Dark Light

2008, the year that Lil Wayne transformed from a dope MC with a tireless work ethic and crazy punchlines to the best rapper alive.

Wayne’s ascension had been slow and steady, with years spent in the Cash Money training lab, first as part of the Hot Boys, then as a solo artist. After spending years dropping several albums, countless mixtapes and about a million feature verses, the New Orleans rapper finally claimed the hip hop crown with his magnum opus, Tha Carter III.

While this was happening, T.I. was becoming the biggest rapper in the game with the mega successful Paper Trail which spawned a string of number one hit singles, as was Young Jeezy who was becoming very comfortable at the top of the charts. After dropping Graduation, his biggest album to date, Kanye took a major left turn with 808s & Heartbreak, which was jarring at first, but over time has aged incredibly well.

From Young Jeezy’s The Recession to The Roots’ Rising Down and Q-Tip’s The Renaissance, here are the top 25 best hip hop albums of 2008.

25. Plies – Definition of Real

Released: June 10, 2008

Label: Big Gates, Slip-n-Slide, Atlantic

Singles: “Bust It Baby Pt. 2”, “Please Excuse My Hands”

Features: Ne-Yo, J. Holiday, Keyshia Cole, Trey Songz, Jamie Foxx and The-Dream

24. Ludacris – Theater of the Mind

Released: November 25, 2008

Label: Disturbing tha Peace, Def Jam South

Singles: “What Them Girls Like”, “Wish You Would”, “Undisputed”, “Last of a Dying Breed”, “One More Drink”, “Nasty Girl”

Features: Rick Ross, Playaz Circle, Ving Rhames, T.I., T-Pain, The Game, Chris Rock, Chris Brown, Sean Garrett, Plies, Jamie Foxx, Lil Wayne, Nas, Jay-Z, Common, Spike Lee

23. Snoop Dogg – Ego Trippin’

Released: March 11, 2008

Label: Doggy Style, Geffen

Singles: “Sensual Seduction”, “Neva Have 2 Worry”, “Life of da Party”, “My Medicine”, “Those Gurlz”

Features: Too Short, Mistah F.A.B., Kuurt, Charlie Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Uncle Chucc, Raphael Saadiq, Pharrell Williams, Willie Nelson, Whitey Ford

22. Ice Cube – Raw Footage

Released: August 19, 2008

Label: Lench Mob, EMI

Singles: “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”, “Do Ya Thang”, “Why Me?”

Features: The Game, Butch Cassidy, Musiq Soulchild, Young Jeezy and WC

21. Pete Rock – NY’s Finest

Released: February 26, 2008

Label: Nature Sounds

Singles: N/A

Features: Jim Jones, Max B, Sheek Louch, Styles P, Redman, Little Brother, Raekwon, Masta Killa, Doo Hop, Papoose, Slum Village, Roc Marciano

20. The Game – LAX

Released: August 26, 2008

Label: Geffen

Singles: “Game’s Pain”, “Dope Boys”, “My Life”, “Camera Phone”

Features: DMX, Chrisette Michele, Common, Ice Cube, Keyshia Cole, Ludacris, Nas, Ne-Yo, Raekwon, Raheem DeVaughn, Travis Barker, Bilal and Lil Wayne

19. Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason

Released: September 1, 2008

Label: Big Dada

Singles: “Buff Nuff”, “Again & Again”, “Let the Spirit”, “Do Nah Bodda Mi”

Features: N/A

18. Jake One – White Van Music

Released: October 7, 2008

Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Singles: “The Truth / Trap Door”

Features: Pharoahe Monch, Kardinal Offishall, Black Milk, Nottz, M.O.P., Brother Ali, Freeway, D. Black, Little Brother, Posdnuos, Slug, MF DOOM, Young Buck, Bishop Lamont, Busta Rhymes, The Alchemist, Evidence, Prodigy, Blueprint, Casual, Elzhi, Royce da 5’9″

17. eMC – The Show

Released: March 25, 2008

Label: M3 Records, Traffic Entertainment Group

Singles: “E.M.C. What It Stands For?”

