My Decade in Rap, Pt. 4 [2008-2009]

Welcome to the homestretch. After taking you guys through 2000-2002 in part one, 2003 to 2005 in part two, and 2006-2007 in part three, it’s time to close out my personal trip down memory lane. Here’s the final chapter in my musical journey through the past decade of rap… as I remember it.


We all know in 2008 hip-hop was Wayne’s world. The self-professed Martian became the undisputed “best rapper alive.” Despite a bootleg version of Tha Carter III floating around, Lil Wayne still came away selling over a million copies in the first week. To do those numbers in a climate of declining sales was a colossal achievement by the Cash Money rapper. But the task was made easier thanks to monster singles like the auto-tune- assisted “Lollipop,” “Got Money,” featuring T-Pain, and the infectious “Mrs. Officer,” with Bobby V. He even got Jay-Z to contribute some bars to the soulful “Mr. Carter.”

With Wayne nabbing all the mainstream headlines for his musical dominance, T.I. was in the news for more than his music. The “King of the South” was facing federal jail time on illegal gun charges. (You know the story.) Amidst the legal trouble and an ongoing beef with fellow Bankhead rapper Shawty Lo, Tip put out his most personal effort to date, Paper Trail. His big single “Swagger Like Us,” featuring Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, helped spawn the term of the year, “Swag.”

For his part, Shawty Lo put himself on the radar with what I considered the first hit of 2008, “Dey Know.” The former D4L rapper shed his snap music character to take on the life of a trap star. Another early hit coming out the A was from the Young Jeezy-lite rapper Rocko with his street banger “Umma Do Me.” Jeezy, himself, was in the picture as well with the release of his third album, The Recession. With the country literally in a recession, the Snowman lifted sprits with joints like, “Who Dat” and “My President.” Then when Jeezy’s president, became Barack Obama the DC-mix to the song with Jay-Z was crazy. Even Bill O’Reilly had to take note.

Jeezy wasn’t the only rapper on the political tip during the 2008 elections. West Coast underground rapper Murs dropped Murs for President. Rap vet Ice Cube got at the outgoing Bush administration on the fiery Raw Footage, and Nas delivered the anti-establishment Untitled, which was originally titled N*gger. Though I knew the original title would not stick, the album stuck around in my iPod longer than I expected. At the time I didn’t think an album of political rants would work for Nas, but I was pleasantly surprised with what he had to say. “Testify” was slick and “Sly Fox” was a straight banger. And you can’t talk politics without mentioning Immortal Technique’s 3rd World.

On a much less serious note, ’08 provided good music across the board. This wasn’t one of the years where you could honestly say nothing really good came out. I officially signed on to the Rick Ross movement after listening to his sophomore album, Trilla. I realized the big guy could really spit.

Another personal favorite of mine came from the underground rap collective eMC. Comprised of Brooklyn’s own Masta Ace, Mid-west wordsmith Strick, LES’s Punchline, and Brooklynite Wordsworth, the crew put out a cohesive effort, The Show. Full disclosure, I grew up with Wordsworth, so listening to him do an album with Masta Ace one of the MCs we idolized as kids in BK was surreal to me.

But not everyone I looked up to as a kid made me proud in ’08. LL Cool J delivered his last album on Def Jam, Exit 13. Oh, what an exit it was. The cringe-worthy performance was not the way I wanted to see Uncle L go out. Luckily, GZA gave me reason to smile with his satisfying release, Pro Tools. Again, full disclosure, this album had a personal connection to me as GZA featured another of my best friends, the Brownsville, Brooklyn rapper KA, on the eerie cut “Firehouse.”

Though I have met him a few times, there was nothing super personal about my allegiance to ATL’s Killer Mike, but I was 10 toes down with his album, I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II. Scarface’s Emeritus, The Roots’ Rising Down, and Bun B’s II Trill were solid joints for their loyal fans to rock to, as well. Another vet, Q-Tip, quietly put out a stellar album in The Renaissance. The hipster newcomers Cool Kids got a quick listen from me on their EP, The Bake Sale.

Meanwhile, the face of the hipster movement, Kanye West, took a break from rapping to release the auto-tune-inspired 808 & Heartbreaks, which saw him do more singing than rapping. I wasn’t one to criticize ’Ye for his experimental effort. In fact, I loved the album. It was a nice change of pace, but I did not endorse the auto-tune craze that ensued. Seems like going into the next year T-Pain’s signature style was going to dominate the music we heard. Luckily someone stepped up and said something.

