzie Bone had he grown up chugging syrup through humid Houston summers. And unlike a lot of his Southern brethren, Chamillionaire has interesting ideas, even if he doesn't always know the best way to implement them. “Hip Hop Police” is one of those moments where he connects, with Paul Wall's former better half in storytelling mode, venting about the hip-hop police playing the role of both suspect and cop. But Slick Rick owns the track, rocking his eye patch, with an effortless '88 swagger down to the fat gold ropes still clanging around his neck. It's the sort of verse that reminds you how he got the nickname “the ruler.”
24. Consequence ft. Kanye West-“The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”
If you found Graduation a little too “Euro” for your tastes, you'd probably prefer this song off of Consequence's debut album, Don't Quit Your Day Job. Kanye chipmunk souls a dusty Smokey Robinson sample and steps away from the boards to show Consequence how he himself must've felt after “Diamonds of Sierra Leone.” You also have to like the fact that Kanye manages to spit a verse without a Luis Vuitton reference. Huzzah.
23. Clean Guns-“We Just Run Things”
Zilla Rocca and Nico the Beast definitely had some very good songs on their debut, Sometimes There is Trouble, and on their Living in Harmony mixtape, but with “We Just Run Things” they deliver their first great song. On this cut, the first on their mixtape with World Domination Headquarters, they master songcraft, paring catchy hooks with complex lyricism, and a sharp, subtle sense of humor. It's the difference between rappers who can put out a good album versus those who can have a career.
Download the entire mixtape for free here (left-click)
22. Freeway-“Roc-A-Fella Billionaires”
I've made my thoughts on the Freeway album well-known, but however mediocre it is, I do really like a couple tracks. This is probably my favorite. Dame Grease supplies a beat full of shrill whistles and marching band horns that sounds right at home on Hard Knock Life Vol. 2, as does Jay, who pretty much lays Freeway to waste. Leaked way back in June, this was probably the first time that everyone should've realized that Jay-Z had decided to attempt being a good rapper again.
21. Little Brother-“Can't Win For Losing”
Track 2 on Little Brother's first 9th Wonder-less album, “Can't Win For Losing” is a sort of state of the union for the group. But if it weren't more than just that, it probably wouldn't be very notable, considering only 14 people really cared that 9th Wonder left the group in the first place (eight of of which were probably in Phonte's family). Tacitly answering the doubters, not only does Illmind provide a better beat than anything 9th ever gave them (“The Listening” excluded), but Phonte manages to intelligently articulatesthe difficulties and struggles inherent in being an independent-minded artist without sounding whiny. Which is much harder than it seems.
20. Phat Kat-“Nasty Ain't It”
As the well of posthumously released Dilla beats grows dry, this should be remembered as one of the last great ones. A metallic, dystopian slice of ice-cold futuristic-funk, “Nasty Ain't It” leaves one wondering if Dilla was only really beginning to enter his prime. Meanwhile Phat Kat dashes Blade Runner-like past the shrill whistles and ringing alarms of the track, roaring with a spectacularly surly lung-scorched growl and a barely contained rage.