2009 Rap Music Roundup

09 rap music

09 was far from being an unproductive decade for hip hop music; on the contrary, many great songs came out during 2009.

Mos Def fuses the sounds of Fela Kuti-inspired funk with Kanye West-esque 808s for an exceptional rap anthem, while G Rap had an uncanny ability for finding beats that suit his signature track luxe style perfectly.

Rick Ross & Justice L.E.A.G.U.E. – “Best I Ever Had”

Rick Ross returns after an extended absence with an infectious single from MMG head honcho Rick Ross. Teaming back up with production trio J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, Rozay drops some heavy bars over an elegant beat and you can expect his full project Black Dollar to drop Thursday.

J.U.S.T.I.C.E League made their name producing hits for Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne’s rock experiment Rebirth; but this posse cut stands as perhaps their signature collaboration. Pairing luxurious sample-driven sound with Ross’ vibrant mafia-influenced rapping, they combine luxurious samples with his riveting street tales to produce something truly timeless.

Jadakiss manages to show his passion for the game despite an often contentious relationship with label mate Drake on this ominous track. His lyrics are emotive yet direct as he recounts all of the women he has lost but remains committed to his grind.

Slaughterhouse members have formed an extraordinary bond over their long careers, which can be seen here on this haunting serial killer thriller featuring Slim Shady recounting an atrocious murder against Dr. Dre’s cinematic beat. It’s sure to remain on repeat long after its initial release date.

SV & Elzhi – “Dope Man”

Young RJ and Dave West’s bassline add an atmospheric quality, as do Young RJ’s saxophone and Young RJ’s two-steppin’ nods to early Prince (“Dance”) and Earl Flinn’s signature kazoo-tooting bassline (“Earl Flinn”). These delicate touches keep this album from becoming too burdened by memories from its past.

Elzhi’s role, while brief, is no less compelling; he perfectly conveys the record’s somber yet humorous vibe while adding his own humorous touches in delivery. Elzhi is joined on this Detroit masterpiece by De La Soul’s Posdnuos and Tribe Called Quest’s Phife who make their contributions fitting for this hot Detroit opus – making this another great addition to SV’s catalog!

L.E.G.A.C.Y. – “Gangsta’s Paradise”

Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was unmissable on any 2009 hip-hop calendar, as its cultural relevance spread through film, video games and cover versions. Coolio’s ability to blend musical elements together seamlessly, powerfully and irrefutably is testament to his talents as both producer and MC; chord progression, tempo sampling and bassline all add up to make an indelible impactful statement about hip hop culture at large.

Coolio and L.V collaborated to co-write this song, with L.V also contributing lyrics. The chorus sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 hit, “Pastime Paradise,” while lyrics discussed an apparently idyllic yet risky and time-wasting lifestyle associated with gangsta culture.

Coolio’s hit single spent three weeks at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1995 and earned him a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance. Since then, it has remained part of his legacy and hip-hop history, remaining in the top 50 of singles and albums lists on both charts. At music festivals worldwide it has been performed by bands as diverse as punk rock outfit The Pretty Reckless to ska-punk outfit Skindred to Norwegian electronic duo Inache; additionally being included on numerous hip hop compilations/ soundtracks including Gangsta’s Paradise Reloaded!

Mibbs & Grey Goose – “Thuggness”

South rap posse Abra, with samples from Beastie Boys’ “Slave to the Rhythm,” nails royal thuggery that would make Ice Cube blush in this instant classic song.

At The Blueprint III’s peak, Jigga’s rapping isn’t the only highlight on this song–Mariah Carey’s vocals are truly incredible and rival any track from this year. Imagine Jay-Z, Nas, and Rakim teaming up on a remix; that’s exactly what this track sounds like!

Staying level-headed when every other MC is trying to outdo each other is no easy feat, but J Cole manages to rise above it on this track from Roc Nation signee JC Records. He packs an entire epistle’s worth of social commentary into four minutes without ever becoming preachy.

Wu-Tang Clan – “New Wu”

Wu-Tang albums always generate considerable anticipation in hip hop circles. From legendary classics like Enter the 36 Chambers or recent efforts like Wu-Tang forever, to more recent efforts like A Better Tomorrow (2014) – which was plagued with personal and professional crises including Raekwon publicly challenging RZA and skipping sessions, while Cappadonna wasn’t included on it – Wu-Tang albums always live up to such lofty expectations. Unfortunately for this year’s effort however, Raekwon publicly disobeys this expectation by skipping sessions altogether resulting in A Better Tomorrow being released without his presence being included on it; as such expectations were unmet by realisation that none other than A Better Tomorrow 2014.

From its debut single, “Ruckus in B Minor,” it’s evident that this project will stand out. The beat is aggressive and verses stand up well; conveying chaos, paranoia and sadness within modern city life through one song is quite captivating.

The remainder of the album follows suit with few notable deviations; aside from one awkward and corny marching band hook on “40th Street Black / We Will Fight,” most tracks on this album are satisfying and worthwhile listening. Method Man and Ghostface Killah lead with energetic performances while Raekwon and Cappadonna provide lively auxiliary voices; even legendary reggae singer Junior Reid adds depth and breadth.

Raekwon – “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II”

Raekwon is widely considered one of the greatest rappers ever. Over his long career in hip hop he’s collaborated with artists such as The Game, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Eminem Jadakiss and Mobb Deep; his debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx remains a timeless classic today.

The long-delayed follow up to his 1995 barnstormer only serves to cement Raekwon’s place as an accomplished solo artist. Production here is far superior to that found on Immobilarity and Lex Diamonds Story, while Ghostface Killah’s presence and protracted wheeze serve as perfect complements for Raekwon’s subdued flow.

As much as this sequel doesn’t live up to the original, this project remains essential viewing for any hip-hop enthusiast. With its gritty crime stories and masterful storytelling techniques, its gritty crime stories provide the ideal antidote for hip-hop’s changing image over recent years. While we may not see an epic classic such as Clipse’s coke-rapping Hell Hath No Fury again soon enough, this effort from Clipse marks an improvement over its bland predecessor – Fly – making this his best effort yet!

Public Enemy – “Fight the Power”

Spike Lee approached Public Enemy for an anthem for his 1989 film Do the Right Thing, and Chuck D responded with “Fight the Power.” It proved an ideal way to showcase outrageous racial injustice in 1980s New York – its lyrics address racism while calling out racist icons while Bomb Squad’s audacious production served as an education on black history. At that time sampling was still in its wild west stage, with looped loops being layered one upon another – PE utilized this to great effect in making this track.

Chuck D’s iconic rap reveille from 25 years ago remains relevant and impactful today, serving as a rallying cry during numerous protests and sparking conversations that continue today; becoming one of hip hop’s beloved anthems – ranking at #1 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs chart.

Rosie Perez can be seen dancing before a row of Brooklyn brownstones with an expression somewhere between agony and defiance in this music video, as the director uses quick cuts, flashed words, looped images, and short skits to inject energy into the mix. Unlike previous gangster videos that had come before it, this one focuses more on black community unity to fight oppression than on its individual actions.