You might look at me like I'm crazy now, but I'm calling it: people are going to look back on 2008 as a remarkably solid year for hip hop -- not legendary, like '88 or '94 or even 2001, but solid. Nas and Lil Wayne dropped flawed but ambitious albums, Wale released one of the decade's best mixtapes, The Roots maintained their hot streak, Q-Tip put out a fantastic comeback album, and there were a ton of good-to-great albums from mainstream vets (Scarface, Ludacris, Bun B, Young Jeezy) and underground favorites (Jean Grae, Black Milk, Madlib, Johnson & Jonson) -- not to mention all the great music from the Twin Cities' finest (Atmosphere, Trama, Muja Messiah and Heiruspecs). Hell, it got far enough to the point where you might risk losing track of all the quality material, which is why it's a good thing former Slum Village member and Detroit lyricist eLZhi released two albums.
Granted, one of them was Europass, which you could only get if you were at one of his European tour shows -- or had a Rapidshare account, at least. The other one, The Preface, counts as his "official" solo debut, and it's worth checking out for a multitude of reasons I outline here. "Motown 25" is the highlight of both CDs, and though this concert clip has it smothered under live-show audio fidelity and missing the Royce Da 5'9" guest verse that led a lot of folks (myself included) to conclude he's done better for himself than former sparring partner Eminem these last five years, eLZhi straight up knocks 'em out the box from the first verse ("I end careers, years, pierce ears fierce with spears/They say I'm gifted, get lifted like the beers in 'Cheers'").