Best of 2018 Hip-Hop Part 3: Top 10 Veteran Hip-Hop Artists + Top 15 Essential Hip-Hop Vinyl Reissues + Top Turntablist Project

Posted by Billyjam, January 9, 2019 06:24pm | Post a Comment
Top 10 Veteran Hip-Hop Artists of 2018

 #10 Bukue One

In 2018 longtime East Bay underground hip-hop multi-talent Bukue One (known for his solo work and collaborating with such other artists as  Del The Funky Homosapien) continued to his decades deep unwavering commitment to all elements of hip-hop culture. Truly a modern day bboy with an educator-meets-entrepreneurial sensibility, the forward thinking Bay Area artist has long embraced such elements as emceeing, producing and graffiti writing. Among his aerosol art pieces over the past year was the above pictured tribute to Oakland.  "The Town" dedicated piece can be seen on the long shuttered, former Casper's building located where Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues merge near 45th Street in Oakland. The photo captures just one section of a much larger vibrant piece that wraps around the building that was done in late 2018 by the respected longtime b-boy and sometime skateboarder. As such Bukue-One is #10 in the countdown list of Top 10 Veteran Hip-Hop Acts which is a subjective lis that gives props to veteran hip-hop acts (20+ years in the art form) whom in 2018 continued to display creativity and commitment to various aspects of hip-hop music and culture. This top ten list is followed below by both the Top 15 Essential Hip-Hop Vinyl Reissues and the Top Turntablist Project.

#9 Mobb Deep 

Bittersweet is this semi-posthumous inclusion of Mobb Deep, the legendary NY hip-hop duo of Havoc and the late great Prodigy who prematurely passed away back in June 2017 but whose legacy very much alive thanks to Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and his curating/presenting of a Hamilton themed brand new Mobb Deep track as seen/heard in video above. Featured on the June 2018 installment of Miranda’s #Hamildrop series the previously unreleased new Mobb Deep track ‘Boom Goes The Cannon’ perfectly fit the Hamilton narrative. The 2018 monthly drop series follows the tradition of The Hamilton Mixtape soundtrack (pictured) that included such artists as The Roots, Nas, Aloe Blacc, K’naan and Chance The Rapper
How Mobb Deep came involved in Hamilton was that a year before his death at age 42 from complications related to his sickle-cell anemia Prodigy along with Havoc went to see Hamilton on Broadway and were so impressed recorded Hamilton themed ‘Boom Goes The Cannon’ rapping about things like “blood in New York Harbor” with Prodigy delivering his verse in the character of George Washington. In addition to this new track been unveiled in 2018, there were also two vinyl reissues of classic Mobb Deep material during the year;  Infamy 2LP  and Murda Muzik 2LP (Sony Legacy).

#8 Black Thought 

At the very end of 2017 Black Thought teased what was to come in 2018 when the emcee, 25 years in hip-hop, made news with his head-turning freestyle on Funkmaster Flex’s show. The emcee, known for his longtime membership of  The Roots and as a solo artist had not dropped any new albums in a while, but in 2018 released two incredible solo collaborative EP projects; the five song Streams of Thought Vol 1 with 9th Wonder and Khrysis (on one track) and the nine song Streams of Thought Vol 2 with Salaam Remi.  Both were mind-blowing, engaging collections of songs such as “Twofifteen” with 9th Wonder off Vol 1 on which the Black Thought drops such profoundly memorable lines as “back when Burning Man was Blacks in Birmingham.” Meanwhile among the many great tracks on Vol 2 was “Fentanyl” that examined the devastating leading cause of drug overdoses in the USA today. Earlier in 2018, along with Royce Da 5'9", Joyner Lucas and Aloe Blacc, Black Thought was featured on ‎the Hamilton spinoff track "Wrote My Way Out (Remix)". Honorable mention to  former member of The Roots Rahzel who returned in 2018 with the great track "Ring The Alarm!!!"  featuring Southern rap legend Bun B. Note that in late 2018 Def Jam reissued on vinyl The Roots' 2011 album Undun LP and that upcoming in 2019, as previously promised by both Black Thought and Questlove,  the long overdue first Roots album in five years, to be titled End Game, will finally drop.   
#7 DJ Premier + Gang Starr Foundation

