As we close out on the year, I wanted to share a bit of my thoughts on Hip-Hop's Hits and Misses. The year 2013 was a mixed bag for genre indeed. Here's some of the good and the bad.
Hit – Joey Bada$$
It blows my mind that a guy this talented is only 18 years old. Ever since I heard Joey Bada$$’s first mixtape 1999, I've been telling people that he's the second coming of Nas. I know it’s a bold claim, but young Joey’s latest mixtape, Summer Knights, has proven that the comparisons are valid. I spent my entire summer listening to Summer Knights on repeat and it never got old. Joey Bada$$ is set to drop his first LP in a few months, and if it’s anything like his mixtapes, he’ll have himself a great career.
Miss – I Am Not A Human Being II
It’s bad…real bad. Trust me.
Hit – Old-School Rappers
Eminem’s Marshal Mathers LP 2 is the latest in a string of great albums released by old-school cats. For me, the trend started a year ago with Nas’ Life Is Good and continued into 2013. My personal favorites were Ghostface Killah who released a unique-sounding, but really good concept album called Twelve Reasons To Die, and Talib Kweli, who delivered in a big way with Prisoner of Conscious, one of the year’s most underrated albums. This trend is set to continue with Q-Tip and The Roots each set to release another record and add to their impressive discographies.
Hit & Miss – Yeezus
Kanye West’s latest musical venture is the most polarizing record of the year and has its good parts and bad parts. Let’s start with the good. Yeezus is unlike anything you're gonna hear on the radio today, so I give major props for uniqueness. Also, Yeezy touches upon some interesting subject matter. With that being said, lyrically, Yeezus isn’t impressive and the record seemed like its production was either rushed or lazily put together. I'm also not buying that it’s some kind of avant-garde revelation. In fact, it sounds like the three-way lovechild of Tyler, the Creator, Kid Cudi, and Kanye West himself. Despite my criticisms, Yeezus is still a pretty good album. But I don’t think it’s as good as some people claim. It’s a B+ album getting A+ grades.
Hit – The Return of Busta Rhymes
For me, Busta Rhymes died in 2006. What we've had for the past few years has been a cheap knock-off who’s been hanging around with the Young Money crew. However, it seems the old Busta Bus is coming back. His latest single with Q-Tip, “Thank You” is a throwback to the Busta Rhymes who was one of the top MC’s of his day. He also collaborated with Q-Tip on a mixtape called The Abstract & The Dragon, which was dedicated to their old-school fans. I can only hope that Busta Rhymes’ next album will keep this same spirit so we can get back the Dungeon Dragon we know and love.
Miss – “Control” Hysteria
This summer, Kendrick Lamar took social media hostage when everyone started freaking out when he called out a number of rappers in his verse on “Control.” Now, I've already said my piece on this so I won’t rant too much. But I highly doubt that one verse will undo years of commercial horseshit.
Hit – Nostalgia
2013 was a year of anniversaries. Not only was it the 40th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop, but also that of several classic records. Midnight Marauders, Doggystyle, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and 93 ‘til Infinity turned 20 this year while The Black Album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ celebrated a decade of greatness. Expect the nostalgia to continue into 2014, as College Dropout and Madvillainy will celebrate their 10-year anniversaries as well.
Miss – The Mania of Kanye West
Despite the success of Yeezus, 2013 hasn’t been very kind to Mr. West. Kanye’s gotten so much negative media coverage that people even believed a joke article about him claiming to be the next Nelson Mandela. Now a lot of Yeezy stans say that the mainstream white hegemony is trying to tear him down. To be honest, there may have been some truth to that in the past, but I’m not buying it this time. Let’s not act like Kanye West is a paragon of virtue. This a guy who wears jackets with Confederate flags on them and tried to sell plain white t-shirts for $120. However, Ye has a lot of deep things to say but just sometimes doesn’t know how to say them, and the media takes advantage of him. The people who interview him aren’t fully appreciative of his musical genius and ask him questions in order to goad him into saying some bombastic horseshit, and I'm sick of it. They should be asking him questions like what was it like when he first met J Dilla or why likes the remix of “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” more than the original, instead of why he thinks he is a god because, quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck.
Hit – Public Enemy’s Induction Into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Of all of the hip-hop acts in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Public Enemy might be the most deserving. The quartet fronted by Chuck D and Flavor Flav became just the fourth hip-hop act to be inducted into the Hall. And while Flav was busy disgracing black people with his reality show on VH1, Chuck D has been the conscience of the hip-hop community and has been serving as hip-hop’s premier elder statesman. Even though their music doesn’t get same buzz it did 20 years ago, PE is still making records, good ones at that.
Miss – Magna Carta…Holy Grail
It’s time for Jay-Z to hang up the mic. Magna Carta…Holy Grail was one of the most average and unimpressive records of the year. What makes it even worse is that came from a guy like Jay-Z, someone who is considered a legend in his field. It seems that Hov is focused more on making millions than making records. He’s trying to do both, but clearly his heart isn’t in rhyming anymore.