Playlist of the Year
1. Q-Tip feat. Norah Jones – “Life Is Better
2. T.I. feat. Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne – “Swagger Like Us
3. N.E.R.D. – “Everyone Nose
4. Jay Electronica – “Exhibit A
5. Lil Wayne – “A Milli

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  • drew10

    Thanks for the atricles, brings back memories. XXL needs to make a list of the best songs of the decade.

  • Abdul Sosa

    Remember The Name
    Big Sosa
    Gunna Be The Next Jay-Power With Nelly Hits, Eminem Sales. Anyone who need hip hop to be like it was in the early 00′s and ofcourse 80s/90s, don’t give up on that dream, skys’ the limit my niggaz, keep harassing labels and making buzz. I Want hip hop to be powerful, no bullshit gimmicks ya know, many agree.
    But yeee illll end of the decade wrap up, From Jadakiss Coming Up To Ja Rule’s End, 50 Cent’s Buzz, Jay-Z’s retirement, Nas Hip hop is dead movement, it wasnt a bad one but anything after 05′ hip hop lost it’s way.Ill never forget my childhood with hiphop, it was a classic, now im about to start up university man,hip hop is a family member to me.

    P.S E.I, ride with me, and country grammer should be top 3 of the top 5 in 00′ man.

  • ri067953

    Yo, whoever writes this post is corny!

    • BIGNAT



    well, let’s see. in 2008, i was drinking the kool-aid like a mutha fu**a. i copped Carter 3 the day it dropped. & i was riding round bumping Gucci the whole summer (living in Decatur, what choice did i have). The Movie was Gucci’s best mixtape evar, BTW.

    Rocko’s album had some fire on it, i dont give a damn what anybody say. i was bumping his shit, HARD in the whip. Dis Morning, Tommorrow, Hustle Fo, Umma Do Me, Busy, Old Skool, & Like Dis Here. he had a album full of singles.

    • DetroitDraper

      Rocko did have a bangin album…I was suprised by him, didint expect it at all. Im glad Gucci finally gettin what he deserves. Gucc been workin real hard wit great music ever since Trap House and it took years for ppl to finally catch on and appreciate. I actualluy never thought I’d see the day of a Gucci and Usher or Gucci and Mariah. IMO Chicken Talk or Bird Flu was his best mixtapes.


  • Grimey G

    Did Rick Ross really have a movement? I mean, clearly he had a very big following and developed a growing fanbase, but a movement is pretty strong. Eminem had a movement when he burst on the scene. Same with 50 and even Drake. L’il Wayne developed a movement when he started getting really big. But Ross? Nah not that wasn’t a movement.

  • latino heat

    Last Kiss and Deeper Than Rap “fed your lyrical appetite”? damn homie, you must be an anorexic.

    seriously though, good look back at the last 10 years. you brought back a whole lot of good (and bad) memories.

    big congratulations to Jay-Z. by far the rap artist of the decade. think back, who was the hottest rapper on January 1st, 2000? and he will arguably still be the hottest rapper on January 1st, 2010. that’s unheard of in the rap game.

    i can see from your list that i still have a lot of catching up to do from 2008. but i do agree that Q-Tip, Nas, Murs and Scarface all delivered bagers. Heltah Skeltah’s D.I.R.T. was hot too.

    there was a lot of solid material in ’09, but am i the only one that noticed there was no real summer bangers this year? like last summer when you went to the club you would hear A Milli like 3 times in one night. this summer i can’t remember one REAL hot song. and your ’09 playlist reflects that.

  • Chilly Willy

    And Universal Mind Control was that joint, eff what you heard! But the best albums from 08 for me has to be The Renaissance. For 09, Jay, Rae, SH, those are the ones who fed my lyrical appetite. So, “swag” was first heard in 07, huh, Rondell ? Didn’t know about that one…

    • EmCDL

      I said the same thing about Common’s album, everybody kept hating on it though. That ish go hard….although not as hard as Finding Forever and Be, but it goes hard nonetheless for what he was trying to get at.

  • Abdul Sosa

    is a fuckin’ pussy
    real talk,

  • John Cochran

    I’m really interested in seeing what new artists will come out in the new decade. This past one we had more veteran artists than rookies. I’m gonna have to ask Jay Z to sit down too. Not because he’s not good, but because he’d do better helping to usher the new generation in rather than keep the spotlight for himself.

    • NotoriousAGC

      I’m gonna have to ask Jay Z to sit down too. Not because he’s not good, but because he’d do better helping to usher the new generation in rather than keep the spotlight for himself.

