[Editor's Note: This article appears in the January/February 2009 issue of XXL Magazine.]
Compiled by Jack Erwin, Clover Hope, Starrene Rhett And Vanessa Satten
XXL Presents the 10 Biggest Moments of the Year That Just Was.
Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Of course not. We need to look back and take stock, document and reflect. While it sure wasn’t the best of times in hip-hop—overall sales continued to plummet (along with the rest of the music biz, along with the rest of the economy)—2008 provided plenty of memorable memories. So, being a magazine, XXL has made a top 10 list, ranking the most important moments in order—and augmenting them with a little bonus material for your reading enjoyment. ’Cause that’s what we do. Happy New Year.
10. Kanye Puts the Paparazzi on Smash
[Careful where you flash those lights.]
Kanye West isn’t exactly the most media shy of rappers, so it came as something of a surprise when he declined the opportunity to have his picture taken by photographers from the online tabloid TMZ this past September 11. Well, “declined” may be a bit of an understatement.
On his way to Hawaii, ’Ye caused a pretty major ruckus in Los Angeles International Airport, when he and his road manager/right-hand man, Don “Don C” Crowley, unburdened a TMZ photog of his camera and proceeded to spike the equipment like they’d just barreled their way into the end zone. Of course, the whole incident was caught on TMZ video cameras and broadcast across the globe that afternoon.
Kanye and Crowley were arrested at the scene and each charged with felony vandalism. Two weeks later, the L.A. County District Attorney’s office announced it would not file felony charges against West, since he only destroyed $100 worth of equipment. (Crowley, though, may still be on the hook for as much as $7,000.) After he was released, Kanye explained on his blog, “I’m cool with the paparazzi. This guy wasn’t cool… I’ll rant later.”
Yes, please, Kanye, talk your shit again.
9. Jayoncé Tie the Knot
[Secret wedding for the ultimate hip-hop power couple]
It was the 2008 wedding that everyone in music was talking about—except, of course, for the bride and groom. On Friday evening, April 4, Jay-Z and Beyoncé were married in a private ceremony at Jay’s Tribeca penthouse. Rumors had been swirling since earlier that same week, when the couple had taken out a marriage license in nearby Scarsdale, New York.
Still, for most of the year, despite published reports of the license, the lavish preparations outside Hov’s crib, and signed legal documents the couple filed two weeks after the wedding, Bey and Jay themselves were mum on the subject. In fact, it was Beyoncé’s sister Solange who first went public with the news (albeit inadvertently), when she referred to Jay as her “brother-in-law” in an interview with a Las Vegas television station in August. Then, just over a week later, Beyoncé appeared in public wearing her wedding ring for the first time, at the Fashion Rocks show at Radio City Music Hall in NYC. (Sparkling with an 18-carat diamond, reportedly valued at $5 million, the bauble was obviously more than a friendship bracelet).
Finally, in October, Beyoncé herself confirmed what everybody already knew, going public with the marriage news, explaining to Essence magazine, “What Jay and I have is real. It’s not about interviews or getting the right photo op. It’s real.” Sure it’s real, Bey, but you couldn’t take five minutes to send us a wedding announcement?
8. Luda Comes Politically Incorrect
[Can a rapper get a cabinet-secretary post?]
Politics can get in the way of the best of relationships. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine this past July, Barack Obama said he had Ludacris on his iPod, calling the Atlanta rap star, whom he’d met to discuss youth issues in 2006, a “great talent.” Later that month, though, Ludacris released a mixtape track called “Politics As Usual,” wherein he lobbies for a VP nod and calls Hillary Clinton a “bitch” and President Bush “mentally handicapped,” while asserting that Obama’s 72-year-old rival, John McCain, “don’t belong in any chair unless he’s paralyzed.” The song caught the attention of the mainstream media. Obama caught flak. So his campaign issued a statement saying, “Ludacris is a talented individual, but he should be ashamed of these lyrics.” Not wanting to further endanger his man’s candidacy, Ludacris zipped his lips on the subject.
But we know that, in their hearts, these two are still on the same page. And while that VP slot’s been filled, we’re hoping that there still might be room in the Obama administration for the Mouth of the South. His catalogue alone qualifies him for a spot in the cabinet.
7. Rick Ross Gets Exposed
[How does a career as a corrections officer compare to being a drug kingpin?]
