By Zachary Swickey
Thanks to the lyrical abilities of rhyme-spitters like Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Jay-Z, the rap game is alive and well in 2011. Weezy is reportedly on track to sell around 850-900k copies of Tha Carter IV, and Watch the Throne is one of rap’s most talked about albums ever (not to mention it’s pretty damn good). With such astute rappers in today’s fast-paced music world, it’s easy to forget some of the past heavy-hitters.
Some rappers inexplicably lose their luster or disappear from the public eye altogether, but occasionally they revive their careers from the grave. Take Dr. Dre, for example. The Doc released the legendary hip-hop album The Chronic way back in ’92, but his career was basically nonexistent for most of the mid-to-late 90s. That is until he met a lanky white boy from Detroit named Eminem. Finally, seven years later – after signing one of rap’s hottest new artists – he released his follow up, 2001, which was a huge success, selling more than twice as many copies as his debut. And who knows, maybe the doctor will have yet another comeback with the eventual release of his third album, Detox, which is quickly becoming the Chinese Democracy of rap.
There are several rappers who we’d like to strongly encourage dusting the cobwebs off their mic and giving us the swagger-filled comeback albums we’re hurting for. Here are the top five hip-hop comebacks that we find ourselves craving the most. Read More...
A lot has been made of Jay-Z's hot new anti-digitally-enhanced-crooning track, "D.O.A." Jigga has thrown down the gauntlet to other rappers, wishing a pox upon the tone-correcting-and-distorting effect that has gone from an interesting twist on a Cher song to the defining sound of modern pop.
Artists like T-Pain, Lil Wayne and Kanye West (the track's co-producer) get a pass from Hova (because he says they use it "artistically"), but we think there are a number of other singers and rappers that use Auto-Tune effectively. A lot of the time, certain songs probably wouldn't exist without it (Soulja Boy Tell'em's "Kiss Me Thru the Phone" — an excellent song — seems to exist solely because of Auto-Tune). There is also the perception that only performers who can't otherwise sing use it, but plenty of people who have proven their skills have dipped into the Auto-Tune pool (like R. Kelly, whose new mixtape is full of Auto-Tune, especially the single "Tip the Waiter").
Jay's argument is that Auto-Tune makes rap softer and encourages more unnecessary crooning, but some of the best rap songs have come from singing that can easily be called "unnecessary." "Just a Friend" remains a hip-hop cornerstone, while nobody ever seems to complain about Ghostface's "crying" style. And did anybody protest when Ol' Dirty Bastard broke into spontaneous warbling — especially on his cover of "Sussudio"? Doubtful.
Here's the thing: Jay's right in the sense that Auto-Tune is way overused and doesn't always add anything to a track. And a lot of rappers have no business singing. But that doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing, and it's unreasonable to attack singing in rap. Just because an MC breaks into song doesn't make a track any less hard than "Can't Knock the Hustle."
It's all love in Bucktown, USA. Fabolous didn’t go at Maino. I repeat, Fabolous did not go at Maino. Some fans were wondering if Fab's line in the song "Hottest in the Hood" was a jab at fellow Brooklynite Maino. Nah — Fab was just trying to get creative, comparing the diamond cuts in his watch to Maino's famous facial scar. I had a chance to chop it up with Loso on the set of his video "Throw It in the Bag."
Shout-out to Maino for being the real cat he's always been and not listening to the instigators, and big-up to Fab for doing what a lot of hip-hop artists out there are either too scared to do or are not talented enough to do: rap. Loso is still coming with it, being creative with his bars and keeping the listeners on their toes. Let's make this the year of the spitters, shall we hip-hop artists and fans? I'm a journalist, but appreciate — I love some real dope lyrics.
So whoever is out there rhyming — let's put some time and effort into it. Fab is consistent, and you always have to look out for people such as Ludacris, Busta, Tip and Kanye. Wayne is a problem, Drake is leap-frogging a lot of the newcomers, Eminem and Jay are coming back. Jadakiss and Rick Ross are heavy in the street right now. Game is a given. Nas never disappoints. Hip-hop should have a few nice looks this year.
OK, I couldn't resist. I went back to the New York International Auto Show to take another look around. No hip-hop superstar with me this time, just me, a friend and some quality time with some of the finest cars in the world. It's a lot of fun.
