At this point, imagining hip-hop without the Internet is like imagining modern life without electricity—vaguely comprehensible but clearly tedious, inconvenient and primitive. Whether the World Wide Web is actually the new streets is debatable, but the ease of exchanging music, words and ideas has forever altered the way hip-hop is created, marketed, distributed, sold and discussed. Albums, singles and videos leak online first. iTunes has replaced both local record stores and national chains. And Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and MySpace are increasingly narrowing the distance between artists and their fans. In an effort to help readers wade through the ever-deepening stream of information, XXL has assembled a list of the 100 Best Hip-Hop Web Sites: Blogs, lyrics archives, MP3 downloads, artist pages and digital record pools are all included here. Get your clique on point with the point and click.
Back in the day, DJs joined regional record pools, where labels exchanged new vinyl for grassroots feedback. What’s vinyl, you ask? Oh, forget it. Now providing the same function with MP3s and also forum-style commenting, Cornerstone Promotion’s 1200 Squad offers free membership to DJs and filthy industry types.
Smart, knowledgeable blog that doesn’t think East Coast and underground are epithets.
Gossip, news and music (ostensibly) provided around the clock.
Thanks to memorable interviews, a syncopated delivery and awesome lyrics (“Bone a bitch in the butt, make her say ‘what, what’”), N.O.R.E. carved out a unique niche as rap’s thug clown. His Web site, which features hip-hop news, music, videos and all things C-N-N, keeps N.O.R.E. eating up the bandwidth.
Launched back in antediluvian 1998 by Greg “Grouchy” Watkins and Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur, AllHipHop became the grand dame of rap-news sites by virtue of dependable original reporting, opportune Q&A interviews and those famed e-mail blasts. Writing quality can seesaw between professional and greenhorn, but sprawling coverage of music, fashion, gadgetry and sports gives aspiring journalists a valuable place to amass clips and stylistically sand off the rough edges. All the while, members of the site’s teeming Ill Community message boards have spent eight long years scrutinizing the most important topic in rap-forum history: Jay-Z vs. Nas—who lost and why?
Founded in 2002, this feverishly updated urban-lifestyle site focuses on music but dabbles in not-so-distantly-removed areas of politics, sports and fashion.
Even if you’re not convinced by Pharrell’s $35,000 all-over-print sweatpants, this music, arts and culture blog has its thumb on the pulse of what cool is supposed to be.
Beats, rhymes and snark.
A hip-hop video Web site where the clips actually have music in them and/or rap-related content.
Some music, some relationship advice, lots of sex—hey, that also describes an understanding girlfriend on the side!
A social network with Bobby Ray’s fans.
Unleashing “exclusive” scoops, such as “Gucci Mane, Is This Your Baby Mama???” this gossip blog specializes in music and entertainment news, with occasional forays into politics and current events. If Jay-Z or Beyoncé so much as breathes, they’ll gleefully document said lung expansion.
Better known as No Trivia, Soderberg’s blog gives rap the kind of intellectual, analytical respect that it deserves.
Blog with new MP3s and lots of exclamation points!!!
Imagine the perfect blogger: witty, controversial, curmudgeonly and a bit portly from all those hours spent raging on the Interwebs. Now put him in St. Louis and have him write about rap. As evidenced by altercations with Bun B and Lupe Fiasco, Crawford is the rare blogger whose personality distinguishes him from the rest of the field. (Also can be found blogging on XXLMag.com.)
The best place to hear Cham recount how Michael Jordan sonned him in a club.
With insightful writing and great access (the wide breadth of interview subjects includes Bun B, Too $hort, Freddie Gibbs and YZ), this site is as dope as its name.
When they’re not showcasing turquoise flannel shirts, the online appendage of Marc Ecko’s men’s magazine, Complex, stays in the news cycle with timely pieces—fake Twitter conversations, lists of Jay-Z’s lousiest songs, an online sepulchre for dearly departed rap mags—and the ingenious Complex Soundboard of trademark audio snippets (killa!).
Urban-entertainment blogging since 2005.
One-stop site for producers: interviews, beat battles, drum kits and advice on how not to get stuck for your papers when using samples.
Hosted by Combat Jack, a music lawyer turned scribe who once worked with artists AZ, C-N-N, Tragedy Khadafi and Color Me Badd (holy flashback!), Daily-Math melds insider insight, smart humor and sharp writing. Whether discussing how he succumbed to Gucci Mane’s charms or reviewing video games, Jack stays ripping it.
A heavyweight in numerous ways, always-entertaining Dallas Penn and friends chew the fat about hip-hop, sneakers, food and ever-important boozing at New York City industry events.
Calling itself “the authority in free mixtapes,” this site backs up its boast with a monster collection of freebies from big names and uploads from users (most of which you might not need to hear).
