I don't know about you, but 2009 zipped by for me, although not without making its mark in terms of music being recorded and released, and also in terms of music news being made. 2009 was a good year for hip-hop. In sports hip-hop was more present than ever, with Jay Z and Alicia Keys performing in New York at the World Series, and the Oakland hip-hop group the High Decibels' music being featured in a beer ad during the SuperBowl and in consequent football games. It was a year when the Wu-Tang crew were omnipresent, it seems, both individually and also with their music being replayed or remixed by others (inc. El Michels Affair). It was also a year when Brooklyn rapper Sean Price was seemingly everywhere -- popping up in cameos on a multitude of other folks' releases and releasing his own great mix CD.
2009 was the year when Wale finally released his official debut album. It was also a year when the line between mixtape CDs and actual albums released on CD got very blurred. Artists who released both a mixtape CD and an official album in 2009 included Anticon duo Themselves. 2009 was also the year when, thankfully, use of the Auto-Tune technology decreased substantially. With his song "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)," Jay-Z may have helped speed up the process of its inevitable passing. Below is a list of hip-hop and related music items from the past twelve months that caught my attention. Also below (scroll all the way down) is my list of Top Ten releases from 2009 that I really enjoyed.
DEATH OF THE TECHNICS 1200 TURNTABLE HOAX:
At the end of November 2009, news, or, rather, a rumor, that Panasonic would be discontinuing the legendary Technics 1200 and 1210 turntable decks hit the web and spread like wildfire. The report first started to circulate on an Australian DJ message board, supposedly quoting the manufacturer, saying Technics had issued a statement blaming “low sales globally in analogue turntables” for the demise of the Technics classics. It cited February 2010 as the month that the company would cease production. Within hours of this posting, DJs started typing away in shock. As it turned out, the story was a hoax. Furthermore, the folks who published it last month had found it from a previous hoax two years earlier. Had the story been true, it would have been ironic, since around the same time it had been announced that, along with vinyl sales, that turntable sales were up in 2009 over the previous year.
ALONG WITH TURNTABLE SALES, VINYL CONTINUED ITS UPSWING IN 2009:
In late November several business news sources reported that vinyl album sales had been steadily increasing for several years now, and that through late last month over 2.1 million records had been sold this year. The 2009 figures, according to Nielsen Soundscan, represented an increase of just over 35% since the same period in 2008 and was the highest sales figure for vinyl in any year since Nielsen began tracking them in 1991.
HIP-HOP ARTISTS WHO DIED:
Hip-hop lost a lot of greats over 2009. New Jersey emcee/producer Tony D died in a car crash not far from his home. Turntablist Roc Raida of the X-Men/X-ecutioners died suddenly in 09. So did legendary New York hip-hop radio DJ/producer Mr Magic. There was also Dublin Ireland rapper Lunitic, who, at age 26, died of heart failure. Meantime J Dilla, who died a few years ago, continued to stay in the minds of hip-hop fans with several releases in 2009 bearing his name, including the June release Jay Stay Paid on Nature Sounds. DJ Dusk's Root Down Soundclash sessions featuring the late LA DJ came out in early '09 and present bygone (2001 - 2003) LA sessions featuring Madlib vs Cut Chemist, will i. am vs Thes One, and Oh No vs. Exile.
Another late great hip-hop artist with a new DVD in 2009 was Biggie Smalls, aka The Notorious B.I.G., and the release Biggie Smalls: Rap Phenomenon. The biopic movie Notorious on the Bad Boy artist was also released in theaters in early 2009. And the late V-Town (Vallejo) rapper Andre "Mac Dre" Hicks (1970 - 2004), was the the subject of a one hour documentary screened on BET earlier this year. And in the current issue of XXL Mac Dre gets a nice write up five years after his murder.
IN JAIL, JAIL BOUND & RELEASED FROM PRISION:John Forte, who in 2009 released the appropriately titled StyleFREE: The EP (Theory 7), also got released from prison this year. Meanwhile, around that same time this year rapper Lil Boosie released his 2009 album Superbad: The Return of Boosie Bad Azz (Asylum Records) the rapper was headed to a two year prison sentence. Lil Wayne also got bad news in court when he lost a case that could mean a future sentence of one year behind bars. More serious was the fate of 38 year old rapper Corey "C-Murder" Miller (brother of Percy "Master P" Miller with whom he was a member of TRU, the group that also featured their other brother Silkk The Shocker), who in 09 was sentenced to life in prison for his second-degree murder conviction in the 2002 killing of 16-year-old fan Steve Thomas at a now-closed nightclub in Harvey.
JEWISH HIP-HOP IN '09:
Hip-hop artists embracing their Jewish heritage became more visible in 2009. Included were Canadian artist Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, and Kosha Dillz. Dolgin, the self-described "Yiddish rappin', accordion wieldin', Klezmer hip hoppin' maestro" serves up his hip-hop with a kosher twist. He continued to perform and make music this year. New Jersey based emcee Kosha Dilz released Beverly Dillz and went out on tour supporting Matisyahu.
