First and foremost, 2010 is proving to be a big comeback year for hip-hop. Last year had its fair share of memorable singles, but ultimately failed to deliver in the album department. But hell, when even Rick Ross is putting out a critically acclaimed album (check out Teflon Don!) you know the genre must be enjoying good times.
Leading the pack so far are a couple of old standbys: Eminem and Big Boi — and what isn’t there to say about Big Boi’s solo debut? Mathers’ intractable “Yo I’ve been through a lot but I’m still here” mantra doesn’t break new ground, but Recovery has been adept at recapturing the interest of old fans who had been let down by 2009’s Relapse. The OutKast MC’s Sir Lucious Left Foot, Son of Chico Dusty was more than a reworking of Speakerboxx/The Love Below; it was a revelation, a much-delayed, much-hyped product that managed to hold relevance away from its gaudy backstory once it saw the light of day.
This is neither the time nor place to carp that Antwan Patton’s “Shutterbug” has not been all over the radio, but no other genre-borrowing rapper makes quite the journey he does into outside realms before coming home to his Southern roots. Patton’s record has been handed stellar reviews from the likes of The Village Voice, Allmusic.com, and Spin. Finally, if you want to dig deeper into hip-hop’s long list of summer successes, pick up the debuts from Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs, EP STr8 Killa and its outstanding mixtape Str8 Killa No Filla, and K.R.I.T. Wuz Here from Atlanta MC Big K.R.I.T. [King Remembered in Time].
Irish Indie Love
If you’re an indie rock fan, chances are you maybe might have heard that there’s a new Arcade Fire record. And it’s kind of good. (It did debut at number one in the US, the UK, and Canada. And Ireland.) The Suburbs does hold up surprisingly well over a staggering sixteen tracks, whether or not it surpasses Funeral. The Montreal torchbearers tactfully refine their old standards rather than stumble through unnatural ones – featuring unabashed Springsteen worship on “Month of May,” unabashed emoting on “Sprawl II,” and plenty of “us against the world” lyrical themes.
While Arcade Fire further established themselves as an indie standard, Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells is the new buzz band that most penetrated the blogosphere. This male-female tandem of Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss delivered with Treats, a collection of pop songs for the recession era — homemade or low-budget sounding but infectious and, well, noisy enough to cause a stir. On the singles front, of the summery buzz bands, Best Coast delivered with “Boyfriend,” and The Drums with “Let’s Go Surfing.”
Perhaps the summer’s most genre-bending success was Janelle Monaé, a pop/R&B/everything-in-between singer based in Kansas City. On her debut, the 25-year-old Monae pulls innovation from eccentrics like M.I.A. at her creative peak (read: not Maya) blended with ’80s Prince. It may also prove to be the only album in history to feature Big Boi and Of Montreal.
On the pop front, the charts were predictably dominated by more genre-conglomerates and guest spots, with considerably less acumen. For instance, a perfectly good David Guetta single, “Getting Over You,” was strapped with a pair of dumbbells, LMFAO and Fergie, on its way to Top 40 success. However, there were a few Top 40 highlights; “Mine” further proved Taylor Swift to be one cool lady, and “Misery” made it cool to like Maroon 5, however nonchalantly, to the point of not caring. On the topic of not caring, the two most played songs on Z100 appear to both involve Pitbull. Never mind, let’s gear up for fall.
BY CHRIS PAYNE