At the end of the year, media outlets (including this one) do their best to sum up the previous 12 months and put things in perspective, both as a way to put away the year that was and try to take some lessons into the coming calendar cycle. As far as hip-hop culture goes, nobody does a better job of cramming a year's worth of news and drama into five minutes than Skillz, the Virginia MC who drops his year-end "Rap Up" track at the end of December every year. He just debuted the 2009 version (you can download it at top-shelf hip-hop blog Nah Right), and it's excellent (as always), full of biting commentary, hilarious punchlines and poignant remembrances on the year that was.
It's appropriate that last year's version of the song talked about the significance of the election of Barack Obama, as this year's opens with the new president's inauguration. From there, Skillz nails just about every major cultural story from the past 365 days: The release of "Notorious," the shift to digital television, Octo-Mom, the return of Eminem, the rise of Twitter and the sudden emergence of Amber Rose. Most of the references just get a line in the song, but for more significant stories, Skillz goes on a little longer. For example, he identifies Michael Jackson's death as a massive, shocking event. "Mike Vick and A.I./ Back in action/ And we were shocked by the loss of Mr. Michael Jackson/ I never thought would fall to the ground/ Mike was huge/ That news shut the Internet down," raps Skillz on the verse.
The rapper also addresses one of the biggest stories in hip-hop this year: The rise of Drake. He raps, "Enter a newcomer by the name of Drake/ The industry got to get it in gear/ 'Cuz it's bad when a mixtape is really the album of the year/ And his vid wasn't bad/ But I was mad/ At the breasts I never had." It's a tremendous line that sums up the success of So Far Gone and references the attention-grabbing "Best I Ever Had" video (which was directed by Kanye West).
Kanye, of course, gets a shout-out for interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. "Kanye snatched the mic from Taylor Swift/ Then the world couldn't stand him/ Man, I think he planned that," Skillz raps.
Little is left unturned with Skillz, from Chris Brown and Rihanna to the government's Cash for Clunkers program to Jay-Z's appearance on "Oprah." But his most savage rhymes are stored up for a certain over-achieving golfer with a lot of marital problems. "The idiot of the year is Tiger Woods/ Can you say 'fail?'/ Who else is named Tiger? Why would you leave your name on the voicemail?/ He changed the game I suppose/ It's nothing — who would've thought he was putting 18 hoes." The track closes with some tributes to a handful of people who passed away (including DJ AM and Mr. Magic) and a welcome to 2010.