Hear ye, hear ye!
The No-Fi King has an announcement for all to take into consideration. As this is potentially the last post of the year from me (Christmas is next week and the week after that is New Year’s Day), I’d like to first give a huge e-high five to Arteest for allowing me the chance to write on this blog–and reminding me that I can voice witty opinions without four-letter words. My mom can now read some of my thoughts…if she, you know, understood “that damn interwebnets” and/or had a computer.
She was born pre-Korean War.
Anywho, as promised, here are the winners and losers of 2013 (in hip-hop). Some of these choices will be controversial, some will probably get me death stares and/or threats when I walk in the street. But, let me remind you that if I’m thinking it, there are probably many others who are thinking the same doggone thing. Losers and winners are not exactly based off of lyrical content or anything–more so who’s had the worst year (or who had a great 2013, but will probably fail because of their 2013, if that makes sense). Also, my apologies for the male artist-skewed list.
2 Chainz: Say you’re a thirty-something rapper who’s had many setbacks but finally get on to a degree. You achieve success, fame, recognition–even have white people know who you are. And then, you go from being the guy who had a Comeback Season more fawned over than Blake Griffin’s, to a failed comeback by doing the following:
1) Being arrested in Maryland for drugs
2) Being arrested (again) for weed and promethazine
3) Being robbed near a “marijuana dispensary” in San Fran at gunpoint and becoming a laughingstock (note: being robbed itself is not funny, nor is violence. However, the video of this incident is just…sad)
4) Being pulled over for a traffic light–and then being cited for drugs and guns and…
5) Having an album drop and then having said album drop from peoples’ conscious almost a week after its release.
Now, Mr. T*** Two Necklace is still, obviously, doing his thing. But, these actions have most certainly placed him in the loser category.
J. Cole: Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Cole went gold! How did he have a bad year?” Well, let’s see. His “response” to “The Almighty ‘Control’ Verse” was brushed off as being “in-character,” “Let Nas Down” was potentially one of the most pandering songs in the history of modern hip-hop–even though it does touch on absent father syndrome. On top of that, Cole’s album was forgotten about in a similar fashion as Chainz’s. Sure, he outsold Yeezus, for a bit. But, aside from “Crooked Smile,” most people probably couldn’t name a song off of Born Sinner unless they listened to the whole thing and/or were fans of Cole. I enjoyed the album, but I’m just stating facts. Plus, he seems to look like he’s about to break down and cry 9.68 times out of ten. But, I mean, he’s potentially getting married to his college sweetheart. For that, I’d typically move him to the winners’ section. But, overall, he’s taken quite a few L’s this year.
Wale: Mr. Folarin, I want to say this in advance. I don’t think you are a bad person. I actually enjoy a lot of your music. Hell, “Dig Dug” was the first song I heard when I stepped on UMD’s campus, so your music was always a part of my young adulthood…and stuff. I do think, however, that you’ve allowed your ego to surpass your talent. It happens. Kanye is an example of this (we’ll get to him later). But, at least with Kanye, he’s got clout to back up his behaviors. You, at this point, don’t exactly have that same cushion to fall back on. That’s not me being a bitter indie artist or an overly-critical music blogger. Based on your catalog, mixtapes included, you have less room to go all “Phuket, Thailand” every time someone says something that upsets you.
With that said, where do we begin regarding your fails this year? Your hissy fit (and eventual self-depreciation) over the Complex article list where Juicy J’s album was declared better than yours? You (apparently) deactivating your Twitter after Sace f/k/a Southeast Slim got at you on “Forever Hitter Quitter?” The Gifted being, aside from 2-3 songs, inferior compared to Ambition? It seems this year, aside from bringing Fat Trel to MMG, Wale’s wins were supplemented by losses. And, honestly, it’s damn sad–not even because he’s a local dude
(who maybe allowed part of his hometown story to be fabricated a bit), though. It’s because he doesn’t seem made for fame, but he still seemingly feels like he’s got an obligation to put out stuff. So, until he leaves the drug of success alone, we’ll have to deal with his antics just like our next loser–unless he grows a thicker skin. It’s imperative, Wale, for you to grow a thicker skin before this game eats you alive. But, before we get to the next on our list, I’ve got to give a giant F*** You to Complex for taking this whole thing and turning it into a “look at this ni black rapper guy, he’s making us scared so we’re going to belittle him even more than we already have” freak-show.
At least when I did it above, I still have hope that Wale could grow as a human (more on that later).
Kanye West: Enough said. Save me the psychobabble, and the “he’s circumventing black thought through embracing white people” crap. The guy lost this year. Yeezus sucked. Nothing he did was profound. Get over it.
The Return of the Hii-Fivver
People Who Thought Kendrick/Drake Would Grow Into A Large Beef: It’s almost 2014, people. Large-scale beefs don’t happen anymore. If they do, they’ll pretty much be limited to Twitter beef and a couple of “it could be a diss if you think about it hard enough” shots.
Gucci Mane: Umm…yeah. Gucci, I’m not a fan of yours, but I hope you’ve gotten your [stuff] together.
