Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year in Music: 2006

The following piece also appears at Machine Gun It just so happens to be the last thing I'll ever write for MGF, so if you were to print this up and take it to the bathroom, it'd be a collector's item. Please wash your hands.

Album of the Year: Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor…M'boy from the "Nick'a Please" days first turned me on to Lupe well before his album was released. From there, I found some of Fiasco's mixtape material from the local mom n' pop record shop. For most of '06, Nick and I had a mutual CD burning exchange program and he hooked me up with Food & Liquor. It's a daring, risky and spectacular debut. Just the shot of substance that the industry needed.

Plus, it was stolen when my car was broken into a few weeks ago. If that's not the sign of a hot album, I don't know what is!

Song of the Year: "One Blood" (Remix), The Game featuring Jim Jones, Snoop Dogg, Nas, T.I., Fat Joe, Lil' Wayne, N.O.R.E., Jadakiss, Styles P, Fabolous, Juelz Santana, Rick Ross, Twista, Kurupt, Daz Dillinger, WC, E-40, Bun B, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug, Young Dro, Clipse and Ja Rule…

Yeah, I can't believe it, either. The words "song of the year" appearing next to names like "Chamillionaire", "T.I." and "Styles P".

Clocking in at over 11 minutes, this one gets the nod from me simply by being the most ambitiously prolific rap release I've ever heard. The Game has probably burned the bridges of support that were built for him on the East Coast during his whole "scorch the earth" feud with almost everyone in the industry. Still, even accounting for the lyrical shortcomings of some of the performers, it's the closest thing to "unity" we've had since that Queen Latifah track from 1993 ("Who you callin' a bitch?!")

Story of the Year: Well, of course the death of James Brown trumps all. IP's Eric Szulczewski penned a respectful tribute to the hardest working man in show business back on Christmas Day.

So, with that avenue covered, I'm going with the abject collapse of rap music sales as my (runner-up) story of the year.

My "album of the year" has so far moved about 200,000 units. I'd put The Game's Doctor's Advocate as my silver medalist and after selling about 350K (and debuting at #1) its first week, it slid right out of the top 10 the following week.

Those in the industry point to the runaway success of ringtones and legal downloads as the preferred way for fans to hear the music they want, but the 800 lb. elephant in the room can be ignored.

Rap music's current commercial state is…not good. Southern rappers have cooned the product right back to slave days. Meanwhile, the usually surefire success stories are releasing the exact same tracks that they were five years ago (Jay-Z, Nas, The Wu-Tang Jive Time Band) and ten years ago (Snoop Dogg, Tupac).

Sadly, there doesn't appear to be any recovery on the horizon. Hip Hop may not be dead, but the organ harvest team is on standby.

Non-Story of the Year: Every week, I get my haircut at a barbershop in the North Park section of San Diego. It's owned and operated by a brutha who moved out here from New York over 10 years ago. It's the most authentic "barbershop experience" you'll ever find, with loud men, louder music and the occasional bootleg distributor making the rounds.

My barber insists that this is the "New York style" of shops and, if that's the case, one thing is perfectly clear: y'all New York bruthas can cry like some bitches.

If I hear one more sad story about how the "New York" rap game is in trouble or New York artists don't get no radio play or New York artists don't get no promotion…

This just in, East Coast…the entire industry is in trouble, no one outside of Atlanta and its suburbs (y'know, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, etc.) is getting real radio play and, other than Jay-Z, can anyone name any rapper that's gotten any real promotion this year?

Ah, but since New York is the cradle of rap civilization we're all to assume the sky is falling just because these crybabies feel a few drops of rain on their played-out Yankee fitted.

Sorry, East Coast, but you're not immune to the same commercial criticism I'm serving to the South. Y'all heard that Busta Rhymes Big Bang album, right? Garbage. Ditto for just about anything with "G-Unit" on the front or back of the CD case. And, don't get me started on acts like Fat Joe, Diddy and that terrible Theodore Unit album that came out under Ghostface's name a few weeks ago.

