There's some talk online about Jay-Z's endorsement being more powerful than Obama's. I don't really think that's terribly useful. These are two of the most culturally important black men in the world. I guess I'd like to think of their endorsements as a one-two punch, rather than quibble about who will make the most individual impact.
That said, I'm struck by the simplicity and the almost nonchalance of Jigga here. Even though I know that's pretty much Shawn Carter's demeanor whenever he talks.
Most people who read me or know me know that I was pretty underwhelmed by most black music released this year. I do think this was a stronger year for individual songs than it was for albums, but even so I could literally only come up with 10 songs that I really love, that I played a lot, that I repped for hard this year.
Before we get to those though, here are a few runners-up. These are songs I like, that are good in their own way, but didn't quite bowl me over the way the top 10 did for one reason or another.
Anwar Robinson, “Come Over”
EPMD, “Don’t Get Clapped”
Frank Ocean, “Back”
JLS, “Shy of the Cool”
Johnny Gill, “In the Mood”
LastO ft. Stern Savage ,“The City”
Van Hunt ,“What Were You Hoping For”
Teedra Moses, “To Hell Wit It’
Mobb Deep ft. Nas, "Dog Shit"
Jazmine Sullivan, “Fly & Sexy”
Lalah Hathaway, “Small of My Back”
Common ft. Nas, "Ghetto Dreams"
After the jump, get into the 10 songs that I adored this year.
I thought about writing a review on this blog of Kanye West’s new album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” But I’ve actually been having a really good Facebook conversation with a young brother I know that captures how I feel about the album, about Kanye West, and all the hubbub around him.
This is about how I feel about the album. Though I think a 7/10 is a mite high, maybe a 6/10 6.5…eh. it’s mostly enjoyable tho
I posted the Popmatters review because it captures much of what I feel about the album and is also emblematic of what I consider a real problem in music reviewing: grading on a curve such that you give credit for ambition without sufficiently assessing execution.
Drives me batty.
Anyway, this exchange which took place in the comments of the post was only lightly edited for clarity:
Well, as long as Jigga lets Jay Electronica be the wildly inventive auteur/rapper that he's been all by his lonesome. The last thing we need is for Jay-Z to "shape" an artist who has already created an image in the mind of the audience, an image that people like.
In my view, Jay Electronica is the artist that everyone thinks Kanye is, without all that irritating suburban boy posturing and insecurity. But as we know in America, only one type of black artist at a time, so Jigga will have to figure out how to market him. It'll just be important that Jay Electronica get to be who Jay Electronica wants to be. Jigga's instincts are sound, commercially speaking. But any hip-hop fan worth his salt will tell you that as Jay-Z became more and more popular, his music, creatively speaking, deteriorated. That can't happen with Jay Electronica.
If there was ever an artist that a label should figure out the balance between commercial ambition and artistic ambition for, it's Jay Electronica.