A Year Ago, Some Friends of Mine... Why Hip-Hop Didn't Suck in '06

It’s spring – the short skirts are out, the Yankees are a handful of games

back (the Pirates are nearly mathematically out of it), and most

Hip-Hop junkies are speaking about what releases are to come in the

remaining two and a half quarters of 2007.

Not me.

I look forward to Pharoahe Monche’s Desire; I hope Jean Grae keeps her promise of three releases in as many quarters; I can use a few more leaked Kanye West tracks too. Still, my iPod, my CD rack, and my most current milkcrate is still stuck in the past – 2006 to be right and exact.

One of my biggest qualms with the near death of Hip-Hop has been its

reliance on looking into the horizon rather than celebrating its

footprints in the dark. This is not a new phenomenon either. I can

recall Ja Rule’s campaign for Pain is Love was half dedicated to speaking about The Last Temptation.

Master P pioneered this with his No Limit catalog inserts too. While

neither example likely speaks to the fundamentalist Hip-Hopper, let us

not forget that both artists arguably half-stepped honorable albums

(well…Ghetto D) for that tired adage, “strike while the iron’s hot.”

In December, I looked back on the year past with a bitter taste in my

mouth. So much about the way we listen to albums changed. The computer

and copious hard drives encourage hoarding, clicking through tracks,

and most certainly the download replaced the UPC scan. Moreover, most

of the radio stations

I follow showed their true new colors in all but ignoring Hip-Hop

without pretty packaging. MTV continued to show me more of what’s in

Ghostface’s house than what’s actually on his album. And the same label

that made stars out of The Geto Boys and Do or Die, seemed to

exclusively test Trae’s album on the long-thought perception that you

can go gold without leaving Texas. I was disgusted, and blaming it, as

I admittedly still do, on every rapper whose name begins with a

“Young”, a “Lil’”, or is young enough to get a paper crown with their

meal at Burger King.

2006 was not all bad – not in the least. I am convinced that The Roots

released the best album of their careers. A part-time Philadelphia

resident myself, I can honestly say that the gestalt of music provided

on Game Theory

is very reflective of every inch of this city. Equally, Black Thought

had more to say than ever before, and when he needed a breath, Malik B.

was right there beside him again – as well as a pointed Peedi Peedi.

Rawkus Records, a label that had seemingly been reduced to a staff of

owners, returned with Kidz N The Hall, a duo that (I think) can compete

in a round-robin tournament with Black Star and

Company Flow. However, less than six years after the arrival of the

aforementioned groups, it was difficult to find the sickle logo in

stores, let alone on airwaves. School Was My Hustle is everything The College Dropout couldn’t tell you. It’s leaving an Ivy League school only to go for broke with the taste of champagne dreams leading the way.

This isn’t just about that bastardized label of “conscious” Hip-Hop

either. Frankly, I would much prefer if DJs would spin “What You Know”

right now than the ad-lib driven, “Big S**t Poppin’.” The Chronic was burned right until the can of Dogg Food opened, and a true King is he who can get his album played for two years, not one. Potential is being wasted for the misperception of relevance.

There was comeback and reinvention. Although Mac Dre followers may’ve

caught feelings, E-40 became the face and mouthpiece of Hyphy. My Ghetto Report Card

is brilliant. For the first time since the early ‘90s, a Bay artist was

getting exposure in several core markets. But instead of carrying a

wonderful album into the next year, the same listeners are demanding

that Mistah F.A.B., The Pack, and others push the envelope further.

Why is nobody talking about Nas or Jay-Z right now? It’s taken me six months to realize that Kingdom Come,

beats aside, is the sound of Hip-Hop’s balls dropping. 9th Wonder, Soul

Supreme, Dangermouse – where the f**k you at? Somebody remix this, put

the oven on reheat, and get these kids to digest Jigga’s whole-wheat

wisdom. Hip Hop is Dead was the antihero to Jigga’s

straightforward approach. Now united (and it felt alright), why can’t

we hold these albums up together and get a good look at two distinct

voices saying the same thing – “wake up!”

But you didn’t, I didn’t, we didn’t.

We slept. When Ghost dropped, we wanted T.I., when Game dropped, we

wanted Jay, and when Jay dropped, we politicked about Nas. Now it’s a

year late and a few million shorter, and instead of giving Young Buck

his props, it’s 50/T.I. fever again. We’re more hung up on if we’ll

ever get Detox than recognizing Timbaland’s evolution as a

visionary. Lil’ Wayne’s cornball one-liners on “We’re Taking Over”

sadly prevail over Redman’s wordplay throughout Red Gone Wild.

Don’t even get me started on the independent scene. Devin the Dude gets

more press than a fresh boob job, and “your favorite rappers’ favorite

rapper” still can’t get on the radio.

Rock the Bells has the potential to be our Woodstock, and it sold out on both coasts. Everybody is riled up to see Wu-Tang Clan

and Murs, as they ought to be. But why is this same passion not felt in

radio, in video, or in most mainstream press? Rappers – the great ones

– have become proverbial 1950s housewives – preferred seen and not

heard. Rappers are in danja.

Jake Paine is the Features Editor of AllHipHop.com and can be reached at Paine@AllHipHop.com.


views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of AllHipHop.com

or its employees.