Lil Wayne is a free man. Shady 2.0 is taking shape. Pusha T is preparing to drop Fear of God, Killer Mike is readying Pl3dge, and Odd Future/OFWGKTA is on the cover of Billboard Magazine. Don’t look now, but is 2011 the year rap makes its big comeback?
To be fair, you have to give some credit to 2010. After all, it was last year that delivered a reenergized Eminem, gave gangsta rap fans a new star to finally, fully, unapologetically embrace – Rick Ross – and loudly announced the arrival of Nicki Minaj,the first female rapper of note in damn near a generation. And that’s not to mention all of the work put in by Big Boi, the Roots, and yes, Gucci Mane, and even Drake. After years of waffling on whether or not to let so-called “ringtone rap” and its many variations and offshoots in the door and onto playlists, 2010 found the hip hop conversation refocusing on lines, lyrics, concepts and skills.
Credit the Internet.
With every new release just a click away – and, thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds/readers, often delivered directly to your inbox, no search needed – as well as plenty of vibrant and active hip hop forums, more fans are more literate in more rap records than ever before. The Web has become the barbershop, but instead of a weekly visit for a cut and a heated debate, today the critical conversation is constant, quick and fierce.
Records are dissected in minutes, picked up or dismissed. Raps are valued. Rap crews are respected. Radio records or phoned in verses are clowned. And with many of the artists themselves engaging in the conversation, the stakes are high with every release. And everyone’s got something to prove with every verse.
Just listen to “2.0 Boys” featuring Eminem and recent Shady Records signees Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf. Then bring it back. Then bring it back again. Can an mp3 pop?
(Photo: RD/ Erik Kabik/ Retna Digital)