Beyond Dilla and Dipset

Can hip-hop deliver in 2010?
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  December 29, 2009

1001_dolan_main
SPITFIRE B. Dolan drops his first full-blown proper rap release in March.

With a semi-sober face I'll claim that hip-hop in 2010 might deliver more than just posthumous Dilla discs, Dipset mixtapes, and a new ignoramus coke rapper whom critics pretend rhymes in triple-entendres. With Jay-Z setting a millennial precedent by signing the infinitely skilled yet materialistically reserved J. Cole as the flagship of his Roc Nation imprint, there's a chance that the bling tide is about to turn. But even if the mainstream keeps it real dumb, these forthcoming developments should prevent true heads from jumping ship.

The most exciting prospect for this year has to be The Stimulus Package (Rhymesayers) collaboration between Rocafella ex-pat FREEWAY and Rhymesayers production hero JAKE ONE. From leaks so far, it seems this union could help bridge such prolific ghetto acts as Free and underground beat bandits like Jake, who offer deeper backdrops than major label cats typically stomp on.

On a note certain to arouse alternative interests, Strange Famous Records consigliere B. DOLAN drops his first full-blown proper rap release in March. Hip-hop fans left unfulfilled by Dolan's spoken-word work can rejoice; his latest, Fallen House, Sunken City offers a full production reel from Anticon icon Alias and heavy spit across the track list. This could be an unprecedented breakout year for Strange Famous, which also has plans for 2Mex and label owner Sage Francis.

Toward the nihilistic side of the subterranean rap map, two powerhouses, SLAUGHTERHOUSE and ARMY OF THE PHARAOHS, are marching forth with group sequels. Perhaps the latter formulation — of Esoteric and his aggressive Philly codefendants — can coach the former team of Crooked I, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Royce da 5'9" on how to synthesize. There's more to posse albums than getting every dude on every track, and as soon as the unlikely foursome realizes that, they could cut a grade-A classic.

For a break from radical posturing and whizzing bullets, 2010 promises spreads from two of the genre's most reliable beat specialists. Lucky for us, former Aesop Rock collaborator BLOCKHEAD's The Music Scene (Ninja Tune, due January 12) arrived at the Phoenix months ago and is surely his most mesmerizing sonic spring break ever. I have yet to hear The Colossus (RJ's Electrical Connections, January 19) from instrumentally inclined stylist RJD2, but if anyone can bounce back from a lackluster performance like 2007's The Third Hand, it's him.

Since any rap preview is inadequate without mention of the Bean scene, it shall be here predicted that the next dozen should yield significant output from the likes of J the S, M-Dot, Jaysaun, Millyz, Moe Pope, G-Eyez, and SLAINE, the last of whom is putting the finishing chokeholds on his long-awaited World Without Skies, now that he's finished filming his lead role in Ben Affleck's Charlestown bank heist flick, The Town.

If all this fringe talk makes you cringe, then check upcoming impressions from LUDACRIS (Battle of the Sexes, Def Jam) and MISSY ELLIOTT (Block Party, Atlantic). As for anyone who likes to experiment without diving underground, you'll likely be thrilled by the ROOTS (How I Got Over, Def Jam) and KANYE WEST (Good Ass Job, Roc-A-Fella), both of whom have a lot to live up to on the heels of critically heralded television performances in 2009. Beside those, the most discussed opus of the year could come from DR. DRE, whose Detox (Interscope) is alleged to drop sometime soon. Don't get your Obama-sized hopes up, though; I've ended every hip-hop preview for the past half-decade with that same exact prediction.

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