For the past year, some people were thinking that hip-hop was dead, but lets clarify something: hip-hop is not dead, especially when it pertains to 2006. Sure, record sales may have dipped a little bit and granted, things moved slow at times, but 2006 was a year no one should ever forget. Too much happened throughout the past 365 days.
First and foremost, who can forget about the hyphy movement out in the Bay Area? Clearly, E-40 taught us that getting loaded off of Red Bull Energy Drink was not only cool, but provided quality entertaining music (ghostriding the whip didnt hurt either).
While the West Coast was heating up, the sun seemed to shine mostly on the South. Fingers were snappin’ in clubs all across America (for better or for worse) thanks for Dem Franchize Boyz and thanks for Bubba Sparxxx, more girls shook their ass than ever before thanks to “Miss New Booty.” But it wasn’t all just party music. Rick Ross reminded the world about the desire to succeed with his smash “Hustlin'” and T.I. re-enforced that by having the best-selling album of the year with King. Whether you were “Ridin’ Dirty” or ghostriding a whip, one thing was clear: the South did their thing. Like Yung Joc said, “It’s Goin’ Down.”
Unfortunately, not everyone can have a brownie and eat it too. Ask G-Unit. True, the rap label is still fairly young, but their album sales have declined this year. Simply put, the G-Unit train may be running out of steam. Although fans didn’t take a big bite out of Lloyd Banks’ Rotten Apple or buy into the Mobb Deep’s currency of Blood Money, G-Unit may have a banner next year with releases from Spider Loc, Young Buck and 50 Cent.
Though hip-hop went through a slow period, it accelerated at a fast pace towards the end of the year with released from The Game, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Jeezy and Jay-Z (who has set the Guinness Book of World Records by coming out of retirement 98 times. One more time could be a problem).
Before we can officially close the book on 2006, the wonderful staff of Ballerstatus.com would like to dish out a few awards to some flossin’ (and un-flossin’) emcees.
Album of the Year: King (T.I.)
Many of us rolled our eyes when T.I. deemed himself King of the South, dismissing the Bankhead MC as another pretentious rapper with a big head. However, those rolling eyes were front and center as we watched Tip receive numerous awards this year including Rap Artist Of The Year at the Billboard Awards and Hip Hop CD Of The Year at the BET awards for his I-told-you-so titled, King. The album was a commercial success, selling over 500,000 copies in it first week, second only to the King of NY’s Kingdom Come, for highest first week sales by a rapper this year. It was also well received by critics for its balance and versatility. King showcased several sides of T.I.: the cocky crack-dealer on the fierce first-single, “What You Know”; the persistent playa on the seductive second-single, “Why You Wanna”; and the brooding brute on the teary third-single, “Live In The Sky.” This adept artistry has been validated with T.I.’s nominations for four of the five rap categories including Best Rap Album in next year’s Grammy awards. What you know about that?
Honorable mention: Food & Liquor (Lupe Fiasco); Hell Hath No Fury (Clipse)
Single of the Year: (tie) “Ridin'” (Chamillionaire)/”Hustlin'” (Rick Ross)
It seemed like you couldn’t stand anywhere on this planet without hearing Rick Ross’ “Hustlin'” and Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'” via ringtones, car speakers or mimicking mouths. Both singles achieved platinum ringtone sales (Ross was the first artist to do this without a released album) and launched the careers of their composers into the hip-pop stratosphere. “Hustlin'” sparked a major bidding war that garnered Ross offers from the likes of Diddy and Irv Gotti. He eventually signed a multi-million dollar deal with Def Jam and his album, Port Of Miami, debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard charts. “Ridin'” earned Chamillionaire a Moon Man at the MTV VMAs for Best Rap Video, and two Grammy nominations for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group and Best Rap Song. Not to mention the exclusive honor of being parodied by Weird Al Yankovic.