DJ Premier, who initially came to fame along with the late great Guru as the hip-hop duo Gang Starr, enjoyed another outstandingly creative year in 2018 ranging from individual track collaborations with such artists as Evidence whose track "1000 Hours" he produced for the January 2018 album Weather Or Not and his full-length sophomore collaborative project with Royce da 5'9" PRhyme 2. A consistently amazing producer and DJ Preemo never seems to lose his edge or passion for music. Meanwhile the Gang Starr Foundation, which is the longtime collective of emcees that was established back in 1993 by Big Shug when it was led by Gang Starr, enjoyed a creative past year highlighted by member Afu-Ra’s engaging return album Mazterchef. Most notable was the standout album “3 Evil Masters” that featured fellow Gang Starr Foundation members Big Shug and Jeru The Damaja. Jeru, who has been recording some great music in recent years, has long enjoyed a close musical relationship with Afu-Ra;  being the only guest emcee on Afu-Ra’s first two albums.  

#6 Rakim

Arguably the greatest emcee of all time Rakim may not have dropped a new album or any new albums a decade (The Seventh Seal in 2009 was the icon’s last studio album) but in 2018 the influential revered mic wrecker, who first arrived in the 80's as part of the legendary hip-hop duo Eric B & Rakim with such landmark albums as Paid In Full, returned with the incredible track “King's Paradise.” This one song, that is better than some entire albums, first got unveiled/heard during the second (and final) season of Luke Cage on Netflix and simultaneously released as one of the tracks on the Marvel's Luke Cage: Season Two [OST] 2LP vinyl set. For the new track Rakim collaborated with The Midnight Hour project executive producers; keyboardist Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad who produced and co-wrote "King's Paradise."  

#5  MF Doom

MF DOOM's career dates back to the late 80’s but in 2018 he was still making relevant and essential hip-hop music for a demanding public. Just a teen back in 1988, when known as Zev Love X, the British born, US hip-hop artist Daniel Dumile co-founded the group KMD with his late great younger brother Subroc. Fast forward three decades to 2018 and MF DOOM is an established iconic figure with a dedicated fanbase who can't get enough of his distinctive style and sound. In 2018 he issued an Operation: Doomsday 7" box set as well as a series of 7” singles via his Metal Face Records. These singles included "Doom, Are You Awake / Hey! / Operation Greenbacks" 7", "Rhymes Like Dimes / The Finest" 7" and  "The Mic, The Mystery Of Doom, Dead Bent" 7" record. Additionally he collaborated with Czarface featuring the duo of  7L & Esoteric and Inspectah Deck , whose comic book aesthetic perfectly complimented (and/or was influenced by) DOOM’s trademark style, for 2018's Czarface Meets Metal Face that was released on LP/vinyl,  cassette and CD formats by Silver Age/Get On Down.

       #4 X-Raided

Renowned Sacramento rapper X-Raided may have spent the past 26 years behind bars, incarcerated since age 17 just as his rap career signed to Black Market Records was taking off, but been in prison all those years didn’t hinder his career as a recording artist. It simply made it more challenging for the artistborn Anerae Brown who, despite the barrage of obstacles along the way, somehow managed to record a total of twenty albums from behind bars over the years! Not surprisingly then that now when he is finally out of prison and living in Oakland, since been recently released on parole, that the artist has hit the ground running.  Since his mid September release he had within two weeks as a free man recorded the song “California Dreamin” which was the lead single off his latest album Anerae: The Execution of X-Raided. That brand new 20 track album was recorded and released within two months of Brown's prison release! Additionally over this weekend he embarked on his newly launched West Coast “California Dreamin’” tour. On stage, in his music, as well as in person X-Raided has a lot to say about his past and what landed him in prison all those years ago. It all dates back to one night in March 1992 when, as a member of Sacramento’s notorious 24th Street Garden Block Crips gang, he was part of group of four members who raided the home of beloved community figure Patricia Harris who was shot and killed that night. X-Raided wasn’t the one who killed Harris but he was with the person who pulled the trigger. However he refused to to snitch and then, in an unprecedented case,  the lyrics of his music were played and used as evidence against him in court, 

Brown ended up being convicted and charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to serve 31 years to
life but got released on parole after 26 years due to good behavior. Within a week of being released from prison Brown took to social media to directly publicly address the issue long weighing on his heart; the murder of Patricia Harris that rocked the community of Sacramento back in '92. Via a Facebook post he wrote, “The greatest shame I feel is for the senseless death of Mrs. Harris and the knowledge that I am overwhelmingly responsible for her death. It was my fault and I accept the reality that I owe a debt for her death.” Now billing himself as Aneraé VeShaughn, the longtime rapper credited with being one of the pioneers of horrorcore rap, can truly pick up where he left off at age 17 as a hip-hop artist. No longer confined by the prison industrial complex, now he can truly shine. See the flyer above for upcoming dates on his tour.

