Wednesday, January 30, 2008

XXL Magazine's 100 Biggest Moments in Hip Hop History

Last Saturday, I'm waiting for my barber's chair to open up while filing through the mountain of, umm…"ethnic" magazines that are required reading and mandatory ambiance at every "Sharp Cutz", "Fade to Black" and "N*gga, I'll Cut'cha!" barbershop.

I'd arrived at about 10:10 AM for my weekly 10:00 AM appointment, which meant I was about 20 minutes early. 40 minutes later, I was just getting to the chair, when I realized that I was intently reading a copy of Black Enterprise - the magazine for "Black Professionals".

The 100th issue of rap magazine XXL sat untouched like it was last week's Jet.

Now that I'm officially on a collision course with my mid-30s, could it be that rap music no longer has a place in my life? I've lost count of the friends and colleagues who've given up on the current product, with its trend towards kid-friendly 21st century minstrel shows. And, now I'm reading Black Enterprise at the barbershop? What does this mean?

Answer: It means I have a few months left on my XXL subscription and I'd read their 100th issue already.

This month XXL ranks the 100 Biggest Moments in Hip Hop during the run of their publication. So, we're looking at roughly the last 10 years. Thankfully, Tupac and Biggie died a few months before XXL debuted. We've all had quite enough of them, thank you very much.

Here are some highlights:

100: Cassidy v. Freeway – Battle Rap at The Hit Factory in NYC (May 2000)…How did I miss this?!? Pfft. Cassidy won, apparently. Freeway would go on to drop his debut album a few years later. I (negatively) reviewed it here. This led to the single greatest piece of feedback I've ever received, as a reader responded to my review with: "I used to think you were Black, now I have to question that."

98: The Game gets butterfly tattoo on his face (June 2005)…Just a thought, but maybe the writers at XXL should've trimmed this list to a "Top 97" or something. And, how does it feel to be a rapper who is any way involved with the TWO spots BEHIND this?

90: D-12's Proof dies (April 2006)…Eminem's best friend and hype man dies in a hail of gunfire at a Detroit bar. Can Em find the strength to continue performing in the wake of such a terrible personal tragedy?

87: Eminem steals the show during a live performance at The BET Awards (June 2006)…Here's our answer! I didn't see the show, but those must've been the illest two minutes in broadcast TV history. RIP Proof – six feet under, but only three beneath Eminem!

84: Belly opens in theaters nationwide (November 1998)…This was hailed as some sort of African-American cinematic accomplishment in the Hip Hop community. I've never seen it, so I'll ask: does it steal everything from Scarface, Carlito's Way and The Godfather or almost everything?

83: Big L dies (February 1999)Mathan still mourns.

82: Soulja Slim dies (November 2003)…Ahead of Big L? Umm, don't tell Mathan.

79: West Coast rappers broker industry-wide peace treaty….Sorry all former Death Row Records artists and former enemies of those former artists, but 1996 is not walking through that door. Christ, Sean Young didn't put up this much of a fight when everyone forgot her.

73: C-Murder convicted of murder (September 2003)…Sooo, was this irony or coincidence? That one's always bugged me. Also, for those scoring at home: rapper killing someone trumps rappers dying. Don't let that discourage you, Soulja Boy.

69: Superhead publishes tell-all book (June 2005)…"Superhead" is rap groupie Karrine Steffans. In subsequent interviews, she's compared herself to Gandhi and others who've "changed the course of history". I'll save y'all the $24.95 and tell you that, according to her (*spoiler alert*) rappers nail the chicks who dance in their videos.

67: Famed Houston producer DJ Screw dies (November 2000)…Just keep this in mind when you see what made #66 on the list.

66: 50 Cent crashes Evanescence's acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards (February 2004)…Yup.

63: Busta Rhymes' bodyguard (Israel Ramirez) is shot and killed at music video shoot (February 2006)…Extended rant coming in 3, 2, 1…

62: ODB dies (November 2004)62?! Look…even though the West Coast scene ignored everything coming out of the east during New York's rap renaissance in the early-to-mid '90s, I'd be a fool to deny the sonic impact and influence of Ol' Dirty Bastard and the Wu-Tang Clan. His passing was H-U-G-E. Notwithstanding all of the "subjective" caveats inherent with lists of this nature, this is absolutely bat-sh*t insane and an inexcusable insult. And, with all due respect to the family of Israel Ramirez, these two events aren't in the same solar system.

