Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Close 2 tha Edge: Year in Review

Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 4:59 PM

The 2006 Edgies A look back at the year that was, from stunna shades to conscious knocks.

By Eric K. Arnold

Since the recent BARS Awards didn't really do the Yay Area justice, it's up to Close 2 tha Edge to present a rundown of 2006 in local hip-hop. This was definitely the year of hyphy, which rose from sideshow soundtracks to club and radio play to every suburban soccer mom's worst nightmare. Without further ado, we present the 2006 "Edgies."

    Super-Duper Stunna: E-40 The Yay Area ambassador was worth his weight in gouda this year, introducing the hyphy movement to the world with "Tell Me When to Go," popping up on the #1 hit "Snap Yo Fingers," guesting on innumerable local records, and outselling the majority of other rappers with the gold-certified My Ghetto Report Card.

    Prolific Producer: Traxamillion The self-professed San Jose "Slapp Addict" delivered one of the Yay's most solid top-to-bottom albums of ´06, a "who's-who guide to the hyphy movement featuring Mistah F.A.B., the Team, Keak da Sneak, Dem Hoodstarz, Balance, Zion-I, and Too $hort.

    Legendary Local: Too $hort Not only did $hort Dog score a huge hit with "Blow the Whistle," the title track from his sixteenth album, he reaffirmed his place in the local scene by moving back to "Tha Town" and taking an interest in future generations with his volunteer work at Youth Uprising.

    Boo-Yah Backpackers: Zion-I & the Grouch, Heroes in the City of Dope This collaborative effort presented an alternate view of Bay Area rap, one more concerned with quality-of-life issues than grill-pieces and rims. Amp Live's production was simply phenomenal, while MCs Zion and the Grouch proved intelligence is still relevant.

    Economic-Minded Entrepreneurs: The Team

    The Oakland trio proved adept at cross-marketing with Hyphy Juice, a sports beverage which not only gave you the energy to scrape through the turf like a trap star, but cured cottonmouth-breath.

    Cocksurest Come-Up: The Fillmore SF rap has typically taken a backseat to Oakland, but in ´06, the ´Mo evened the score with quality albums by San Quinn, Big Rich, and Bullys wit Fullys (Guce & Messy Marv), finally allowing "the ´Sco" to swagger.

    Superlatively Socially-Conscious: (tie) The Coup, T-K.A.S.H., the Attik A no-brainer: All three had amazing albums well worth listening to, which offered a smart alternative to "going dumb" without skimping on knockability.

    Coolest Comeback: Saafir With his fourth album Good Game: The Transition, Saafir went from hood-tested, block-approved street soldier to grown and sexy game-spitter with an inspirational message and an interesting story to tell.

    Ballsiest Beat-Jacker: Rick Rock The Fairfield superproducer pulled off an impressive feat by taking an ´80s song that wasn't all that hot to begin with (Corey Hart's "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night") and upgrading it into an infectious ode to oversize shades (the Federation's "Stunna Glasses") that proved impossible for commercial radio to resist. Ultra-Ubiquitous MC: Mistah F.A.B.

    Oakland's crown prince of hyphy earned his stripes by being simply everywhere in 2006: representing at a Commonwealth Club panel, hosting a KYLD radio show (Yellow Bus Ridahs), freestyling for days at the Bay Area Rap Summit and Hip Hop in the Park, touring Europe with DJ Shadow, and appearing on records by Lyrics Born, Zion-I and the Grouch, Traxamillion, and Too $hort. To top it off, he signed with Atlantic, setting the stage for hyphy's second wave, expected in ´07.

    Nicest Newcomers: The Pack Lupe Fiasco has nothing on these grilled-out skateboarders, who came from nowhere to deliver "Vans," one of 2006's most talked-about songs, which launched a fashion trend and introduced colorful punk-rock-influenced style to the urban music scene. Global-Minded Groove: MC Rai, Raivolution This SF-by-way-of-Tunisia album stands as one of the most mind-blowing local releases of this year, taking the traditional music of North Africa and affixing it to a contemporary template which fused dub, electronica, hip-hop, and dancehall into one trance-inducing package. Trillest Trend: Flashing Stunna Glasses Nothing linked the thizz era to its rave scene origins better than the battery-powered illuminated eyewear, the 2006 version of a glow stick. Laced-Up Local Label: SMC No indie label was more involved in Bay Area rap in ´06 than SMC, who followed up last year's impressive efforts by Guce and Ya Boy with new albums by Balance, San Quinn, Bullys wit Fullys, Eldorado Red, Mac Minister, and the Jacka, to name a few.

    Noggin-Nodding National Compilation: Hyphy Hitz Okay, yours truly wrote the liner notes. But check out the track listing, loaded with E-40 and Keak-saturated slangfests, Mac Dre classics, F.A.B.-ulous flows, new stuff by the A'z, even a remix of Da Musicianz' "Go Dumb" featuring the Federation. If you must get stupid, this is the album to do it to.

    Sauciest Slang Word: Yee It's succinct, easy to say, and can be used in a variety of situations, from expressions of excited exuberance to a subtle warning that the po-po's on the block, yadahamean?

    Haters of the Year: (tie) Lewis Wolff and Ignacio De La Fuente The Fremont A's of Silicon Valley. Need I say more?

    Recovering slapp addict: eric.arnold@eastbayexpress.com

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