“Decades of Definition, Pt. 1” (Chapter 4) L. Migraine
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m not a fan of sports. Oh, I can tell you all about the game, recite stats like ya mama’s pastor spits Scripture, and might have a passing interest in a team here and there…but end of the day, I don’t really care about sports.
But I do thoroughly enjoy the game of basketball (shout out to Avery Johnson via Ced the Entertainer).
In my college days (and even now) you could find me running around with a basketball, dribbling and practicing tricks. I had a thing for Hot Sauce, the Globetrotters, anyone doing things with the basketball outside of the normal (and necessary) fundamentals. I wouldn’t say I was the best ballhandler on that campus…but there was a good chance I’d make you look foolish.
So, how does my love of ballhandling and tricks tie in to hip hop? Every rapper, emcee, lyricist I enjoy has an element (elements) of their game akin to the entertainers on courts. Some people find streetball corny, or detrimental to the game: I liken it to poetry in motion, works of art. Yeah, some of the stuff is a bit extra, but it’s entertaining AND (most important) ORIGINAL.
And hip hop is suffering from a severe lack of originality. Or, for every Future there’s Desiigner, Migos, Lil’ Sailboat, Lil’ Gun Held in a Particular Direction, so on and so forth.
This is the first part of a series of shouts to MY favorite rappers within a given decade (hence, the tile), and the first decade I’m going to visit is the 2000s. When doing some pre-search I found that I would be better off splitting the 2000s in half, so we’re gonna get into 2000-2009 first. I will say that some of the choices can get a bit dicey (i.e. Ludacris has been out since the late 90s but didn’t REALLY blow up until the 2000s), but we can debate it later. As always, this is MY list and to paraphrase the great White dude out of Michigan, “Whomever on your list I don’t mention/the ish will not offend me”.
1. HOUSTON– No, not that one-hit wonder R&B dude (nope, I didn’t like that). At one point, Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, and Mike Jones were killing the 2000s. The South already had Atlanta, Tennessee, and Louisiana as hotbeds of “talent” (not everything out the South was worth a listen), and Texas wasn’t any different. We can talk about UGK, Scarface, Lil’ Flip, Z-Ro, Devin the Dude, and a whole host of Texas cats (we’ll definitely get into UGK & Scarface later on) all day, but you couldn’t deny Swisha House. To this day Mrs. Migraine cannot stand “Still Tippin’”…
2. Cassidy– Nevermind the Meek Mill foolishness; nevermind the car accident; nevermind the cheesy “Hustla” dance …Cassidy can spit. His albums might not have done quite that well, but you can’t deny The Problem.
3. Juelz Santana– Sometimes, you’re just gonna be seen as the person who put you on-Lite. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you can make a name for yourself/eclipse said person who put you on. We can debate whether or not Juelz ever outshined Cam’ron (hard to outdo a grown man in pink Timbs who can get computers ‘putin’), but Santana had it. Throw on “Dipset Anthem” right now and see if you don’t lose your mind.
4. Jeezy– I am SOOO far removed from anything “hood” or “ghetto”. I might refer to myself as the “hardest gangster nerd you know”, but I’m more “urban” than “hood”. So when your musical palette is so well known that people get surprised when you admit to being a fan of Jeezy, well, you’re gonna be in for an interesting time. I admit that I didn’t really dig on the whole “Snowman” marketing, and I wasn’t really feeling “And Then What” when my Project GRAD students were all about it summer of ’05. But a few spins of “Thug Motivation 101” later, and I dug on the man. But then “The Recession” released and I couldn’t go a day without playing “By the Way” and “Circulate”. I digress, though.
5. Drake– …it’s too easy to poke fun at Drake. I didn’t like him when he came out (again, my Project GRAD kids of 2009 were in love with Lil’ Wayne 2.0), and while I dig a few of his tracks…nah, son. Call me a hater and I’ll show you someone who can objectively dislike someone. …but you can’t “deny” him, I suppose.