#3 Ice Cube

In 2018 Ice Cube returned with a vengeance with his powerful tenth solo album; Everythangs Corrupt (Interscope). Following an eight year gap since his last solo release, the powerful sociopolitically charged Everythangs Corrupt more than made up for the long wait by instantly reminding the hip-hop world that the pioneering  West Coast hip-hop artist turned movie star’s music is still very much relevant. Immediate proof of this was the album’s current single, the controversial, no holds barred anti-Trump anthem “Arrest The President” and the album title track/early lead single “Good Cop Bad Cop (Everythangs Corrupt).”

“I’m coming straight from the 80’s with my Jheri Curl and my Mercedes,” raps the influential artist, who was in his teens when he co-founded the pioneering gangsta rap crew N.W.A in 1986, on the bouncy funk-fueled new album track “Can You Dig It.”   Other standout tracks on the album, that all agreed was his best work in many years, included his latest Too $hort collaboration “Ain’t Got No Haters.” Not surprisingly a few weeks back on December 18th at Amoeba Hollywood when the artist held a hometown meet-and-greet to celebrate the new album, coveted tickets for the event got snapped up early by the legions of fans anxious to meet and get their photo taken with the hip-hop icon. 

#2 Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan a group may not have released a new album in 2018 or in a few years, their last official new group studio album was 2015’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, but the legendary Shaolin crew were omnipresent in 2018. In addition to being busy working on various solo recording projects and collaborations with other artists and TV appearances, they celebrated the 25th anniversary  of their landmark debut album; Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The Staten Island collective celebrated the occasion with a reissued colored vinyl version of the 1993 LP; Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) [Yellow Vinyl] LP.  They also issued  picture disc 7" of "C.R.E.A.M."  done in a collectible picture disc design of the Wu-Tang logo. That mid-December release is currently sold out at Amoeba. So too is the limited edition Record Store Day 2018 released The Saga Instrumental EP 12" Yellow Vinyl.  Still in stock, released a few weeks earlier, was the 2018 reissue of their 1997 album, in four-record vinyl set Wu-Tang Forever 4LP.  
Another Wu-Tang vinyl release in 2018 was the 12" Pearl Harbor; Deluxe Edition.

Solo WU member recordings included Raekwon  Record Store Day three part vinyl Vatican Mixtape series via Ice Water Music that sold out fast. Earlier in the year the artist also known as The Chef dropped a series of singles in January including "The Sky,” "The Biz" and the incredible soulful RoadsArt produced "It's A Shame." Several weeks earlier Raekwon was featured on the 4th Disciple produced WU affiliate Killah Priest track “You Don’t Stop.” Raekwon along with Erick Sermon leaked online “It's My Thing Freestyle” in 2018 which was a reworking of Sermon's EPMD classic. Inspectah Deck’s 2018 releases included his part of the aforementioned super trio Czarface collaborating with DOOM; Czarface Meets Metal Face (also on LP/vinyl).

Incidentally that record even sampled Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah who teamed up with prolific producer Apollo Brown for the March 2018 Mello Music release The Brown Tape (also on LP/vinyl)  In early December Ghostface Killah released the guest-heavy The Lost Tapes LPGZA/Genius was part of the late 2018 Marvel art redesign vinyl series with the two version vinyl reissues of his 1995 second solo classic; Liquid Swords 2LP and Liquid Swords Seaglass Colored Vinyl 2LP - both with new Marvel cover art as "Contest of Champions."   
Method Man collaborated with DJ Nu-Mark on “Zodiac Killah” which was a 7" single on Hot Plate Records that sold out fast at Amoeba following its Black Friday release. Garnering even more attention for Method Man was his role in the musical reality competition TV show Drop The Mic for which Nu-Mark composed the theme song. That popular TBS show will begin its third series on January 23, 2019.

A high profile release featuring the Wu-Tang's Method Man, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah was the killer remix of soul singer Teyana Taylor’s single “Gonna Love Me” off her album K.T.S.E.  And in late 2018 the full WU crew lineup including RZA, GZA, Method ManRaekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, and Cappadonna traveled to Australia and New Zealand to do sold out concerts. The full collective continue stateside later this month when they will play Philadelphia’s Franklin Music Hall on January 25th, and the next day with a gig at NYC’s Terminal 5

#1 Boots Riley

 27 year hip-hop veteran, leader of The Coup and multi-media creative force Boots Riley blew up in 2018 with his acclaimed directorial film debut Sorry To Bother YouThe buzz began at the start of the year when his film first screened at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. That buzz continued when the film premiered few months later in the Bay at both the Castro Theatre in SF and at Oakland’s  Grand Lake Theater in Boots’ hometown which was also the film’s setting when it was shot in various Oakland locations in 2017. Similarly when it opened in July in theaters nationwide in seven select cities, the hip-hop artist-turned-filmmaker's unique new movie style, and its sociopolitical message, garnered major critical acclaim and got peoples' attention. 

