Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The south dominated in a year that didn't include an album from Outkast. The only noise coming out of New York was from Dipset? Jay-Z made up with Nas! And the West Coast was on the rise for about two months (does anyone care about The Game anymore?).
It was a weird, weird, weird year in hip-hop, where folks more than ever paid more attention to soundscan numbers and marketing strategies than actual music. Never has the almighty hustle been more prevelant than in '05, when the king of the mixtape hustle, Curtis Jackson aka five dimes aka fiddy aka 50 Cent finally showed some wear and tear (did anyone watch "Get Rich or Die Trying?").
In Monterey County, well, the music scene showed some signs of promise. Heiroglyphics, Flava Flav, Zion-I, Baby Bash, B-Real, Cali Agents, The Pharcyde, Sugarland, The Eagles, even Tony Bennett all performed locally. One fly Salinas heina, Ms. Veronica, turned up in Kanye West's video for "Gold Digger." The Cherry Bean started hosting live shows in Salinas. And The Black Box Cabaret on the CSU-Monterey Bay campus provided some of the best hip-hop shows of the year.
All in all, it was a strange kind of wonderful year. I will salute it with my year end awards:
'I Done Came Up'Award-Danger Mouse: Kanye had a bigger record, Jay-Z made more power moves, and DipSet kept the streets and the hipsters watching, but nobody came close to DangerMouse in terms of sheer come-up status. He had a platinum album with The Gorillaz, the cartoon group started by Blur frontman Damon Alburn (their song "Goodtime Inc." was used for those iPod shuffle commercials). He had a ghetto platinum album with MF Doom ("The Mouse and the Mask," which made my top 10 albums list) and he will probably win Producer of the Year at the Grammys next month. All this from the guy who thought it would be cool to mix The Beatles "White Album" with Jay-Z's "The Black Album" and came up with "The Grey Album." He's the best producer you've ever heard, but never heard of. Honorable Mention: Kanye West, Jay-Z, DipSet.
Biggest L Award - 50 Cent: Who cares if it's Fitty or Fiddy or 5-0? In '05, Curtis Jackson finally learned the meaning of the word overexposure, and it wasn't a good look for him. 50 exposed the whole beef-as-marketing-ploy to the blind sheep that constitute his fan base, picking a fight with his crew member The Game four days before his album was released! His movie was defeated at the box office by a chicken cartoon with a scrawny white boy who stars in a TV show called Scrubs!
Naysayers will state the obvious by pointing out 50's record sales (4.7 million to date, second only to Mariah Carey's crazy ass), but seriously, most of those sales were knee-jerk by suburbanites who just have to have the latest, greatest ghetto-cred accessory. Owning the 50 Cent CD was like owning a razor scooter five years ago: you wanted it because everyone else had one. Honorable Mention: The Game.
Next to Blow award - Bay Area rap and the Hyphie Movement: Alright, this one has been simmering for about two years now. And Hyphie - the bay area counter culture that, depending on who you ask, is either crack baby music or the next hip-hop phenomenon - is in jeopardy of becoming a non-phenomenon due to the stagnation. But things look promising: E-40 has a record coming out on Lil John's TVT label in 2006. And if Houston's ascencion into hip-hop relavance has learned us anything, it's that even the most unassuming scene can gain relevance with the right amount of talent, heart and patience. Right now, the 'Yay Errreaa has all of that in droves, yadidamean!
Song of the Year - "Stay Fly" Three-6 Mafia featuring Young Buck, 8-Ball and MJG: The Village Voice is riding Lil Wayne's jock to the point of lunacy right about now, but this is the real deal. Three-6 gave us a glorious ode to getting lifted, using heavenly vocal harmonies, stuttering drums and a choppy, distorted vocal hook to delirious delight. None of the MC's really shine on the track, yet if you listen intently, you will know every word to the song.
Honorable Mention: 'Super Hyphey,' Keak da Sneak; 'Gold Digger,' Kanye West w/ Jamie Foxx; 'Soul Survivor,' Young Jeezy w/ Akon; 'Break 'er Down Like a Shotgun,' Felt 2.; "Sittin' Sideways," Paul Wall w/ Big Pokey; "Welcome To Jamrock," Jr. Gong; "Lovin' It," Little Brother.
Favorite Local Release - Central Bay Life compilation: Although released late 2004/early 2005, the CD featured the best collection of local talent in a long, long time. It also caught the ire of the Seaside Police Department, and a pair of non hip-hop loving detectives who took exception to being called out by name in a song (no word yet on whether the SPD is recording a diss record in response). Constructed by Monterey Peninsula-based clique 'Tha Undahoggs,' the CD featured 20-plus tracks entirely produced, written and recorded by Monterey County artists. A second comp is in the works, scheduled for release in early '06. To get a copy, visit the Web site www.undahoggs.com.
Favorite local band - Hate For State: When a band can make a non-metal head banger such as myself get busy, that's a good sign. These guys straight up rock, sounding like a dirtier version of mid-90s Helmet (sorry for the comparison, but that's the closest I can get). Hailing from Salinas/Prunedale, they have been on the grind for a while, performing locally almost every weekend. Check them out at 9 p.m. this Saturday night, Dec. 24 at The Lava Lounge, inside Club Octane on Alvarado St., Monterey.
Best show I went to: Zion-I at The Black Box Cabaret at CSU-Monterey Bay.
Show I wish I had caught: Damian "Jr.Gong" Marley at The Catalyst.
Best movie about musicians: (tie) Hustle and Flow and Walk The Line.
Worst performance I had to endure: Cuban Link (former Fat Joe/Big Pun protege) at The Boo-Bomb concert in San Jose.