01/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Best of '08, Part 2

Is 2008 over yet? For most of this country, it seems as if this year ended on November 4th, on the heels of that historic election. We're done with the wars, recession, bailouts, pirates and...Autotune. Radio stations switched to all-Christmas formats earlier than ever and every online site is rolling out the year-end wrap-ups. Check out Part One of my favorite threads of a year that's been over for a month already, with thoughts on Lil Wayne, Santogold, Charles Hamilton, T.I. and the song of the year: "My President."

The Game
...for going three-for-three in his first three albums. It certainly didn't seem possible after his debut--one that was largely co-written by 50 Cent and produced by Dr. Dre--that the Los Angeles rapper born Jayceon Taylor would have it in him. Especially once he stood on his own, without 50 and Dre. And yet, 2008's LAX marked the sound of a mature emcee with unabashed passion for hip-hop, something solely unique in an artist of his stature. "Never Can Say Goodbye," in which Game embodies the end of days for Notorious BIG, Tupac and Eazy-E over three verses, shows a reverence for rap that most of the music's fans don't even embody.

TV on the Radio
...for being the best band of the decade. The Brooklyn-based quintet released their third full-length, Dear Science, to rapturous acceptance, as their sound grew more and more inclusive. The delightfully lo-fi drone of earlier records was replaced with frenetic energy packed in dance anthems and melodies that connect across genre demographics. They may have left behind the slave hymn-influenced tracks like "Ambulance" or their cover of The Pixies' "Mr. Grieves," but TV on the Radio lost none of the soul. Combining crushing (and effortless) politics, emotionally resonant deconstructions of the modern relationship, and a live show that borders on epiphanic...and there isn't another band in the land that really matters.

Robin Thicke's "Dreamworld"
...for rising above the contrived "blue-eyed soul" movement to be an instantly classic R&B song. No one's calling TV on the Radio a "black band," as they shouldn't, but Thicke, Justin Timberlake and before them Hall & Oates (amongst others) may never shake the hyphenated preface to their "soul." Regardless, "Dreamworld" is the type of brooding optimism that begs for warm-embrace slow dances in the flutter of a once-in-a-lifetime romance at its very genesis. Whatever that is, and however impossible it may seem, such tenderness is certainly devoid of color.

Slumdog Millionaire OST
...for being as manic and cluttered as the trash filled Indian ghettos depicted in the film--without overwhelming the visuals, characters or plot. The Danny Boyle flick with its ingenious literary narrative of a young man from the slums improbably winning India's version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" is one of the best reviewed films of the year and a huge part of that is A.R. Rahman's impeccable score. Often called the "Indian Timbaland," for lack of better references, Rahman turns out a soaring epic twisting in chaos while discovering beauty in banality. The M.I.A.-assisted "O...Saya" has received most of the blog love for the same reasons that Rahman is the "Indian Timbaland," but the entire scope is gorgeously in synch with the film and strongly standing on its own solitary legs.

The new rap Kids
...for being unavoidable, in the best and worst ways. The Cool Kids, 87 Stick Up Kids, Retro Kidz, Kids in the Hall, Kid Cudi, Kid Sister...the list never really ends, even if it's surprisingly diverse considering the monikered similarities. But what about the Kids? The Cool Kids' brand of boom-bap found homes in the iPods of Jim Jones and Kevin Garnett, while Kid Sister rode the momentum of the Kanye West-assisted "Pro Nails" in 2007 to an album that got pushed back to 2009. Kidz in the Hall wrote one the summer's best bangers with "Driving Down the Block" then got famous when DJ Double-O got beat up on YouTube. Meanwhile, Kid Cudi rode the new wave of musicality in hip-hop, working on Kanye's 808s & Heartbreak, one of the top five songs of the year (88-Keys' "Wasting My Minutes," as well as his own impressive mixtape, Plain Pat & Emile Presents a KiD Named CuDi. It'll be interesting to see which Kids grow up in 2009.

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