I hated a lot last time I posted, now here’s what I actually liked in this year of 2008. What we have here are the best verses I heard this year, though I’m operating mostly in the realm of official releases because rooting through all the mixtapes released this year would be way too much damn work. And let me emphasize before I begin that these are all the best verses I had the pleasure of hearing this year, if there is something you think is totally hot (yes, even if it’s on a mixtape), feel free to point me in that direction and I’ll be the judge of that as well (or if you’re elijah or dr. milktrain, make your own damn post about it and I’m sure I’ll give it a listen). Now, without further rambling, here are the best bars of ’08.
Cory Gunz – A Millie (feat. Cory Gunz)
Let us, if we can, remember way back before this minimal masterwork invaded the public consciousness with its countless freestyles and alternate versions, before it apparently consumed Bangladesh’s career, to when the track was first released. We had just been subjected to that electro-shit autotune nonsense that was Lollipop, and for some it was a relief just to hear Weezy spittin’ again, even if the beat was oddly perplexing and Wayne’s verse was heavily of the stream of consciousness variety. Decent? Yes. Quotable? Of course, that’s easy when certain lines make no sense. That didn’t stop him from getting completely merced by Cory Gunz on the track. Also, let me remind everybody what a fucking revelation this guy was that time, since all I knew about him upon first hearing the name was that he was the son of the guy responsible for this song. Somehow already a dozen times the rapper his dad ever was, Cory Gunz not only ruled this track, but definitely spit the best, most dextrous verse of anyone who got up on it in the weeks and months to come, from Lil’ Mama to Busta Rhymes. Hopefully he’ll come out with an album that will be somewhere close to worthy as his guest spots and freestyles have shown him to be, but until then, he gets my respect for some of the best bars of ’08.
Elzhi – Motown 25 (feat. Royce Da 5\’9\’\')
Smoking Section gave the dude his somewhat dubious honors already, since nobody actually went out and bought The Preface, which is really a shame. It’s a shame because the album is proof that while sometimes Elzhi can get a little too clever for his own good, he can also spit like a motherfucker when called upon, which is exactly what he does here. The track is just two verses, one Elzhi and one Royce, placed over a relatively simple (but bangin) Black Milk track. Elzhi comes so hard on this song that you can almost see Royce in the studio, gettin somebody to pass him another blunt so he can come as silly as he does on his verse and doesn’t have to try and match Elzhi on pure verbal technicality. There’s really not much else to say, click the link and bask in the brilliance.
T.I. – Swagger Like Us (feat. Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil\’ Wayne)
Those who read my last post here knows how I feel about Paper Trail, and for those of you who didn’t, it was pretty much the epitome of mediocrity. The main problem that I didn’t really go into involved the fact that Tip was writing his rhymes down again. While this certainly cured him of the laziness that was T.I. vs. T.I.P., it often left him strangely devoid of his usual charisma. This would be acceptable if the rhymes themselves displayed a complexity that would seemingly come along with writing down your lyrics instead of spitting them off the top of your head, but that wasn’t really the case. Except, of course, for this track. Somehow, what should have been posse cut of the year became the definition of underachievement, as Kanye and Lil’ Wayne phoned in their verses via autotune, while Jay wasn’t much better. Then, all of a sudden, Tip comes in with an absolutely killer verse at the end, easily outclassing everybody else on the track, utilizing internal rhyme schemes and complex mult-syllabic phrases out the fuckin wazoo in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever really heard him rhyme before. It was one of the few great moments on the album that really followed through on what was promised with the “paper trail” of rhymes that T.I. produced for this album, and is so impressive that I had to stick it up here.
Fabolous – Nothin On Me (feat. Fabolous and Juelz Santana)
I went into some detail about this track before, but I definitely need to double back to really give credit where it’s due. While Juelz definitely came with his career best, that really just means he managed to stay on beat and had a couple funny lines, stuff that rappers I actually endeavor to listen to regularly give me for free. Fab though, came hard on this track, going nonstop with references to Pimp My Ride, the Wayans Brothers, 101 Dalmations, and Italian Cuisine, and it all makes sense. Just give it a listen, though like I said before, you really can switch it off once Juelz finishes.
Ludacris – Creepin Solo (feat. Ludacris)
So this is actually a Chamillionaire track. Ridin’, his single from his big debut, was pretty much booty except for the Krayzie Bone guest spot. Hip Hop Police, the single from his second album, Ultimate Victory (a victory foiled by the Billboard Charts), was also lackluster outside of the Slick Rick apprearance. Cham continues the trend with this track, in which he turns in a competent but ultimately unremarkable performance for two verses, and then Luda comes in and murders the track. Because of his evenly flawless performance on his recent underselling album Theater of the Mind, I found I couldn’t pick any one verse from it. Therefore I’ll take this showboating guest spot, which was always Luda’s specialty anyway. Besides, how could I not give a spot to a verse that includes the lyric: “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood…grain?”. Classic.
Mos Def – Rising Down (feat. Mos Def and Styles P)
Mighty Mos was supposed to have an album out this year, one that would hopefully help to wipe away the skidmarks that The New Danger and Tru3 Magic left behind on the music industry, but it never came to be. Instead, he decided to steal the show by dropping what might be the hottest verse on all of Rising Down with his opening bars on the title track. And being the best on this album is no mean feat, since the Roots dropped one of the best albums of 2008. In fact, I liked this album so much, my next and last winner for best verse is also from this album.
Peedi Crakk - Get Busy (feat. Dice Raw, Peedi Crakk, and DJ Jazzy Jeff)
First off, these two winners are in no way here to be an insult to Black Thought. His performance, as always, is consistently good, sometimes great, but any passing fan of the band will know that he lacks in the charisma department. Peedi, however, has charisma to the degree that it’s probably sweating out his pores, even if it is all of a very crazy, nasally-voiced variety. That doesn’t stop him from getting the most memorable verse on an already excellent song. I mean, Black Thought comes hard, Dice gets through just fine (although I have no idea what somebody who is “kinda like W.E.B. Du Bois meets Heavy D and the Boyz” would look or sound like), but Crakk steals the show. Once again, any fan of rap this year probably heard this track at least once, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t click the link and enjoy it all over again.
Well, that’s all for my best bars of ’08. In spite of my sometimes incessant complaining, there were some good things that happened in rap music this year, you just had to dig a bit sometimes to get past the bullshit. And with that done, I’ll simply don my rubber boots and hope I don’t have to wade through too much to find all the pearls dropped in ’09.