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.