Jesus, I feel better, already.

Other '06 Headlines

Three-6 Mafia Win an Oscar - Trust me, kids…Black people weren't happy about this. But, it led to the surreal sight of these clowns on "Ellen", so we'll call it a wash.

1,000,000,000th song downloaded on iTunes - Where were you on February 22 when Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" found its way onto the hard drive of Hayley in Hoboken?

Taylor Hicks wins American Idol - Apparently, first prize was an entire summer spent infesting every show I watched with his silver-maned mincing in that Ford commercial.

Britney Spears and Kevin Federline give birth! - Well, one of 'em does, anyway. Their second child is named Jayden James and he reeks of Old Milwaukee and OxyContin.

Weird Al Yankovic gets first top 10 song - Are you kidding me? Seriously, "Eat It" didn't crack the top 10 back in the '80s? That song was everywhere 20+ years ago. Well, congratulations to Al. Here's hoping this modicum of music success finally opens the doors of the entertainment industry to those of the Jewish faith.

Lance Bass is gay - "You know. Light-hearted, fancy-free. 'Mothers, lock up your daughters! Smithers Lance Bass is on the town!'" Yep, I'm stealing Simpsons quote right up to the end.

In Memoriam

Lou Rawls - Still waiting on that kick down from your United Negro College Fund telethons, Lou. I didn't sit through years of Willie Tyler & Lester and Nipsey Russell begging for our money just so I could pay my own way through school.

Wilson Pickett - I'd just like to point out that m'man Warren G. borrowed Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" for a song (and the title) of his most recent album. Legend-to-legend…always good to see.

J Dilla - Sorry, but there's an unwritten rule here at IP that you can't make fun of dead guys who happen to be the darlings of one or two IP writers, regardless of whether or not said writers had ever written one word about the artist when he/she was alive. We call it the "Dimebag Darrell Edict".

Professor X - Now, this one hurt. Seriously. What? Y'know, Aaron Cameron isn't always in "Bootleg Guy" mode.

Gene Pitney - What the…? I thought she was already dead? Hell, she was born in 1855, so I'm kinda surprised that a 151-year-old woman's passing wasn't a bigger news story. Ironic that she outlived Cicely Tyson, the actress who portrayed her so wonderfully in 1974's…wait, that was Jane Pittman. Their names kinda sound alike.

June Pointer - Was she still in the group when The Pointer Sisters did "Neutron Dance" from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack? I loved that song. And, that movie! Keep your eyes peeled or you'll miss a young Bronson Pinchot and Damon Wayans!

Proof - In the days following the tragic death of this Detroit MC, his best friend Eminem said, "Without Proof there would be no Eminem, no Slim Shady, no D12." A little late for Mathan, but now the rest of you know who to blame.

Billy Preston - 20 solo albums, a pair of number one hits and the dude wrote "You Are So Beautiful". More impressive to me is that he died in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not counting baseball's spring training or the residences of some of the Phoenix Suns, who knew Black folk lived there?

Jessie Mae Hemphill - She was a blues singer or something. Sadly, no relation to the more famous Shirley Hemphill of What's Happening?! and What's Happening Now?! fame, who died a few years ago.

Freddy Fender - Remember when the red states didn't hate Mexicans. Freddy does.

Gerald Levert - Mrs. Bootleg is still grieving. He's supposedly releasing a new album in February which, if Biggie Smalls is any indication, will be lavished with undeserved praise and hailed as a classic, even though it's about 20 songs too long with way too many reaches for radio.

And, that about wraps up our recap of the year that was. I hope you had as much fun uncomfortably laughing at my jokes in poor taste as I did writing them. A special thanks to that Nick'a Please guy for (unknowingly) giving me a few ideas for this piece and for supplying a lot of the music that I didn't pay for this year.

To my readers…have a happy and safe 2007!