How will 2011 be remembered in the eyes of the Hip Hop culture? Maybe the emergence of the social networking artist will be the focal point of our conversations. This was a year that saw an explosion of several new artists in the eyes of pop culture, like Tyler The Creator and Kreyshawn; who had already been garnering attention from the blog hoppers. Perhaps 2011 will be remembered for Watch The Throne, as Jay-Z and Kanye West reminded us that Roc Nation is the Hip Hop equivalent of the Beatles. There were moments when Hip Hop seemed destined for demise such as Lil Wayne wearing jeggings, Chris Brown and Justin Bieber trying to rap and Busta Rhymes signing with Young Money. Socially, there was the controversial appearance by Common at the White House, The Roots going at Michelle Bachman and who can forget the racial insensitive V-Nasty’s defense of using the “N” word. What will we point to as the “moment” in 2011? This is the first annual Examiner Hip Hop Awards, where we will give props to some and none to most.
2011 Mainstream Album Of The Year: “Watch The Throne” is undoubtedly the album of the year, and although the hype was bigger than Kanye’s ego; the album was a solid and thorough piece of opulence, self examination, self destruction and disposable income. Hits like “H.A.M”, “Otis” and ‘Ni@@as In Paris” were counter balanced by introspective cuts like “No Church In the Wild” and the amazing “New Day”. Watch The Throne showed us what life could be if we had everything we every imagined, shedding light on both the dangers and benefits. Jay-Z and Kanye West proved that two megastars could occupy the same space at the same time.
2011 Independent Album Of The Year: “Section.80” is a classic. Kendrick Lamar’s willingness to examine his generation through a participant perspective is both courageous and refreshing. Songs like the stylistic “Rigamortus” demonstrate Kendrick’s maturity as a lyricist where as songs like the energetic “Hol’ Up” show his willingness to get the party started. Kendrick’s thoughtful and rather clever wordplay have put him in the position to be the next Independent artist to make a leap to the mainstream.
2011 Debut Album Of The Year: Cole World: The Sideline Story was one of the most anticipated releases of 2011. J.Cole seemed to be on hold for what seemed an eternity and made a case that an internet sensation could achieve mass appeal. The album was full of the introspective thoughts of a young man struggling with being caught between real life and the sensationalized stardom associated with being a rapper.
2011 Local Album Of The Year: “It’s Crookie”. Stevie Crooks released his most complete project titled “VLNS NVR DIE” as a gift to his fans and what a great gift it was. Crooks returned to the “dungeons of rap” by taking us back to the 90’s with a mosaic of Jazz, Funk, Hip Hop, Spoken Word and Greek Mythology. VLNS NVR DIE was boasted with nods to the prominent figures of the ever fading Hip Hop Generation, making it a must listen for any true Hip Hop head.
2011 Most Slept On Album of the Year: Phonte, formerly of Little Brother; quietly released his solo album “Charity Starts At Home”. The album was a continuation of the many of the traditions started by his former group and also saw him reunite with producer 9th Wonder. Charity Starts At Home is an audio diary of one of the most respected lyricist in Hip Hop and a burgeoning musician on the verge of transcending the label of “rapper”.
2011 Mainstream Aritst Of The Year: The “Bawse” aka Rick Ross was all over the radio, television, and social networks this year. His up and coming label MMG label signed Wale, Stalley and Meek Mills. His Mixtape “Ashes to Ashes” was nearly as good as his album “Teflon Don”. He also confirmed that he owned several Wing Stop restaurants and was seen courtside at several Miami Heat games. There was almost no where you could go without hearing the “Maybach Music” drop. Couple the aforementioned moments with several strong guest appearances and his bounce back from a seizure, Rick Ross was truly the boss of 2011.
2011 Local Artist Of The Year: This award goes to Mr. “D.Y.I.” aka Sinbad aka Curtiss King. Curtiss King has created a viral hurricane of audio, video and visual in an attempt to land a spot at 2012’s Paid Dues Festival, however in the event that he doesn’t make it(which I highly doubt), he can accept tis consolation prize from the Examiner. King’s relentless pursuit of recognition is the stuff legends are made of and no doubt his story will be written in the archives of the culture. Salute.
