Rev That Azz Up

Nervous Rhythms, Chopped-Up Language, Thumping Slapstick Pop

East and West undergrounds crawled out of the 4 a.m. radio slots, the jiggy kept it jiggy, the South kept on ballin'. There are more kinds of rap floating around than I can ever remember.

Joe Gross
Dallas, Texas

It's been 10 years since it's felt this good to be a fan of rap music. Undergrounds on both coasts—and in between—crossed into the mainstream with uncompromising authority—see Mos Def, Jurassic 5, Pharoahe Monch.

Manny Fresh: #19 and #25 singles
Manny Fresh: #19 and #25 singles

Sam Cannon
Los Angeles, California

Critics are misspending time and column inches encouraging obscure artfulness. A revolution of bouncing, bumping, thumping, and—most amazingly—innovative hitmakers flows in one ear, out the other. Could we learn from the indie-rock trainwreck and make a pact to ignore hookless and undanceable old-school revival acts like Jurassic 5 and the Arsonists?

Alec Hanley Bemis
Los Angeles, California

For rap to be so freakin' raw again was such a beautiful thing. Me and husband were backing dat thing up all year (resulting in bambino numero dos). The first time I saw Juvenile's bootilicious video, an O.G. princess was sitting in my living room. Ooooo, the sunshine that blazed through the room at that moment coulda launched a thousand MCs.

Heidi Siegmund Cuda
Sherman Oaks, California

Most major hip hop stars are like pop/rock players in the mid '70s: overpaid, underinspired, bloated, and self-satisfied. The plethora of multimillion-dollar videos offering paeans to conspicuous consumption and more pyro than a James Bond flick find their analogue in Rick Wakeman's three racks of synthesizers and the sword-and-sorcery shtick of oafish prog rock.

Mac Randall
Manhattan

Hiphop is filled with self-destructive tendencies—the '99 breakdowns by Sean (Combs) and Shawn (Carter) make us look like animals. But the way we are viewed by outsiders cannot be our primary concern. The hiphop nation understands what happened.

Touré
Brooklyn, New York

It's romantic as Donny and Roberta to wax idyllic about hip-hop's "underground," but the criteria are as slippery as alt.rock's when the endgame is to ship units. "Underground" is just another way of saying "I eat my poultry in a bucket, not under glass."

Darrell M. McNeill
Brooklyn, New York

The Roots produced 1999's most vibrant (with a "b") hiphop LP precisely because they didn't attempt to save the artform. Things Fall Apart takes the demise of hiphop as its departure point, prepared to harness its energy and move on to more pressing matters.

Eddie Houghton
Los Angeles, California

Aside from their "real" instruments (whose supposed hip hop "roots" must amaze Kool Herc), the Roots' claim to "authenticity" is, near as I can tell, that they sell fewer records than Puffy. I'd find that argument less disingenuous if they didn't also sell more records than Mos Def. Or if I could recall a single rhyme. The road to Arrested Development is paved with good intentions.

Keith Harris
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Prince Paul's completely not interested in repeating himself, or in upholding any kind of tradition, or even in laying the ground for anything else. A Prince Among Thieves is the only album of its kind that can be made.

Douglas Wolk
Long Island City, New York

Mos Def's amazing album isn't the classic he seems capable of, but its moments of epiphany begin with the subdub bassline bubbling up underneath "Fear Not of Man"—including "Climb," a duet with Vinia Mojica that achieves more musicality and soulfulness than any "New Soul" has yet to offer.

Eddie Houghton
Los Angeles, California

Mos Def for president.

Darrell M. McNeill
Brooklyn, New York

Kool Keith is the thinking man's ODB, rawass ghetto-tastic smartass covering topics like cannibalism, food stamps, and masturbating with the comic tension of the best Tarantino film, if anybody remembers who the fuck that is.

Hobey Echlin
Manhattan

Ol' Dirty Bastard, another of rock's genuinely scary eccentrics, needs help. His record is brilliant chaos, nonlinear and threatening and sick. Have tender thoughts for this hurtin' fool.

Philip Martin
Little Rock, Arkansas

Manny Fresh is hip-hop's Jerry Lewis, a does-it-all auteur the genre's intelligentsia can't stomach. He aims his bouncing slapstick at the cheap seats and makes lots of cash with MCs who don't say anything you'd want to link with Eliot or Stevens in an undergrad seminar.

Joe Gross
Dallas, Texas

When Manny Fresh added that all-important bottom to Master P's infectious jitter, the stomach-rumbling Roland 808 shock waves of Miami bass moved front and center. Though yesterday's standard bearers—from Missy Elliott to the stone-faced disciples of Wu-Tang—may still consider bass painfully "country," that hasn't stopped them from dragging out their own 808s.

Brett Sokol
Miami, Florida

Slick Rick's in his mid thirties in a genre where you can wash out before you can legally rent a car. But Art of Storytelling was a posse album that sounded like everyone wanted to be there, with guys like Nas, Snoop, and OutKast giving a pound to the voice that made their street dreams possible.

Joe Gross
Dallas, Texas

Q-Tip ees so fine! Q-Tip ees so fine! Q-Tip ees so fine! C'mon ladieez, yulknowwhaimtalkingbout. He so fine, he blow my mind.

Heidi Siegmund Cuda
Sherman Oaks, Calfornia

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