This is a little late, and has already been posted, but I wrote this a while ago and forgot about it, so here is my top ten hip hop tracks of the year, officially. Plus, a defense, I guess, of a genre that no longer needs defending but I still feel obligated to defend.
Top Ten of 2006:
Rich Boy – Throw Some D’s
T.I. – Bankhead / What You Know
Young Jeezy ft. Timbaland – 3 A.M.
Clipse – Hello New World
Cadillac Don and J-Money – Peanut Butter and Jelly
B.G. ft. Mannie Fresh – Move Around
Young Money / Lil Wayne – Ballin’
Rick Ross – Hustlin’
Bun B, Devin the Dude, FT – So Tired
I wasn’t too excited about anything hip hop related for the last couple of months, although that Clipse record got a lot more play than my critical engagement with it would admit, but I stumbled onto Rich Boy’s Throw Some D’s
and was immediately right back there with it. I’ve been a pretty huge proponent of Southern Hip Hop since the minute I first heard it, mainly because I’ve always been a pretty huge proponent of the South in general, but listening to Throw Some D’s
reminded me of everything great about certain strands of southern hip hop. Great synths, lush-as-fuck production, no sweat: It’s just ultimately so smooth. I’ve been pretty ok with some of the more recent Northeast hip hop records, namely the Roots and the new Nas, but in the end, Lil’ Wayne and Young Money sound a lot better riding on top of that We Fly High
beat than Jim Jones does. Yankees just don’t sound right on southern-sounding beats. Sorry, y’all.
I was thinking recently about the fact that when I was eighteen and getting my mind blown by Illmatic
that I had no idea that hip hop was being made at that time that was so totally wild and different from that minimal, grimy New York sound I was dealing with. I’m thinking of all the scenes in Houston and Atlanta and New Orleans that had been going on for years but were starting to gain some degree of prominence on the backs of people like Organized Noise and 8Ball & MJG and UGK. Compared to Nas, these dudes sounded, and sound, like they’re coming from outer space. I’ve been arguing for a while that modern southern hip hop is ultimately almost psychedelic, but that’s probably not too far out there of a claim. I’ll let 8Ball’s declarations that you better be smoking a swisha sweet
filled with the stickiest of green
speak for me. Those dudes basically sound like they could have been on Stax Records anyway, and have you seen that video for Lil Jon’s admittedly mediocre Snap Ya Fingers
? Psychedelics aside, what’s important is that the turn towards the kind of lush and orchestral production, or even, minimal snap / Collipark bullshit that I don’t dig, or, even, the Timbaland craziness that I can’t get enough of, was something I wasn’t prepared for in the least. The level of creativity that would eventually emerge out of the South is effectively mindblowing, primarily on a production level, but also in the kind of holistic mc-with-producer track that the south does so well. I mean, the chorus on Ha
kills me every single time, and it’s the product of basically the perfect relationship between Juvenile and Mannie Fresh, producer and mc. The wild thing is the amount of southern hip hop songs that have the exact same feel, songs that just sound so complete, production that matches so perfectly with mc and with hot southern days. There’s an ambiance to classic southern records, whether from New Orleans, Texas, or Atlanta, that I just can’t find in anything that doesn’t have thick Texan drawls or heavy synths or wild New Orleans handclaps.
John asked me recently why I liked Southern hip hop thing so much, and I think that it ultimately breaks down to the fact that I have a hard time imagining how anyone that’s not from the South can really appreciate Southern Hip Hop. I mean, I know its not really true, and that the idea that Southern hip hop is still a regional phenomenon is obviously not really the case, but its pretty heavy regionalism, at least aesthetically but also in terms of Gold teeth and heavy chevys and talking slow
, holds out some kind of hope for stylistic distinction in terms of region and locality in music. There can be a tendency towards feeling like music is becoming increasingly homogenous, but Southern hip hop, whether in New Orleans bounce or DJ Screw and slow Houston Drawls or Chuck Brown covering Its Goin’ Down
for over a half hour, proves that regional variation is alive and well and only growing increasingly diverse. And, I mean, Southern Hip Hop isn’t really all that new and exciting anymore, but every once in awhile, Throw Some D’s
shows up and its hard to imagine listening to anything north of the Mason-Dixon.