61: Spelman University students protest Nelly's sponsorship/appearance at on-campus bone marrow drive. (April 2004)…As far as I can tell, the only difference between this and every other anti-rap protest is that the bitching came from young Black folk, instead of old white folk. My favorite part: Nelly cancelled his appearance and the bone marrow drive. Better hope karma doesn't have leukemia, college kids.

57: Suge Knight files for bankruptcy (April 2006)…See #79.

54: 50 Cent makes reported $100 million from sale of his stake in Vitamin Water to Coca-Cola (May 2007)…Wait a minute: 50 is filthy rich?! Why has he never brought up his bank account in any of his songs before?

51: 50 Cent and The Game end their feud (March 2005)…Up to this point, their "feud" had lasted about eight days. This subsequent detente lasted about eight hours, before they went back to beefing – and have been ever since. Non-rap fans: think Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. Same thing.

49: Bay Area rapper Mac Dre is murdered (November 2004)…New Rule: Someone…someone…must be able to name ONE of your songs before your death can place in the top half of a list like this. No disrespect intended, Mac.

48: Mase returns to rap (August 2004)…His 1997 debut sold more than four million copies. His 2004 Welcome Back album barely sold 500,000 and the title track sampled the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter. Me thinks Mase won't be coming back, again.

45: Elton John and Eminem perform "Stan" at the Grammy Awards (February 2001)…Way, way too low. This performance laid the groundwork for Em's Oscar win two years later and wrapped him inside a Teflon cocoon that kept the whole "n-word" controversy from hurting his career.

43: Jam Master Jay murdered (October 2002)…See #62, change the references from '90s to '80s and there ya go. With apologies to Chris Rock, I get that school will be open on JMJ's birthday, but there are not 42 moments bigger than the death of the DJ from arguably the greatest rap act in history.

40: Labelmates Baby and Lil' Wayne photographed kissing (October 2006)…Good ol' homophobia. It's still the one hate that unites the races.

31: Lil' Kim goes to jail (September 2005)…This one pretty much carried my old Friday Music News Bootleg column for all of 2005, so I may be a bit biased when I say this should've been #1. In fact, what's higher than #1? Is there a number higher than #1?

28: DJ Drama arrested, Feds seize mixtape inventory (January 2007)…How great is it to see our Federal Government protecting the copyright interests of rappers that they'll be arresting on equally trumped up charges later this year?

26: Three-6 Mafia wins Oscar (March 2006)…White people are still pissed off about this. Oh, and psst: this wasn't exactly a "listening to Joe Louis beat Max Schmeling" moment for African-Americans, either. But, after all this time, I don't expect you guys to drop your sanctimonious quotation marks from the word "song" when you reference "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp".

23: Big Pun dies (February 2000)…Ridiculously underrated by the casual rap fans who only knew him for that "Still Not a Player" song, he was a ferocious lyricist who fought obesity and died from respiratory failure at 28. That said, we're to believe his death hit the Hip Hop landscape the hardest? Here's a test: where were you when you heard he died? Anyone who didn't answer with "Wait, Big Pun is dead?!" is lying.

10: "George Bush doesn't care about Black people." (September 2005)…I still don't know if this is true or not, but can we all agree that "Then, how do you explain Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?!" is a pretty sh*tty retort, Fox News? Cool? Cool.

8: Eminem signs to Dr. Dre's Aftermath imprint (March 1998)…Not too surprising as he and XXL have been in editorial bed together since Em's feud with The Source magazine from five years ago. But, what is surprising…

1: 50 Cent signs with Shady/Aftermath Records (November 2002)…is the #1?! Never mind that Eminem signed on first, created Shady Records, then agreed to split 50 with Dre's label. You can't have #1 without #8, damn it, yet #8 occurred four years before #1 and is somehow less important?!

And, that's why I now read Black Enterprise.

Next: 20 moments that should've made this list.


Joe Reid said...

Turns out I'm still steamed about that whole Elton John/Eminem thing.

Elton: "I forgive you!"
Eminem: "I didn't say I was sorry, faggot."
Elton: "Apology accepted!"

Way to bend over ( pun intended) for a guy who spent the better part of two years calling you and all your friends fags just because he was the biggest thing going in pop music. Thanks, man.

acctgsean said...

I went online to see the whole list and I remember MAYBE 30-40 of these things. And I listen to rap.

As for the Elton John/Eminem thing, I remember that GLAAD was planning this ginormous protest of the show and the turnout was next to nil. Then, when everyone saw Elton and Em hugging it out, the world went back to not caring about the gay opinon. Not saying it was right, y'know...