6. Asher Roth– I LOVED “I LOVE COLLEGE”. It was cheesy, it was catchy, and who in the world was this Ivy League dude sounding like a sober Marshall Mathers??? Funny thing, though: dude can actually spit. He’ll have the whole “sounds like Eminem” thing hanging over his head, but I still rock with him.
7. Killer Mike– (currently flipping through OutKast tracks while preparing to write this section) It was October 2000. Memphis, TN. My aunt had just dropped me back off at Richardson Towers on the University of Memphis campus after a trip to Target. I know I bought some food items, but there were two CDs I purchased: C-Murder’s “Trapped in Crime” (mainly after seeing the campus Kappas throwing a set in the parking lot to “Down For My N’s”) and OutKast’s “Stankonia”. Big Boi was still Big Boi, and Andre was getting weirder and affecting my personality more than I was willing to let on…but there was this dude on the track “Snappin’ & Trappin’”
…who was also on the posse cut “Funkanella” from the “Backstage” soundtrack. …was went on to be included alongside Jay, Twista, and Big Boi on Jay’s “Poppin’ Tags” …who then went running for jewels and showing who really was woke among the sleeping sheep.
8. Wiz Khalifa– I didn’t really get into Wiz until the whole “Black & Yellow” thing kicked off. And to this day I still haven’t listened to “Kush & OJ” (which is supposed to be the greatest thing since my mammy decided I was a good idea way back in ’82). But there was something about the pot-smoking tatted skeleton that couldn’t be ignored. I still laugh at the people who got mad at the trailer for “Mortal Kombat X” because Wiz Khalifa spit the soundtrack. Fatality, indeed.
9. Rick Ross– …I’m gonna ignore the 50 Cent vegetarian burger fest (I don’t like 50 as a rapper and I don’t respect him as person, businessman or not); I’m also going to ignore the whole “CB4” vibe of his whole career, as some of us ain’t even close to who we “post” to be; and there’s a whole host of other things I won’t co-sign or give a glance. I might not even dig his music on a whole …but oddly enough, I started tolerating him after “Freaknik: the Musical”. I did say it was odd. 10. The Game- Jayceon Taylor is definitely one of those odd types in hip hop. He can spit but somehow finds himself immersed in the foolishness way too often, directly and indirectly. I love how he had the gall to beef with Jay-Z (I still don’t know what the Memphis Bleek hoopla was about, though), but when he sticks to music he’s alright.
…and now, without further adieu, MY top 10 of 2000-2009*:
1. Lupe Fiasco– I was working at Journeys East Town WAAAYYYY back in 2005-2007 when three things occurred. 2005 was when I was initially introduced to Lupe Fiasco via Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” video. I didn’t know who in the world this cat was, but I was feeling him. 2006 came around and I’m in FYE buying what would become the soundtrack to my L. Migraine alter ego, “Food & Liquor”. Then Christmas 2007 arrived and we’re blasting “The Cool” in a crowded store like it was nothing. And from that point on I knew Lupe was in my top 3. I can’t rap (I hate my voice), but if ever Reckless can convince me to spit it’ll be something along the lines of Lupe. I may not “understand” what my mans is on these days in and outside the music, but Lupe is DEFINITELY an influence in my writings.
And to think I hated “Dumb It Down” on my first listen…
2. Kanye West– To begin: I don’t rock with “Yeezy”. I barely acknowledge “808s & Heartbreak” Kanye. And I already have enough beautiful fantasies that dark and twisted. I might’ve dropped out of college due to late registration, but I’ll make it back to graduation sooner or later.
Not just pretty wordplay, but it definitely sums up my feelings toward Kanye Omari West.
3. J. Cole– I got into Cole more when “2014 Forest Hills Drive” released (on the wall in my “Affirmative Action” room is a black & white recreation of said album cover). I wasn’t really feeling him on his “Blueprint 3” cameo, and I still haven’t listened to any of his mixtapes nor “Born Sinner”. But you know when you come across something and you just get that feeling, that gut instinct that this choice you’re about to make will sit right with you way beyond the initial moment?
