Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Biggest Songs of 2009

Ok, so since the year is coming to a close, this is usually the time of year when radio stations, websites and music television stations countdown the biggest songs and moments of the year... wait, scratch that... there aren't any more music TV stations. But you get the point. The one wrinkle this year is that since it's the last year of the decade, people have even begun to have countdowns for the past 10 years. The most impressive I've seen thus far is this litany of lists that Complex.com has posted of their best "everything" of the 2000s.

However, I'm not going to do that here. Not because I'm better than that, but simply because there's no way I could even attempt to remember all of the best songs for the past 10 years. I can't even remember what I ate two days ago. But what I will do is try to name what I think were the biggest songs of this year.

Now let me first preface this by saying I'm sticking to hip-hop and R&B. The only real reason for this is because I don't listen to pop, and other than this song, I have no idea what was popular. Sorry Taylor Swift, you won't be featured here. Also, I'm basing what was a "big" song on some pretty basic criteria. What were the songs that were ALWAYS on every time I turned on my car radio? What were the songs that the DJ had to play at the club? What were the songs everyone was downloading?? And lastly, keep in mind that this list is being compiled strictly off the top of my head, so no actual research was done on my part to include songs I may have forgotten. Now, given the rules, here's my list, starting with number 5...

5. Keri Hilson feat. Lil' Wayne - Turnin' Me On
I've since gotten over her, but I remember that when I first saw Keri Hilson, I thought she was so fine. But you know when you see a girl enough times, and she's just not as hot as you thought she was the first time you saw her? That's kind of what happened here. Plus, I realized she can't sing, so I was really over it after that. Nonetheless, I remember this song being on the radio constantly. I couldn't escape it. The thing that stood out most to me was how she took Wayne's "Young Moolah Baby" and flipped it to "Miss Keri Baby", which was kinda cute until she started saying it on songs that Wayne wasn't even on. Dub tee eff? Who does that? Regardless, this was a huge record.

4. GS Boyz - Stanky Legg
OK, I lied. I actually did have to do some research for this one, because I had no idea what the name of this group was. If everyone knows your song but no one knows you, I'm sorry, but you're probably a one-hit wonder. They shoulda took the Soulja Boy approach and just put their name in the song and dance title. This was a very big club record, and it reminds me of when I went to Miami for Spring Break '09 and everybody was doing this dance on South Beach. Good times...

3. Gucci Mane feat. Plies - Wasted
As a recovering alcoholic (AKA recent college graduate), I was all for the irresponsible drunkenness that this song promoted. This really is a great drinking/partying song, regardless of the fact that it comes from Gucci Mane, who may be the worst rapper of the past decade. I didn't even realize this until I read the lyrics, but in the third verse, he ends 6 of his 12 bars with the word "wasted". Now that's lyricism. But alas, I guess you don't have to be that lyrical when all your diamonds are "Carcasian"...

2. Drake - Best I Ever Had
We all know the story: Former child actor from Canada puts out critically-acclaimed mixtape, gains radio play without an official album release, signs with Lil' Wayne's Young Money label, gets Grammy nomination. Really an amazing story. Truth be told, I wasn't crazy about So Far Gone, but this was one of my favorite songs on the mixtape. Of course, that was until it became too popular for its own good, and all songs start to suck when you hear them too much. This would have been my pick for biggest song this year, but it wasn't bigger than...

1. F.L.Y. - Swag Surfin'
Another one-hit wonder group whose name I had to look up... but isn't that half of what music is nowadays? I first heard "Swag Surfin'" in Atlanta in like early January. At this point, it was still just a local hit, but everybody in the clubs was going crazy when it played. I thought it was an extra catchy tune, and I'll admit that I even downloaded it. I didn't think much of it, but then I started hearing it on the radio. In about two or three months, it was a nationwide hit, and the song even had a music video. And you knew the song really got big when other rappers started recording freestyles over the beat. Unequivocally, I don't think anyone would argue that this was the biggest song of 2009.

Honorable Mention:
Jeremih - Birthday Sex
Drake feat. Trey Songz - Successful
Fabolous feat. The-Dream - Throw It In The Bag
Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind
Drake, Kanye West, Lil' Wayne & Eminem - Forever
Maxwell - Pretty Wings
Beyonce feat. Kanye West - Ego (Remix)

So, what do you think?? Disagree with the order? Did I leave anything out that should have been mentioned? Leave a comment...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's New York's Hip-Hop Theme Song?