Although AJC raises a good point cuz to this day, I have no idea how Eminem survived that whole "n*gger"-on-tape incident.

Well, I know *how*, but still...

Anonymous said...

I think you're really understating the impact of Big Pun's death. His breakthrough year of 1998 was a big year for the industry as everyone was back to focusing on good music after the Biggie/Tupac aftermath. Pun stood out in a year where everyone was blowing up. His "Yeeah Baby" album is crazy underrated. Who knows how much farther along the Latino influnence in rap would be if he was still alive.

that nicka said...

I agree with anony about Pun/1998 to a point. There was some sick stuff coming out at that time but there was some unrivaled absolute garbage, too;
Camron, Mase, Master P/Anyone on No Limit, Canibus' debut album, etc.

However, 1998 = Gangstarr, Moment of Truth.

that mexican guy said...

LOVED Big Pun. His underground stuff is a zillion times better than the commercial material, which is/was pretty damn good, too. I happily ignore that he bit Kool G Rap's entire style.

Nicka takes me back with that 1998 stuff though. Master P dropping an album per week (The Ghetto Commission? Kane and Abel? Mia X?)

Shitty '98 albums Nicka forgot: TQ, AZ, "Streets is Watching" sdtk.

mikey mejor said...

Not to start a super serious discussion on THIS blog (: but I never understood the big deal about Eminem's homophobia. Anti-gay lyrics have been a part of the rap genre since Superman was called a "fairy".

That doesn't make it "right", but it just seemed unfair to single out Eminem like he was advocating violence or anything.

Would the gay community really even ACCEPT an apology from this guy? Really?

That would make it all better??

I guess I just don't get it.

Joe Reid said...

Well, not to speak for my entire community (which is pretty much exactly what I was pissed at Elton John for doing in the first place), I'll bite:

"I never understood the big deal about Eminem's homophobia. Anti-gay lyrics have been a part of the rap genre since Superman was called a 'fairy'."

There are a few things at work here. One is that Eminem's brand of homophobia was, like everything he did, way more provocative, graphic, and hateful than calling Superman a "fairy." That, I don't think is the main issue. The main issue is that Eminem enjoyed mainstream exposure no hip-hop artist ever had before, which, if you're a part of a community that had been repeatedly been singled out for hate and ridicule in his lyrics, has to be distressful. The argument that rap has always been homophobic is, of course, ridiculous for reasons that are almost too obvious. "That's the way things are and have always been" has never, ever been reason enough not to strive to make things better. The fact that far, far too few in the rap community have been willing to take on the issue of homophobia doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken on.

"Would the gay community really even ACCEPT an apology from this guy? Really?"

Here I'm going to split a hair and say that if Eminem had officially issued an apology, someone in the gay "leadership" (the president of GLADD or whoever the fuck) would have accepted it, no matter how insincere the apology was, because that's the PR game you're in when you're in an advocacy group. Like how Al Sharpton had to embrace Bill O'Reilly after that Harlem diner thing. As for the gay community at large: would they have accepted an apology from Eminem? I doubt it. Not if it was an insincere apology (which it would have been, because, hello, Eminem fucking HATES gay people). Now, whether people believe that Eminem hating gay people is reason enough to pull him from record stores and radio waves is another issue, and one that was subject to more of a difference of opinion at the time. But to ask the actual gay community to embrace (as Elton John did, on our behalf) a man who had repeatedly and brazenly called us faggots for the better part of two fucking Uncle Tom is that? (Sorry, there's no gay variant for that term yet. At least I don't think here is. "How fucking Mary Cheney is that?" See, there's no *pop*.)

Sorry for the dissertation, Cam. Here's your blog back.

NYJon said...

Well I for one appreciate Joe's perspective, but I'd like to respectfully ask the question: How big of a deal was the Eminem vs. GLAAD story at the time?

Notwithstanding the reaction of any individuals who were offended, it seems like the Elton hug sure did make all the bad press go away for Em. And, I'm talking ALL of it. Dude killed his wife on wax, then wrote another song where he disposed of her body (and the bodies of her new husband and stepson).

After the Elton hug, Eminem could do no wrong in the media eyes and in that context AJC is absolutely right about the Teflon comment.

I guess I'm saying, from where I sit, the Elton intervention worked like a charm. And that's a shame.

Joe Reid said...

Couldn't agree more.