Posted tagged ‘nicki minaj’

The TOP TEN RAP SONGS OF 2010 (C.A.T.T.L.E.)

January 19, 2011

What will YOU even remember about this year?

Chaz’s Arbitrary Top Ten List Extravaganza begins with probably my favorite thing to talk about: rap music. I’m sure you have plenty of websites telling you how great their lists are who really just want to invite their readers to a “pat yourself on the back”-fest. Not here.

My credentials are that I listen to a lot of rap music and have for some time. I evaluated each song on a scale of how much I liked it. I didn’t factor in social significance or success. I also didn’t factor in songs with great moments that suffered from the rest of the song. As great as that one Nicki Minaj verse was, let’s not forget it came from a song that suffered from Jay-Z saying “loooooooove.” No sex with a pharaoh can change that.

My favorite year end lists have always been the honest ones. I don’t read them to see how much my favorite writers agree with me, rather I hope to catch any of the great music that came out last year that I may have missed. That in mind, following my top ten I included a list of unranked ten songs that I still think are pretty incredible and worth a listen. Check them out. They’re great. Now, this was the best year for rap since the 90s, so let’s talk about rap music…

Music is a lot like love, it's all a feeling...

10 ) Bun-B “Press Play”

Now Bun-B’s 2010 album Trill…O.G. was pretty terrible and easily the worst album he’s ever been involved with. With its watered-down production and underwhelming performance it was basically a UGK album for people who hate UGK. What was most disappointing about it was that his mixtape featured a song like “Press Play.” Produced by Statik Selektah, it was Bun reminding us he was still one of the best rappers in the world in a new, refreshing soundscape. 32 bars of greatness, exactly how to build a bridge between Port Arthur and Brooklyn.

9 ) Homeboy Sandman – “Mean Mug”

The crown jewel of Homeboy Sandman’s fantastic The Good Sun album, “Mean Mug” was the best deconstruction of a sourpuss and reasoning for why they’re not in style in 2010. Catchy, well-written and not heavy-handed in the slightest, it’s a shining example of why Boysand is one of New York’s favorite sons.

8 ) Sage Francis – “The Best of Times”

The final song on what may be his final album, Sage Francis’ “The Best of Times” is not only the perfect bookend to a great body of work, but an enjoyable exploration of self-examination. It’s Francis at his most vulnerable and confident and stands perhaps the definitive statement of his career.

7 ) E-40 f/ Too $hort – “Bitch”

The only thing better than hearing the fire reignited beneath Too $hort is having him alongside one of the most dependable rappers in the game. On “Bitch,” 40 Water and Short Dog explain that not all bitches are women. In this new decade, this is the type of “music with a message” I can get behind.

6) Lil B – “New York Subway”

What a year for the #based one. Along with being the best rapper on Twitter, Lil B knocked his highly anticipated Red Flame mixtape out of the park with “New York Subway.” While he’s perhaps most known for being shocking, the subtle detail of “New York Subway” perfectly captures what being in New York in December is like. Lil B is for real, and the power of this song cannot be denied.

5 ) Dez and Nobs f/ P.O.S. – “Underbelly”

The closer of the duo’s analog modern classic Rocky Dennis, “Underbelly” sees them joined by Doomtree member P.O.S. for a pill fueled lament that also boasts some of the best technical rapping today. As heartbreaking as it is, Nobs’ warm MPC-based production gives it a classic New York feel.

4 ) Domo Genesis f/ Tyler, the Creator – “Super Market”

2010 was undoubtably the year of Odd Future, and this song is a shining example why. Producer/rapper Tyler and Domo exchange absurd barbs between two angry teenagers in a super market that acts as a series of trump cards over a swaggering bulldozer of a production. Amazing.

3 ) Danny Brown – “Guitar Solo”

If you’ve never heard of Danny Brown before, start with his song “Exotic” and then come back to this, his masterpiece. Best described by rapper Despot as “all the members of the Outsidaz rolled into one,” What I love about Detroit’s Danny Brown is that his music has a genuine unpredictability that’s been missing from rap music. He keeps me guessing with his verses, even on repeat listens, without sacrificing any of his soul. This is best heard on “Guitar Solo,” one of his album The Hybrid‘s more serious moments, it quickly dips into poverty stricken Detroit character studies before cliffhanger endings, as if the people discussed are trapped within the self-awareness of the song.

2 ) Beeda Weeda – “Baserock Babies”

DJ Fresh is picking up where the Hyphy Movement in the Bay Area left off, and he’s ready to explode. Not since Rick Rock’s production on Turf Talk’s West Coast Vaccine has the Yay given such a progressive slap to rap production. Riding the beat like a coin-operated carousel is Beeda Weeda, who you remember from last year’s “No Hoe” remix. Here, instead, he breaks down exactly what it was like being a product of the 80s. But this isn’t another “back in the day” song, rather a stripped down this-is-how-it-really-was fact-check that shows no matter what the scene is, things aren’t that different.

1 ) Earl Sweatshirt – “Stapleton”

We’ve all see the “EARL” video with the teenagers who kill themselves and yes, it is great. As brash and in-your-face as that is, Earl is an outstanding technical rapper and it’s what he hides in his songs that make him incredible. The last verse here speaks not only to his persona being the product of a deadbeat father, but parallels the ageist Hip-Hop generation predating him of boom-bap dinosaurs that raised the post-Rawkus “real Hip-Hop” sect to sound like soulless 40-year-olds. An amazing performance from one of rap’s most compelling new voices and the best rap song of 2010.

