2009: Who Was King of the South?

 

2009 was another year where the South took center stage in Hip-Hop’s mainstream consciousness. Lil Wayne took completely over while T.I. prepared himself for prison and Ludacris took the majority of the year off. Gucci and cohorts Soulja Boy, Wocka Flocka, and OJ da Juiceman set the streets ablaze, and Young Jeezy began laying the seeds for his 2010 return. New Orleans hit hard with Curren$y (This Ain’t No Mixtape) and the song of the year in Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C.” Out in Texas, Slim Thug offered a quality LP in Bosses of All Bosses, followed by other releases from newcomer Dorrough, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, and Z-Ro. Tennessee saw albums and mixtapes from DJ Paul, Juicy J, Project Pat, and Young Buck. And in North Carolina Big Pooh (Delightful Bars) and J Cole (The Warm Up) came through with standout projects.

Overall, the South continued to lead and define Hip-Hop’s mainstream sound. And while there will always be issues anytime one region dominates the direction of a global art form, the South cannot be expected to slow down so everyone else can catch up.

 

 

Lil Wayne

The Young Money leader followed up the smashing success of 2008’s Tha Carter III with the announcement of a risky rock-project entitled Rebirth.

The album was slated for early ’09 and generated two charting singles in “Prom Queen,” and “Hot Revolver,” but label Universal never felt comfortable with the anticipation and continually pushed the album back throughout the year. After leaking by accident through Amazon last month, the entire album may be scrapped in favor of new songs. As of now, the album has a tentative February 1 release.

His teaser freestyles “Swag Surf” and “Wasted” had many anticipating his October mixtape No Ceilings as if it were an album. The project showcased Wayne was still hungry following his mega-success in 2008, as he ripped tracks from Fabolous (“Throw It in the Bag Remix”), Noreaga (“Banned from TV”), Kid Cudi (“Make Her Say”), and Jay-Z (“DOA,” “Run This Town”).

Wayne remained in demand for guest spots, penning verses on tracks with Rick Ross (“Maybach Music 2”), Jay Sean (“Down”), Chris Brown (“I Can Transform Ya”), Birdman (“Always Strapped,” “Money to Blow”), Nicki Minaj (“I Get Crazy”), and Drake (“Forever,” “Successful”).

His label’s debut group album We Are Young Money was released on December 21.

This year, Wayne will be unleashing the debuts of his 2 young Money stars Drake and Nicki Minaj, while preparing his own Rebirth and Carter IV LPs.

Standout Songs- “Ice Cream Paint Job Freestyle,” “Swag Surfin’ Freestyle,” “Prom Queen”

 

 

Curren$y

After a staggering 8 quality mixtapes in 2008, Curren$y proved he could translate his skill to an album with his April debut This Ain’t No Mixtape.

Another New Orleans talent in Monsta Beatz handled production, supplying Curren$y with creative beats heavy on synths and melody.

Most artists would be content and rest on that accomplishment, but Curren$y proved himself to be one of the hardest working emcees in Hip-Hop with two mixtape offerings in Jet Files and the Wiz Khalifa collaboration How Fly. The former was almost exclusively smooth, sample-based riding music while the latter maintained as Wiz rhymed a “weed friendly environment,” but with more thump and synths.

This year, Curren$y is poised for even bigger exposure through a new supergroup dubbed Center Edge Territory (Curren$y, Mos Def, Jay Electronica), 2 more mixtapes (Where Is Smokey Robinson, Muscle Car Chronicles), and his sophomore LP The Grand Scheme of Things.

And to think, Young Money had him on the shelf in ’07. Jets, fool.

Standout Songs- “Power Button,” “The Seventies,” “Get It Yourself,” “Blown Away”

 

 

Gucci Mane

Burr! This was a common word throughout many hoods in Hip-Hop, as the self-proclaimed coldest nigga in Atlanta, Gucci Mane, continued his rise to stardom in 2009.

As a staple mixtape artist thought his career, Gucci blessed his devoted fanbase with 6 tapes: The Movie 2, The BurrPrint 3-D aka The Movie 3, and The Cold War Series (Guccimerica, Burrusia, Great Brritian). And as a added bonus, Gucci’s So Icey Entertainment threw in the Wasted: The Prequel EP.

