In 2006, Nas famously declared: “Hip Hop Is Dead.” Nevertheless, with the second decade of the new millennium, the hip hop Renaissance has begun. We have a slew of ultra-talented rap artists to thank for its resurgence. With the embarrassments of the last decade’s rap behind us, (“Go shawty, it’s your birthday,” “My mom does Valium, and lots of drugs,” “Teen drinkin’ is very bad. But I got a fake ID though,” to name a few cringe-worthy moments) we move forward in 2010, one of the most surprising years of rap resurgence on record.
This decade has already marked itself as the age of dance. Lady Gaga took the world by storm, the Black Eyed Peas own the radio waves, and Ke$ha keeps the club jumping into the wee hours. But rap music was building a quiet resurgence while the world was out waving their glowsticks. Eminem started the movement by re-inventing himself into a relatably tortured torch-bearer with “Not Afraid,” and in a knock-out punch wowed audiences and critics with the introspective window into domestic abuse on “Love the Way You Lie,” also catapulting Rihanna into a masterclass with her pained delivery of the hook. The track highlighted the soul of true hip-hop: storytelling with grit and truth.
On the flip side was new-comer Nicki Minaj, the bisexual bad-girl of novelty rhymes. Nodding to the playful insistence of the genre, Nicki became the go-to rap guest for a horde of popular artists, teaching mainstream audiences a thing or two about the effectiveness of a well-placed rhyme. Her simultaneous sugar and venom, coupled with a growling wit, proved a smash, making Minaj a star before even her first album release. Pink Friday, her debut album, hit store shelves last week.
But this was only the beginning. As audiences re-acquainted themselves with the rhymes and melodies of hip-hop, Kanye West was off in his head crafting a masterpiece. He always told us he was good. And everyone (especially Taylor Swift) was sick of hearing it. “With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Kanye West delivered a musical masterpiece, a testament to absolutely everything hip-hop can do so well. Soul, rock, classical. Pathos, vulnerability, id, superego. Kanye West’s grown-up answer to Alice in Wonderland stands alongside the greatest albums in history as testament to a generation’s tortured underbelly.
These are only a sampling of the brilliance hip-hop has afforded the world with this year. I was ready to write it off with Nas. But thankfully, Nas was dead wrong.
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