31 December 2012

Some 90-stalgia: Which hip hop/R&B stars from back in the day have fallen off now?

I'm thinking of such a list because of that new song "Put It Down" by Brandy featuring Chris Brown. I think Brandy was better when she was up-and-coming in the '90s with "I Wanna Be Down" (geez, how many Brandy songs have the word "down"????) and "Baby". Her song with Kanye back in '04 "Talk About Our Love" is mediocre. The aforementioned singles are the only Brandy songs I'd ever keep in my mp3 player. Oh yeah, the talentless hack Ray J (with a terrible singing voice and star of the Kim Kardashian sex tape) is her younger brother (Ray J's real name is William Ray Norwood Jr.).

So I've decided as a new year comes and hip hop progressively gets worse (but at least the fact that Kendrick Lamar's new album Good Kid, MAAD City has outsold 2 Chainz' Based on a TRU Story I have hope...and the new GOOD Music compilation Cruel Summer is also pushing 100k's of units) I wonder how many rappers or R&B singers who were in their prime in the '90s are just stale in the new millennium?

- Usher: I like "You Make Me Wanna" and "Nice & Slow" from his breakout 1997 album My Way. And I just now discovered his debut single recorded when he was just 13, "Call Me a Mack" (from the soundtrack of the 1993 film that starred Tupac and Janet Jackson, Poetic Justice). In his '90s songs, Usher even rapped verses! 8701 (2001) was alright, Confessions (2004) was way overplayed in its time and was a step downward because now I think "Burn" is essentially "U Got It Bad" with more RPM. "Caught Up" is better though. Oh, one time I was listening to Detroit's hip hop/R&B station WJLB on iHeartRadio (another sign I need to go back to Michigan, haven't been there since May 1997) and heard Maxwell's "Fortunate" and that was the first time in my life I realized that "U Got It Bad" interpolated the chorus of "Fortunate". Nowadays Usher always puts out party music as singles, like "Love In This Club" [2008] with a beat ripped off of GarageBand software! Then he hopped on the Auto-Tune bandwagon in 2010 with "OMG" featuring will.i.am and did a super poppy club anthem "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" with Pitbull (a rapper who's a traitor to his genre, but that's a whole 'nother story). And "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)" went far on the raunchy side especially with annoying rapper Plies. I'm not too fond of "What Happened to U", ESPECIALLY since if you were listening to radio the beginning fools you into thinking you're hearing "One More Chance" by the Notorious BIG! "Hot Tottie" (2010) rips off the beat of Jay-Z's "On to the Next One". Usher has had a HUGE creativity issue for the past several years.

- Members of the Wu-Tang Clan: 8 Diagrams (2007) was one hell of a generic album...nothing that Wu-Tang or its members does in the future will ever KO Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993), Wu-Tang Forever (1997), Method Man's Tical (1995), Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), etc.

- Fat Joe: I can listen to his 90s songs like "The Shit Is Real", "John Blaze", "Flow Joe", "Watch Out", or his parts in songs like "Twinz (Deep Cover '98)" on repeat especially with the heavy, deep, street lyrics and flow with genuine hip hop beats. However, Fat Joe became way too commercial and generic after J.O.S.E. in 2001 especially with getting pop-&-B singers like R. Kelly and Ashanti singing hooks. From that album "My Lifestyle" is a hard track, but "We Thuggin'" is just guilty pleasure even though hearing that song on KMEL back in October 2001 helped me get into hip hop when I was younger. "What's Luv?" wears out as well. Loyalty (2002) was a very low creative point before Fat Joe returned in 2004 for the second Terror Squad album True Story with number-one hit "Lean Back". He went solo again All or Nothing (2005), the lead single featuring Nelly "Get It Poppin" is wack but the album had other harder tracks like "So Much More" or the anti-50 Cent song "My Fofo". Me Myself & I (2006) marked the time when Fat Joe abandoned his NYC roots for the trendy Southern sound in "Make It Rain" featuring Lil Wayne and then doing guest performances on DJ Khaled's album. Even the deeper cuts like "Damn" and "The Profit" were getting more dull. The Elephant in the Room (2008) = rock bottom. I was never into "I Won't Tell", which sounded more like POP MUSIC than hip hop (especially since pop-&-B J. Holiday sang). Even the deeper cuts like "K.A.R" and "The Fugitive" were getting generic and tiresome. And look what the hell Fat Joe is doing now with super-lame party music like "Another Round" with Chris Brown (tell me again WHY he still gets prominent spots after beating Rihanna?) and not even "Pride N Joy" featuring Kanye and a bunch of others like Jadakiss and Mos Def is worth listening. "Instagram That Hoe"? By the title itself that's straight garbage. Fat Joe has been using the same old same old formula for theme and rapping for nearly 7 years now. How many songs about hot women, the club, and luxuries can he do creatively anymore? At age 42 maybe he should think about doing less music.

