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 kindsof 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.

Sam Cannon
Los Angeles, California

Critics are misspending time and column inches encouraging obscure artfulness. A revolution of bouncing, bumping, thumping, and—most amazingly—innovativehitmakers 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 canbe 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 Storytellingwas 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

Like Muhammad Ali, Jay-Z finds it difficult to brag because bragging demands overstatement. His dynasty talk is all too real—his streak of hits is going on years, and Beanie Sigel and Memph Bleek may give him the best team in hiphop today. The complexity of his rhyme schemes is unequaled in the modern game—the way he plays with words, bending and chopping them up, the way he breaks the language and kills you with internal rhymes.

Touré
Brooklyn, New York

Word to Method Man. Hey, we love ya, but it's time to go to Maui and take some time away. Is there any guest on the mic you've turned down? Next year do we get the Pete Seeger duet, "This Land Is Your Motherfuckin' Land"?

Ken Capobianco
Brighton, Massachusetts

If one in 10 people is gay, and there are at least 10 members of the Wu-Tang Clan, does that mean that one of the Wu rappers is queer? Who is it? Raekwon the Chef? Ol' Dirty? The RZA?

Jay Ruttenberg
Highland Park, Illinois

Dead: Biggie

Bitchslap me Jesus through the goalposts of life: Puffy

Just a gigolo: Kid Rock

Rob Sheffield
Charlottesville, Virginia

Suge Knight, anyone?

Jon Caramanica
Manhattan

Once artists like Stevie Wonder and EWF wrote magical songs, jammed live, and toured. Now Mint Condition is the only r&b band on a major label, three guys write damn near all the songs, and nobody tours—not that anyone under 25 gives a damn.

Franklin Paul
Kew Gardens, New York

Destiny's Child and She'kspere have taken jungle's fierce nervous-wreck rhythms and made actual pop out of them, whilst not sounding remotely like jungle.

Scott Woods
Toronto, Canada

By redefining cool away from mere beauty and becoming the first "girl group" not to let cutting-edge r&b production overwhelm their message, TLC made the year's most subversive record.

Britt Robson
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Got no money, got no car, got no woman—there I are. Hate to come off as a huffy, downwardly mobile, voluntarily bike-riding, involuntarily celibate man-as-victim, but "No Scrubs" is classist just as sure as Jay-Z is sexist.

Keith Harris
Minneapolis, Minnesota

True Divaness arrived in the form of Angie Stone, who's always been around, but never quite appreciated, like most good women. Black Diamond was the last great makeout record of the millennium. But the righteous sister award is shared with Meshell Ndegéocello's Bitter. I could come home totally content from an evening's merriment at 2 a.m., put it on, and by 2:20 be in a fit of anguish—chain-smoking, drinking rotgut left over from the Christmas party, running up my long-distance bill.

Lissa Townshend Rodgers
Manhattan

Macy Gray is the exact opposite of what a black female singer is expected to sound like, almost abrasively so, and I like that. She's also not whining about scrubs or bills.

Greg Casseus
Manhattan

Cesaria Evora's voice is a plaintive wonder that carried me across oceans and into a better understanding of the world and myself. Her Town Hall concert this fall made me flash on the freeze-dried performances that are passed off these days as soul. This was the real thing—simple, direct, as warm as a lover's eyes.

Nelson George
Brooklyn, New York


Kem Poston

ALBUMS

Mos Def Black on Both Sides (rawkus) 20

Femi Kuti Shoki Shoki (barclay) 14

The Roots Things Fall Apart (mca) 13

Styles of Beyond 2000 Fold (ideal) 12

Mobb Deep Murda Muzik (loud) 11

Tony Allen Black Voices (comet) 10

Prince Paul A Prince Among Thieves (tommy boy) 5

Kelis Kaleidoscope (virgin) 5

Breakbeat Era Ultra-Obscene (xl) 5

Ol' Dirty Bastard N***a Please (elektra) 5


If Fiona Apple was a black girl, she'd be considered the second coming of a choirload of soul giants.

Dimitry Elias Léger
Brooklyn, New York

With the exception of Mary, the best soul singer out there is Fiona, whose support in that so-called urban community is the great secret of the industry. I am offering my not-so-cheap-anymore time to Epic Records. It's the Fiona Apple Street Team. Our goal: Get that skinny white bitch on Hot 97.

Amy Linden
Brooklyn, New York

I hate to give such props to a white boy, but the second-best MC in hiphop is Eminem. He spits gory and funny little narratives with details and adjectives and long strings of badass, demented thoughts like no one since Big.

Touré
Brooklyn, New York

If hip hop is indeed the new rock 'n' roll (and has Timeever been wrong before?), then Eminem and Elvis differ in more than their taste in pharmaceuticals. Eminem's pale face remains an oddity in an umptillion-dollar industry. History never repeats itself exactly, and the differences are as instructive as the similarities—a fact that those who toss around the word "minstrelsy" should remember.

