The top 10 rap albums of 2008

1) Q-Tip, The Renaissance – I’d go so far as to call this the album Q-Tip should have put out back in 1999, except I can hardly remember how Amplified sounds aside from the singles. I know for a fact that I bought it. But I probably just listened to it once and tossed it in the reject pile, because it didn’t sound like Midnight Marauders. Now the Renaissance has got me wondering if I slept. However, I’ll point out that the Renaissance is not just good in the sense that my standards have been lowered to the point where any ol’ bullshit from ’99 (say, Melvin Flynt the Hustler) sounds good to me. It’s genuinely that good.

2) GZA, Pro Tools – If anything, 2008 ought to go down as the year old man rap broke. For all of the talk about hipster rap, and XXL’s 10 Freshmen cover and what have you, some of the best albums that came out were by guys closer in age to my parents. Case in point, this new album by the GZA. He hooked up with that Dreddy Krueger label, which must employ someone with sense in a management capacity (is that even allowed in hip-hop?), and put out what I’ll maintain is the best work he’s done since Liquid Swords. Some of the younger guys would be well served to pick up a copy and see how it’s done.

3) C.R.A.C., The Piece Talks – The rare exception to the rule that none of these younger guys are gonna release very many albums, let alone very many albums people actually like, is Blu. He cranks out actual albums more often than a lot of people put out mixtapes. I haven’t been a huge fan of all of them, but I was a huge fan of this one. I think the difference is that he got with this guy Ta’Raach, who, as Noz once pointed, isn’t as interested as some of Blu’s other collaborators in putting out a budget, 2008 version of mid ’90s era native tongues rap.

4) Fat Ray & Black Milk, The Set Up – I know… How in the fuck does Bol have this way up in the top 5 of his list, and Tronic isn’t anywhere to be found? It’s not that I don’t like. I’ve actually come to like it almost as much as I like this album. Almost. And I would have put it on the list, but there was a lot of deserving shit this year I didn’t want it to crowd out. The Set Up, on the other hand, I liked from the first moment I laid ears on it, and I still like it to this day. It’s harder, funnier, and dirtier-sounding that Tronic. It’s too bad it wasn’t released at a later point in the Black Milk hype cycle.

5) East Coast Avengers, Prison Planet – The long-awaited (by all of about eight people) full length debut by the guys who threatened to “Kill Bill O’Reilly.” I was afraid this was gonna be one of those cases of the buzzed about single, and then 10 or 11 other songs the group tossed off in order to capitlize on the hype. I suppose I should have known it wouldn’t be. Esoteric, the third of the East Coast Avengers I’m most familiar with, is one of the most album-oriented artists in hip-hop today. But it was trademarc, the other MC in the group, who really surprised me on this album, especially when you consider he’d mostly been known for working with wrestler John Cena.

6) Vast Aire, Dueces Wild – Remember this dude, from that incredible Cannibal Ox album, way the fuck back when you were in college. I’ll admit, I lost track of Vast Aire in the interim. But, as was the case with the new Q-Tip, Dueces Wild has got me wondering if I slept. Whoever it was that did beats on it managed to come up with a sound more like the Cold Vein than the stuff El-P is doing these days. And Vast Aire, for his part, reminds you that he played as much of a role in making that album a classic as anyone.

7) The Knux, Remind Me in 3 Days – The incredible debut that somehow failed to set the world on fire, despite the fact that I thought the Internets was supposed to be obsessed with hipster rap. Was it the guitars? I’ll admit, there were definitely points where this album got a little bit too Black Eyed Peas for my usual high standards. And neither of these guys are particularly memorable rappers. They’re like OutKast in that sense, but even more so. (Ha!) But I thought they more than made up for it with the wanton misogyny and the sheer musical invention. I could listen to this album all day. It’s like the new Stankonia.