Everybody beefs up their résumés a little bit, but it seems Rick Ross took things to an extreme. In July 2008, the gossip Web site mediatakeout.com posted photos of the Miami rap star in a corrections-officer’s uniform. Thesmokinggun.com went on to confirm that, before Ricky was a hip-hop heavyweight boasting about a history in the international cocaine industry, he was actually a corrections officer at the South Florida Reception Center in Dade County.
XXL consulted the Florida Department of Corrections Web site to compare details from Ross’s real former job with lyrical quotes from his rap songs. Which is trilla?
JOB REQUIREMENTS >>> Corrections Officer: Must be 19 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, be a U.S. citizen, have a valid driver’s license, and pass a physical and drug test. Must “not have been convicted of any felony or of a misdemeanor involving perjury or a false statement” and must “have a good moral character as determined by a background investigation under procedures established by the Commission.”
Drug Kingpin: “Fuck football, I’m goin’ down another path/Couldn’t pass the test to tell the truth/Couldn’t fuck with math.” (“Pots and Pans”)
JOB DESCRIPTION >>> Corrections Officer: “Correctional Officers are responsible for the supervision, care, custody, control and physical restraint, when necessary, of inmates in a correctional institution or facility.”
Drug Kingpin: “I’m into distribution/I’m like Atlantic/I got them muthafuckas flying across the Atlantic.” (“Hustlin’”)
REPORTS TO >>> Corrections Officer: Captain, Lieutenant, Warden
Drug Kingpin: “Who the fuck you think you fuckin’ with, I’m the fuckin’ boss!” (“Hustlin’”)
ANNUAL SALARY >>> Corrections Officer: $30,807.92 to $45,033.82
Drug Kingpin: “I made a couple million dollars last year dealin’ weight.” (“The Boss”)
ANNUAL UNIFORM AND SHOE ALLOWANCE >>> Corrections Officer: $325.00
Drug Kingpin: “I spend a million dollars, nigga, just in diamonds.” (“We Shinin’”)
STANCE ON SNITCHING >>> Corrections Officer: Must “observe for signs of disorder or tension and report such observations to a higher authority.”
Drug Kingpin: “If you ever cross that line, I guarantee there’ll be nothin’ to save ya.” (“Cross That Line”)
6. Nas Changes Names
[Maybe some other rappers should have done the same.]
An album title always makes a statement. This year, famously contentious Queens MC Nas tried to make an even bigger one by naming his ninth album Nigger. Some liked the idea. Others, including Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Fox News, were against it—and voiced loud concern. In the end, business and politics won. And on May 19, 2008, seven months after the uproar began, Nas and Def Jam announced that the album would no longer be called Nigger. The project was officially released on July 15 untitled.
In the spirit of change, XXL suggests new, more appropriate titles for 10 rap albums that came out this year.
5. Remy Ma Gets Sent Up the River
[Bronx raptress hit with eight years for felony assault]
Unfortunately, the red-and-white “Free Remy” T-shirts weren’t advertising gratis cognac. It wasn’t happy hour at a hip-hop club, it was Manhattan’s Supreme Court, and the shirts were worn by friends and family of Bronx rapper Remy Ma on May 13, when she was given an eight-year sentence for shooting her friend Makeda Barnes-Joseph.
The charges stemmed from an incident the previous July, when Remy, thinking Barnes-Joseph had stolen $3,000 from her, tussled with her friend outside a club in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Barnes-Joseph was shot twice in the abdomen; Remy fled the scene but turned herself in to police the next day.
During the trial, Remy admitted to shooting Barnes-Joseph but claimed it was accidental. Her lawyer brought a .45-caliber semiautomatic to court for his closing argument, so he could reenact the shooting for the jury (the barrel was filled with cement to make it inoperable). Still, Remy was convicted of intentional assault on March 27.
While she awaited sentencing on Rikers Island, Rem made the papers again, when her fiancé and fellow rapper, Papoose, was allegedly found with a handcuff skeleton key on the day the two were supposed to be married at the facility. (Papoose later confirmed to XXL that he and Remy were indeed married, eventually, although he did not elaborate on details.) But while she serves her term, Remy has appealed her sentence and enlisted the services of New York lawyer to the stars William Murphy Jr.—so there may be another use for those “Free Remy” shirts after all.
For the rest of XXL’s Top 10 moments make sure to pick up XXL’s Jan/Feb issue on newsstands nationwide December 5th.