Honorable mention: “It’s Goin’ Down” (Yung Joc), “We Fly High” (Jim Jones)
Underground/Indie Album of the Year: School Was My Hustle (Kidz In The Hall)
Hailing from the Windy City, Chi-Town natives, Kidz In The Hall, which features Naledge on LL’s legendary tattoo and Double-O on the soulful soundscapes, showed a much needed alternative to the traphouse glorifications prevalent on the average radio/video channel. Hailing from the Chi, Naledge possesses the experience and street sensitivity of the local stoop parlayer. Graduate of an Ivy-League institution, he also has had the good fortune to acquire the education to put oppressive and detrimental conditions many feel intrinsically into well articulated formulations. On their 2006-released School Was My Hustle, there were a number of potent tracks that proved that they are in a class all their own. “Cruise Control” shows this engaging dichotomy at it’s finest, featuring Naledge calmly displaying his many sides over a driving, horn heavy instrumental. “Hypocrite” and “Move On Up” interestingly serve to condemn as well as to inspire, while “Ms. Juanita” is a well executed homage to oldie, but goodie “Bonita Applebum”, and is a refreshing change of pace from the average “chick song” on rap albums that more often than not, sound strategically placed than genuine. The strength of this particular record is it’s seamless sound and quality content from start to finish. School Was My Hustle is high on potency, and shows that Naledge and producer Double-O are capable of putting out much better product than some of their more coke-pushing contemporaries.
Honorable mention: Block Tested, Hood Approved (Big Rich); Legacy (Akir); Hi-Teknology Vol. 2: The Chip (Hi-Tek)
Best New Artist: Chamillionaire
Several terrific artists received their formal introduction into the mainstream realm of hip-hop in 2006, but Chamillionaire made the biggest impact of all the other major-label debuting MCs. True, the Mixtape Messiah had an enormous buzz for years within the Houston underground and his confusing beef with Paul Wall familiarized him with the rest of America. Evidently, he was getting groomed to handle superstardom and when he dropped the Sound of Revenge, he took an elevator to the top. The album would go double platinum and although his first single “Turn It Up” was entertaining, it was the banger “Ridin’ (Dirty),” which solidified his status within hip-hop. The track sat atop the Billboard charts for two weeks and became his first no. 1 hit. Clearly, that’s an accomplishment. After all, when Weird Al mimics your song and turns it into something “White & Nerdy,” then you know you’re doing something right. Keep ridin’ on that road.
Honorable mention: Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco
Breakthrough Artist of the Year: Three 6 Mafia
Since they debuted in 1995, Three 6 Mafia has released a string of hits including “Tear The Club Up” and “Sippin’ On Some Syrup.” They were the first hip-hop group out of Memphis, Tennesse to go platinum with the release of their fourth album, When The Smoke Clears, and yet Three 6 Mafia had received little mainstream recognition. Some believed that their misunderstood moniker, which had been rumored to represent the number of the beast, had thwarted their career. In reality, the only time Three 6 Mafia sold their soul is when they sold their soulful single “Stay Fly” on their most successful release to date, the career describing and defining, Most Know Unknown, which has sold just over one million copies. The single was hot enough to make Satan sweat, and though released in September of 2005 it was still tearing clubs up in 06. Three 6 Mafia’s crowning moment however came in March of 2006 when they became the first African American hip-hop act to win an Oscar for Best Song. The group was nominated for the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from the “Hustle & Flow” soundtrack, which they performed at ceremony making history once again for being the first hip-hop act to perfom at the Oscars. Grammy who?
