Merry Christmas to all. May your years only get better.

Christmas Rap

Christmas in Hollis

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Christmas in Harlem

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10 reasons why 2010 was the best year ever in hip-hop: #6 Roll the dice…this was a year of taking BIG chances and they paid off.

EVERYBODY knows the music business as it has existed for the last few decades–where sales of recorded albums are the primary financial-driver of the business–is in trouble.  The record industry, like other entertainment businesses, tends to be a bell curve:

During the vast majority of times, the music tends to be fairly straight-forward and predictable.  Occasionally, there are a couple of breakout hits and then everybody spends the next several years trying to copy what was done to make those hits (or at least hire the producers who crafted them).  When times are really, really good, there tends to be more innovation and risk-taking.  If the risk pays off, things are even better.  If it doesn’t hit, it’s not a big deal because the other blockbusters during the year make up for it.  The other time risk-taking happens is when things are REALLY, REALLY bad.  Again, it is during those times that there is a certain nonchalance, but it stems from different sentiments than those in good times.  In bad times, chances are taken because companies feel like they have nothing to lose.

2009 was a terrible year for hip-hop music, sales-wise.  It was definitely the worst in a decade and maybe even longer.  So, it’s no surprise that risks were taken in 2010 and they paid BIG dividends.  Here were some of the most high-profile risks that paid off:

1.  The Jay-Z/Eminem “Home and Home” tour – Overall, 2010 was one of the worst years in the last 20 for the live music business.  In 2000, people aged 12-24 went to about 3 concerts per year.  In 2010, that same age group went to less than 1 concert per year…It would seem like that would not be the best timing to mount the biggest hip-hop tour ever.  But, in September 2010, Jay-Z and Eminem made history by selling out 4 stadium shows (2 in Detroit and 2 in New York).  Approximately 200,000 people paid an average of $100 per ticket in 4 nights…you do the math.  It was an epic success and a historical moment for hip-hop.

2.  G.O.O.D. Fridays – Give away half of your album for FREE???  Who DOES that???  Kanye West, that’s who.  I wrote a long piece on this a while ago, so I won’t spend too much time rehashing it here, but suffice it to say that Kanye West took a huge chance by giving away half of his album (along with previewing nearly all of the other half in Runaway) and it paid off, big time.  Kanye sold nearly 500,000 copies of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in week 1 (despite not having a radio hit–and not promoting it for the last 2 weeks before release).  Beyond the sales success, Kanye also got universal critical acclaim.  It’s no surprise that Kanye, who has always taken chances musically, would try something as innovative as G.O.O.D. Fridays.  His digital game was seriously on point, in general, in 2010.  In addition to giving away music with the confidence that people would like it and buy it, he also bucked the traditional marketing system by and going to Facebook and Twitter to promote the album before going to mainstream outlets.  It is surprising however (and encouraging) that his record label went along with it. Kudos to all behind the plan.

3.  Runaway – Let’s face it.  Runaway was weird.  Okay, so yeah we get the Phoenix reference and how ostracized Kanye feels in a world that shuns honesty and destroys beauty, but still, that sh*t was strange.  But, it was also brilliant.  It was visually stunning, conceptually engaging and the music was arresting.  And, from a marketing standpoint, when is the last time you can remember a show being simulcast on BET and MTV that wasn’t related to some sort of tragedy?  Exactly…Runaway was a great example of being rewarded for taking chances:

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4. Nicki Minaj – Not to belabor the point, but Nicki took RISKS this year.  It would have been easy for her to ride on the Young Money coattails, but she was dead set on establishing her own path.  So, instead of doing a Young Money album in disguise, or even a hip-hop album, she did a pop album…and it was GREAT.  And that was just the music.  Style, image, persona, you name it.  Nicki took chances in pretty much every category in 2010 and she is poised to become a hip-hop icon because of it.  Keep rolling those dice, ma.

5.  All those who pushed the boundaries of hip-hop culture and refused to let the meaning of hip-hop be dictated to them.

Click here to see other reasons why 2010 is the best year ever in hip-hop.

Curren$y’s lyrics are always tight so did his tracks keep his album from being a hit? Check out how he rides the Kanye West-produced Live Fast, Die Young track and see if this one moves you.

Curren$y’s version is called Daze of ThunderRick Ross and Kanye still rocked this track the best, but Curren$y holds his own.

10 reasons why 2010 was the best year ever in hip-hop: #10 Don’t call it a comeback…but this was the year for some of the best ever.

