Snap to It

Comeback kids, rhymin' Limeys and songs about partying defined Hip-Hop Nation in 2006

It was the year of the British. Sort of. In fairness, 2006 can't be counted as the sort of watershed 12 months we witnessed two years ago, when Dizzee Rascal and the Streets and their grimey countrymen planted the Union Jack in hip-hop's bloated American carcass, with no intention of ever ceding territory again. And they haven't; while Mike Skinner was only at three-quarter strength on The Streets' The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, his Cockney wisecracks were still more fun than three-quarters of his Yank counterparts. Anyone Skinner failed to offend, the wee, witty Lady Sovereign -- Def Jam's nod to the British Invasion -- took care of. Meanwhile, one of the most slept-on releases of the year came from UK vets New Flesh: Universally Dirty mashed up dancehall, grime and even soca to give British hip-hop yet another brand-new beat.

It was the year of deep thoughts and the year of partying (and sometimes, deep thoughts about partying). There's room for both viewpoints now in hip-hop's increasingly diverse underground, which is good news indeed. Critical darlings Spank Rock might have merely made Too $hort safe for all the eggheads who thought they were too $mart for him the first time around, but even so, was there an album more fun in 2006 than the high-concept/low-art Yoyoyoyoyo? Didn't think so.

Both fun in their own thoughtful ways were albums from the Bay Area's Ise Lyfe, whose SpreadtheWORD suggests he might someday take over Mos Def's mantle as hip-hop's activist poet laureate, and Georgia Anne Muldrow, an adventurous L.A. artist who reassembles urban music in novel ways on Olesi: Fragments of an Earth. Both discs make great soundtracks for the parties in your mind.

In between multiple arrests, Snoop Dogg managed to put out the noteworthy Tha Blue Carpet Treatment.
In between multiple arrests, Snoop Dogg managed to put out the noteworthy Tha Blue Carpet Treatment.

It was the year of self-promotion. Well, every year in hip-hop is the year of self-promotion, but today's kids certainly have it down pat. Just ask Jibbs his favorite hip-hop trend of '06, and he barely blinks before answering.

"I would definitely say that the hottest trend," he offers, starting to chuckle, "was people that got their chains hangin' low."

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