I may get hate mail over this list, so let me set a few things straight at the outset:

1. I am not a “hip hop head”. I’m just a guy who digs rap.

2. I am not a fan of hardcore, gangsta rap that just curses and threatens violence. I’m not a prude, I just don’t find it interesting. Unless it’s by Wu Tang or NWA.

3. I am so sick of Lil’ Wayne.

Oh, and one more thing: Wale won’t be on here, either. Other than clipping in Seinfeld bits, is his work really all that? I picked him as one of the best of 2008 so far (back in July), but since then I’ve had a lot more chances to listen . . . And I’m bored.


10. AC-“This is Staten 2.” I thought AC would have blown up big this year off this tape. He spits fire, he’s got hard beats, and the what-the-fuck-else is Staten Island bringing us this year? It’s sad that this mixtape has been so slept on.

9. KYliens-Lexington Psalm.

KYliens is a mixtape of a ton of rappers out of Kentucky doing their thing over OutKast’s “ATLiens,” so the beats are indisputable. Surprisingly, though, the rhymes are universally fantastic, too. I’d never heard of any of these guys. Who knew KY could bring so much fiya?

Cop it!

8. Atmosphere-“Strictly Leakage.”

An above-ground mixtape of outtakes, being released by the label free and easy here. I’m sure I’ll get yelled at about this, but I think Atmosphere is the rare example of a rap crew that’s been getting better with age. The beats are more complex, the lyrics are less didactic and much funnier . . . And Slug has finally learned how to hit the beat, instead of attacking it.


Mike Waxx and Ill Roots present a blend of DOOM versus Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and other well- and not-as-well-known rappers. Blends usually suck, but this one works amazingly well.

Cop it!

6. Sucka Free-Nicki MInaj

Did I post on this just for the Lil’ Kim trib in the pic? Maybe. Naw. This is hot shit. I haven’t heard a female emcee this good in a long time.

Cop it!

5. Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik 3.5 (For Better or Worse). I’ve written about Budden a lot over the years, and I’ve written about this mixtape a lot over the past 6 months, so ’nuff said. If you haven’t got it by now, go find it.

And in the meantime, check what Joe’s been up to since. A 15 minute long form rap about the state of the art today, over Marvin Gaye. If this doesn’t move you, you just don’t like rap.

Who Killed Hip Hop?-Joe Budden

4. Tanya Morgan-“Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group.”

Truly brilliant, real hip hop, with a unique perspective and philosophy, and no gratuitous bangers . . . But the remix of Jay-Z’s, “Hello Brooklyn” is fiya. Get it while supplies last.

3. Mark Ronson presents Rhymefest: Man in the Mirror. Last time I checked, Chicago’s best was offering this for free at his myspace. Go find it. Who else would have the balls to risk a lawsuit against Jacko by mixing duets with the Gloved One at all phases of his career, from kid to “adult”?

2. Top Ranking: A Diplo Dub-Santogold. Santogold made one of the best albums of the year. And this mixtape is hot, too. There’s a little bit of dub filler that I could do without, but once Diplo helps her take on The Clash, I’m sold.

1. The Nigger Tape-Nas and Green Lantern. Some of these songs ended up on Nas’ “Untitled” official major release, but some didn’t. And some are better here. If you didn’t already know, Green Lantern is probably the best in the game right now. And Nas ain’t no slouch either, for an OG.


Bring Me The Head of Zilla Rocca. Tight, well-put together, no annoying DJ shout-outs, and excellent production. From the Prez and co-founder of Beat Garden Entertainment

Cop it.

Russell Simmons & Green Lantern Present: Barack Obama – Yes We Can. Just because. It wasn’t all great, but bringing politics into hip hop, with mainstream artists, is a welcome change.

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