8) Chief Chinchilla, Live @ The Liqua Sto – J-Zone and I were involved in a bit of row earlier this year having to do with my having suggested, in a review of an obscure for a reason rap album, that he’d been reduced to podcasting. In a later episode of said podcast (which apparently all of four people listen to) he explained that he hadn’t been “reduced” to podcasting – he chose to end his rap career and focus on podcasting. Um, okay. To his credit, both his podcast and this album, where he raps from the perspective of a drunken chinchilla that hangs out at White Castler, are fucking brilliant. It’s too bad hardly anyone will ever give a shit.

9) Elzhi, The Preface – Most dudes on the Internets’ new favorite album of the year. It would have placed higher on my own list, except a) I think they could have done a better job of combining the very best cuts between this and the tour-only promo CD that preceded it, Europass; and b) I wish Elzhi would have done a better job of reigning in some of his nerdier instincts. That song where he raps all but the last line of a verse, and then you’re supposed to guess what that line was, or whatever that was supposed to be… I could’ve done without that. That being said, I’m pretty in agreeance with the Internets: pr0n is fantastic Elzhi is on entirely different plane than most rappers.

10) 7L & Esoteric, Esoteric vs. Japan – Sometimes I wonder, how does Esoteric even find the time to dig up the bizarre samples he uses on these solo albums he’s putting out seemingly every few weeks now? It’s not like he’s Kanye West, where he’s got a team of guys who do all of the heavy lifting, then he just shows up for two weeks and adds superfluous synthesizers and vocoder. This dude must spend a serious amount of time in a basement, surrounded by action figures, and, let’s keep it real, probably some sort of weird Asian pr0n. Well, as long as keeps cranking out albums as creative and downright enjoyable as this, I’d say it’s to our benefit. Nhjic.

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  • Hate Hate and more Hate

    All of the albums this bitch ass blogger has listed are solid albums.

    They are so solid, that they will be used to keep my uneven coffee table balanced and steady.

    I can’t even call these album weed plates. It would be disrespectful to my weed, if I was to broke it up on these wack niggas cds.

    And I thought after yesterday’s 10 ten list it couldn’t get any worse . . .

    Nobody listens to that shit. The GZA? Nigga please, don’t nobody listen to kung-fu, Gods & Earth bullshit. fuck out of here!

  • Simple like ABC, 123

    11) Blu & Mainframe – “Johnson & Jonson”

    • Simple like ABC, 123

      but the best album 2008 is:
      C.R.A.C. (Blu & Ta’Raach) – The Piece Talks

  • Mean Greene

    I respect what you said about The Set-Up and truth be told I haven’t “bought” it yet, but damn if I cant stop listening to Black Milk’s Tronic.

    Loving this album…imo the beats are a little provacative than on Elzhi’s joint.

  • b-ease

    any ol’ bullshit from ‘99 (say, Melvin Flynt the Hustler) sounds good to me

    Dude, I was lisening to that album a couple months ago, and kept saying to myself, “didnt this used to be alot shittier?”. SMH at subconciously lowered standards.

    • Bol

      Crap, does this mean I need to find a copy of Melvin Flynt the Hustler?

      Even Nore himself said that album wasn’t any good!

  • All Dae

    Melvin Flint had only one good joint and that was Blood Money Pt.3.

    It was dope mainly due to the beat.

  • zino

    i like q-tip’s “gettin up”…
    **clicks on ‘add comment’ proud of his “worthwhile” contribution to da discussion**


    i only have and heard number 1 the rest is like your are typing german. i never got to hear that gza other than that i don’t know none of them fuckers. except the knuxs and thats just because you yourself did a blog about them. also i might wanna check out whoever number 10 is

  • Mas

    I’d sub out (1) Chief Chinchilla (2) Knux (3) Vast aire (4)Fat Ray and (5) C.R.A.C. for Ill Bill, Kanye, Tronic has to be up there maybe even number one, Atmosphere and probably Technique’s 3rd World

  • Incilin

    Although “Pro Tools” is great, “Grandmasters” is his second best album.


    Q-Tip does have one of the best albums of the year. Good pick, Bol.

  • Chris S


  • jonjon23

    Surely you jest…. Either that, or you are clinically insane!

  • jihod

    So no Nas, Jean Grae or Kidz In the Hall????

