Top Five Unjustified Hypes of the '00s
The advent of inexpensive or free means of creating and distributing music has come with a cost: propagating crap attempts at pop, rap, rock, or any other genre or sub-genre you care to name had become easier than ever. That's why two of the entries on this particular list are concepts, while one is a collective of rappers, another is a genre, and the other is a rock band. In decades prior, a list like this would have been all artists, and to be fair, a blog or publication catering to specific tastes might have an easier time generating a list of the Top Five Unjustly Hyped DJs or the Top Five Unjustly Hyped Speed Metal Bands or what have you.
But let's face it: in the 2000s, for the generalist listener or trainspotter, there was simply too much going on, all the blasted time, to keep track of. So we're taking a somewhat broader approach here at Gimme Noise, even as we secretly wish we could rewind to December 1999 and sneer at all the critical and cultural adoration projects like Sleater-Kinney and Handsome Boy Modeling School got back in the day. Snootchie boochies, snitches!
Grime. Knuckleheaded blokes and birds mumbling and biovating rhymes over splintered and frosty ringtone beats won't make a dent on the album charts stateside? No-one will take a real interest beyond cool hunters and the blogerati? For the average rap fan, "The Streets" isn't anything more than a metaphor for blighted aves where hustlers hustle and fiends go to score? The hell you say!
Dipset. The Wu-Tang Clan's legacy is about more than just championing obscure martial arts movies and comic book-like mythology and grit and RZA's murky, sample-strewn productions. What's easy to forget - lo these many years after countless white teenagers snapped up copies of Enter the 36 Chambers like addicts snatching discarded crack vials - is that the Wu-Tang Clan were the first rap crew to ink a record deal that allowed them to make solo albums without strings attached. So Method Man could do his thing, Cappadonna could do his, and so on, and eventually the longtime pals could reconvene for another confusingly enthralling Staten Island masterpiece. That's commonplace now, with the tradition being that whichever rapper gets on first brings his homies along later - cf. Ruff Ryders, D12, USDA, Saint Lunatics, Young Money, the Re-Up Gang, etc.
Which brings us to the Diplomats, who were supposed to be so amazing, right? Ushering in a new, metro sexually flamboyant era of rap while yelling "no homo" and promoting a cavalier inhumanity. Cutting drug-slinging boasts with pithy punch line raps. Making stupid movies and putting out too many posse records. The bloggers couldn't get enough; the Diplomatic Immunity series had them wide open. Then? Purple Haze aside, nothing much. Cam'ron had a single or two; Juelz Santana had a few. Hell Rell released an album titled Just for the Rell of It with a cover so unappetizing that it put Busta Rhymes to shame. But, like, nobody rose above; nobody blew up in significant enough a way to justify all the fascination the Dipset phenom stirred up and sustained for a couple years there. And these dudes are still out there hustling, nurturing new satellite crews, and putting out music that almost nobody is listening to, most of the time for good reason.
Mash-Ups. Yes, Virginia, mash-ups were a thing before Girl Talk showed up on everyone's radar screen; for a while, in fact, back at the beginning of the decade, mash-ups were all critics could babble on about, as if no-one had ever had the idea of layering a pop tart's bubbly vocal over a vegan hardcore instrumental before. John Oswald? Negativland? Who? It was all so exciting, so new, it had never been done before. None of it! A novel new way of re-contextualizing song! Mash-ups made Danger Mouse the toast of the criterati; remember The Gray Album? Remember Jay-Z and Linkin Park briefly joining forces? Remember mash-ups helping make people care about DJs, kind of? And then, suddenly, anyone and everyone had the ability to make their own mash-ups. And - Girl Talk and maybe The Hood Internet aside - this shit was no longer all that interesting.
Wilco. Why beat around the bush here? Like your dad (probably), Wilco use to kick ass; Summerteeth remains one of my favorite albums, an off-the-wall paen to a damaged state of mind that never lets up, even when its narrators appear to give up. But sometime during the '00s - during the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot label drama or when Jeff Tweedy sacked the late Jay Bennett in front of a rolling documentary camera - Wilco turned into navel-gazing, milquetoast muso mush-slush, trading the desire to kick ass for the desire to make unobtrusive dad-rock soundtracks for marginally entertaining Volkswagon commercials. Yet people who should know much, much better - critics, indie-rock fans, thirtysomethings who aren't even parents yet - continue to genuflect in the Chicago group's general direction. Admittedly, it's awesome that avant garde lifer Nils Cline is now able to make decent bank and VWs are sweet, sweet rides, but c'mon.
Mixtapes. This year, Mya and R. Kelly put out mixtapes. Pete Swanson of now-kaput noise duo Yellow Swans compiled a free online mixtape of songs to promote a post-humous album. Last year, fucking Fall Out Boy put out a mixtape!
The conventional wisdom is that mixtapes - where singers or rappers perform over existing or brand new compositions - are leveling pop music's playing field. Democratizing things, if you like. Birthing a new paradigm. Nah, right. Mixtapes - and I'm not going to run down their evolution/devolution as a form in the '00s, you should know that if you're reading this - are devaluing music by watering it down, by flooding the pool of existing music with dross, blurring the line between "official" and "unofficial" releases to the extent that it's hard to tell the difference, turning amateurs pro and encouraging pros to play amateur for the sake of cred. Ultimately, mixtapes turn music fandom into baseball card or Garbage Pail Kids fandom, with downloaders turning each other onto one or another artist's extensive, kitchen-sink discography until the act of experiencing and appreciating sound and emotion and moxie becomes a joyless arms race, and everyone who can't - or won't - keep up is left feeling out of step, out of the loop, less than hip.
Now, to be fair, there are plenty of decent mixtapes out there - this year, Playboy Tre's Liquor Store Mascot couldn't be touched, and Clipse's Road to Til The Casket Drops and Prodigy's Return of the Mac wound up being better that the "actual" albums they were promotional tools for - but there's something to be said for marshalling one's creative forces and putting one's best foot forward instead of puking up everyone on your mind on a dozen shittily mastered zip files strewn with boarish DJ drops over the course of one year.
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