Features: Adi, Ladybug Mecca, Little Brother, Money Harm and Sean Price

16. Nas – Untitled

Released: July 15, 2008

Label: The Jones Experience, Def Jam

Singles: “Hero”, “Make the World Go Round”

Features: Chris Brown, Keri Hilson, Busta Rhymes, and The Game

15. Rick Ross – Trilla

Released: March 11, 2008

Label: Slip-n-Slide, Def Jam South, Poe Boy

Singles: “Speedin'”, “The Boss”, “Here I Am”

Features: R. Kelly, T-Pain, Trey Songz, Young Jeezy, Trick Daddy, Nelly, Brisco, Triple C’s, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Avery Storm

14. Killer Mike – I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II

Released: July 8, 2008

Label: Grind Time Official, SMC Recordings, Fontana

Singles: “2 Sides”

Features: 8Ball & MJG, Chamillionaire and Ice Cube

13. Del the Funky Homosapien – Eleventh Hour

Released: March 11, 2008

Label: Definitive Jux

Singles: “Workin’ It”

Features: Ladybug Mecca, KU

12. Guilty Simpson – Ode to the Ghetto

Released: March 25, 2008

Label: Stones Throw Records

Singles: “Getting Bitches”, “Footwork”, “Ode to the Ghetto”

Features: Black Milk, Sean Price, MED, Kon Artis, Konnie Ross, Kriz Steel, Supa Emcee

11. Elzhi – The Preface

Released: August 12, 2008

Label: Fat Beats

Singles: N/A

Features: Royce Da 5’9″, Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Fatt Father, Danny Brown and Phat Kat

10. Buckshot & 9th Wonder – The Formula

Released: April 29, 2008

Label: Duck Down

Singles: “Go All Out”

Features: Carlitta Durand, Arafat Yates, Big Chops, Keisha Shontelle, Swan, Talib Kweli, Tyler Woods and the Formula Crew

9. Black Milk – Tronic

Released: October 28, 2008

Label: Fat Beats

Singles: “Give the Drummer Sum”/”The Matrix”, “Losing Out”

Features: DJ Premier, Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, Royce da 5’9″ and Dwele

8. Bun B – II Trill

Released: May 20, 2008

Label: Rap-A-Lot, Asylum, Warner Bros.

Singles: “That’s Gangsta”, “You’re Everything”

Features: Sean Kingston, Pimp C, Young Buck, Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne, David Banner, Rick Ross, Glasses Malone, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Webbie, Akon, Mike Jones, 8Ball & MJG, Z-Ro, Junior Reid and Juvenile

7. T.I. – Paper Trail

Released: September 26, 2008

Label: Grand Hustle, Atlantic

Singles: “No Matter What”, “Whatever You Like”, “Swing Ya Rag”, “What Up, What’s Haapnin'”, “Swagga Like Us”, “Live Your Life”, “Ready for Whatever”, “Dead and Gone”

Features: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Usher and John Legend

6. Young Jeezy – The Recession

Released: September 2, 2008

Label: CTE, Def Jam South

Singles: “Put On”, “Vacation”, “Crazy World”, “My President”, “Who Dat”

Features: Anthony Hamilton, Lil Boosie, Kanye West, Nas, Trey Songz

5. Murs – Murs for President

Released: September 30, 2008

Label: Warner Bros.

Singles: N/A

Features: Snoop Dogg, Tyler Woods, will.i.am

4. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III

Released: June 10, 2008

Label: Cash Money, Universal Motown, Young Money

Singles: “Lollipop”, “A Milli”, “Got Money”, “Mr. Carter”, “Mrs. Officer”

Features: Jay-Z, T-Pain, Fabolous, Robin Thicke, Busta Rhymes, Juelz Santana, Babyface, Bobby V, and Kanye West

3. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

Released: November 24, 2008

Label: Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam

Singles: “Love Lockdown”, “Heartless”, “Amazing”, “Paranoid”

Features: Kid Cudi, Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne

2. The Roots – Rising Down

Released: April 28, 2008

Label: Def Jam

Singles: “Birthday Girl”, “Rising Up”

Features: Mos Def, Styles P, Dice Raw, Peedi Peedi, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Truck North, Saigon & Kevin Hanson, Talib Kweli, Malik B, Common, Wale, Mercedes Martinez

1. Q-Tip – The Renaissance

Released: November 4, 2008

Label: Universal Motown

Singles: “Gettin’ Up”, “Move”, “Life Is Better”

Features: D’Angelo, Norah Jones, Amanda Diva, and Raphael Saadiq

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