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.

Eminem and Lil Wanyne together performing on the same stage. This is a fitting coda to the best year ever in hip-hop.

Eminem and Lil Wayne performed on SNL last night. Welcome back, Weezy.  They did No Love, Won’t Back Down and the first televised version of 6’7″.  Could this be the next hip-hop stadium bill?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Lil Wayne is back in the booth…and it’s like he never left. The new single is called 6’7″ and ft Cory Gunz. Check it out.

Click here to download.

Also, here’s Wayne’s first interview post-prison.  He called into DJ Drama’s radio show on Shade 45 to discuss the new single, video and many other things:

 

What if Reasonable Doubt had been a mixtape? Would Jay-Z still be 11 albums deep and considered the greatest of all time if In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 had been his first official “album?”

Certainly, his potential and talent still would have been present, but there’s a big question mark as to whether the public would have given him a second chance or whether the good fellas at Roc-A-Fella would have invested the money to make another “album.”  Reasonable Doubt the “mixtape” would have set the bar so high that In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, the debut album, would have surely disappointed (as it did as the second “album”).  People likely would have attributed the success of the Reasonable Doubt “mixtape” to it having been given away for free rather than due to the brilliance of the music.

For the last several years, it’s gone unchallenged that “mixtapes” were promotional and were beneficial to artists.  The notion was people got a taste of the music and once they were hooked, they would come back and buy the product (all analogies intended).  Over the last few years, however, the concept of the “mixtape” has radically changed and it might just be that rappers are doing themselves a disservice by dropping “mixtapes” as they are conceived today.

It used to be that a mixtape was just that: a mix of several different songs, usually by several different artists, that served as a sampler of upcoming and recently released music.  It was almost like a permanent version of your favorite radio show where the hottest DJs played the freshest new tracks and jockeyed for exclusives.  Some DJs like DJ Clue, Kid Capri and Ron G built their careers off having the dopest mixtapes in the land.

Somewhere during the early 2000s, however, mixtapes began to morph into showcases for one artist.  50 Cent was one of the early adopters.  His mixtape 50 Cent is the Future primarily featured him rhyming over well-known popular tracks with a few newly-produced tracks.  His follow up, No Mercy, No Fear, took a similar approach, but layered in even more newly-produced tracks, most notably, Wanksta.  Many people attribute his story of being shot 9 times to his meteoric rise but it was really the hitmaking skills he displayed on his mixtapes that caught the attention of Eminem and subsequently Dr. Dre.

After 50 got signed to the much touted “million dollar” deal on the strength of his mixtapes, all bets were off.  Soon, every rapper with a mic and a dream was recording mixtapes full of rhymes over the hottest songs out at the time.  Lil Wayne, who was clearly already established but who had lost some of the heat he had from the late 90’s, took the art of the mixtape to a whole different level.  He also primarily rhymed on popular tracks, but his prolific work ethic and creativity were unparalleled.  His  relentless onslaught of 9 “mixtapes” in 6 years from 2003-2009 arguably made him the hottest rapper on the planet.

There were some common themes to the types of mixtapes Wayne, 50 and others created during the early-mid-2000s.  The lyrics tended to be more freestyle/stream of consciousness and/or grimy and aimed at the streets.  The production, though featuring well-known tracks, also tended to be more down and dirty.  But the essence of mixtapes continued to evolve and somewhere along the line in the last few years, they began to become primarily new tracks with a few well-known tracks sprinkled in just to keep the listener’s attention.  They also began to feature some of the biggest artists in music.  More importantly, the breadth and the quality of the lyrics and production became much more polished and the songs began to sound like they were studio quality.  Some of this could have been attributable to technology getting better (any basement is a studio now) but the change in quality also was unquestionably a reflection of artists putting in the same level of time and care that they would for making an album.

Two of the best examples of this were Drake’s So Far Gone and J. Cole’s The Warm Up.  By any conventional definition, those “mixtapes” were albums (and truly some of the best albums to come out in the last 5 years).  If anyone can explain what the difference is between those releases and “albums”–besides the fact that they were free–I would love to hear it.  But that actually brings us back to the point:  given the quality of the “mixtapes” that some of our newest premier artists have been dropping  in the last couple of years, are they doing themselves a disservice by labeling those products as mixtapes and giving them away for free?

Jay-Z very often says Reasonable Doubt is his best album because he had 26 years of material from which to draw.  It is often the case that artists’ (even the greatest artists) debut albums are their best.  Just think about some of your favorite hip-hop artists:  Nas, Biggie, Wu-Tang, Snoop, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent (though some may argue for The Massacre), Lauryn Hill, Slick Rick…the list goes on and on.  In fact, for a lot of classic albums, the artists were one and done.  Of course there are exceptions–Tribe, De La Soul, Lil Wayne, Kanye, Dr. Dre (wait, which was better The Chronic or 2001?)–but more often than not, album 1 is the 1.  Even if you want to take issue with that, how many people can you say killed it on album 4, 5, 6 or 7?  Almost no one.  Jay-Z is the only rapper I can think of (though Em did his thing on #6) to have put out a good album after #7 and that is part of the reason why he’s the G.O.A.T.  It is EXTREMELY rare for ANY artist (regardless of genre) to put out quality material post album 5.  Not impossible, but rare…

So…why are so many rappers giving away their first albums/mixtapes?  You don’t see that in any other genre (and that’s a whole other conversation…).  Not only are they potentially giving away their best product, they are also setting the bar for their “official album” at an absurdly high standard.  Take Drake, for example.  So Far Gone was so ridiculously hot that he had 2 songs in heavy rotation simultaneously, was selling out shows, featured on award shows and arguably the hottest rapper in the land.  Imagine how that “album” would have sold had it not been released for sale nearly a year after the mixtape had circulated.  In addition to lost sales, the expectations for Thank Me Later could not have been higher.  Drake proved himself to be LeBron (the rookie–not the one you hate now) and lived up to the hype, but many rappers have not fared so well.  Wale, who put out several stellar mixtapes, released an album that came and went.  The pressure is so high for J. Cole that his album has been pushed back several times and he chose instead to drop another “mixtape” (which was downloaded 4000 times per SECOND initially).  I still believe he will deliver, but the challenge is that much higher and he now has TWO excellent “albums” out for which he will never be paid.  Even if every rapper who puts out a great “mixtape” goes on to have a successful “first album” it will always be the case that he/she gave away 1 of likely no more than 4 of his/her shots at wealth.  Would you give away 25% of your money?

It’s all G.O.O.D., and in fact smart, to give away some product for people to know whether or not the music is worth buying.  Kanye proved this again recently with his G.O.O.D. Fridays.  Giving away EVERYTHING, however, may just be bad business.  You’ll never see Jay-Z give an entire album away for free, and that’s beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you want to keep it on the experimental hip-hop tip, check out Dirty Money’s Strobe Lights ft Lil Wayne.

This is slightly sped up:

Click here to download.

Doesn’t Lil Wayne’s voice sound clearer post-prison? Check out his first verse since his release on Birdman’s Fire Flame (Remix)

Click here to download.

Interested in what’s on Nicki Minaj’s mind? Check out this interview. The visual is kinda crazy but the audio is pretty insightful.

Looks like somebody didn’t come to the station all barbied up.  It’s all good though.  She discusses Wayne, Eminem, Kanye, Drake and much more.