2011 Independent Artist Of The Year: Kendrick Lamar is poised to make the leap from Independent to Mainstream with cosigns from Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes to name a few. Kendrick had the best year in his short career in 2011 as he as elevated as the “West Coast” savior after years of subpar representation in the popular culture. Salute.
2011 Most Slept On Artist Of The Year: Action Bronson is an Albanian America who hails from Flushing Queens. Bronson looks a lot like iconic former Pro Wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow and sounds like Ghostface Killah. Coupled with the fact that he’s also a trained chef, Action Bronson is one of the most uniquely talented emcees since MF DOOM. Bronson has a 90’s style flow and pertinent punch lines that will have you returning for seconds, he is a chef after all. His latest album, “Dr. Lecter” is critically acclaimed by those in the know and his mixtape “Well Done” can easily stand toe to toe with any release out there.
2011 Mainstream Producer Of The Year: Kanye West may not win at the MTV awards but he wins in spins. He masterfully orchestrated Watch The Throne and also continued to expand his musical reach beyond the genre.
2011 Local Producer Of The Year: This award has to go to Fontana’s own Hit Boy who was responsible for the outrageously “provocative” Ni@@as in Paris. What many don’t know is that Hit Boy was also at the helm of several of your favorite songs in 2011 such as Rihanna’s “Watch and Learn” and Pusha T’s “My God”. Hit Boy put the I.E. on the map for the rest of the world. Salute.
2011 Song Of the Year: “No one knows what it means…But it’s provocative…it gets the people going” Ni@@as in Paris gets more rotation than a Ray Allen jumpshot. This dub step inspired jam was produced by Hit Boy and laced with memorable, yet easy to recite; lyrics by Jay-Z and Kanye West. “That sh@t Cray” became the latest slang to infiltrate the ever evolving Hip Hop language. Salute.
2011 Music Video Of The Year: The Roots UnDun is a 9 min compilation of videos off the critically acclaimed album of the same name. The fictional story of Redford Stephens is directed by Clifton Bell and is a visual master piece of film noir aesthetics juxtaposed with the aggressive yet subtle nature of Hip Hop. The visual of the grim reaper like Redford brooding through the streets of Philadelphia is both chilling and exciting.
2011 Ed Lover COME ON SON! award: This infamous award goes to Lil Wayne for wearing jeggings at the MTV awards. The self-proclaimed greatest rapper alive further added to his ever growing list of questionable decisions.
2011 Most Overhyped Artist: If you bought into the hype you’d be inclined to believe that Drake and Nikki Minaj won every musical award in the Hip Hop genre and broke records for sales and performances. Wrong. Neither of them have the hardware to back their perceived success, and yes Nikki won an MTV award; so did Tyler The Creator. Drake and Nikki Minaj are examples of the danger of Hip Hop’s flirtation with Pop Music. Much of what’s considered Hip Hop music by industry standards is as disposal as the wigs and outfits Nikki wears. Drake is the equivalent of The Miami Heat celebrating in the off season as if they won the championship. Nikki and Drakey are the new Hip Hop artists, shiny, temporarily amusing and sweet; but as swallow as a kiddie pool.
2011 Big Ghost Face Chronicles Zeus Slap Award: @BigGhostFase and @weshootpeople aka The Top Shelf Company are two of the most outspoken voices in the Hip Hop social networking community. I highly recommend following both of these characters on twitter. In a culture where “You’re hating” is used as a scapegoat to perpetuate the motto of Y.O.L.O. (You Only Live Once), both @weshootpeople and @BigGhostFase take Hip Hop artists to task for bad decisions musically and socially. You can further be entertained by Big Ghost Fase at http://bigghostnahmean.blogspot.com/ where he discusses the latest and lamest in Hip Hop. Salute.
So there you have it. I’d love to hear what you think about the recipients of these very prestigious awards. Please leave suggestions for categories or artists you think I may have missed or snubbed. As always Peace and Blessings.