Christmas is less than two weeks away. That inevitably means that department stores are crammed, cheesy holiday commercials are in high gear, and everyone’s favorite gift-bearer is hard at work, finalizing his list (or, as the saying goes, checking it twice) of the naughty and the nice of 2010. Which makes me wonder, if rappers are included on this list (I don’t see why they wouldn’t be), which ones would make which list? Who walked the line all year and will find a stocking full of goodies, and who behaved so poorly that they will wake up to a pile of coal at the foot of their Christmas tree?
The Nice List
This seasoned veteran is definitely in the good graces of St. Nick this year. Not only did he bring forth the strongest LP from the south of 2010, but he proved that he doesn’t need Andre 3000 to be magnificent.
Another southern old head who surely made the nice list is one of hip-hop’s hardest workers. A solid album to complete his Trill series and his help with Pimp C’s posthumous album, The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones, ensure that Bernard will certainly get that pair of fleece pajamas he’s so been looking forward to.
Putting out two albums in one year is a feat in itself. Making sure they’re both listenable is even better. But topping yourself on the sequel, well that’s something else entirely.
Aside from gracefully handling the passing of his former Gangstarr member Guru, Premier also worked hard manning the boards, including blessing Bun B with the hard-hitting beat to “Let Em Know.”
No, his comeback album was not what it should have been. Still, Eminem seems to have finally gotten his wit back, and seems one stepper closer to conquering his ever-elusive demons. You have to applaud him for that.
It’s young bloods like Cole who give hip-hop heads faith in the future. He’s a lyrical monster, and he seems destined for success under the tutelage of the great Jay-Z.
Speaking of Jay, he finally gave us that memoir we’ve been waiting for. It was unconventionally brilliant and insightful; a great read. He also finally gave North America a greatest hits album, which includes some of his finest bangers.
Wow. Talk about a comeback. After following Mos Def’s advice and leaving the country for the rest of 2009 after the infamous Taylor Swift incident, Yeezy returned to the land of opportunity on a quest for redemption. A brilliant weekly music series, a provocative film, and an artistically superior album later, I think he finally got it.
No, she didn’t release an album, but she did declare her return to music and performed at Rock the Bells with the likes of Rakim and the Wu. We can only hope she brings us more tidings of joy in 2011.
Nas and Damian Marley
These two put on a powerful display of how important and stunning collaborations can be. Distant Relatives is one of the best albums of any genre this year.
Hate him all you want, but the fact is, Ross has made some good music this year. Sure, he was weak on a number of songs, but he successfully survived a beef with 50 Cent and is handling another with Young Jeezy like a pro. You can’t knock him for that.
And you thought you’d never see another Roots record again. As if How I Got Over wasn’t enough, they embarked on an ambitious project with John Legend, covering classic songs on Wake Up! Even though the latter may have fallen a little short of its mark, the heart was there.
Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek
Recapturing past magic is like catching lightning in a bottle. Fortunately, although these two didn’t quite match their first collaboration, Train of Thought, they satisfied listeners with a solid LP from start to finish, which featured the epic “In This World.”
This one was a toss-up. While Wiz blew up to become one of the biggest new rappers in the game, he also foolishly flaunted his weed-habit to the point of getting arrested and charged on drug trafficking charges. Still, Wiz is a solid MC. He seems to love his music and his fans almost as much as he loves the sticky icky, which is saying something.
Sometimes it is what an artist does away from the studio that makes him important. When Wyclef’s native land of Haiti was brutally damaged by an earthquake in January, he stepped up big time and put his money where his mouth was, lending a helping hand to those in need.
The Naughty List
We all know that Curtis Jackson stirs up controversy in an attempt to keep himself relevant. Usually, his antics are annoying but humorous. In his beef with Rick Ross, however, he took things too far, exposing a sex tape of Ross’ baby mama. Come on, Fiddy. Where’s the class?
2010 saw no change in The Game’s behavior. One minute, he was pleading for a G-Unit reunion, and the next he was bashing his former allies. This might have been a little more acceptable if he had actually released some quality music, but alas, it seems his skills are only deteriorating.
It pains me to put one of the West’s best ever on the naughty list. However, Cube embarrassed himself this year after putting out “Drink the Kool-Aid”, which contained lyrics that were obviously a diss to Dr. Dre and Eminem. After denying this, he went on to release a subpar album titled I Am the West. Let’s hope he never falls flat again.
As much as I certainly do not condone the mistreatment of women by rappers, I also can’t stand hip-hop groupies who disrespect themselves and then get offended when others do the same. Meet Kat Stacks, a young woman who has been very vocal about her relationships with rappers. Her words are obviously a ploy to get her 15 minutes of fame, which she seems to be trying to stretch as far as she can. Pathetic.
When Young Money upstart Nicki Minaj completely bit her style, Kim saw it as a chance to get back into the game. However, instead of promoting Minaj or encouraging her to do her own thing, she took the low road and released an all-out assault on the young femcee.
After Jay-Z took a minor jab at the washed-out rapper, MC Hammer took offense and vowed revenge on wax. I’m sure Shawn Carter is shaking in boots. Please Hammer, don’t hurt ‘em!
Usually, when two rappers engage in a beef, one usually is right. What’s funny about the Minaj-Kim beef is that they are both wrong. While Kim is desperate to make herself relevant again, Nicki certainly should have from the start created her own image. Although she has finally done just that, it seems too late. It certainly doesn’t help that Nicki is a weak rapper with poor rhyming skills and bad delivery.
Santa is definitely shaking his head in disgust at this guy. After what seemed like a forged letter claiming to be Guru on his death bed, Solar blasted DJ Premier and used the situation to his advantage, exploiting Guru’s dire health for his own personal gain. Despicable.
This one needs no explanation. Anyone who watches the news can see that Suge Knight has failed in all of his New Year’s Resolutions. That is if he even made any.
“Say it ain’t so, Tip.” That’s what people were saying back in 2007 when T.I. was arrested for gun possession. After supposedly cleaning up his act and spending some jail time, T.I. came out, poised to regain his spot as one of the hottest in hip-hop. However, old habits die hard, and he was caught with ecstasy and marijuana in September. Now back in jail, it looks like T.I. is running out of chances with the public.
Well, that about wraps it up. Only time will tell who gets what on Christmas day, but no matter what happens, let’s hope those who stayed straight continue down their path to excellence and those who screwed up learn from their mistakes and have a much better 2011.
by Aaron McKrell