Tracks like the Shawty Redd-produced “Dope Boys,” “Gucci Montana,” and “Burr” contain the irreverent humor that’s made Gucci one the most colorful characters in Hip-Hop.

Warner Bros/Asylum threw money behind their surging star, and strategically placed him on key singles from Mario (“Break Up”), Wale (“Pretty Girls”), Mariah Carey (“Obsessed Remix”), and the Black Eyed Peas (“Boom Boom Pow”).

Gucci’s mixtape deluge and grind saw him become the prominent artist featured at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. Even with other heavyweights like Jay-Z and Snoop performing, Gucci hit the stage 4 times over the course of the evening with his own set and contributions for Soulja Boy, Wale, and Mario.

Gucci’s 2009 end was bittersweet. He was arrested in November for a parole violation, and sentenced to 12 months in prison. This caused him to witness his anticipated album The State vs. Radric Davis post his highest first week sales ever from behind bars.

In personal matters, amends were finally made with long-time rival Young Jeezy. Live on the radio with DJ Drama, the two Atlanta emcees pledged to end their feud that claimed a life and work together next year following Gucci’s release.

For 2010, Gucci plans to drop two albums and complete his State Trilogy, entitled The State vs. Radric Davis: The Appeal and The State vs. Radric Davis: The Verdict.

Standout Songs- “Wasted,” “Dope Boys,” “Worst Enemy”

 

 

Rick Ross

How did Rick Ross rebound from the 2008 exposure of his employment past as a corrections officer? He picked a fight with an emcee that specializes in non-lyrical beef exposures, and also delivered a good album.

Last January, Ross ignited a personal beef with 50 Cent via “Mafia Music,” which ridiculed the Queens mogul’s baby momma drama. The retaliation was swift in 50 recruiting Ross’ own son’s mother to denounce him.

Although multiple disses were recorded, fans latched onto the soap opera elements, which included cartoons, baby momma shopping trips, and books.

This all served as great promotion for Ross’ third album Deeper Than Rap, which debuted #1. The album was helmed by production from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and the Inkredibles, with features from Nas, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Robin Thicke, and John Legend.

Ross followed up the album by inking a distribution deal with Def jam for Triple C’s Custom Cars & Cycles.

After the sales of 50 Cent’s Before I Self-Destruct, Ross credited his beef with ending 50’s sales dominance.

Ross plans to drop his 4th album, Teflon Don, sometime this year.

Standout Songs- “Mafia Music,” “Usual Suspects,” “Cigar Music”

 

 

Young Jeezy

Atlanta crown prince of Trap had another productive year following 2008’s gold-certified Recession album.

Jeezy put in the majority of his work as a feature artist, helping every single he appeared on to chart on Billboard, including Kanye West’s “Amazing,” Ciara’s “Never Ever,” DJ Khaled’s “Fed Up,” Lil Boosie’s “Better Believe It,” and Rihanna’s “Hard.”

For the streets, Jeezy delivered the Trappin’ Ain’t Dead mixtape. In addition, he rekindled his beef with Gucci Man with the diss track “Kobe Lebron.”

Later in the year, cooler heads prevailed and the blood feud was squashed publicly on the radio following Gucci’s conciliatory words on “Worst Enemy.”

With that beef history, Jeezy looks to drop in 2010 his 4th LP Thug Motivation 101, to date scheduled tentatively for a 1st quarter release.

Standout Songs- “Kobe Lebron,” “Dead Or Alive,” “The Underdawg”

 

 

 

 

The Verdict

Love him or hate him, Lil Wayne didn’t rest on his 2008 success. He showed and proved in 2009, especially with the No Ceilings mixtape. He remained in demand for guest appearances, and furthered crossed over with a role as a sports analyst for ESPN. With the Carter IV, the Juelz Santana collaboration I Can’t Feel My Face, and possibly a Hot Boyz Reunion this year, Wayne’s star will continue to blaze.

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