Now that the year is winding down and new music is slowing to a trickle, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a look back at 2010 and what made it such a phenomenal year for hip-hop.  Stay tuned for 9 more reasons until the end of the year.  First up is the great comebacks of 2010.  Artists tend not to like to ever admit that they may have fallen off for a bit, but everybody does eventually.  That’s why it’s all the more impressive when someone comes back from from a fall because very few do.  So…let’s all embrace the comeback and celebrate the great music that came with the ones in 2010:

1.  Eminem –  Everybody knows Slim Shady’s story by now.  The fame overwhelmed him, his home life took some major hits and his best friend (please, please, please click that link…it’s a dope true freestyle by Eminem and Proof) was tragically killed.  As a result, he turned to prescription drugs to ease the pain and the rest, as they say, is history.  That’s enough to knock anyone off his feet for a minute.  For Em, it was nearly 4 years.  His first effort at coming back fell flat (though it was not as bad as people–even Eminem–thought).  His next album, 2010’s Recovery, however was a monster.  In fact, it was the biggest album (of all genres) of the year.  Here are a couple of reasons why:

2.  Lil Wayne – The scary thing about Lil Wayne is his comeback is just beginning.  Having spent the vast majority of 2010 in jail and only being released in November, Lil Wayne has only had a little over a month to establish his comeback.  Plus, with cameos on 100 songs while he was gone (a SLIGHT exaggeration), it was almost like he never left.  He began his comeback shortly before he even got out, with Right Above It and if his first post-release song, 6’7″, is any indication, people better step their game up (hmm…gives insight into the title, no?).  Here’s a lil Weezy for you:

3.  T.I. – T.I.’s is the most ironic comeback.  I won’t spend a lot of time on this one since we all know how the story ends.  Suffice it to say that lost in the shuffle of all the controversy is that T.I.P. actually made a really good album.

4. Kanye West – OK.  So Kanye NEVER had a drop-off in the quality of his music, but he did have a self-imposed exile of almost 12 months.  Beyond that, given that he really didn’t rap much on 808 & Heartbreak, it had been more than 3 years since Ye had dropped an album with him spitting.  That’s a LONG time in hip-hop.  That’s the same amount of time Jay-Z took in his “retirement” between The Black Album and Kingdom Come.  When you add the fact that Kanye was “one of the most hated men in the world” when he took his sabbatical, it was very possible that his career may not have recovered.  Dude is just too talented though.  Not only did he have commercial success (selling nearly 500K albums in his first week, after giving more than half the album away for free–more on that later), he also had unequivocal critical success.  In fact, he made the album of the year.  Here are a few examples of why:

I’m sure there were more notable comebacks during the year (Big Boi being one of them–feel free to comment with others) but those were the major ones.  On to the next one…Stay tuned for more reasons why 2010 was the best year ever in hip-hop.

G.O.O.D. Fridays are done but Kanye West is still giving gifts. Check out his song Christmas in Harlem ft CyHi The Prynce, Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Teyana Taylor, Big Sean, Musiq Soulchild and Pusha T

 

Click here to download.

Curren$y’s album Pilot Talk 2 came and went so now it on to the next one. This freestyle over Rick Ross and Kanye’s Live Fast, Die Young is not a bad preview for his upcoming mixtape.

The song is called Daze of Thunder and the mixtape will be titled Return to the Winners’ Circle.

Click here to download.

Everyday I’m (digital) hustlin’. Check out Forbes Magazine’s breakdown of the most tech-savvy hip-hop artists.

Uncle Snoop Dogg could be clocking more than $5,000 per Tweet from Toyota.

“They used to think I was a nerd,” says hip hop artist Chamillionaire, “when we used to do live shows on my website, back in the day.” The time Chamillionaire, aka Hakeem Seriki, refers to is around that of the early “oughts,” when the Web was still a fledgling entity, nowhere near what it is now to the consumer masses.Today is a very different day. Chamillionaire–and rappers like him–are bolstering their careers through successful navigation of the tech and social media world…Chamillionaire draws a curious comparison to explain his presence in the world of tech. He likens the career path of a young Silicon Valley entrepreneur to that of the unsigned rapper: Both tirelessly promote themselves, both seek capital to cover overhead costs, both often self-fund for a period of time and seek to be acquired by a larger entity (be it a Google or a Capitol Records).  Click here to read the full article at Forbes.com.  Also, click here to see their list of hip-hop’s most tech-savvy artists.