Keith Harris
Minneapolis, Minnesota


Raquel Cepeda

SINGLES

Roots "You Got Me" (mca)

Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley "Turn the Lights Down Low" (columbia)

D'Angelo "Untitled" (virgin)

Dr. Dre "Still D.R.E." (aftermath/interscope)

Lauryn Hill "Everything Is Everything" (ruffhouse/columbia)

Common "1-9-9-9" (rawkus)

Angie Stone "No More Rain (In This Cloud)" (arista)

Jay-Z "Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)" (def jam)

OutKast "Rosa Parks" (laface)

Mos Def "Ms. Fat Booty" (rawkus)


Rage Against the Machine are enemies of the hip-hop party. They're betraying the basic principles of DJ-lectic materialism: "All sounds made by guitar, bass, drum, and vocals." Didn't Comrade Chuck D reify Run-D.M.C.'s postulation that a DJ could be a band? This group is undoing the labors of 20 years! Reactionary swine! How dare they rock such bells!

Chris Norris
Manhattan

I don't get the complaints that Beck is making fun of the love-man mode. All the great love men got off on being funny. Prince knew he was funny ("Well, maybe not that ride"). Al Green knew he was funny ("Let's get married today, might as well"). Isaac Hayes knew he was funny ("If some chump would rip you off me, I wouldn't be responsible for my actions thereafter"). And Barry White—well, Barry White. Humor added to their vulnerability, their friendliness, their intimacy. Being funny is how Beck amplifies his cheesecake appeal.

Rob Sheffield
Charlottesville, Virginia

The morning man at Connecticut's "modern" rock station is that "modern" "rock" icon of another era, Dee Snider. I caught him one morning while the newscaster was reading an item about Rosa Parks and OutKast, and the well-versed host asked, "Who's Rosa Parks?" The newscaster had to tell him, "You know—back of the bus?" To which he replied, "Oh yeah, Rosa Parks. I wonder if she knows South Park." I wish I was making this shit up.

Fran Fried
New Haven, Connecticut

In Boston you'll hear a Limp Bizkit/Method Man track on alt radio, but a Method Man cut with Fred Durst guesting would never get a spin. If it's white funk metal hip-hop with guys who can't rap out of a paper bag, we'll play you. If you're black, sorry, our audience doesn't want to hear it. You hate to use the R word, but what else the fuck is it?

Ken Capobianco
Brighton, Massachusetts

Best single, most startlingly magical moment in recorded hip-hop, 1999: the sonic morph from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious 5, live at the T-Connection in the Bronx, November 1979, to the Roots, live at . . . check this out . . . Palais X-tra in Zurich, Switzerland, 1999, at the beginning of The Roots Come Alive.

Harry Allen
Manhattan

They used to call it gangsta rap—now it could be called acid rap. Rockin' fellas like Jay-Z, DMX, Dr. Dre, even Eminem, are putting out the most cutting-edge, disorienting, and transporting sounds around. Beats you've never heard, wild time signatures, timbres, and tones that are every bit as avant-garde as Steve Reich or La Monte Young.

Alec Foege
Manhattan

1. Rage Against the Machine: Racism Bad, Black People Good! (Epic) 25

2. Beck: Racism Bad, Black People Funny! (DGC) 20

3. Pavement: White on Both Sides (Matador) 20

4. Mary J. Blige: The Only R&B Album White People Pay Attention To! (MCA) 5

5. Kid Rock: Racism Bad, Black People Cool! (Atlantic/Lava) 5

6. Ol' Dirty Bastard: Racism . . . Um . . . What Was the Question? (Elektra) 5

7. Eminem: Racism Bad, Black People Very Good to Me! (Aftermath/Interscope) 5

8. Randy Newman: Racism Bad, Ol' White Folks Worse! (DreamWorks) 5

9. Mos Def: Black on Both Sides (Rawkus) 5

10. Tom Waits: Realism Bad, Ancient Black Styles Good! (Epitaph) 5

Joe Levy

Manhattan

The Cash Money Millionaires introduced the year's best new slang term with the deliciously onomatopoetic "Bling, bling" (meaning literal diamonds, as in, "Wow, that Rolex is bling, bling," or the overall quality of repasentin wealth and success, "Gotdamn, nigga, you is blinging like a mug!"). They may have had the best ice boast of all time with "Got the price of a mansion around my neck and wrist," but they also sound really stupid. Lemme get this straight, you could've gotten some land and an incredible crib, but instead you spent your paper on some pretty stones? How long until the Cash Money Millionaires are broke? Six years? Seven? What would you pay to fly ahead in time and see that Behind the Music? How about Puffy's?

Touré
Brooklyn, New York


Touré

ALBUMS

Jay-Z Vol. 3: The Life and Times of S. Carter (def jam) 27

Macy Gray On How Life Is (epic) 23

Dr. Dre Dr. Dre—2001 (aftermath/interscope) 15

Mary J. Blige Mary (mca) 5

Pharoahe Monch Internal Affairs (rawkus) 5

The Artist Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (arista) 5

Mobb Deep Murda Muzik (loud) 5

Mos Def Black on Both Sides (rawkus) 5

Lenny Kravitz 5 (virgin) 5

Q-Tip Amplified (arista) 5


"If you don't own your masters, the masters will own you."
Chuck D, Public Enemy
(Can TAFKAP get a witness?)

"The Revolution's in our collard greens, baby."
—Carl Hancock Rux, poet
(Can Mos Def get a witness?)

Trent Fitzgerald
Camden, New Jersey

"I don't really know but somebody said some musical rhythms can mess with your head."

Brian Coleman
Brookline, Massachusetts

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