Boxing Day


“Outta Control,” 50 Cent featuring Mobb Deep (Aftermath): Writing on “99 Problems” last year, I did something I try to avoid: I started generalizing about the state of music, specifically the kind of hip-hop that knows no world beyond some probably fictitious club of minimal relevance to the life of a white middle-aged grade school teacher. Even as I wrote, though, part of me wanted to tack on a disclaimer based on a lifetime of being surprised by the radio: “My favourite record of next year could very well be set in that same club, which is why it’s stupid to start generalizing about the state of music.” I get the same thing from “Outta Control” I once got from Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray”: a pause, a celebration, a record so beautiful in all that happens between the words that I’m tempted to call it something lofty like a meditation on the club, even though those words primarily consist of the usual stuff about getting your drink on and swallowing (um, not the drink) and gunning you all up. A week after, a 15-year-old shopper was randomly shot and killed on Boxing Day outside the same Toronto record store I used to rush down to on Boxing Day when I was 15—I wouldn’t want to have to explain to that girl’s family why this is my record of the year and that not to worry, it’s all showmanship. In a way, 50 Cent takes care of that himself in my single favourite moment of 2005, when the piano comes in for the first time on the line “Trust me, man, it’s OK.” Again, I’d have a hard time explaining why, but those two or three seconds seem incomparably wise and serene to me.

Toronto, Ontario