(Again, all words that appear in red are links. It's amazing after a year of reading this blog how many people still haven't figured that out.)

So, I read this ridiculous piece of news the other day that said there was an ongoing discussion going on in my home state in regards to what the unofficial theme song for New York should be. As everyone knows, Frank Sinatra's ode to New York is not only a beautiful, classic song, but they even play it at Yankee Stadium after every home win. What could be better than that?

However, some people feel that the new Jay-Z/Alicia Keys tune should usurp Sinatra's as the new theme for the Empire State (you damn right I looked up "usurp" to make sure I was using it correctly). Not only that, but MSG's website is holding a poll to see which song people think should be the unofficial theme. Granted, I understand that Hov wears Yankee caps and sits at Knicks games and performed at the World Series and even at the Yankee Parade, yada yada yada. I get it. But, really? Jay-Z over Frank Sinatra?? Come on, people. This shouldn't even be a serious debate.

In my opinion (and hopefully yours), "New York, New York" is and always will be the main theme song for New York. I don't see how anyone over the age of 18 could think otherwise. But this post isn't really about that. Sinatra's song is a different genre and should be kept in a class of it's own... but is the Jay song even the best hip-hop record about New York?? In a backhanded celebration for Jay-Z's 40th birthday today, I'm going to list a number of hip-hop songs that I feel represent New York better than "Empire State of Mind."

There are A LOT of songs from New York rappers about New York. But as a self-proclaimed Nas stan, obviously the first song that comes to mind is "New York State of Mind". Nas uses this song to kick off his classic Illmatic LP, and it's one of those songs that just feels like New York. And really, that's one of my major qualms about Jay's song. It doesn't really make you feel like you're there. The exact same song could be about any other city in the country, and you wouldn't think twice about it. Not to mention the fact that Jay-Z has three forgettable verses and A. Keys pretty much carries the entire song with the way she belts out that chorus. And I know I wasn't the only one that felt some sort of way about Jay-Z all but stealing Nas' song title and not even putting him on the record. Ugh, let's just move on...

Of course, another New York dedication that most other people think of is the song titled, simply, "New York". This song, by Ja Rule featuring Jadakiss and Fat Joe, was an amazing record that made New Yorkers such as myself act obnoxious at parties. Once you heard those synth notes at the beginning of the song, it just made you wanna pull your hat down real low and mean mug. Also, weren't those three verses all amazing? The biggest surprise of all had to be Fat Joe, who arguably had the best verse of all ("Now we killin' em hard, niggas sayin' I musta found Pun's rhyme book"). This song is also better than "Empire State of Mind".

Next, we have a classic from Mobb Deep entitled "Shook Ones". Now, this song isn't actually about New York, but you couldn't name me another song that has the gutter, subway riding, slapboxing, c-lo playing, bodega shopping feeling that so perfectly defines the nature of New York. I know I mentioned this before, but when I heard this beat come on during "8 Mile", I damn near lost my mind. There's something about this beat that brings you back to Gotham City. Again, better than "Empire".

This next song is one that I'm sure many of you haven't heard, but if you haven't, you should. It's called "Where It Started At (NY)", and it's on Hi-Tek second album. What makes this selection particularly embarrassing is the fact that Hi-Tek isn't even from New York; he's from Cincinnati, Ohio. Of course, when you make a song featuring Jadakiss, Talib Kweli, Papoose and Raekwon, you really can't lose. This is another song that feels like New York.

Oh, I almost forgot... "New York Sh*t" from Busta Rhymes featuring Swizz Beatz! Man oh man... this song is a monster. Busta and Swizz actually take the time to explain to you various ways through which they are on their New York ish. This may be one of the strongest New York songs ever, considering the lyrics ("Tims with the shorts on my New York sh*t... Razor in my mouth on my New York sh*t"). If you don't know why this song is better than "Empire", I really don't know what to tell you.

Obviously, my sentiment here is very clear: the song has to feel like New York in order to represent New York. I actually like Jay's song; I just don't think it's a "New York song". As a New York transplant who's no longer living there, I think the biggest indicator that this song doesn't do the state justice is that whenever I hear it, I don't particularly miss New York, or even think about it. New York songs are supposed to make New Yorkers proud, and make everyone else jealous. I don't know how envious out-of-towners feel when they hear this record, but if I were them, I wouldn't be.

Honorable Mention:
Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz - Uptown (Deja Vu)
Cam'ron ft. Jay-Z - Welcome to New York City
Jay-Z ft. Notorious B.I.G. - Brooklyn's Finest