Boots and his film have been widely credited with leading a whole new wave of African American film from “The Town” (Oakland) alongside Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal's West Oakland made, Lionsgate distributed Blindspotting and the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. That black superhero movie was directed by Oakland born filmmaker Ryan Coogler who came to major fame with 2013's Fruitvale Station about the killing of Oscar Grant by BART police on New Year's Day 2009. For  Black Panther  showed love for his hometown by portraying it (shot in Atlanta to look like Oakland) in both 1992 and in the present day.

In a recently published Hollywood Reporter interview/profile piece on Boots Riley the influential aspect of Boots’ film was highlighed. “Based on its success, a new wave of films like it could be what’s next for the entertainment industry,” wrote the HR. In October 2018  the 2 disc DVD/BluRay combo Sorry To Bother You arrived into Amoeba. The DVD/BluRay release included this description that does not contain spoiler alerts: “In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, black telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success - which propels him into a macabre universe.”  

Also released in 2018 was an accompanying Sorry To Bother You soundtrack that included  The Coup, fellow Oakland act tUnE-yArDs and the film’s star Lakeith Stanfield. Note that this OST is distinct from the similarly titled 2012 album Sorry To Bother You 2012 album by The Coup on Anti. The album’s cover art is pictured above as is The Coup’s 2002 album/DVD 2 CD set Steal This Double Album and the original (banned) cover of the group’s 2001 album Party Music. Both album cover art work picture Boots with the late Coup member, turntablist DJ Pam The Funkstress. Born Pam Warren, and also known as Purple Pam due to been the late pop icon Prince's latter career tour DJ, prematurely passed away in December 2017. At that time Boots lamented how several months earlier, due to circumstances surrounding the hectic shooting of Sorry To Bother You in downtown Oakland, that he and Pam, who had not seen each other in a while, had tried in vein to connect. 

The Coup formed in Oakland in 1991 and made their national splash in 1993 when the trio of Boots, Pam and former member emcee E-Roc dropped their revoltutionary rap debut album Kill My Landlord, followed in 1994 by Genocide & Juice; both on Wild Pitch. In 1998 Steal This Album on local independent label DogDay/FOAD was released and three years later, just weeks after 9/11, on November 6th 2001, the then Coup duo of Boots and Pam released the album Party Music (75 Ark). With an original album cover, that was designed in June 2011 and coincidentally depicted the WTC Twin Towers being blown up, controversy took over. Despite Boots’ loud protests to keep the original cover art, outside forces prevailed and it was changed.

In 2006 they released Pick A Bigger Weapon on Epitaph. As the years went on The Coup morphed into more of a Boots Riley fronted full live funk hip-hop touring and recording band. Releases included the group's sixth album which would pave the way for Boots' current career chapter. Released in October 2012, the ANTI/Epitaph album Sorry to Bother You was inspired by Boots' completed screenplay of the same name that wouldn't  be published until two years later in 2014. Fast forward four more years and the screenplay had materialized into his universally acclaimed directorial debut film.

The film’s overwhelming success took Boots by surprise but instantly launch his in-demand film career. 2019 is going to be an even more hectic year for the 47 year old multi-media artist. In addition to a hush-hush, top-secret upcoming feature film deal, Boots’ upcoming projects include writing and directing an episode of Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix horror anthology 10 After Might and a television pilot with former HBO exec Michael Ellenberg for his studio Media Res. As such Boots Riley earns the #1 slot for Top Ten Veteran Hip-Hop Act of 2018. Below is trailer for the movie that took his career into a new chapter.
 Top Turntablism Project of 2018