- Master P or any other artist signed with No Limit Records: I remember hearing "We Like Them  Girls" by Silkk  the Shocker on the radio in 2004 (when I was in 8th grade and basically liking pretty much any crap I heard on Wild 94.9 or 106 KMEL). At that time I'd also discovered "Make Em Say Uhh" by Master P on the compilation album MTV the First 1000 Years: Hip Hop & then thru sites like MSN Music and Amazon.com the other No Limit rappers and other songs they did in the late '90s such as: "Bout It Bout It" by Master P and "I Got the Hook Up" by MP. Thinking back on it, there's a reason why Master P and the other No Limit rappers ended up on Koch Records (which later became E1 Music). I mean, how is Master P's "Them Jeans" (2004) any different from Lil Jon's "Get Low" (2002)?

- Lil Wayne: A rapper since 1993 (when he was just 11), Wayne found his big break in 2008 with Tha Carter III. Sadly in order to achieve such a high-sales album with many Grammys and top singles Wayne abandoned his gangsta rap sound from his earlier career for a more mainstream (and of course the dreaded AUTO TUNE) sound. Examples of Wayne's earlier stuff from Cash Money Records: "The Block Is Hot" (1999),  or go to 0:55 for his part in B.G.'s "Bling Bling" (1999), or 1:00 for his verse in "From Tha 13th to Tha 17th" when he was known as "Baby D" in rap duo The B.G.'z back in 1995 (when Wayne was only 13), or 3:20 at "I Need a Hot Girl" (with his group Hot Boys in 1999). In 2004 Wayne's rapping style became softer and more structured, like in "Bring It Back" and "Go DJ" (both '04) and "Fireman" and "Hustler Musik" (2005). Wayne's career took an interesting turn in 2006. That year he did just mixtapes and guest performances: both on the poppier side ("You" by Lloyd, "Make It Rain" by Fat Joe, the remix of "Gimme That" by Chris Brown) and on the street side (like the anti-George W. Bush mixtape cut "Georgia Bush"). And then in 2007 came The Leak EP with such underground tracks like "I'm Me". Unfortunately in 2008 when I first heard "Lollipop" on the radio with all the auto tune I knew Lil Wayne went beyond selling out. Things only got worse with his fake "rock" album Rebirth in 2009 (STILL with that auto tune), Wayne putting Drake in the spotlight, and the very boring album I Am Not a Human Being  in 2010. These days Lil Wayne is doing far more lame pop music like "How To Love", "Right Above It", or "Mrs. Officer" than tracks where he actually cares about rapping like in "John" or "6 Foot 7 Foot".

- Members of A Tribe Called Quest: Tribe was VERY great when they were together in the 90s. However the solo stuff that Tribe members put out isn't very memorable. "Gettin' Up" by Q-Tip was better than any of the mainstream hip hop overplayed on radio back in '08. But does that stand up to Tribe classics like "Scenario", "Buggin' Out", "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo"? NO!

- R. Kelly: Transformed from slow jam soul singer in the early 90s ("Bump n Grind") to mainstream urban contemporary singer in the late 90s ("Home Alone") to straight up baller in the 00s and beyond (his many many guests spots/collabos with rappers). Oh, don't forget that child porn trial too. R. Kelly's attempt at being everything to every audience gave him a whole bunch of repetitive uncreative stereotypical mainstream rap songs..."Supaman High", "That's That", the Jay-Z collaboration albums. "Playas Only", etc.

Any others? Comment below.

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