Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Certified Banger's Top 20 UK Albums of 2008

My first full year of blogging has been a good one by all accounts. I wouldn't be where I am now with this hobby project if it wasn't for the artists and PR peeps who realised that Certified Banger was actually worth something. I've also got to thank the people who have posted my words at other websites - all these people know who they are. Last year, I was in no way organised enough to wrap up the year in this style, this year however I do feel I am in a position to partake in the summing up and counting down on all things UK Hip Hop this year. And yes, this blog has taken the form of a UK Hip Hop blog over the last year so I thought I'd keep at least this rundown pure!

So with no further ado, except for an explanation, I present my top 20 UK Hip Hop albums of the year. This list comprises of albums I have listened to and enjoyed, if an album isn't on here, chances are I have listened to it but liked at least 20 other albums a little bit more! This is in no way attempting to be in any way related to sales of these releases - it's just about how much I liked them and listened to them!

This album had to come top for me. My memory is of listening to this, especially 'Futuristic', as I prepared to get married in July. I could just imagine myself relaxing by the pool in Greece on honeymoon, wife beside me and that track on blast. It contains so much energy - 'Spektrum Ride', 'Dogz 'n' Sledgez', 'Mic Chek' and 'Scream Out' - a number one album.

2. ‘Slime and Reason’ - Roots Manuva
I didn't actually do a review of this one, for one simple reason: I was way too busy just listening to it (and I also knew it didn't need my exposure!). For me, this is the most easily accessible album Rodney Smith has made so the combination of his wonkiness and the easy listening experience had me hooked. Best track? 'Let The Spirit'.

3. 'Scene Stealers' - Skreintax
The next few albums in this chart were difficult to order but this one does deserve to be here. An anticipated LP for me - a lover of everything Dr. Syntax does. At the risk of sounding a bit gay, I love his voice! That and his uncanny knack for making stuff rhyme! Top tracks and guests and production that never falters mean you need this (and the rest on the list).

4.'Dear Listener’ - Lowkey
Lowkey has been enjoying success in the mixtape game for a while now and stupidly I ignored him. Until now. The album is a beauty - no jump up tracks, it's not even got an upbeat sound to it but man, it feels positive to hear someone who cares so genuinely about the things going on around us. That and the fact that Lowkey can't half rhyme!

5. 'The Saga of a Peaceful Man' - Reps
This one came out of the blue for me; I had no idea who Reps was before I heard of this. When I did hear it I was well impressed - it was bright, breezy but heavy and thoughtful too. Oh, and it wasn't too long either! It came out on Flash Fry Records - a label to watch out for this year, they have some promising releases lined up!

6. 'The Dark/The Light' - Brotherman
Having heard a few of the other releases on Silent Soundz I was pretty sure I'd like Brotherman's album before I ever heard it. It's soulful, upbeat yet it tackles and commentates on current issues in society. Brotherman has a poetical ability that seems rare in many MCs which give his tracks breadth and depth. The packaging was the bomb for this!

7. 'The Audio Workout' - Vee Kay
For a download only album to feature so highly it had to be good. See I'm a sucker for physical product - it makes music more accessible to me. Thankfully Vee Kay sent me a copy on CD and I totally loved it. The production is reminiscent of good time Hip Hop and the MCs contributions are pure finery. Watch out for the Wordsmith album this year!

8. ‘My Last and Best Album’ - Braintax
This one was released to much criticism because basically it wasn't the same as 'Birofunk'. If he'd made it the same, there would have derisive snorts all the same - he just couldn't win! For me it was a great album, better than 'Panorama' overall, and one of the better and most underrated albums this year.

9. ‘The Signature LP' - Sway
This may not be my top album but it must have been the commercial success of the year, it certainly brought me a record number of page hits as people clamoured to read my review - ha! Sway really upped the ante where commercial yet credible UK Hip Hop is concerned. It has an overall feeling of quality - one for the collection!

10. 'The Stuff' - Illustrate
I first heard Illustrate this year despite having released a couple of previous projects. I heard the 'Work' EP and loved that and 'The Stuff' is a perfectly expanded version of the EP. The topics are varied - some down to earth, some underground and some in the clouds. A good first album for Illustrate to build his music making career with.

11. 'The Union Jack Album' - Jack Flash
Being straight outta Huddersfield makes this one a little different to the mostly south-centric albums in this list. This debut from Jack Flash is full of engaging rhymes and heavy but semi-ethereal beats. It's a real chill out album from an artist well known for his battling abilities (EOW Winner this year).

12. 'State of Lunacy' - Rhyme Asylum
This album was not what I was expecting. I expected mediocre 'hardcore' Hip Hop. What it actually is is classic sounding boombap laced with quotably ill lyrics. Noteworthy are the UK/US collabs here too - Diabolic and Copywrite getting in where they fit in. For any MC this is surely inspiration to pick up a pen and step up their game.

13. 'The Get Together' - Evil Ed & Conspicuous
On this slice of dopeness from the latter part of this year Ed and Cons almost sneak into the ear canal - they're not stealthy, but this is just so easy to listen to! It's an engaging 50 minutes of sampled beats and well made rhymes and it features a whole cheeseboard full of great UK MCs. 'BBQ' and 'Big Headed' stand out.

14. 'Everything is Borrowed' - The Streets
Purists might question it's place here, I have no answer for their queries. All I know is that I enjoyed this album alot and that it was better than the last one. 'The Sherry End' had that funk and the whole album has a sing-along vibe that sometimes you just need ya know? Don't hate on the man - grab a copy and warm up the old vocal chords.

15.‘Audio Revolution’ - K Delight
Another late-comer and a unique one at that. This is best described as a b-boy record - it has a heavy emphasis on the art of the DJ and is drenched in party type sweat. MC's from the US and the UK turn up - most notably the cool Lewis Parker and Koaste. This brought some much needed instrumental pastiche to my 2008 ears.

16. 'Anathema' – Triple Darkness
Definitely the darkest album on here, 'Anathema' had a strange pull on me. I gave it 4 stars, mainly due to it's original take on UK Hip Hop, but at times during the year, I actually had urges to listen to it. It's a strange album but one that works mysteriously well.

17. 'A New Bloodline' - Sir Smurf Lil'
Maybe this one shouldn't be so far down, but it's on here so... It's a very solid album from the man who's been showing up on everyone else's album this year (at least 2 of them in this list). The album is, to quote me 'sonically and topically... nicely diverse' and is a good quality second album from a steadily rising MC.

18. 'Back Off Man, I'm a Scientist' - Kidkanevil
This is the joker in the pack, not that it's funny or anything - it's just not strictly Hip Hop - it almost defies genre. What it has is beats and it also has a couple of MCs, so for that I can feature it. It's an exciting listen with very diverse tracks tied together with percussion and general experimentation. Buy it!

19. 'In Heavy Weather' - Mystic Man & Eshamanjaro
I didn't realise how much I liked this album until I considered this list. Since rinsing it at Easter-time on my Lakeland holiday I haven't returned to it that often. But it is engraved in my head - strange beats, lovely loops and confident rhymes have wedged themselves in my psyche - it must be good.

20. ‘Outside Looking In’ – Life
Life MC, an influential force on myself and I'm sure many others, brought us this packed album early on in the year. It's very serious messages are broadcast frenetically (as only Life could) over Nappa's straight-up Hip Hop beats. It also came with a back catalogue CD full of Life's beats - great for a freestyle sesh!

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