Honorable mention: E-40, Jim Jones, Lil Wayne
Most Disappointing Album of the Year: Rotten Apple (Lloyd Banks)
Ever since dropping his solo debut, The Hunger For More, in 2004, Lloyd Banks was living up to the title of his hit “On Fire.” The Boy Wonder became a platinum-selling artist, a well-respected member of the hip-hop community and even made his own porn DVD. He was like the urban Dirk Diggler. Somewhere along the way however, the flame became extinguished. Maybe it could be due to his sick obsession of blue jewelry, maybe it could be due to the numerous times he pushed back his sophomore set the Rotten Apple, or maybe it could be due to his terrible first single, “My House” (which for some reason, didn’t make the LP and was later replaced with the Eminem-produced “Hands Up”). Banks saw little success since releasing it in October. His album moved 143,000 units in its’ opening week and landed at no. 3 on the charts, but fans quickly realized that the Rotten Apple was nothing more than a rotten album. Half the effort was comprised of less-than-mediocre collaborations and the other half lacked punchlines and tight verses the Boy Wonder is known for slinging. Since its Billboard debut, Banks has yet to break the 250,000 mark. Instead of accumulating more blue bling he doesn’t need, maybe his New Year’s Resolution should be to not make mediocre music, which will keep on radio. Take it in baby steps, Lloyd.
Honorable mention: Blood Money (Mobb Deep)
R&B Mover and Shaker of the Year: Mary J. Blige
We kicked off 2006 big when we sat down the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J Blige. She gave us the 411 on her album The Breakthrough, which became one of the top five selling albums of 2006 and had the biggest first-week sales for an R&B solo female artist in SoundScan history. Contrary to her previous material -– on which she demonstrated that heartaches and pain contribute to the most imposing art — joyful and upbeat offerings were Blige’s primary tool in her reinvention. Lead-off single “Be Without You” raced charts worldwide, as did her duet with Bono on U2 remake “One,” “Take Me As I Am” and “Enough Cryin'”. On the latter, she showed her many sides by revealing her alter-ego, rapper Brook Lynn. By going from negative to positive, doing risky duets and showing off her rap skills, our favourite song bird earned her stripes working outside her comfort zone. And while we’re still wrapping up ’06, Blige is getting ready to take the industry by storm again in ’07 with eight Grammy nominations and a greatest hits album. All hail the Queen.
Honorable mention: Ne-Yo, Akon, Danity Kane
Producer of the Year: Will.i.am
Will.i.am may have been Ruthless before the Black Eyed Peas, but his production skills weren’t seen as such until this year. Besides producing songs for fellow band-mate Fergie, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake, Santana and Sergio Mendes, Will also crafted beats for rappers The Game (“Compton”), Nas (“Hip-Hop Is Dead”) and Busta Rhymes (“I Love My Bitch”). His work this year earned him a Grammy nomination for Producer Of The Year. Our bet is on him.
Honorable mention: Timbaland
Mixtape DJ of the Year: DJ Drama
After moving from Philly to Atlanta in ’96, DJ Drama harnessed the South’s sound and later released an army of distinctively Dirty mixtapes entitled Gangsta Grillz. Since their inception, Drama has put out more than thirty of these thorough mixtapes, including fan favorite Trap Or Die in 2005. This year, he released a number of new tapes and arguably the best mixtape of ’06: Dedication 2 with Lil Wayne. On top of that, DJ Drama’s grill showed up everywhere this year — on magazine covers, in music videos and on a short lived blog. Most recently, Drama swept the 10th Annual Mixtape Awards.
Honorable mention: DJ Skee, Clinton Sparks
Artist To Watch In 2007: Papoose
Yes, we named his artist to watch in 2006, but that sentiment is still true for ’07. Kay Slay groomed the young rapper over the past year and it seems to have paid off. Keeping his buzz alive via countless mixtapes, Pap officially signed a deal — reportedly worth $1 million with Jive Records. Now, with his buzz peaking in the East Coast and throughout various regions in the nation, he is ready to take 2007 as his. Most recently, the rapper recorded a track called “Change Gon’ Come” (50 shots), that talks about the Sean Bell shooting, in which an unarmed man was shot 50 times by police, which was widely talked about within the industry. For the coming year, our money is on Papoose.
Honorable mention: G. Malone, Plies, Mistah FAB