  • 619

    Scarface’s ‘Emeritus’ #1 easily. You funny style mafuckers sleepin’.

  • jihod

    ^That Scarface was barely a 4mic album! It definite has it’s moments but even Jake One & Statik Selektah had better albums.

    • 619

      Those are DJ’s, those mafuckers you mention don’t even rap on the album. Talk about somebody who actually speaks on a track when you mention the best album.

  • oskamadison

    What?!!!! No mention of the Carter 3?????? The greatest, best-selling album of this year and maybe any year ever??? From that prolific, highly gifted, innovative, styrofoam cup clutchin’ genius of a writer, poet and all-around great American, Dewayne Carter????…SIKE!!!! AZ’s Undeniable was pretty solid and Pete Rock’s NY’s Finest, though not as good as Soul Survivor but definitely better than Soul Survivor 2, was a welcome relief from all that Auto-tune trash. Nas should be commended for droppin’ an album like Untitled in today’s climate, knowin’ that all the mainstream sheep would ignore it. What did y’all think of Large professor’s joint?

    • BIGNAT

      oh man you had me going especially when i got to all around great american. i was like this person must sipping smoking and sniffing. you tham right nas did a album that he wanted to do thats what nas does. he does one or two that will sell then he is like okay back to another album for me.

    • Stuey

      Untitled didnt get ignored you fag. It had major buzz/controversy. It was just a boring album. There was like 2, maybe 3 songs worth hearing again. Pete Rocks album was hurting, and The Carter 3 is a pop album not a hip-hop one.

    • Stuey

      Btw… Good List, Bol

  • Chris Mac

    Shoulda called this my top ten albums of 08 bol

  • latino heat

    large professor dropped a album this year? i never heard shit about it. i gotta co-sign the nas and scarface albums though. and although the scarface album isn’t a classic it’s still better then most shit that came out this year.

  • Ali

    lmao @ “No mention of Tha Carter 3!?!?!” above lol……….but anyway, obviously the mainstream was ignored, and it maybe rightfully so….I liked a few mainstream albums but I didnt hear any of these so iono whats better…….with that being said, “Rising Down” still shoulda been on here……Black Thought is a beast

  • patkilpat

    Wow, I had to double check to see if this was Big Boi. Nice list, I don’t agree with all of it but I’m really suprised.

  • ShowTime

    A top 10 Album list for 2008 From an Mc who can actually Spit- Me (My opinion Counts more than yours, U to Bol)

    1.Untitled -Nas
    2.Murs 4 President – Murs
    3.The Renassaince – Q-Tip
    4.Undeniable- AZ
    5.Rising Down – The Roots
    6.LAX -The Game
    7.Theater of Mind – Luda
    8.Raw Footage- Ice Cube
    9.Emeritus – Scarface
    10.Paper Trail- TI

    Honorable mention..GZA Pro Tools

    *Havent listened to : Jeezy,Black Milks, Heltah Skeltah and everything on Bols list except Elzhi, Tip, And GZA

  • ShowTime

    GZA Djmuggs Grandmasters >>> Protools

    Get it right Bol!! haha
    And how can u not have Untitled on yah list. I know you hate Nas but come on. Only thing wrong with it was the sequencing.
    PPl Sleeping on AZ!!

  • 615banga

    Top 10 Of 2008

    10. 2 Trill- Bun B
    9. Definiton Of Real- Plies
    8. T.O.S.- G Unit
    7. Trilla- Rick Ross
    6. Raw Footage- Ice Cube
    5. Paper Trail- T.I.
    4. Theatre Of The Mind- Ludacris
    3. LAX- The Game
    2. The Carter 3- Lil Wayne
    1. Untitled- Nas

    Honarable Mention

    1. The Greatest Story Ever Told- David Banner

    Best Mixtape

    Gangsta Grillz: The Movie—Gucci Mane

  • DurtStar313

    Booo! The whole list sucks ass homie. eLZhi definitely had the best joint off that whole list. No Question. You right about track 3 tho’. I’ll give you that. Long live Dilla!!!

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  • Augustine Duke

    You’ve done it once again! Great post.