With runners up including SkratchPad (multi-city turntablist club that celebrated its 15th year anniversary) and the 2018 DMC US Finals (held in Denver CO for first time) the winner of the Top Turntablism Project of 2018 was the Philharmonic Turntable Orchestra’s March 2018 live performance piece recorded in Japan and captured on the video above. The accurately titled “Turntable Orchestra” featured the DJs D-Styles, QBert, Kentaro, Rena (12 year old reigning 2017 DMC World Champ), Mr.Switch, DJ Swamp, DJ Ken-one, Kireek (DJ Yasa/DJ Hi-C), Izoh, Generation, Bahn, Baku, Bori, Bunta, Dom-Auto, Doon, Fummy, Hiroshi, Ina Takayuki, Jifrock, Miyajima, Reiko, Sarasa, Shota,To-Ru, Wa-ta, Yone, and You-ki. With each DJ stylishly decked out in tuxedos the 31 member ensemble made both classical music history and turntablist music history. This they accomplished with their sonically pleasing neu-classical skratch piece, performed live utliizing as instrumentation just mixers and Technics 1200's (no laptops) while reconstructing the sounds of eight different classical records that included the first ever 12" Long Playing (LP) vinyl record from 1948; Nathan Milstein & The New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s "Mendelssohn Concerto in E Minor."

Top Fifteen 2018 Hip-Hop Vinyl Reissues

#1 Public Enemy It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (30 Year Anniversary reissue / Def Jam)

#2 De La Soul Buhloone Mindstate LP (25th anniversary reissue
  / Tommy Boy)

#3 Wu-Tang Clan Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) [Yellow Vinyl] (Sony)

#4  EPMD Strictly Business 2LP

#5  EPMD Unfinished Business 2LP   (Capitol Records)

#6 2Pac Greatest Hits 4LP  (Interscope)

#7 Too $hort Short Dog's In The House  (Get On Down)

#8 E-40 Federal LP (Get On Down)

#9  Big L The Big Picture 2LP (RBC Records).

#10 Diamond And The Psychotic Neurotics Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop 2LP (Music On Vinyl)

#11 Guru Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 [Deluxe Edition] Vinyl 3LP (Virgin)

#12  Mobb Deep Infamy 2LP  + Murda Muzik 2LP (Sony Legacy)

#13  El-P Cure 4 Cancer  Pink Vinyl LP reissue (Fat Possum Records)

#14 J Dilla Dilla's Mix The Instrumentals LP/vinyl also on CD (PayDay)

#15: Del The Funky Homosapien & Tame One Parallel Uni- Verses 10th AnniversaryLP (Parallel Thoughts)

As vinyl grows in popularity record labels continued to do more
and more LP/vinyl reissues of classic and forgotten hip-hop albums; most long out of print and some even never issued on vinyl. Many of these tied in with a one, two or three decade anniversary of their original
release.  Topping this list was the 2018 30 year anniversary reissue of the Public Enemy's second album, originally released back on June 28th, 1988, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (reissued before but in 2018 on new pressing LP/vinyl, CD Deluxe version, and 2 cassette set).
NYC hardcore rap legends Mobb Deep (featuring Havoc and the late great Prodigy) saw two of their albums reissued on vinyl in 2018; 1999's Murda Muzik as 2LP and their 2001 album Infamy 2LP both via Sony Legacy).  Diamond & The Psychotic Neurotics' golden era classic Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop 2LP got lovingly reissued by Music On Vinyl while Capitol Records reissued three decade old classics from the power duo of EPMD; their 1988 debut  Strictly Business 2LP and 1989's Unfinished Business 2LP.  

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Tupac Shakur's posthumous November 1998 hit compilation was the 2018 four album reissue via Interscope;  Greatest Hits 4LP. Another two Bay Area rap legends, E-40 and  Too $hort, had most welcome out of print albums reissued in 2018 by the Get On Down record label. The godfather of Oakland rap's
landmark 1990 album Short Dog's In The House got reissued (with poster) for the first time on vinyl in 28 years back in April during Record Store Day.  A few months later pioneering Vallejo game-spitter born Earl Stevens' 1993 solo debut Federal LP got reissued on vinyl.

An overlooked album by many to get reissued a decade later was the 2018 vinyl reissue of Del The Funky Homosapien and the Artifacts' Tame One’s dope collaborative album Parallel Uni-Verses [10th Anniversary Edition] LP. Dating back to an initial release in 2003, and reissued in various forms since, was the latest double-vinyl 2018 reissue of the ever beloved and never forgotten late J Dilla's Ruff Draft: Dilla's Mix / aka Dilla's Mix The Instrumentals LP/vinyl also on CD (PayDay). Expect to see even more classic hip-hop album vinyl reissues in 2019.

Relevant Tags

Wu-tang Clan (26), Bukue-one (2), Best Of 2018 Hip-hop (3), Best Of 2018 (11), Boots Riley (15)