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The Mass Media

2008’s Hip-Hop awards

While I’m undoubtedly enthused about the monumental year in Hip-Hop that is ahead of us, I thought I would take some time out and reminisce on the year that saw the first African American elected to our highest office; not to mention the same year that saw the world’s financial system come crashing down faster than the Patriots’ Super Bowl hopes after Tom Brady went on the injured reserve. Without further ado, here are 2008’s Hip-Hop awards.

Album of the Year Nas – Untitled

Even with my bias towards Nas out the way, it’s difficult to find another hip-hop album in 2008 that delivers on more levels than Nas’ Untitled. Not only is Untitled nominated for best hip-hop album of the year, Nas is also nominated for best rap solo performance with “N.i.*.*.e.r. (The Slave And The Master)”. While Esco originally attempted to name the album Nigger, he was forced by the industry to alter its title; therefore he opted to release the album without a title (although the album cover speaks for itself).

After 2006’s Hip-Hop is Dead was criticized for not sticking to the title’s theme, Nas keeps Untitled’s tracks focused and tightly woven around its subject matter. This is an album that has to be consciously listened to and understood, and until you understand the album as a whole, you’ll fail to truly realize its greatness. Nasty Nas touches on everything from Barack Obama’s now successful presidential campaign in “Black President”, to Fox News’ corrupt behavior in “Sly Fox”, and to America’s history in the appropriately titled “America”. Nas proves once again why he’s a top five contender to be hip-hop’s G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time).

Notes: In addition to dropping Untitled in 2008, Nas also released a mixtape entitled “The Nigger Tape” weeks before Untitled dropped. The mixtape is a great complimentary album to listen to alongside Untitled and features several tracks that failed to make the final cut for the album, including the “Be a Nigger too” remix.

Honorable Mention: Q-Tip The Renaissance.

Biggest Surprise Album

Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

When Kanye West announced that the project to follow his critically and commercially successful Graduation was an album sung entirely using the auto tune effect (aka the T-Pain effect), no one knew exactly what to expect. Now, two months after its initial release, everyone seems to have some type of opinion on the album, with the majority of people actually praising the album for its concept and creativity. Production wise, 808s is without a doubt on a different level. West masters the 808 drums throughout the album, and also manages to deliver a unique experience on each of the twelve tracks. While the lyrics might seem a bit repetitive to most listeners, they do present the largest growth of any album released in 2008. West reflects on his life in ways that most rappers wouldn’t dream of, and he accomplishes this while singing throughout 90% of the album. The standout track of the album has to be the hidden track at the end of the album, “Pinocchio Story”. This track was a freestyle at a concert in Singapore, and has West wanting to be a real boy, all the while keeping it real, boy. Other stand out tracks includes the immensely popular singles “Love LockDown”, and “Heartless”. “Coldest Winter” finds West speaking about his late mother and “Amazing” is the only track in which West actually raps.

Best Solo Single

“Lollipop” – Lil Wayne

“Lollipop” is probably one of the catchiest singles to be released in years and has spent 5 weeks on top of the Billboard charts. Wayne also uses the auto-tune effect throughout the track and it’s one of the many reasons why Tha Carter III sold a milli it’s first week out. And if you loved this track, check out the remix with Kanye West.

Best Single Collabo

“Swagga Like Us” (Jay-Z & T.I. feat. Kanye West and Lil Wayne)

This Kanye West produced track dominated the airwaves and probably features one of the best quotes of the year, “I can’t wear skinny jeans cause my knots don’t fit”, and Jigga probably single handily killed the skinny jeans trend of 2008. West samples M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” superbly and proves why he’s one of the best producers currently in the business. “Swagga Like Us” is also nominated for two Grammys and should also be performed at the award show.