      ^^^^Are you serious? when Jay-z DID sit down he wasnt USHERING SHIT!,remember all the defjam roster saying they werent getting publicity?remember even LL sayin jayz sucked monkey sack as “president” or whatever the fuck he had goin down there.Jay-z will never go away, not even when hes 55, hes gonna be like one of those family members you dont wanna be mean to but really start to fuckin annoy the hell outta you in 30 mins,so you try to *in a nice way* say FUCK OFF??

  • og bobby j

    my only complaint about this whole series, was not a single mention of 2 things:

    1st – papoose while he never blew up commercially, dude had the mixtape game crushed and a serious buzz for a minute

    Statik Selektah – his “stick 2 the script” album, was easily top 5 when it dropped.

    Just thought they deserved a mention….

  • DetroitDraper

    Papoose is a lyrical god…like the definition of a lyricist. If you not up on yet just download one of his 20 somethin original tapes


    • NotoriousAGC

      that HOL’ UP line reminds me of Martin, when Bruh-man used to come out the bathroom with Martins robe…

  • Renegade

    How dare u live out the return of Rakmn the god emcee…

  • Esco

    wheres masta ace and ed og at?
    redman and method man and the blackout2?

  • brand-new

    @ latino heat wow, you bring up a good point with jay-z. jay-z has definitely stood the test of time and proved to the nay-sayers that there’s no age limit in hip-hop.

  • must’ve been a suckish decade

    this fool jumped on every bandwagon there was this decade. i understand trying a bit of everything, but come on.

  • El Tico Loco

    You must be going back to do 09

  • EmCDL

    These blogs brought back some memories seriously…some good and some bad. I hope the next 10 will have a resurgence of some real hip hop and no more bs coming out these days…

  • Abdul Sosa

    doubt it
    unless PEOPLE not rappers learn to buy records for real underground/alternative/commericial but skilled individuals. Did you seriously even buy or check out mos’ new album? didn’t think so.If they stop buying shitty records like wayne or whatever then you know, they’ll bow out. Even if there is a worse raper that soulja boy, everyone can destory it, just ignore it. Next 10 years will be good but niggaz will be struggling to go gold TRUST. Aslong as niggaz sign the right deals, to the right labels, make true music, 2010-2020 will be some good shit. Also Drake and Wayne are gunna die out around 2013, promise.

    P.S WDF happened to OutKast ? Came to my mind alot of these ppl who ran the 90s/00s are leaving like scarface, outkast,luda of the top of the dome.

  • esco22

    i like the shout out to Pill’s refill but how about the hottest rapper out right now? FREDDIE GIBBS, this is real rap about real life. This dude is STILL not even signed to label but he’s putting out some of the dopest joints. This dude has been through all the shit Lil’ Wayne is going through now, Hov’s crack selling, and all the dark shit Em’s been through.

    somebody help this dude grow.

  • Technique

    So I guess it’s fair to say that 2008 was the worst year for music this decade?

  • silentmurder

    no “Blackout! Vol. 2″ or “Montezuma’s Revenge”???

  • brand-new

    @ technique yeah, i think 2008 was the worst year in hip-hop history, mainly because of auto-tune and the beginning of the cross dressing fad with the skinny jeans and shit.

  • megulito

    papoose is hot trash he has moment buts got loloyd bank punch line and annoying ass voice but i do like him what happen to the dj khaled movement? out here grinding and im so hood remix hand wildin the fuck out along with theeoriginal and the go hard remix and joy damn when u think about how jay ran shit 4 a decade thats kinda crazy… good article keep it up

  • Technique

    @ brand-new

    I agree with you completely. Ha I never really qualified the worst years in hip hop until this list…

  • Rich

    Jayz has been consistant, and at the same time showed growth, his music and persona continue to take hiphop music to respectable levels

  • abcd

    good series, but GREAT pick with jay electronica. dude is the truth and when/if he ever drops an album it’ll be worth the wait.

  • Slick4000

    Everybody sleeping on Lupe’s the cool album. Shit was great. Also, Q-tip’s album needs to get the respect it deserves but yeah Jay’s career is stellar special in rap.

  • Peter

    Where’s Kid Cudi at? He had his own style of Hip-Hop and wasn’t even mentioned. 2009 isn’t even over, how would you write out this article and call in complete in the first place?

  • Mr Sin

    these posts reminded me how shit the last decade has been for hip hop.
    commercial rap took over and ruined the scene…

  • Vic De Zen

    It’s funny how Fif barely made a blip on the radar with BISD in 09. His candle is slowly dying! Definitely Jay-Z, Drake, Em and Gucci were the artists of this year.