Lorde: Now, this is probably going to turn some heads. First of all, I’m listing Lorde because whatever she does after this first album, it’ll forever be compared to the first time we were introduced to her (for most, this was “Royals”). It’s a similar situation with Lady Gaga. Critics (and some fans), however, always seem to go back to The Fame when looking at, for instance, Artpop. Granted, Artpop wasn’t epic, but it wasn’t Born this Way. Lorde will probably suffer from this more because, at seventeen, she was able to talk on some things (most) adult acts shy from–which brings me to my second point.
Secondly, Lorde’s made my list of losers of 2013 because when you really look at her work, it’s not all that profound or deep. It’s simple stuff that doesn’t address a problem, but glosses over it, opting more for catchiness and self-degradation. Let’s focus on the (now-overplayed) “Royals.” It comments on consumerism, the divide of New Zealand’s classes, and so on. But, what some may miss in Lorde is just as much a part of the problem that she’s speaking on as anything. To simply put it, she can sing, but the lyrical “depth” isn’t worth anything. My almost three-year-old was able to, in preschool-speak, decipher the meaning behind it. Put away the pitchforks, people. I’m just stating my opinion on her.
Honorable Mentions: Miley Cyrus (too easy) and R. Kelly (Seriously, Kellz. No one wants to hear you singing about how much you want to marry the…yeah…).
And now, for some winners:
Beyoncé: She’s not exactly hip-hop, but she put out an album that’s–at the time I’m writing this–gold with no promotion, no buzz, and no sort of conventional use of her resources. She went all DIY indie rap artist (DOUBLE shameless plug) and dropped it randomly and told people to go get it. And, well, they did. Now, whether or not you think it’s really the “puppet masters” buying copies or not, the album did numbers that no album has on iTunes. That’s saying something about your win percentage right off the bat.
Wale: How does Wale, a guy who I kind of ripped into earlier get a winner’s sticker as well? Well, rest assured, I wasn’t coerced into it (although I am, however, still waiting on my signed copy of Ambition) or anything crazy like that. He’s starting to, even with his “Wale Moments,” show (tiny increments of) growth, as mentioned above. The “I Got My Tool” Instagram showcases a lot more of the Wale that he doesn’t exactly show in his music. Perhaps if he did allow himself to have more fun musically, he’d be able to get more recognition/media attention. That’s not to say, “Hey Wale, make an album about selling coke and such,” but more a “hey Wale, everything doesn’t need to be so thought-provokingly serious all the time.” I mean, he’s still highly “sensitive,” but there seems to be hope. Plus, Wale has aided a couple DMV cats to gaining more mainstream recognition. Whether or not he could/should do more is another argument entirely, but more people know about, say, Fat Trel than they did last year.
About ten years ago, this delusion would’ve been truth for most underground rappers. For some…it still is. We see you, but we will not say anything.
Indie rap: Call it the Macklemore Effect (ugh…and I say “ugh” because a few years ago, it would’ve been called the “Tech N9ne Effect,” but now “everyone” is heralding Macklemore as their unthreatening rap savior), but more people are starting to look outside the radio for good music. Not all indie rap is good, but at least with a variety, people can choose what works for them. Artists from Tech N9ne to yours truly have dropped projects this year and again, while the quality may sometimes lack the “big dog” feel, the heart’s still there. Gone are the days of the pasty nerdcore rapper and the wannabe thug on dial-up posting songs on Soundclick. Heck, gone are the days where people used Soundclick as their go-to for underground rap, but that’s neither here nor there really. Now? Indie rap is being taken quite seriously. You have indie artists appearing on “Top Ten” lists that aren’t just online.
Big K.R.I.T: Sticking with the indie rap idea, KRIT’s King Remembered in Time album/mixtape was better than a lot of peoples’ albums. I consider it indie because, even though K.R.I.T has a deal with Def Jam and such, he put this one out on his own a la 2010’s K.R.I.T wuz Here and all but delivered a bona-fide sequel to that classic. Plus, K.R.I.T’s been getting around these days, with collaborations, touring with Talib Kweli and Macklemore, and just a slew of other stuff. I’d like to say that the sky’s the limit for Mr. Live from the Underground. If he continues, K.R.I.T could take over that Southern Wise Man spot left open by the departure of Pimp C and the reduced workload of Big Boi and Andre 3000. Either that or he’ll continue to just make good-a** music. Either way, we all win, and that’s what’s important.
[Safe for Work GIF Not Applicable, apparently]
Danny Brown: I’m not a huge fan of the guy, and I’m not really a fan of “let’s do drugs and do crazy [stuff] rap,” but Danny Brown deserves a win based off the fact that this guy’s been through hell (some of which, he admits, he caused himself).
Honorable Mentions: The Weeknd and the DMV music scene
And that, my friends, is how you do an end-of-year list. You take some good, some bad, some meh, and you actually think about what made each thing the way it is/was. Hopefully, I haven’t bored/offended any of you in the past few months I’ve been working with Arteest and the blog. If anything, I hope you’ve learned something, you’ve been entertained, and you’re able to grow from my mistakes, miscues, and thoughts. If I’ve bored or offended you, feel free to contact me on Twitter to rant and rave about it. Barring anything amazing happening, I’ll see you guys on New Year’s Day with my list of Hip-Hop Hopes For 2014. Same #TWIHH time (2PM EST), same #TWIHH station.
Random sidebar: my mom worked at the Baltimore School of the Arts while Pac attended. She, apparently, thought he was headed for great danger if he didn’t change his ways.