Once again for the holiday season I’ve put together another KEXP podcast with the perfect music for winter cheer, hip-hop! It’s definitely time for you to add another hip-hop mixtape to your collection and I’ve put together some of my favorite tracks from 2008 for this uninterrupted mix: 80 minutes of rap’s finest MCs, DJs and producers. There’s a wide range of flavors here from the West, East, Midwest, and right here in the 206. I couldn’t fit all my favorites here due to time and rights restraints, but I came pretty close. The Roots dropped one of my favorites this year and lately I’ve been digging the new Grieves record too. Go ahead and leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like to add to the list of great hip-hop releases from this year.
Jake One - “The Truth” (feat. Freeway and Brother Ali)
I’ll take “Dope Seattle Producers” for 2000, Alex. Hip-hop knows Jake One and it’s about time the rest of the world came around too. He’s laced a ton a killer local tracks and has made beats for heavyweights like De La Soul and 50 Cent. “White Van Music” is one of my absolute favorites of the year. Features one of Philly’s finest Freeway and Brother Ali, who’s pretty much my favorite rapper.
Jake One interviewed by Darek Mazzone
Atmosphere - “Shoulda Known”
The Minneapolis duo of Slug and Ant dropped another fine LP this year “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold” and this track was one of my favorites. Slug’s KEXP live set was great as well, and “Guarantees” made it on to our latest CD “Live At KEXP Volume Four,” which you had better cop before the end of the year.
Presto - “Conquer Mentally” (Large Pro Remix) (feat. Sadat X, O.C. & Large Professor)
San Diego producer Presto really connected with the feel-good vibe and sound of a hip-hop era long past. It’s not re-hash, though, and the LP “State Of The Art” blessed my stereo plenty of times this year. Plus, you can’t go wrong with his MC guest choices. This one features Brooklyn MC O.C., the world renowned producer (and MC) Large Professor and one of my absolute favorite rap voices Sadat X.
EMC - “Leak It Out”
An indie hip-hop supergroup featuring some of the underground’s finest MCs: Masta Ace, Wordsworth, Punchline and Stricklin. If you haven’t heard of any of these guys, this would be a great starting point to dig a little deeper.
Madlib - “Blindfold Test #10″ (feat. J-Rocc)
L.A.’s most blunted is back with another twisted ride of instrumentals and MC tracks. This one features the one and only J-Rocc (Beat Junkies) who’s one of rap’s original turntablists. It’s nice to take a break from the vocal tracks and remember the other elements of hip-hop.
The Mighty Underdogs - “War Walk” (feat. Chali 2na, Raashan Ahmad, Tash & Zumbi)
Another indie hip-hop supergroup, this time from the Bay. Gift Of Gab from Blackalicious, Lateef from Latyrx and Headnotic covering the beats. Plus Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, Raashan Ahmad from The Crown City Rockers, Tash from Tha Alkaholiks (pop a top!), and Zumbi from Zion I (look for their new album in January)
DJ Muggs & Planet Asia - “Pain Language”
You probably know Muggs from Cypress Hill, but he’s made dope tracks for a wide range of projects. He teamed up with Golden State rapper Planet Asia (Cali Agents) for a whole LP, the third in his “Muggs VS” series.
RZA as Bobby Digital - “U Can’t Stop Me Now” (feat. Inspectah Deck)
RZA’s a beat staple and a unique voice on the mic. I like how he flips this Temptations joint. 2008 sees the return of the alter-ego Bobby Digital with “Digi Snacks.” Featuring fellow Wu-Tang MC Inspectah Deck.
RZA as Bobby Digital - “You Can’t Stop Me Now”
Factor - “Lonely City” (feat. Moka Only)
Big up the Great White North. Saskatoon DJ/producer Factor dropped a nice LP this year with “Chandelier.” He connects here with one of my favorite Vancouver rhymers Moka Only. (see also: Swollen Members)
Common Market - “Trouble Is”
This one makes me raise my arms. After hearing the EP “Black Patch War” one of my most anticipated albums of the year was “Tobacco Road” and they more than came through. Get them both!