Cars have played a huge part in hip-hop culture since the very beginning. From Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" (one of my favourite car-chase scenes in a music video) to the army of low-riders in "Still Dre" to one of my favourite cars ever in Jay-Z video, the Maybach Exelero Concept in "Lost Ones" — the world of hip-hop takes its car game very seriously. That's why I thought I'd give out some awards based on the swagger, style, design and power of some of this year's hottest cars. Welcome to the unofficial MTV Hip-Hop Car Awards!
The Jay-Z Award: Mercedes-Benz Maybach Zeppelin
Like Jay-Z, the Maybach Zeppelin is "official." It's the real executive choice, a true OG. It may be understated, but this car's power, sophistication and style are undeniable. The Zeppelin might look more grown-up than the rest of the younger sports cars, but with a twin-turbocharged 6.0 litre V12 engine that now delivers a massive 640 brake horsepower, don't underestimate the Zeppelin. It'll hit 60 mph from standstill in 5.0 seconds, climb all the way to 171 mph, and still look like a king on the road. The best of both worlds. What do you expect for a price tag around the $600,000 mark?
Somebody had to do it. Last month, the Mixtape Monday familia put out a dream track list for a Notorious B.I.G. mixtape.
We asked several of the top radio, party and mixtape DJs to tell us a song or two they felt should go on a Biggie street CD. The answers ranged from rare underground records to his most commercially successful joints. That was Big: versatile, humorous and lyrically deadly — the best of the best.
Coming straight out of New Jersey, DJ Cool Will C took it upon himself to fulfill his, ours and your dreams. He made the mixtape out of the DJs' choices. Check out the Biggie mixtape here.
He served it up to us, and it definitely takes you back to the mid-'90s.
By Steven Roberts
For the first week of 2009, MTV News wanted to showcase five up-and-coming MCs — Asher Roth, Kid Cudi, Wale, Charles Hamilton and B.o.B. — we felt you would be hearing a lot from this year.
We received a lot of feedback, and most of it wasn't "MTV sucks," so that's a bonus! You guys actually liked many of the artists we chose. While you may not have agreed completely with all five of the artists, there was at least one or two you thought were dead on.
After sifting through your feedback, these are the artists we'd like to give honorable mentions:
By Steven Roberts
Way back (15 months ago) when I was an intern at MTV News, I had the opportunity to cover CMJ Week 2007. I asked if I could tag along, promising I would write a recap for every show I attended. They said OK and gave me a press pass that said "Steven Roberts, MTV News." Not only did I have free rein to cover any CMJ concert, but all week I told every cute girl I met that I worked for MTV.
One of my favorite shows was Fool's Gold's CMJ Showcase. The show featured performances by the Cool Kids and Kid Sister, as well as A-Trak, DJ Mehdi and Nick Catchdubs spinning on the ones and twos.
Most civilians scrimp and save to upgrade from that tiny speck of a diamond ring or earring to something marginally bigger. But when you're hip-hop royalty, that 10-carat ring you bought last year is already old news by the time you wear it to the VMAs — which means it's time to ditch it for something bigger, shinier and, above all, more expensive.
If you've been waiting your whole life to get a shot at Lil Jon's 12-pound "Crunk Ain't Dead" pendant, your day is coming. The Guinness Book of World Records' largest diamond pendant is among a host of legendary hip-hop bling that will go under the gavel in March at the Hip-Hop's Crown Jewels auction in New York, which will also feature signature pieces from 50 Cent, Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott, Kanye West and Diddy.
Read more about the bling auction here.
It was all a dream ... come true.
The trailer for the Christopher "Biggie" Wallace biopic "Notorious" premiered on Yahoo! today. If MTV News hadn't done a set visit several months back, if Derrick "D-Dot" Angeletti and Diddy hadn't given me a personal co-sign of the film, and if the movie weren't being spearheaded in part by Big's managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts, I might have been very nervous about pressing the play button today.
Big is my favorite rapper ever, and his life story shouldn't get the Hollywood treatment. By that, I mean it shouldn't have some sham of a story that focuses strictly on the glitz and glamour of the Notorious B.I.G.'s hip-hop life without depth. Let me rephrase that: essential depth. Read More...
What's good enough for P. Diddy is good enough for P. Miller. Like a certain other multimillionaire hip-hop mogul, Master P is changing his name. The switch is part of the No Limit Records mastermind's transition from boss of a label known for its cheesy Photoshop cover art and expletive-spouting down-South MCs to a stand-up businessman fronting a stable of enterprises that includes a no-cursing label (Take a Stand Records), the P. Miller Youth Centers and a low-dough line of P. Miller clothes for Wal-Mart.