Friday, December 08, 2006

2006 Rewind: This Shitty Thing We Call Hip Hop

[For the next few days, I'll be revisiting some of 2006's most interesting (as well as not-so) opinions, thoughts as we look forward to rapping about inane pop culture in the new year.]

So it's December 8 and the new Nas record isn't out yet, and I'm actually kind of bummed.

I'm not debating on whether it's better than the new Jay-Z record; I know it's better than "Kingdom Come." For all its hype and the quotable mantra of Shawn Carter likening himself as the Michael Jordan of Rap, it's reflective of the direction that hip-hop has been going in the last few years: bloated, self-important, uninspired and, most importantly, a money making machine.

In my EMP Pop Music Conference submission, I go on about how modern hip-hop came to be because hip-hop fans who grew up in the 80's and 90's abandoned its major label counterparts once Diddy (then Puffy) and Master P's No Limit roster became the du jour emcees. Heads went to labels like ABB, Rawkus, Fat Beats, Ninja Tune and many others to get their fix, occasionally popping up when legends such as Pharaohe Monch began showing up in "Charlie's Angels" and whatnot. Eventually when the indie labels collapsed on themselves -- either through mismanagement or signing shitty rappers -- when looked to major label rap to make us remember why we love hip-hop in the first place.

And that's where we're at now. In 2006, we saw really terrible albums by Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, and Lady Sovereign, even a forgettable release by Ghostface Killah.

On this site, I've even ok'd albums that I probably wouldn't have in the past. I like The Game and Tha Dogg Pound, but I'm not crazy about them. In the numerous albums I've reviewed on this site and in print there are three (count 'em) albums that I enjoyed enough to even consider the best hip-hop records of the year: Cut Chemist's "The Audience is Listening," Rhymefest's "Blue Collar," and Nump's "The Numpyard."

Why is it that in 12 months of steady releases by notable emcees I could only find three discs worth talking about? Because we've lowered the standard for what we deem as acceptable hip-hop. The stuff we used to consider "okay" (Clipse, Cam'ron) is now "the best" and stuff that we'd consider shit back in the day (Lady Sov, MIA, Gym Class Heroes) is now listenable. Who the fuck decided that it was a good idea to take a step back?

All of this brings us back to Nas, the man whose latest offering, "Hip-Hop is Dead," I'm slowly waiting for. Not because I think it'll be as good as "Illmatic," but because like Nas himself, hip-hop fans have accepted that there will never be another "Illmatic." Only something that could be potentially pleasant.

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