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2007 Rap Recap: What It Was, What It Is… Pt. I


-BET’S ‘American Gangster’
What It Was: This time last year, I was getting more excited about loosely rap-related television- BET’s ‘American Gangster’and ‘Ego Trip’s ‘White Rapper Show’- than any actual rap music. ‘American Gangster’ was a surprise because it easily could’ve been a stupid exploitative “hood” show and I still would’ve watched. Instead, it was an incredibly nuanced and determinately moral show. When ‘106 & Park’ “flashback” videos means like, ‘Headsprung’ by LL Cool J, BET Uncut was long fucking gone, and the moronic programmers haven’t realized it’s a bad idea to program late-night reruns of ‘Girlfriends’ on BET and BET Jazz, ‘American Gangster’ stood out.

Related Blog: You Should Watch: ‘American Gangster’.

What It Is: The second season was equally stellar, the first season is out on DVD and the show finally got a few shout-outs from the press and even that, was primarily as a sidebar to the swagger-jacking turd that was Ridley Scott’s ‘American Gangster’. Curmudgeon Stanley Crouch wrote a smart article contrasting the amorality and simplicity of the film with the show, but you know, the show was the same a year before when Crouch probably dismissed it without ever seeing it. All of this is even more grotesque when looking back at 2007, a year where, arguably, the attack on rap grew even more absurd. Critics praise Scott’s weird hood cash-in as somehow being real because he had a lot of money for hyper-accurate set-design and vague pretensions to “complex” morality that’s more Jeezy than Jay-Z- or once was, ‘American Gangster’ (the exploitative album not the exploitative film) is equally disingenuous…

-Ego Trip’s ‘The White Rapper Show’
What It Was: Who knew the White Rapper Show would’ve been engaging on that great-but-gross reality show way and have a like, surprising ability to suddenly be making plenty of comments on current rap culture? Well, I had a feeling because the title is prefaced with “Ego Trip’s” but still! From its ultimately sympathetic approach to “wiggers” and rap-loving rednecks, to weird indirect comments on “stop snitching” and class issues, and like, actually good guest appearances from rappers, I knew where I was every Monday from 10-11 PM.

What It Is: The new season is coming out soon and the hook this year is female rappers which doesn’t sound as entertaining, but I’m willing to let the Ego Trip guys take me there. It’s all a little bittersweet because just a few weeks ago, Elliot Wilson was dropped from XXL which is pretty depressing and a genuine blow for smart, popular coverage of rap. Wilson’s aggressive style made him look foolish- the magazine was nowhere near as good as he pretended it was- but I’d buy at least a few issues a year, while I’d skim through the SOURCE in 10 minutes and avoid VIBE like some kind of vaguely hipster metrosexual-vying-for-street-cred plague.

Related Blogs: Episodes 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.

-DJ Drama & the Mixtape Crackdown
What It Was: DJ Drama’s ‘Gangsta Grillz’ series was an always engaging bunch of mixtapes that could guarantee a few great songs at the least and sometimes, were way better than the artist’s actual albums. The idea was simple- put good rappers over other rappers’ good beats- and it worked; they started popping up in malls, record stores, and end-of-the-year lists. I found the whole mixtape craze really fun and like, the last bit of music fan nerd-dom left in an iPOD crazy world. The poor fidelity, the annoying sound effects, the crappy no-name rappers, the covertness of it all- I already bemoaned the absence here- was just really, really, great and DJ Drama was the KING of good, bad tapes. Every douche in the world would drop the “Hedoesn’tevendoanythinghesuxxxx” speech, but he compiled the series and made them compulsively listenable and even his annoying drops seemed perfectly place, adding to the ambiance of it all. Mixtapes quickly dried-up and were replaced by internet-only tapes which gives the same content, but just isn’t as fun.

What It Is: Music sales still suck. Illegal downloading is as crazy as ever; good job RIAA. DJ Drama was initially humbled by it all, refusing to be a total martyr, his recent release of the “meh” ‘Gangsta Grillz: The Album’ has him making a poor man’s DJ Khaled compilation, and ruining the rather momentous ‘Art of Storytelling Pt. 4′ with a closing faux-triumphant rant straight out of a Ric Flair wrestling tape. I had some silly idealistic hopes for Drama, thinking he would take his talent for compilation to “real” record labels, but he didn’t. Maybe the guy needs money for legal bills, but it was depressing when the first single had the same cast as every other “Southern Banger” this year…I thought maybe we’d get something odd or unpredictable, like sticking Little Brother or something on the track but no…and while we’re at it, why won’t all these entertaining-for-a-verse guys just make a whole album? They should just be a crew: Fat Joe, Baby, Rick Ross, Akon.

-R.I.P Disco D
What It Was: The guy who made ‘Ski Mask Way’ killed himself? Even if you knew more about the dude, that’s usually how you framed it to friends only to later elaborate on Disco D’s varied and interesting career. It’s always grotesque to intellectualize someone’s death- especially a suicide- but he was but one more example of the porous borders between rap and other genres and yes, the genuine influence of much hated-upon “hipster” types on the genre. That Trick Daddy song he made is pretty amazing.

What It Is: There was a very good and affecting article printed over the summer on Disco D’s career and his “ups and downs”.

