Wednesday, June 17, 2009

As The Dust Settles

A few weeks have gone by since the onslaught of new albums from Eminem, Cam'ron, Meth/Red, Busta, Quik/Kurupt, DJ Drama, etc. We've seen album-quality mixtapes from The Cool Kids, Young Jeezy, and 50 Cent (War Angel is the first time I've heard 50 spit like he gave a damn in at least a year). All of which has left the rap game in a very interesting position. Eminem has reaffirmed his position, dropping the mostly excellent Relapse. Cam'ron dropped an album much better than Jim Jones', and nobody cared. Which is a shame, Crime Pays reminds me of most Cam'ron albums, and they usually improve upon further listening. When I first skimmed through it, nothing much grabbed me. Now, I can almost make it through the entire disc with only a handful of skips. Plus, you have to appreciate anyone who can reference Coming To America, Guy Fisher, and Boyz N The Hood and still have it come off sounding fresh.

None of the new albums were particular standouts, although I will say that Method sounded like he cared on most of Blackout 2, and same goes for Quik on their collabo. Kurupt and Redman must have found the same strain of weed that Method did after Tical dropped, because they both seemed like they were phoning it in big-time on major portions of the twin Bla(qk)outs. Quik/Kurupt could have been much better, had Kurupt even shown up and Quik had spent a little less time perusing his world music collection.

Busta's album was an atrocity, especially coming off the underrated Big Bang. Busta needs to stop chasing trends and realize that he's a leader in the game. 20 years deep and doing multiple Ron Browz collabs is not a good look. Neither is doing joints with Estelle that seem to be trying to be Flo Rida. Blessed was obviously the album that needed to come out, as just about all of the leaked music sounded proper and Busta has a discography of solid top-to-bottom albums.

All of this is why the coming months are crucial. After the TIs dropped a succession of albums that must have seemed like surefire winners and seeing numbers no different from Asher Roth's, it seems they are finally ready to usher in a new generation, with releases from Wale, Kid Cudi, The Cool Kids and Maino on the horizon. Gucci Mane and Drake seem to have grabbed everyone's attention, with Gucci preparing to drop this summer and Drake being engaged in a bidding war that has supposedly reached $2 million.

Further clearing the way for fresh faces is Lil' Wayne's failure to prove to the TIs that its a good idea for him to drop a rock album. Spoiler alert: it isn't. Why Lil' Wayne, someone who has to have unreleased tracks for eons doesn't go the Plies route and just relentlessly release rap albums every 6-8 months is a head scrather. He could mine this unlikely time period that has allowed him to take the Best Rapper crown with the mainstream/pop crowd and get as much as he can while he can. Then, when mainstream rap inevitably picks its next "Best Rapper", you go ahead and drop your rock album, similar to how pop music stars drop country albums when their time in the spotlight is over. There has to be an audience for a hip-hop Darius Rucker, especially in the south, where anything seems to go.

And before people below the Mason/Dixon take offense, I want you to tell me why OJ Da Juiceman is getting such love down there. Several honest attempts to listen to him have left me befuddled as to how he's getting magazine covers and collab calls from R. Kelly & Jadakiss. Its no wonder why Jadakiss is now pushing a Who's Real Remix with all of the old Ruff Ryders, even DMX. OJ only seems to have one flow, as there is no difference in how he raps from one track to another. He raps in a mushmouthed nonsyllabic flow which makes it hard for anyone to understand anything coming out of his mouth.

While I do understand that some rappers have limited subject matter, he literally sticks to the same exact subjects every song (gettin' money, trap this, bricks that). It almost feels like a sick joke that the TIs are playing to see how low the mainstream consumer is willing to go. Gucci isn't very much far higher up on that same ladder, but he at least is pretending (let's not kid ourselves, the man is a son of teachers and college educated) to be as buffoonish as he is. OJ seems to be a part of a joke that he isn't even in on.

While I don't particularly hate Gucci Mane, part of me doesn't want him to succeed in any kind of big way. Gucci himself is okay in limited doses and has a knack for catchy refrains and good guest 16s that should serve him well. But, didn't we play this game already two years ago with Back To The Traphouse? He had done some time, been through the whole Jeezy kerfluffle and was supposedly a street legend in Atlanta. He got The Game, Ludacris, Pimp C, Rich Boy, Shawnna, and Lil' Kim all on the next album and still nobody cared. I don't see what makes anyone think it would be any different this time. And my personal reason for not wanting me to see him blow is because that means we would be subjected to even more OJ. Hopefully, Yo Gotti can come in and steal some of this GoochJuuman hype and propel himself to national stardom.

This brings us to Drake, Wale, Kid Cudi, etc. With Jay-Z, Kanye West, 50 Cent, and Eminem looming in the fall (If you think Dr. Dre drops before he sees what Relapse 2 and Before I Self Destruct do critically and commercially, you're an idiot), it seems like now would be a good time as any to launch a successful new career. For all these labels know, Best I Ever Had and Day N Nite could be the biggest hits these guys ever have. These labels need to strike while the iron is hot and get albums out for these guys. After all, these last few years have taught us that the rap audience has an extremely short attention span.

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