2009: Who Was King of the Midwest?

 

Part 1-King of the East

 

For part 2 of our 4-part series, we turned to the underrated Midwest..Detroit and Chicago continued their dominance of the regions’s Hip-Hop scene in 2009. Along with the usual suspects, vets like Twista (Category F5) and Royce da 5’9 (Street Hop) showed they were still sharp, and new faces like Finale (A Pipe Dream and a Promise) merged to gain national exposure. With other talents like Black Milk, Common, and Guilty Simpson on tap for new music in 2010, the Midwest will continue to be a region whose music will appeal to those who like their Hip-Hop eclectic.

 

 

Kanye West

2009 was another signature Kanye year filled with good music and over the top media moments.

 

Still basking in the success of 2008’s 808s and Heartbreaks, Kanye’s “Amazing” was picked by the NBA and made the official song of the playoffs.

 

He was able to keep his brand diversified by appearing on selections from an eclectic group of artists in Jamie Foxx (“Digital Girl Remix”), Twista (“Alright”), Beyonce (“Ego Remix”), and Rick Ross (“Maybach Music 2”)

 

The self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don stepped up his philanthropic efforts with the second annual Donda West Stay in School benefit concert in June for Chicago kids.

 

Kanye was also featured prominently on Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, assisting both on production (“Already Home,” “A Star Is Born,” “Thank You”) and behind the mic (“Run This Town,” “Hate”).

 

Of course, much of his aforementioned accomplishments were eclipsed by the publicity stunt at the VMAs, where Kanye “interrupted” Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. The move briefly made West a villain in mainstream media outlets, even prompting an offhand denouncement from the President.

 

For 2010, expect more off-color interview comments from Mr. West that’ll make you shake your head, and music that’ll make it nod.

 

 Standout Songs: Clipse “Kinda Like a Big Deal,” “Flight School, Rick Ross’ “Maybach Music 2”

 

 

Eminem

Marshall Mathers awakened from his 5 year solo album slumber to reaffirm his position as one of the game’s most technically proficient emcees.

 

Em revisited the sardonic, dark humor of The Marshall Mathers LP with Relapse. As one of ‘09’s few event albums, the 8 Mile product satisfied his casual fanbase with quirky tracks like “We Made You,” and showed his visual and lyrical creativity on the horror-core themed “3 AM.” The album debuted #1 on Billboard and has sold over 3 million copies worldwide, helping Slim Shady to secure Billboard’s honor as the Best-Selling Rapper of the Decade.

 

After being unable to get Relapse 2 out before the close of 2009, Eminem offered the special EP Relapse: Refill to hold over fans. It featured the all-star posse cut “Forever,” and two Top 10 iTunes charting tracks in “Hell Breaks Loose” and “Elevator.”

 

Up next for the Detroit lyricist in 2010 will be Relapse 2, which has confirmed production from Just Blaze, Dr. Dre, Denaun Porter, and Alchemist.

 

Standout Songs: “3AM,” “BET Cypher #3,” “Forever”

 

 

Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi holds the distinction amongst his freshmen peers of dropping a debut that was both commercially viable and critically praised.

 

Man on the Moon offered a sound rooted in Hip-Hop with branches extending to Trip-Hop, R&B, Rock, and psychedelic elements. Even without immediately capitalizing on the Top 5 Billboard charting and million seller single “Day ‘n’ Nite,” the LP still debuted in the Top 5 in September, and is gradually pushing towards gold certification.

 

Cudi’s work earned him a spot on Blueprint 3 (“Already Home”), and acting duties on the new HBO, Mark Whalberg produced series How to Make It In America.

 

And to think, Cudi almost “retired” at the beginning on 2009 out of frustration with the industry.

 

Standout Songs: “Day ‘n’ Nite,” “Hyyerr,” “Make Her Say”

 

 

Naledge

The Kidz in the Hall frontman has been criminally overlooked for most of his career and sadly 2009 was no different.

 

Naledge originally put together an all-star mixtape entitled Chicago Picasso, which was intended to be given away for free. However, label Duck Down recognized the project’s album quality and put up the funds to give it an official release. The tape presented a well-rounded perspective of Chi-town’s Hip-hop sound, and featured guest spots from Jay Electronica, Mickey Factz, Chip the Ripper, and Rhymefest.

 

In December, Naledge and partner in crime Double O reupped for the free, LRG-sponsored mixtape The Professional Leisure Tour. The concept album EP follows the pair through an important tour that puts an emotional strain on the relationships with their significant others.

 

This year, the Kidz in the Hall return with a new album in March (Land of Make Believe), and possibly Naledge’s long-awaited solo Naledge Is Power.

 

Standout Songs: “We Gone,” “Star Struck,” “Cool Relax”

 

 

Lupe Fiasco

For Lupe, 2009 was not about the start, but how you finish.

 

The early part of ’09 was very quiet outside of the leak of “Shining Down.” The rapper made news mostly agreeing to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in an effort to bring awareness to the worldwide water crisis.

 

In October fans received an unexpected treat with the Jimi Hendrix-sampling joint “Fire.” Next came the Enemy of the State: A Love Story mixtape, showcasing Lupe in top form over tracks from Dirty Money (“Angels Remix”), Jay-Z (“Thank You”), and Slaughterhouse (“The One”).

 

His demand increased so much that his fans went into a uproar when he canceled December’s mixtape (Friend of the People) due to his Mount Kilimanjaro training. And much to the rapper’s dismay, another proposed Lasers track leaked “I’m Beaming” on Christmas Eve night.

 

Look for Lupe to wow critics and fans again when Lasers drops in the first quarter.

 

Standout Songs: “Fire,” “Thank You Freestyle,” “Shining Down”

 

 

Verdict

Whether it was turning fellow elite emcees to mere sparring partners on “Forever,” or overkill on Mariah Carey with the self-deprecating “The Warning,” Eminem was the dominant Midwest emcee in 2009. Relapse, the Refill EP, and his various guest spots were more than enough to accommodate fans who’ve patiently waited since 2003’s Encore.

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