Album Of The Year:
(Purchase Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2 by Raekwon) (H20 Records/EMI)
Mixtape Of The Year:
So Far Gone by Drake
You might not know what to make of Young Money's TV star-turned-rapper. We still don't. But the undeniable fact is that Toronto's Aubrey Drake made an album for free that over 200,000 people were willing to pay for. Armed with some mixed emotions about females, a sprinkle of self-doubt complemented with cockiness, So Far Gone not only set a trend that most street emcees attempted to copy, but it truly did have something for everybody. Even Drake skeptics adored the stellar production from Boi 1da and DJ Khalil. As Thank Me Later comes together for Young Money/Universal Republic in 2010, like 50 Cent and Wayne, Drake earned his stripes on the freebies.
(Purchase So Far Gone by Drake) (Young Money/Universal Republic)
Video Of The Year:
"3 a.m." by Eminem (Syndrome)
As if Em's murderous, drug-crazed lyrics weren't enough to give you the shivers, Symdrome's visuals lay the coats of blood on thick. From the grainy scratches and bleached-out colors to the featured soaked walls and severed apendages, "3 a.m." looks like the mind of Norman Bates come to life. Yet perhaps the most interesting aspect of the video is Memento-style fragmentation of the story. Also, for any horror movie buffs out there, see if you can spot the homages to films like The Exorcist III and The Amityville Horror.
Emcee Of The Year:
Raekwon brought it back to lyrical, dope rap. He released an album that spoke to teens, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and beyond. Without compromising, the Chef made an edgy Hip Hop record that refused to bastardize the catalog he laid down 15 years ago. On top of that, Rae (along with Ghostface) was a go-to for numerous rappers making albums, ranging from the Playaz Circle to Jadakiss to BK One. That's beyond real, as was a year filled with performing in arenas, clubs and even churches. When it came to mastering the ceremony, Rea had 'em all following the leader.
Verse Of The Year:
Rookie Of The Year:
In the last half of this decade, fresh-faced California emcees have emerged in a variety of styles. After Game in 2005, Blu in 2007, it was Fashawn who dazzled Hip Hop in 2009. Straight outta Fresno, this emcee seemed inspired by Illmatic-era Nas and delivered Boy Meets World as a debut album that celebrated storytelling, adolescent vulnerability, and big Rap dreams. Surrounding himself with veteran producers like Evidence, Alchemist and his album co-pilot Exile was a wise move, as Fash may be one of leaders of the new school.
Producer Of The Year:
The Atlanta-by-way-of-Chicago producer didn't extend himself too much in 2009. However, he joined Jay-Z in carrying Auto-Tune's body through the streets of Hip Hop. Kanye West's mentor also brought out many of the other charms in Blueprint 3. Beyond that, the producer who once went by Immenslope lent a helping hand to Twista, Fabolous and Jim Jones. With a touted reunion with Common in 2010 and more work alongside Kanye West, expect the evasive producer to continue his evolution, 15 years after Hip Hop got to know him.
Movie Of The Year:
Typically, Hip Hop media goes for the war movies, the fantasy, the comic book-inspired. But in a year that's been slow to start at cinemas, we were happy just to laugh our asses off in the 2-0-0-9. The film gets additional love for including "Can't Tell Me Nothing" in it, as well as some hits from T.I., Lil Jon and Flo Rida.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Non Hip-Hop Album Of The Year:
One of the first DXnext artists, Chester French, like Robin Thicke, advanced the Star Trak brand outside of Hip Hop this year. Love The Future was Depeche Mode-meets-Beach Boys-meets-Asher Roth done right. These Ivy Leaguers are a product of the iPod generation, and have a lot of versatility to offer. The charts noticed, and so did the HipHopDX staff.
Disappointing Album Of The Year:
One of the best releases of 2006 was Busta Rhymes' Big Bang. Three years later and Trevor seemed to embrace the importance of fallen soldier J Dilla on his and Mick Boogie's Dillagence release, while heading to Universal Motown, a label that might better understand the L.O.N.S. member's emceedom more than his thuggery. Rather than it be Dilla's spirit in Busta's ear for Back On My B.S., it seemed to be Ron Browz' vocoder. This album was poorly produced Hip-Pop that lacked direction and an audience. We still love Busta though, and would have paid good, green money had the album been the I Bullshit You Not mixtape with DJ Scratch instead.
(Purchase Back On My B.S. by Busta Rhymes) (Universal Motown)
Comeback Of The Year:
With all the talk of hipsters, blogger-rappers and the pastiche of a group Young Money, 2009 sure felt a lot like 1993. Just when Wu fans began to fear for the worst, the year greeted them with solo releases from Cappadonna, U-God, Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon with his long-awaited return to form Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2, in addition to the stellar RZA and the Revelations-helmed compilation Chamber Music. And with the Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Raekwon project Wu-Massacre on deck for 2010, it definitely looks like that the Clan's in the front.
Trends That We Want To See Die In 2010:
Video Blogs About Nothing
Biggest Story Of 2009:
Michael Jackson Dies
We lost the King Of Pop this summer. The world will never be the same. But Jackson's legacy continues to grow, and the music has never stopped playing.
Hip Hop Loses Baatin, Roc Raida, Mr. Magic and DJ AM
Gucci Mane, Lil Boosie, Lil Wayne, T.I., B.G. To Be Or Are Incarcerated
Slept On Album Of 2009:
After almost five years of development, this album (long-titled Urban Legend) was supposed to be 'Mega's magnum-opus. When it dropped, the reformed Queensbridge hustler seemed ignored in an Internet age of viral videos, blogs and saturated MP3s and mixtapes. With production from DJ Premier, Large Professor, Havoc, Easy Mo Bee, Pete Rock and L.E.S., Born and Raised played like a '90s retrospective, with maturity and wisdom. The DX staff praised this album from October clear to the new year, and like the rest of the Rap media, we never saw this highly-anticipated release coming.
Purchase Born & Raised by Cormega (Aura/Traffic)
Collaboration of 2009:
Top stars from Universal, Interscope and Def Jam got down for one of the most-played and most lyrical collaborations of 2009. Drake talks about his pre-deal reign, while Kanye West rejects the fame, before Lil Wayne toys with wordplay, and Eminem Kool G Rap's the cypha by truly blacking out on Boi 1da's track. This song brought Eminem back to urban audiences, while pairing him alongside three of the artists that ascended to greatness during his sabatical.
"Move On" by Joell Ortiz featuring Joe Budden, Royce Da 5'9" & Crooked I (Slaughterhouse, online single)
"Radiant Jewels" by Raekwon featuring Sean Price & Cormega (Wu-Tang Presents: Chamber Music)