-Rich Boy’s ‘Throw Some Ds’
What It Was: Upon first hearing this song, I declared it the ‘Stay Fly’ of 06/07, that like perfect fucking rap single that you usually get like, one, maybe two of each year. The beat, especially those perfectly warm but a little futuristic synth boops, grabbed you right away (along with Polow’s “dick on the wall” line!) but the vague melancholy of it made it stick around.

What It Is: ‘Throw Some Ds’ sort of came out at the worst time. Late 2006, but not late enough to be considered a song of 2007, it sort of sat there in between and by the time Rich Boy’s self-titled album came out in like March, there was too much build-up. Just as ‘Throw Some Ds’ slowly wormed its way into every type of rap fan’s head, Rich Boy’s album or at least, the really good tracks stuck around. He’s underrated amongst the asshole hater fan who laughed at ‘Throw Some Ds’ because it was Southern and about cars and then slowly, after the initial hype decided to like it, but Rich is overrated amongst his supporters- which includes me- because it’s hard to truly praise the dude. He’s got potential, which isn’t the sort of thing you say about a guy who already dropped his debut, but oh well. ‘Let’s Get This Paper’ is undeniably great as a big dumb Southern rap song or a smart social commentary rap track.

-Monique’s Favorite Singles 2007

0. UGK Ft. Outkast *’Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)’: This is no place holder. It’s above the contention of the rest of this list.

1. Playaz Circle Ft. Lil Wayne ‘Duffle Bag Boy’: I was sort of blown away at this song on first listen. It’s got a great hook via Lil Wayne but sort of lacking otherwise. It works really well overall because of the consistently changing tone between and within Wayne’s hook and Playaz Circle’s verses. Also, had a “real” rap video (see No. 3).

2. Gorilla Zoe ‘Hood Figga’: Long hair: Yellow, White, Red, Brown. That Zelda-esque flute noise is amazing.

3. Kanye West *’Stronger’: I thought this was the best of the three KW singles. I think he really bombed out on the order these were released. I think this would have worked better as the first single because it’s more representative of the album than ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ or ‘Good Life’. It’s the most widely digestible of the three and had a video and sample that stood out. The video is not a “real” rap video; it’s more of an artsy homage to an experience in the future (will we be wearing jean vests?). Truth is: maybe the future isn’t much different than right now…remember when KW had to wait a year for everything? He’s still waiting.

4. Lil Boosie feat. Foxx and Webbie ‘Wipe Me Down’: Better than “Crank That”. Shoulder, Chest, Pants, Shoes.

I didn’t really think that the “Crank That” craze was a bad thing…it’s more so that it just wasn’t that good; I never really liked steel drums in the first place.

5. Lloyd *’Get It Shawty’: I’m really into these sort of-Aphex Twin beats. The idea was my first noted by my since passed friend in reference to Akon and Snoop Dog- “I Wanna Love You”. But it’s really Lloyd’s use of the word “weight” in this song that blew my mind. Things that we define as “real” usually have “weight”. So, it seems like a quick, deep way of making this dancing experience that Lloyd is singing about seem more meaningful.

Also, Lloyd has this great Michael Jackson “Rock With You”-like persona that I can’t deny.

6. 50 Cent ‘I Get Money’: On “Curtis vs. Kanye day”, I remember walking down Main Street in Newark, DE and at least 3 cars drove by…windows down…blasting this. These two people in front of me basically said “aw real cool, blast the single”. But that’s what is so good about it.

This also happened during football season at school and I had this “great idea” for this football team anthem “I run New-Ark”, get it?

7. Bobby Valentino ‘Anonymous’: It’s no secret- I think BV is really good on the singles. I’m still not over ‘Slow Down’. This song strikes this Foreigner “chord” with me and maybe that was what Timbo was going for…but I like that “chord”.

8. Baby Boy Da Prince ft. Mannie Fresh ‘Naw Meen’: GO DJ! Although I liked ‘This is the Way I Live’, it was sort of this weird thing with my roommate last year where she interpreted it as “hood” or something. That eventually sort of weird-ed me out so I prefer this more impenetrable BBDP single.

9. Musiq Soulchild ‘B.U.D.D.Y’: I really don’t like ‘Teach Me’…but ‘B.U.D.D.Y’ probably should have been a Bobby Valentino song. Therefore, I’m loving it. The video is pretty similar to the video for ‘Slow Down’ but instead of a fantasy, it’s more like Musiq just harassing this girl. And Musiq has the biggest head and face ever…it makes him seem like he has a chubby body type but then he doesn’t. Weird.

10. Swizz Beatz ‘Money in the Bank’: This is favorite of the Swizzy singles. The video is really stupid but I really like how the beat drops out and it was a great radio song. I also really like how its a pretty mean spirited song. But I’m not offended; we all know the “money in the bank” chic is out there and she’s a scary one.

*Denotes albums I purchased in 2007.

Monique’s Favorite Month of Videos (January 2007 Rotation)
-Akon and Snoop Dogg ‘I Wanna Love You’
-Pretty Ricky ‘On the Hotline’
-Lloyd ft. Lil Wayne ‘You’
-Nelly Furtado ft. Timbo ‘Say it Right’
-Rich Boy Ft. Polow da Don ‘Throw Some Ds’
-Birdman and Lil Wayne ‘Leather So Soft’
-Young Jeezy featuring R. Kelly ‘Go Getta’

Written by Brandon

January 18th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

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