2006 was a pretty good year for hip hop. There are still some fans, though, that yearn for the good old days when rap meant basketball jerseys, backpacks, and so-called conscious lyrics. Hip-hop is dead says Mr. Nasir Jones and many are inclined to agree. No, hip hop isnâ€™t dead; itâ€™s healthier than ever with something for everyone from skateboard kids to the club fanatic. The two coasts were surprisingly absent from the scene this year. It was the South that made the most noise again, injecting energy and heart into Nanos and Shuffles worldwide. Without further ado, here are Formatâ€™s Top 10 Mainstream Hip-Hop Singles of the Year.
10. Lupe Fiasco â€“ â€œKick Pushâ€
Hereâ€™s a song for everyone yearning for the Native Tongue days. Chicagoâ€™s Lupe Fiasco recounts a couple of skateboard centered stories over jazzy Tribe-esque horns that recall both a more innocent time in hip-hop and the narratorâ€™s youth. Lupeâ€™s presence in the game gives a good balance to the harder edged leaders of the new school.
9. â€œRick Ross â€“ â€œHustlinâ€
The dozens of lip synch videos on youtube.com show how popular this track was. Rick captures Miamiâ€™s drug culture — no pastel suits and shoes without socks here, as he narrates on top of a dark Runners produced beat. Definitely one of 2006’s biggest anthems.
8. Chamillionaire ft. Krayzie Bone – â€œRidinâ€™ Dirtyâ€
As overplayed as this was, and as nonsensical as the video was, we couldnâ€™t keep this off the list. Houstonâ€™s Chamillionaire burst on the scene with this huge track, showing off the mercury quick delivery and intelligent wordplay that hides behind that platinum grill. Krayzie Bone guest stars and reminds us of how underrated Bone Thugs really are. A great first step for one of hip-hopâ€™s most promising new stars.
7. T.I. – â€œWhy You Wanna?â€
The bravado and wordplay of this T.I. is draped all over the Crystal Waters sample. Apparently, T.I. dropped the P from his name out of respect for Q-Tip. Here, he does one better revisiting The Abstract circa Janetâ€™s â€œGot â€˜til Itâ€™s Gone.â€ Thereâ€™s no better time than the Christmas season to revisit this one, as the tropical bass line transports you somewhere twenty degrees warmer.
6. Yung Joc – â€œItâ€™s Going Downâ€
In 2006, we learned how to walk it out and how to shoulder lean. But, without a doubt, the undisputed hip-hop dance of the year is the motorcycle. Young Joc is a limited rapper, but no one could have out-strutted him on this Nitti produced ditty. Itâ€™s likely Joc gets remembered as a one hit wonder, but what a one hit. Still, we could have done without Tom Cruise revving it up on 106.
5. Young Jeezy – â€œI Luv Itâ€
Young Jeezyâ€™s underdog charm and signature swagger make the track. Thereâ€™s something straight up about Jeezy, maybe the way he tries to inspire without preaching or the way he lays it all out describing his bumpy road to superstardom. Whatever the case, it seems like Jeezy is here to stay.
4. Clipse ft. Slim Thug – â€œWamp Wampâ€
Pusha T and Malice lingered in hip-hop purgatory for three years waiting on their label. So what do they do when they get back? Drop one of the best albums of 2006, thatâ€™s what. â€œWamp Wampâ€ was the second single off the twelve song album, all of them fire. This one just happens to have Slim Thug killing the hook, a fierce percussion Neptunes produced beat, and the Thornton brothers spitting poetry.
3. Jim Jones – â€œWe Fly Highâ€
The sole East Coast representative isnâ€™t Nas or Jay, but Jim Jones. While his Dipset crew often goes the eccentric route, their Christmas rap album for example, this banger is straight up New York attitude. The simple hook is so catchy it had everyone shooting into the sky and the female echo adding that little catchy twist was perfect. Itâ€™s impossible to fight the urge to â€˜jump shotâ€™ along. â€œBallinâ€™!â€
2. Lil Wayne ft. Robin Thicke – â€œShooterâ€
Weezy was all over the place, seemingly dropping a track or mixtape every other week. Here, the one-liner king teams with R&B singer Robin Thicke to release one of the more unique songs of the year. It starts with a crawling groove before exploding, with Lil Wayne preaching over a jamming jazz beat. And you have to love how The Carter goes at all the South Hating â€œrapper racists.â€ Lil Wayne is the best rapper alive, post-Hov. Did anyone see that coming?
1. Field Mob ft. Ciara – â€œSo Whatâ€
Ladies and gentlemen, after years in relative obscurity, welcome back The Field Mob. Smoke and Shawn J get a little taste of the mainstream as they strike back at all the gossip spreading hood rats: â€œsheâ€™s miserable/ she just wants you to be/ like her, misery needs company.â€ Ciara has never sounded sexier as she sings over another Jazze Pha shoulder popping synth R&B beat. Every summer thereâ€™s that one feel good rap song, which is more sexy slow dance than shoulder lean. This was that, v. 2006.