That’s what it is with Jermaine Cole. But, ya know, he did go platinum without features while putting folks to sleep. Har de har.
4. Kendrick Lamar– Again: I am not “hood”. I didn’t grow up in Section 8, but I did try to stay a good kid in a somewhat mad city. I mean…what can I say about the lil’ homie from Compton? He’s controversial, lyrical, and a constant reminder of getting your ish together while being humble.
Now where have we seen this before 😉
5. Pusha T– You know where you were when you first heard the intro drums and “From ghetto to ghetto, backyard to yard” (word to Rakim Allah and the inspiration for the title of my introductory post) of 2001’s “Grindin’”. Yeah, Malice said something and Pharrell was Pharrell, but we’re talking about Pusha T
…and he’s been grindin’ and talking that coke talk ever since. Can’t blame a man for being consistent, I don’t think.
6. Freeway– Cam’ron had Juelz; Lil’ Wayne had Drake. And I’ll be damaged if Beanie Sigel didn’t have Freeway (what is the obsession with rappers and Freeway Rick Ross???). I cannot really put my finger on what it is exactly about Freeway that I like, but I just dig the dude. EARLY!
…but we ain’t gonna forget that beat from Cassidy, though.
7. Big K.R.I.T.– Same person surprised that I dig on Jeezy ABSOLUTELY loves K.R.I.T. When I first heard K.R.I.T. I thought of him like a mix of Pimp C and David Banner (Banner before the Pro-Black Frederick Douglass Reincarnated he’s become)
…and I still hold to that claim, but that’s just the refusal to lose the Southern upbringing, record label contract or not. And I respect that. We needed K.R.I.T., hip hop needs K.R.I.T., or else no one is going to remember us kings in time.
8. Phonte– Little Brother is underrated. Or too smart. Perhaps a combination of both, I don’t know. What I do know is that Little Brother without Phonte is Run-DMC without Run. Oh, you can make it happen, but the results ain’t gonna be the same.
9. Jay Electronica– “And his own story was as curious as his narrative: the tale of his life is the tale of a writer of incredible vision; an astute analyst and pundit; a lyricist, compassionate and callous; a reckless hedonist, and disaffected malcontent…”
The first time I heard that intro to “Exhibit C”, I “BRUH” memed and knew I was going to be into for a wonderful time. Say what you want about Jay Elec, but dude had the hype unlike no other. The inclusion of “Exhibit A” in the trailer for the 3rd season of “The Boondocks” is what really got me on the path, but “Exhibit C”…bruh.
I’ll put it like this: I always thought it wasn’t possible to be a decent rapper at the age of 30+; Jay Elec changed my mind about that. Plus…Erykah Badu. That’s a dark twisted fantasy right there, I swear…
10. Fabolous– …and closing out the list of no particular order: F-A-B-O-L-O-U-S. I’m not going to get into his fashion choices of late (I know that’s a sensitive spot for dudes who wear shoes for other dudes but get mad defensive when people call out ridiculous clothing choices), but I feel like Fab is a chipped tooth Mase/Loon with Jay-Z sensibilities. And no, that’s not even shade ‘cause Fab’s been nice since the paper towel bandana days. A lot of people might say Lloyd Banks (an honorable mention I didn’t mention honorably) is the Punchline King, but Fab’s definitely one you wanna Scrabble with (word to the BET Cypher)
. …and there it is, folks. I hope y’all had as much fun reading as I did writing (my ears hurt from all this music I’ve been blasting while typing). I’ll catch y’all on the flipside.
“It’s quite amazing that you rhyme how you do/And that you shine like you grew up in a shrine in Peru…”
*- Lists are in no particular order
**- There were too many mentions to honor (i.e. Curren$y, Lloyd Banks, Wale) but trust that the slight was not intentional