Indie Spotlight: Guante

A rapper’s social responsibility is only discussed when it is on trial. When Rick Ross raps about surreptitiously doling out Molly or the street rapper of the moment fills another faceless adversary with lead, the same questions get trotted out. Is the music a reflection of the problem? A contributor to it? Is art—and this is the conversation stopper—immune from criticism, from blame?

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Underground Revisited

By year’s end, the soft glow of nostalgia is going to smother us all. First, there was the months-long Illmatic campaign by Nas and his tax attorneys. By December, we will have trotted out the twenty-year parades for Ready to Die, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Resurrection, Warren G’s debut, Organized Konfusion’s Stress: The Extinction Agenda, Scarface’s The Diary, and maybe a handful of others. (Word…Life retrospective, anyone?)

Even if you halve the looking glass, a handful of beloved records see the decade mark come and go in 2014. The mid-2000s are not often held in high regard in rap circles—odds are at least ten of your Twitter followers bought Hip Hop Is Dead t-shirts—but 2004 was an exceptional year, giving us Madvillainy, The College Dropout, A Long Hot Summer, and a host of others. Naturally, a few gems are bound to go overlooked. Here’s a closer look at two: P.O.S’ ambitious debut, Ipecac Neat, and Joe Budden’s bitter lament from label hell, Mood Muzik 1: The Worst of Joe Budden.

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Why Did Bush Knock Down the Towers?

My friends and I make fun of this song a lot. How couldn’t you? I mean, Jadakiss outruns two grown men in the video.

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The Top 5 Verses on Illmatic

Twenty years ago today, Nas' Illmatic hit shelves at retail outlets around the country. It's really a soft anniversary--if you knew the right people or were particularly charming with retail workers, you might have had the album in some form for weeks. But Illmatic occupies a special place in the rap canon. Two decades later, it holds up as (at least) the plurality choice as the greatest hip-hop album ever made. To mark the occasion, our Paul Thompson broke down the album's five best verses.

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Give Taylor Swift Her Mic Back

Kanye West Taylor Swift VMAs
You have heard about the post-Taylor Swift Kanye West. He is an embattled man--a victim, to similar extents, of America's unspoken racial tensions and of his own id. During the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, West jumped on stage to rip the microphone out of Swift's hand. She had just been announced as the winner for Best Female Video, and West was incredulous. Beyonce, he explained to the stunned audience, had made "one of the best videos of all time", and the Chicago rapper/producer was seated too close to the stage to let such injustice proceed unchecked. The moment has been frozen in our collective unconscious: a speechless Swift clutching her trophy, a leather-clad West simply shrugging. The reaction came quickly and without mercy; West was a monster, and How Could He Do That and Who Does He Think He Is? It would be naive to ignore the politics of race in all of this, the angry black man stealing the spotlight from the innocent white girl. But West was a jerk, first and foremost, and he never did learn how to apologize.

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Lil Boosie’s Long Ride Home

Lil Boosie
I’m not smart enough to understand time dilation, but Lil Boosie is.

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Dropout Music

Kanye West The College Dropout
The College Dropout is a carefully built house of cards. Paul Thompson picks apart the jokers.

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