As a genre, hip-hop speeds forward faster than almost any other genre. As fans however, many are paradoxically “stuck in the 90s,” or at least accused of such. When 2016 rolled around, it was natural to look back on the albums of 1996, which are celebrating their 20th anniversaries. Earlier in the year, Complex did an amazing job of recounting not only key releases, but pivotal moments in ‘the year hip-hop went global’ with their 1996 Project.
Let’s flip it on ’em a little bit here though and think back to the albums of 2006; a year that may not have the lasting cultural impact of 1996, but still produced some dope releases. It’s hard to believe some of these dropped a full ten years ago, but as Rasco told us in ’98, Time Waits For No Man.
Lil Wayne – Dedication 2 / Like Father Like Son
You might be sitting there like “damn, these albums came out ten years ago? I’m so old,” and I’d be right there with you, because I was ten years younger in 2006 too. But hey here’s the consolation – those ten years were probably kinder to you than they were to Lil Wayne. Sure he made a ton of money, but he looks like Flava Flav with dreads now. Also he lost his goddamn mind.
In 2006 though? Lil Wayne was on top of the world. It started with Tha Carter II in 2005, and continued through a series of blistering mixtapes. While Wayne fans will rate the period’s verses, freestyles and mixtapes differently, for me Dedication 2 was the pièce de résistance. It was the perfect time for Wayne; the drugs were fuelling, not failing him. He was balancing balls-out bravado with moments of endearing insanity. He dedicated a skit to listing his favourite sports shows, another time he kind of hummed a bunch while he lit a blunt. He was as confident as he was charismatic, and the free-form mixtape medium was the perfect place for him to do whatever the fuck he felt like.
Like Father Like Son on the other hand, was just kind of a victory lap for Wayne after 12 months at the top. It was a funny little role-reversal; the standard narrative in hip-hop is the star blows up, and allows the St Lunatics to ride his coat tails to wherever they may lead. This time though Lil Wayne, who had emerged from regional obscurity to became an international star, came back to grab the dude who put him on in the first place. The student didn’t kill the teacher, he came home in a Lambo and drove his sensei to the strip club.
Rick Ross – Port of Miami
Similar to the way Houston locked down 2004 behind Paul Wall, Chamillionaire and Slim Thug, 2006 was the undisputed year of Miami. Not only was it the year we were introduced to Rick Ross, but the Cocaine Cowboys documentary mythicised the city, and DJ Khaled’s debut Listennn … The Album put South Florida’s finest Trina, Trick Daddy, Pitbull and of course, Ross, alongside of-the-minute stars including Paul Wall and Slim Thug, plus Lil Wayne, Fat Joe and Young Jeezy.
It was a good time to be from Florida. Even the state’s producers were on top; Cool & Dre and The Runners were responsible for some of the year’s biggest tracks. Rick Ross’ “Hustlin” was at the middle of it all; blending the state’s reputation for drugs and violence with some outlandish statements – “The real Noreaga, he owe me 100 favours” – over The Runners’ epic organs and that unmissable Mike Jones vocal sample. It was followed up with the JR Rotem-produced, Scarface-referencing “Push It”, and the city of Miami had its first rap superstar since Uncle Luke.
The rest of the album was mad patchy, but the foundations were set. For better or worse, Officer Ricky reigned over rap for years after Port of Miami.
Skyzoo & 9th Wonder – Cloud 9: The Three-Day High
Believe it or not, people rapped about more than cocaine in 2006. It wasn’t a regular occurrence, but it happened here and there. Cloud 9: The Three-Day High was a step away from the popular coke raps of the time, but still stood with both Timberlands firmly entrenched in the New York streets. Serving as an intro to Skyzoo for most, this new artist’s whole steez was fresh; his vocal tone, character, flows and story-telling ability were simultaneously unique and comfortably familiar.
Skyzoo may have been an unknown, but 9th Wonder had been on top by 2006. He had produced for Jay-Z and Beyonce by this point and was basically just flexing with this release. His throwback beats were the perfect accompaniment to Skyzoo’s stories of Brooklyn bodegas and fly fashion. Sky went on to sign with Just Blaze, and 9th continued to develop his fanbase with more independent releases, but personally, this was my favourite release from both artists’ catalogues.
T.I. – King
Did T.I. peak in 2006? He had been steadily building for years, hitting with a string of successful albums; I’m Serious, Trap Muzik and Urban Legend each brought him a step closer to securing – and then transcending – his self-appointed King of the South title. In 2006, Tip went nation wide.
The singles “What You Know” and “Why You Wanna” secured gold sales in his first week (see, 2006 was a long time ago. That shit never happens now), and T.I. had himself a number one album. He had the fame, but he also had the streets. The UGK-assisted “Front Back” was a down south anthem, and the Just Blaze collabs “King Back” and the furious “I’m Talkin’ to You” legitimised T.I. as a serious artist among purists.
King was a success on all fronts, and lead to total T.I. domination. He was featured on the biggest pop song of the year, Justin Timberlake’s “My Love”, starred alongside Lauren London in ATL, and clocked two key assists on Young Dro’s “Shoulder Lean” and DJ Khaled’s “We Takin’ Over”.
Then he caught a gun case, had his sentence mysteriously reduced, and was never the same again.
E-40 – My Ghetto Report Card
When Forty Water opens up My Ghetto Report Card by enthusiastically declaring “I got my second wind pimp!,” the simple ad-lib is surprisingly poignant. E-40 had dropped 8 albums prior to My Ghetto Report Card, in a (then) 13-year solo career. Rap careers rarely last that long, and seldom get better with age.
40’s bigger hits were years behind him at this point, but with the momentum building around the Bay’s hyphy sound, the super-regional “Tell Me When To Go” was perfectly timed. Somehow, a man in his late-30s was the voice of a booming youth movement.
With his second wind so well-received nationally, E-40 was spurred on to an unbelievable 15 more studio albums in the last ten years.
More notable releases from 2006
Cam’ron – Killa Season
The Game – Doctor’s Advocate
Ghostface – Fishscale
Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
The Roots – Game Theory
J Dilla – Donuts
Nas – Hip Hop Is Dead
Snoop Dogg – Tha Blue Carpet Treatment
Young Jeezy – The Inspiration
Busts Rhymes – The Big Bang
Ludacris – Release Therapy
Ice Cube – Laugh Now, Cry Later
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