It was a strange year, largely defined by controversy, tragedy, and regressive trends, yet still not without hope for a better tomorrow. With that in mind, C2tE hands out its annual "Edgies" for pop culture highlights and lowlights, both locally and nationally.
Best Feel-Good Movie about a Heroin Dealer: American Gangster
A cross between Serpico and Scarface, American Gangster suggested that the bottom line in this country isn't skin color, it's economics. As New York drug kingpin Frank Lucas, Denzel Washington shed his normally cuddly image and showed he can be an unemotional badass, though Russell Crowe was a lot less interesting as a detective whose honesty makes him a pariah on a police squad where corruption is the norm. That the criminals could be more compelling than the cops comes as no surprise to fans of HBO's The Wire, and while Ridley Scott's direction fell short of Godfather-esque gravitas, American Gangster inspired the best Jay-Z album since Reasonable Doubt.
It's About Time Award:
The Notorious B.I.G. Murder Case
Citing compelling new evidence implicating two LA police officers, a judge ruled that the wrongful death suit over the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. a decade ago can continue. Let's hope justice is finally served.
Fan Non-Appreciation Award:
After reportedly sending out a masked impostor who lip-synched his way through a lame ten-minute set at SF's Independent in August, MF Doom pissed off his formerly faithful followers by blowing off the next night's show — and a makeup date a month later. WTF?
Most Satisfying Live Set: (tie)
Public Enemy/ Rage Against the Machine
When PE trotted out Anthrax' Scott Ian for "Bring tha Noize" at August's Rock the Bells festival, the mood shifted from nostalgic to classic. The only thing that topped it was Rage's mosh-inducing set — louder than a bomb (to paraphrase Chuck D) and just as explosive.
Funky President Award:
C2tE tagged Mr. Obama as the best candidate for the hip-hop generation long before the junior senator from Illinois snagged Common's endorsement, and we'll reiterate his qualifications here. Obama deserves to be president not because he's black — if Colin Powell or Ward Connerly ran they wouldn't get my vote — but because he represents the best hope for real change in American politics and society.
Teflon Bigot Award:
Imus came under fire (and was eventually fired) for his shock-jock antics, prompting outcry from feminists and civil-rights groups, as well as a predictable backlash against rap lyrics. But after the furor died down, the cowboy-hatted curmudgeon had the last laugh. First, he collected a reported $20 million buyout from CBS, then he inked a new five-year deal with WABC rumored to be in the eight-figure range. Imus ain't a saint, but the predictable Big Media response to the "nappy-headed ho's" controversy, the Sean Taylor slaying, and the Jena 6 case proves that racism never rests solely on the shoulders of one individual.
Most Innovative Nu-Media Auteur:
As TV newscasts became even more predictable, cutting-edge podcasters like SF's Kevin Epps delivered original content like "Popped in Oakland," an engaging mini-doc which detailed the first-hand accounts of people you rarely see on network news: survivors of gun violence in high-crime urban environments.
Most Exploitative TV Show: (tie)
Flavor of Love 2; I Love New York; Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School; Rock of Love
VH-1's quartet of so-called celebreality shows hit a new nadir in lowbrow pop culture. Viewers saw endless hours of hoochie-mama catfights, childish man-whores, chauvinistic ex-crackheads, sleazy washed-up rock stars, evil stepmothers, dim-bulb strippers, and staged confrontations. Sure, the programs garnered high ratings, but it all seemed about as real as Miss New York's mammaries.
The Hip-Hop Chess Federation
The South Bay-based organization teamed with video game maker Ubisoft and Wu-Tang members RZA and GZA for a radical makeover of chess' stodgy image. The Federation made the 64 squares seem cool for young people of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds, instead of an old man's game, putting ignorance in check (mate).
Most Disappointing Local Trend:
Bay Area Hip-Hop Disappears from Commercial Airwaves
One of the best things about the hyphy movement was the sense of regional pride it instilled among the community. Even if you weren't inclined to go dumb, it was great to hear hometown folks on commercial stations. But when hyphy's national momentum faltered, KMEL and WYLD returned to the status quo of playing mindless Southern crunk, instead of supporting the Bay's burgeoning post-hyphy movement, which has blurred the lines between backpack hip-hop and turf rap.
Most Welcome Local Trend:
Passing the Torch
The Bay Area pioneered the independent hip-hop game more than twenty years ago, and with the rap industry stuck in a creativity-challenged fog, it was cool to see our local legends further the region's legacy by mentoring talented next-generation acts, like E-40 protégé Turf Talk, Hieroglyphics-affiliated MC Prince Ali, and Too $hort discovery the Pack. These artists remained true to the innovative spirit that makes the Bay unique, while pushing forward into new musical and lyrical directions.
American Gangster| The Notorious B.I.G.| MF Doom| Public Enemy/ Rage Against the Machine|The Hip-Hop Chess Federation|Flavor of Love 2|I Love New York|Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School|Rock of Love|Kevin Epps|Don Imus
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