Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A View From the Middle's Year-End Pop Culture Awards: Music

Okay, this is something new that I am trying. I decided to post a year-end best of list, hey, all the other bloggers can do it, why not me? I'm good enough, I'm fly enough, and darn it, people like me!!! Okay, enough prologue, on to my views. Let's start with music

Hip-Hop Album of the Year: American Gangster, Jay-Z

This is an awesome hip-hop album, Jay-Z was in his zone as he talked about life on the streets, hustling, and the tragic downfall of a hustler. Loosely inspired by the movie of the same name, Jay-Z's rhymes were in rare form and the Sean "Diddy" Combs' new Hitmen Team (Sean C, LV, Mario Winans) gave him tracks with some of the most soulful samples ever. One standout track is "American Dreaming", which samples Marvin Gaye's classic "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again".

Other notable hip-hop albums:

The Cool, Lupe Fiasco

Another album that has a loose concept, this album continues the story of Michael Young History, a character who met his untimely demise at the end of the song "The Cool", off of Lupe's first album. The Cool loosely continues this concept, as Michael Young History (portrayed on the inside of the album cover and the "Superstar" video by A Different World's Kadeem Hardison) encounters "The Streets" (represented by a female) and "The Game" (represented by a large, bald, imposing male). Lupe has delivered a top-notch follow-up to Food and Liquor. There's no sophomore slump here. Lupe even rhymes from the point of view of a cheeseburger on "Gotta Eat". Lupe took what could have been a silly premise and made it a cautionary tale about the danger of many African-American's diets. As a bonus, on the Limited Edition of the CD, a DVD is included where Lupe breaks down the meaning of every song. The Cool is thinking-man's hip-hop in its purest form.

Graduation,Kanye West

Everyone's favorite whiner (He may come after me now), delivered another solid album with Graduation. Mr. West's time spent touring with U2 has definitely paid off, resulting in an album full of "stadium hip-hop". West's anthemic, larger-than-life beats on songs such as "Champion" (sampling Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne), "Stronger", "Can't Tell Me Nothing", and "Everything I Am" combine with his clever and brutally honest rhymes to make a lyrical and sonic treat. The only misstep? The lighthearted but annoying "Drunken Hot Girls" with Mos Def.

Other notable hip-hop releases:

Getback, Little Brother

Desire, Pharoahe Monch

Eight Diagrams, Wu-Tang Clan

Worldwide Underground, Tunnel Clones (Memphis hip-hop group)

Eardrum, Talib Kweli

The Undisputed Truth, Brother Ali

UGK-Underground Kingz

This album finds Bun B and Pimp C (RIP), two rap veterans, touching on a variety of subjects with a variety of guest stars (TI, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Talib Kweli, Dizzee Rasacal), you name it, and delivering one of the better double albums in hip-hop history. Fortunately, Pimp C left us with another great album before he died.

"When Do You Sleep Award?" : Lil' Wayne

If you had the right price, you could get Lil' Wayne on a song. Just ask Kanye West, Jay-Z, Little Brother, rookie rappers The Cool Kids, and countless others. Wayne could also be heard rhyming on a slew of mixtapes. Call him a sellout or a glory hound or whatever, but several hip-hop fans are eagerly awaiting his next album, The Carter 3.

Guilty Pleasure: Snap Dances

I have to admit, the "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)" dance was catchy, as was the Crank Dat Batman, Crank Dat Lion King and others. It's a little out of control, but some of them were cool.

Honorable Mention: Cupid Shuffle

Mr. Cupid will be cashing checks for a minute with this updated line dance. Many are proclaiming it as the new Electric Slide

Honorable Mention: Cute Female Singer-Songwriters

I am obsessed with cute female singer-songwriters right now. These catchy pop tunes by hot chicks are embedded in my brain

Feist-"1234" (aka the Ipod song):

Colbie Caillat-"Bubbly":

Ingrid Michaelson-"The Way I Am" (aka the Old Navy Sweater song):

Sara Bareilles-"Love Song":

Trend that Needs to Die: Ringtone Rap

Hip-hop suffered a 30% drop in sales this year. The reason? Most commercial rap sucks!!! They are pandering to little kids with this snap dance music, which is going to get old quick. Also, they sign these rappers on the strength of one single, make a crapload of money off of ringtones and Itunes. Here's a message, kids: Timeless music can also be entertaining, too.
Just ask Public Enemy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and others. It's time to start making real music, or we'll see even more declines. Also, if you like at least five songs by an artist, buy the real album!!!! I see you pirates out there. You know who I'm talking to.

Artists to Watch for in '08:

Sara Bareilles

Kid A


Cool Kids


Ced Hughes

Ingrid Michaelson

Teisha Marie

You may not know these names now, but I will do blogs about all of them in the coming weeks. Be easy, readers!! Also, look for my (very short) R&B portion of the Year-End Pop Culture Awards (YEPCAs), as well as the Movie and TV YEPCAs. Peace.


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