Raekwon, Mos Def and Jay-Z Lead the Way in Exclaim!'s Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2009

Raekwon, Mos Def and Jay-Z Lead the Way in Exclaim!'s Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2009
Conventional wisdom dictates that sequels are not as good as their originals, but they don't always suck either. For proof, look at Exclaim!'s Beats & Rhymes year-end best-of list.

While no one is seriously suggesting that Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II is better than the incredibly influential 1995 original, it's clearly no dud either, as the Wu-Tang Clan's best-known practitioner of criminology secured the No.1 slot on the list.

To see why the album has claimed the top spot for yourself, you can listen to Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II here on Exclaim.ca, where it will be streaming all week.

While on the surface it looked as if the record would be retreading an all too familiar path, the diminished role of Wu-Tang focal figure RZA (who produced the entire original album), coupled with the sonic contributions of both new and established beat makers outside of the Wu-Tang camp, presented a refreshing twist on a familiar concept. In many ways, the same is true of many of the other selections in the year-end top ten, with many artists returning to form or reinventing themselves.

Mos Def's The Ecstatic got things back on track after a run of disappointing material from the Brooklyn MC, while The Blueprint 3 broadened Jay-Z's appeal and sound while reaffirming his firm grip on popular culture.

Canadians weren't left out with K'Naan further refining his uniquely diasporic take on hip-hop, and D-Sisive further distanced himself from his smart aleck origins with Let the Children Die.

DOOM returned from an extended hiatus to show he is still king of the bizarre non-sequitur, while Eminem also came back on a mission to show he could still spit.

Technically, the hiatus for Q-Tip's Kamaal the Abstract, an album that had been on the shelf for almost a decade, was the longest of them all. The record featured the MC reveling in stretching his singing voice, an approach echoed by Kid Cudi's experimentally hazy Man on the Moon: The End of Day, the only record by a debut artist to make the list.

To see Beats & Rhymes complete best of 2009, click here.

Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II will be streaming on Exclaim.ca until December 14.