YEAR-END TOP 10: Harlem’s Picks of 2008

I pride myself on being the “old soul” of the SoulBounce staff, which means that any and everything I love musically more than likely has an old school feel to it. Using that as a disclaimer, what made this year special for me was the amount of unsigned, slept-on and independent talent that rose to glory–and onto my main playlists. So just as my partners in soul put you on to their picks, it’s now my turn to let you in on what I thought were some standout tracks from the past year. So below and after the bounce–in no particular order–are my ten of my favorites from 2008.

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1. Lalah Hathaway: “That Was Then”
I can’t help but grin ear to ear when I hear this woman’s voice. So when her first album in years, Self Portrait, was released this past June, needless to say I was all over it. The lead single, “Let Go,” had me smiling. This ballad, which was never released as a single, had me reminiscing. It was the lyrics, sure, but blended with Lalah’s just-about-perfect, soaring voice, what it really did was force me to just close my eyes and smile, realizing that the voice I’d been missing for too long was finally back. And better than ever.

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2. Reel People feat. Darien: “Upside”
You ever think back to the days when you and all of your friends would gather at the local roller skating rink on a Sunday night and just let everything go? That’s what this song by Reel People featuring Darien–one of my favorite new artists–does for me. From the album Seven Ways to Wonder, the track just makes me wanna skate backwards and show off while the girls standing on the side check out my moves. Good times.

3. TL Cross: “Best Kept Secret”
This year was also about me getting out on my grind and checking out new artists. Thanks to the great people at S.O.B.s and their monthly Sol Village events, I’ve been blessed to see a lot of up-and-comers. With the small venue providing just the right atmosphere, TL Cross, straight outta Jamaica, Queens, brought the heat when he was the headlining act last spring. His voice takes you back to the days of early 90s soul, with this infectious track having you believe that being a secret lover is quite alright.

4. Anthony David feat. India.Arie: “Words”
Yes, I know this song first appeared on Anthony David‘s previous release Red Clay Chronicles. However, since it was re-released this year on his new joint, Acey Duecy (with an accompanying video, even), I believe that it should count on this year’s list. And even if it doesn’t, the pairing of these two soulful voices makes me wanna listen over and over again. And with the song garnering a much-acclaimed Grammy nomination, even the world appreicates that these “Words” never sounded so damn good.

5. Estelle feat. Cee-Lo: “Pretty Please (Love Me)”
There have been plenty of artists this year that have either sampled or blatantly exploited the retro 1960s sound. This song, by these two artists, is one track that gets it right. From Estelle‘s Shine, the petite cutie from across the pond spars beautifully with verbal acrobat Cee-Lo, starring as lovers not ashamed to beg, especially if it means things will work out. I dare you to stand still while this song plays. I know I can’t. Truly a standout from a stellar album.

eric_benet_wall.jpg6. Eric Benét: “You’re The Only One”
I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people that slept on Eric Benét‘s talent for years. Sure, I loved some tracks from his previous releases, but was never sold on him as an artist. That is, until I heard this, the first single from his latest album, Love & Life. It’s just a gorgeous, rich ode to a love lost that fits his voice perfectly. And if that didn’t get you, then this video of him singing it a capella with his daughter surely will. I’m sold. Respect, EB. Respect.

Darien.jpg7. Darien: “Just Can’t Wait”
Yes, Darien is back on my list, this time as a solo artist with a track from his album If These Walls Could Talk. I remember the first time I listened to the disc. This is the first track, and the beat immediately made me want to do the Running Man. The entire album is Bounce-Worthy, to be sure, but this song is one that stays at the forefront. Please believe, this talented artist from Mount Vernon, NY, is definitely one to look out for in 2009. If these walls could talk, they’d tell you the same.

8. Raphael Saadiq: “Oh Girl”
Clearly, great minds think alike, as both my colleague Butta and I were moved by this soaring track from Saadiq‘s The Way I See It at first listen. This is yet another master class in 1960s recreation, with the crooner’s voice fitting seamlessly within the ode to the object of his affection.

9. The Roots feat. Wale and Chrisette Michele: “Rising Up”
Yo! Son. The Roots came back strong with this, the lead single from their album Rising Down. And while the disc didn’t move from store shelves as quickly as they would’ve liked, this uptempo banger definitely made you move, with the lethal combination of Tariq and D.C.’s finest, Wale, ripping the lyrics, and Chrisette‘s vocals funking it up. Throw in a little go-go for the soul, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a hit. Long live the Mighty, Mighty Roots Crew.

10. Jazmine Sullivan: “Lions, Tigers & Bears”
There’s no way that damn voice should be attached to any 21-year old. It’s just so mature, so beyond her years. And this track, another Butta and I have in common, is just the business. Her angst, her emotion, her sincerity in not being able to love the one she wants to…yes, indeed. Jazzy done grown up. It’s head and shoulders above so many tracks this year, and is an excellent choice as the next single from her debut, Fearless. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for the Philly native. If this song is any indication of what she has inside of her, we’re in for exquisite treats for years to come.

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