December 19, 2009
THIS WEEK IN HIP HOP
In terms of rap music, 2009 has been both utterly depressing and magnificently awe-inspiring. Through the years, music has slowly become more and more diverse but also more and more fragmented. That fact has never felt more palpable than now. Think about it: in 2019, what will we think of 2009? A decade from now, what song from 2009 will we be able to say “Now THAT was our song”? What song will come on the radio unexpectedly in 2019 (if we still even have radios by then) and unite us all in head-nodding, booty-shaking, lyric-mouthing merriment? It’s a scary thought to think that 2009 might not have contributed anything more to the collective hip-hop canon (if we still even have that by 2019) than Drake’s “Best I Ever Had.”
On the other hand, this fragmentation has led to a ton of really great music. Since we aren’t buying records en masse anymore, most artists kind of stopped giving a fuck about scoring radio hits and have taken rap into bold new territories. DJ Quik busted out the world music crates. Mos Def crafted a cohesive album with approximately one and a half hooks altogether. Gucci Mane came up with 1,000 synonyms for his jewelry. Ghostface Killah formally legitimated the art of “Rap & Bullshit.” Some kids from LA revived hyphy while doing the Running Man backwards in bright skinny jeans. Fuck, even Soulja Boy started experimenting with backpack rap. Yes, God exists. And he’s got his swag turned on.
But before we jump into this “Best Of” list, an editorial note: this is one moonlighting critic’s personal taste in rap, which carries with it plenty of limitations. Not the least of which is time and energy. Try as I might, it takes special circumstances for any one person to really keep up with rap. This is not at all a definitive list. It’s merely a jumping off point to share good music with you. Actually, I’m hoping fellow Jezebel Music rap head, Matt, tells me I’m completely full of shit and then clues me in on everything I missed. And I hope you do the same for me too. (For “The Best Rap Albums of 2009: Part 2,” go here.)
10. Lil Wayne & Juelz Santana | My Face Can’t Be Felt
Lil Wayne fans have been hailing the No Ceilings mixtape as Weezy’s triumphant return to rapping form after a year or so of coasting on the superstardom afforded from Tha Carter III. And yeah, he has come back to snapping some pretty good punchlines. But I think his greater strength is in the raw emotion and truth he spills out from time to time. To date, two of the most memorable musical moments of Lil Wayne’s career have been the pained, pleading, nearly-crying hooks to Playaz Circle’s “Duffle Bag Boy” and The Game’s “My Life.” My Face Can’t Be Felt contains more of these vulnerable moments, including the heartbreaking “How Can Something” in which Lil Wayne confesses in great writerly detail the pain of love lost and what that’s meant for the child that’s left in between the two estranged lovers.