Almost...

Honorable Mentions:

Atmosphere – “To All My Friends”
Big Boi f/ Andre 3000 – “Lookin For Ya”
Curren$y – “Life Under the Scope”
Mac Lethal – “Cover My Tracks”
Mike G. – “Crazh”
Rick Ross f/ Jay-Z “Free Mason”
Roc Marciano – “Ridin Around”
Shad – “Rose Garden”
Soulja Boy – “First Day of School”
Waka Flocka Flame – “Hard in the Paint”
Young L – “Drop Top Swag”

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Female Rappers in 2010: The Reality of “Equality”

March 15, 2010

Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah wants "U.N.I.T.Y."

If stand-up comedians in the 80s taught us one thing, it’s that men never ask for directions. If female rappers in the new millennium have taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to giving women direction, they’re just as scared. As frustrating as airline food, the gender-bias that once plagued the oft-misogenistic genre of rap music has spent the past decade morphing into some mutant subversive institutionalized sexism. What was once a glass ceiling has become a glass cage with female rappers going from being seen as novelty acts to just being novelties. An overcorrection-caused car accident of post-Rawkus guilt, the present result is ladies’ night becoming the one evening Hip-Hop goes to bed early.

For all the heat the likes of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown have caught in recent years, it’s seldom mentioned that they were both parts of some pretty incredible songs. Such revisionist history, downplaying the importance of the actual music in favor of an unspoken morality, has been the catalyst for the lessened role of female rappers today. 15 years ago the dominant female voice in Hip-Hop was an overtly sexual one. While it did clear a path for women in the industry and could be deconstructed as a feminist equal-rights endeavor as women were freely able to express sexuality as much as men were, it suffered a backlash in the late-90s and that backlash is why there’s so few good female rappers today. Sexuality suddenly became a negative and women who even slightly differed from this path (involuntarily lead by Missy Elliot) became seen as “positive” without really expressing any positivity, just an absence of a “negative influence.”

More than anything, this forced female rappers to (more than any other group) have their “message” become most important and the actual act of rapping/making good rap songs took a backseat. Suddenly any female who wasn’t rhyming about sexual conquests and reached mere adequacy over a beat became heralded as a “Great FEMALE Rapper.” It’s a double standard that has been detrimental to this day. Look at a tremendous talent like Jean Grae who balanced doing disturbingly well crafted social issue songs like “Taco Day” alongside female-masturbation tales like “Hands On Experience” and was both critically respected as well as commercially viable and versatile enough to be the one to carve the dope modern female rapper niche in the marketplace herself and tragically got pigeonholed by an audience and industry that wanted her to just be a female Talib Kweli. It’s a man’s bland world.

The giggity-gender bias of siggity-sexism has to stiggity-stop!

To better maintain estrogen levels, rappers need to think globally and act locally. I’ve spent time at many Hip-Hop open mics around the country and have noticed a disturbing trend amongst the reactions to female participants. If a female rapper is completely awful, she’s met with a polite golf clap and the night moves on. If she comes back at the next installment and is just *slightly* better, she’s then showered with praise as if she’s finally got *it*. This hinders the creative process and artistic progress as the female rapper in question now believes she has perfected her craft. This results in her output’s quality plateauing and then opens the door for her to put on any gaggle of female friends of equal or lesser ability to be embraced in the same way. Now the prospects of ulterior motives from male observers come into play and the circle-of-dishonestly spins again.

There was an article that came out two summers ago about “why are there no female rappers at Soundset” or any number of (their words) “supposedly progressive underground hip-hop festivals” and the answer straight up is because THEY’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. The reason they’re NOT good enough is because they’ve been told they were good enough for a long while now and nobody wants to tell them different. I’ve long believed that most underground rappers whether male or female are just a few honest friends away from making some incredible music, but while most criticism of males is written off as “haters,” females tend to have others preemptively writing off these critiques with an ingrained belief that “female rappers come under more fire” (they don’t) and now even the most novice of Gyno-American* steps to the mic with an unwarranted feeling of entitlement.

How many of you thought this group only existed as a Chris Rock punchline on the SNL "I'm Chillin'" sketch?

The best female rappers of all time (such as MC Lyte and Rah Digga, both of which I’m a long time devotee) are the ones who came up in the hardest of all-male environments and crafted their personalities to be more than either “the girl who has sex” or “the girl who doesn’t have sex because she’s too busy reading books or something.” It’s staggering how many she-rappers right now think bragging about themselves having a flat-chest or any semblance of sexual standards somehow makes them more Hip-Hop than thou. All this does is further enforce stereotypes by suggesting in order to be an exception to the rule one has to be the complete opposite. It’s a self-defeating mindset that attempts to craft an identity based on who someone isn’t rather than who they are. That being said, there are a growing number of female rappers now in NYC, New Orleans, Minneapolis etc. who seem to know the difference between “a great female rapper” and “a great rapper” and are striving for the latter. It’s a trend I hope continues to the point where its no longer a trend and a rapper’s gender becomes less of a definition and more of a dynamic.

I’d like to take a sec to say this jam here is dedicated to some of my favorites –



So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*A term I’m using for readers who believe the fairer sex is more than a “man” or “male” with two extra letters.