Grip Grand - “Showtime (That’s Entertainment)”
I found this MC/producer from some internet buzz and was glad I got “Brokelore”. You could say he’s from the Bay Area, but he’s lived everywhere from Portland to L.A. He calls his hometown “Brokeland.”
The Cool Kids - “Black Mags”
I saw these guys live twice this year and was duly impressed. The Chicago group’s debut “The Bake Sale” is an impressive new take on an old school vibe. Smooth, fun and, well, cool as hell.
Champagne Champagne - “Soda & Pop “Rocks”
Speaking of cool. These local cats are certainly working a different flavor than most of their Northwest brethren. And it’s a party flavor! This cut’s got some of my favorite simple quotables and a grimy beat.
Azeem - “Latin Revenge”
Produced by his Bay Area partner Zeph, this track from his third LP “Air Cartoons” is heat. Azeem’s been laying it down with different projects for the last 15 years or so, and hopefully he’ll soon see more of the shine he deserves.
People Under The Stairs - “Up Yo Spine”
The kings of the L.A. underground party vibe return with a real live sound on “Fun DMC.” For fans of hip-hop, record collecting, or just cooling out.
J-Live - “The Upgrade” (feat Oddisse and Posdanous)
I’m pretty sure your hip-hop collection is missing a J-Live LP, you should right that quick. “Then What Happened?” was tight and plus you’ve got D.C. rapper Oddesse and Posdanous from the legendary De La Soul.
Lyrics Born - “I Like It, I Love It”
Joyo Velarde is definitely great song inspiration and Lyrics Born is one lucky motherfucker. Go ahead and dedicate this one to a girl of your own. KEXP listeners should be familiar with Lyrics Born, and for good reason. This was my favorite track from “Everywhere At Once”.
Lyrics Born - “I Like It, I Love It”
The High Decibels - “Eye Of The Storm”
The self-titled 2008 debut was a cool break from the norm, with an old school sense of fun. Oakland MC/slam poet Duke Johnson along with hypeman Chief and blues-rock-hip-hop producer and guitarist KC Brooke.
Large Pro - “Hot: Sizzling, Scorching, Torching, Blazing”
The second Large Pro banger on this mixtape. “Main Source” is a great LP. Not only should Large Pro be on the rap producer Mount Rushmore, but he can hold his own on the microphone too.
Brooklyn Academy - “Black Out” (feat. Jean Grae)
I’ve got some nice Pumkinhead 12″s in my collection and was real excited to check his group with Mr. Metaphor and Block McCloud and I wasn’t disappointed. Plus this one’s got one of my favorite female MCs Jean Grae.
GZA - “Alphabets”
GZA’s the brain! Genius has always been my favorite Wu-Tang MC and unlessl he drops a less-than-sick LP anytime soon I’m still sticking too that. “Pro Tools” was another nice record and will fit nicely next to the rest of your Wu collection.
The Gigantics - “The Explanation” (feat. Aesop Rock, Reason & Eligh)
Now this is a real heater! The Gigantics is a five-man production team assembled by Onry Ozzborn (Oldominion) and features more sick local and national MCs than you can shake a stick at. In their own words, “This is NOT a COMPILATION!! It is a strategic massacre upon all who create terrible music.”
Bash Bros. - “Rock The Spot” (Allstar Remix) (feat. Sean Price, Rakaa, Reef, Verbal Kent, Motion Man, Chali 2na & Big Pooh)
Hip-hop’s known for collaborations, and if you haven’t had enough so far then here you go. This comes from the Bay Area duo’s new album “Main Event” and features Sean Price from Book Camp Clik, Rakaa (Iriscience) from Dialated People, Chicago MC Verbal Kent, Kool Keith’s homie Motion Man, Big Pooh from Little Brother, and more.