Most recently MC Paul Barman embraced his Jewish roots, usually with a sense of humor or inquisitiveness, on his recommended new release Thought Balloon Mushroom Cloud on Househusband Records. He references kosher themes and customs several times throughout the album.
Perhaps more than any popular music genre out there, the shelf life of a rap artist tends to be brief. While a select few artists' careers last ten, twenty, or more years, many popular artists might only have a five year (or less) span in the spotlight. The problem with many hip-hop acts is that after a certain time they lose their edge or appeal because they are merely trying to rekindle the old magic they once had or jump on a current bandwagon. However, there many exceptions to this rule: artists.
LONGTIME HIP-HOP ARTISTS THAT MADE CHALLENGING NEW MUSIC IN 2009:
LONGTIME HIP-HOP ARTISTS THAT MADE CHALLENGING NEW MUSIC IN 2009:
Examples include DOOM, Dres of Black Sheep, who released the EP From The Black Pool Of Genius: The Prelude, and Edo G and Masta Ace, who in 2009 dropped the album Arts & Entertainment. DOOM, formerly MF Doom (as in Metal Face Doom because of the mask), released two albums in '09: Born Like This on Lex and the recent retrospective collection on Gold Dust Media. He began his career back in the early 90s as the founder of KMD, then going by the name Zev Love X, and since then has consistently grown as an artist, along the way participating in some impressive collaborative projects such as Danger Doom (with Danger Mouse) and Madvillain (with Madlib). Another longtime hip-hop artist who dropped a quality release in 2009 is Mos Def, who, following two less than impressive albums (2004's The New Danger and 2006's True Magic), released his strongest release in many years, The Ecstatic on Downtown.
JOURNALISM SNAFU OF THE YEAR:
And the snafu of the year, in terms of journalism related to hip-hop, occured not in the pages of XXL or Hip-Hop Connection, but in the esteemed Washington Post. Earlier this month the paper ran a "correction" by the editor relating to a piece that ran the previous week that read: "A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number." Indeed! Not to mention that the record (in single form -- the album it was featured on, Fear of a Black Planet, came the following year) was released in 1989 -- a dozen years before the 9/11 attacks took place.
JAMOEBLOG 2009 TOP TEN :
1) Edan Echo Party (Five Day Weekend/Traffic)
2) Zion I The Takeover (Gold Dust Media)
3) DOOM Born Like This (Lex)
4) Kid Koala presents The Slew 100% (Puget Sound)
5) Cage Depart from Me (Def Jux)
6) FELT FELT 3 A Tribute To Rosie Perez (Rhymesayers)
7) Anti-Pop Consortium Flourescent Black (Big DaDa)
8) Bassnectar Cozza Frenzy (Child's Play / Amorphous Music)
9) King Cannibal Let The Night Roar (Ninja Tune)
10) J-Dilla Jay Stay Paid (Nature Sounds)
The above top ten, which is subject to change (re-sequencing, deletions, additions) at any time, is my favorite top ten albums from 2009 that I am thinking of right now. Of course, like anyone's "best of" list, it is imperfect, leaving off releases that I also liked or plain forgot all about. So don't hate me because I didn't list any of your fave LPs of the year -- instead, write them in the comments below. But anyway, what I do know is that I really liked these ten full-length releases, and each for different reasons. Cage on Def Jux may be straying further and further from hip-hop and more into 80's punk on his latest, Depart From Me, on which he appears to expertly channel the likes of Suicidal Tendencies and the Dead Milkmen, but dizzam, he does it so very well. I love it!
FELT with Murs and Slug of Atmosphere, this time teaming up with Aesop Rock on production, have released their best album in the collaboration series yet with FELT 3 A Tribute To Rosie Perez. APC, aka Anti-Pop Consortium, may not have released music this year that's as incredible as their past releases, but still, their reunion album Flourescent Black on Big DaDa packed enough punch, flipped out lyrics, and quirky tracks to satisfy my jones for the group. It seems that some of the best hip-hop emceeing today is found on the productions that merge various strains of electronic like dirty digital techno funk bass-heavy music with rapping -- ya know, glitch-hop and electro stuff -- like NorCal's Mochipet or Bassnectar, who released the amazing album Cozza Frenzy with several of guests including Zumbi of Zion I. Speaking of whom, I couldn't get enough of Zion I's early 2009 release The Takeover.
Meanwhile King Cannibal, which is not exactly hip-hop, is still a sick production. Same for the J-Dilla 2009 release. And as for the number one from Edan, Echo Party on Five Day Weekend/Traffic Entertainment? Wow, what an amazing recording it is! The two years painstakingly put into concocting this killer mix by Maryland born hip-hop talent Edan was well spent, for it has provided this fan alone with so much listening pleasure. It's the sort of record you go back and relisten to and hear new things in with each repeated spin.