Here lives the politics of music from Davey D, veteran Bay Area–based hip-hop historian and activist.
Rap music and news, plus some sport, out of D.C. and Boston… And then some.
An eclectic mix of fresh music, antiquarian nostalgia and the random entry about Afghan elections.
Home of Southern Smoke—and we’re not talking about brisket.
News, music, videos and reviews for those enchanted by hip-hop beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Lots of Gucci, lots of Jeezy, even some Lil Wyte!
For all of the endless griping about the East Coast’s fall from grace, the West Coast’s plunge into obsolescence has been even more devastating. Carrying the flag for the beleaguered region is DubCNN, a site that covers both legends (MC Ren, Warren G) and the future (Nipsey Hussle, Young Giantz).
Due to the popularity of Kanye, Lupe Fiasco and legions of upstart rappers in skinny jeans, there may be a perception that the Windy City’s hip-hop scene has gotten ultra trendy. Stand corrected at FakeShoreDrive, a Chi-Town–centric blog that also covers Bumpy J, Bo Deal and that good gangster shit.
Cherished resource for free mixtape downloads.
Launched in 2007 with funding from Silicone Valley venture capitalists and Russell Simmons, GlobalGrind gets by with a good amount of aggregated content supplemented by exclusive guest blogs. GG’s original material can be compelling, but the combination of a glossy design with a low user-comment rate gives the site the feel that the public hasn’t picked up at the right pace.
Video clips and music, with an eye on the ’80s.
Citing inspiration from radio big-bug-mouth Wendy Williams—a fine idol if trafficking in gossip is your life’s ambition—Atlanta-based Gyant dishes dirt and snares some exclusive interviews.
In this era of instant gratification, sometimes making a pilgrimage to buy mixtapes from your trusty local bootlegger is a richly rewarding experience. Oh, screw that. Go to Hear-It-First and download the latest singles, DJ blends and street albums from artists both famous and obscure.
An emphasis on hipster-hop and rappers who view Kanye as their fashion god.
A few mandatory links to Lil Wayne mixtapes and Soulja Boy MP3s notwithstanding, HipHopDX’s editorial bent leans toward the subterranean realm of lyrics-heavy true-school rap (yes, it apparently still exists!). Releases from Lupe Fiasco, Nas and Atmosphere earn rave reviews here, and HipHopDX takes advantage of the Web’s unlimited space to run comprehensive interviews with artists like Royce Da 5’9”, Cormega and Ras Kass. Capable writing and extensive features make HipHopDX a valuable outlet for rap fans from the land of the lost.
Aside from news and audio, HHG drops an array of East Coast–oriented interviews with grizzled veterans, hopeful upstarts and beatmakers.
Ever wonder where rap’s hottest producers get their samples from? This gem of a site is like a virtual dig spot, offering compiled playlists of hip-hops’s original source material, minus all the digital dust, of course.
Hip-hop purists with a dash of modernity.
It’s a hodgepodge of good ripped hip-hop content with some extra fluff.
Jay Smooth—founder of NYC’s venerable Underground Railroad radio show on WBAI—drops video blogs and jewels about hip-hop, racism, homophobia and politics, without being preachy. Word.
Interviews, reviews and some mixtapes with Mick Boogie.
He’ll eventually put an album out, but until then, here’s Consequence.
Borscht Belt goin’ ham! The witty Rosenthal brothers (Eric and Jeff) bring levity to hip-hop, with video-based sketch comedy featuring artists like Cam’ron, Clipse and Capone-N-Noreaga. “Sure, you could joke about his affiliation with Young Money,” they quip about Drake, who they laud for being half-Jewish. “But it’s not like he’s an accountant.” L’chaim!
Whether beefing with members of Wu-Tang Clan, talking hoops with Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings or showcasing his ex-girlfriend Tahiry’s ample hindquarters, Joe Budden continues to ignite controversy with his opinionated video blogs. When you go indie, sometimes all press counts as good press.
Splashed in a pastel, Harajuku motif, Kanye West’s Web site uses a spacey, animated city to direct visitors toward streaming song clips (and the iTunes store), his charitable foundation and Kanye’s Travel Ventures, a budget online booking agency that highlights flight and hotel deals comparable to those found on a zillion other sites. The blog is updated several times daily, with fashion photos, interior-design links and MP3s that underscore ’Ye’s eclectic sense of cool. And although he’s abandoned the claim that he works without a ghostblogger, the all-caps rants about Twitter impersonators and apologies to Taylor Swift distinctly appear to be his handiwork.
News and exclusives from a New York industry insider formerly affiliated with Dipset.
Underground rap shit.
Log on tomorrow CLICK HERE for Pt. 2 (L-Z). XXL’s Dec/Jan double issue hits stands December 1!!!!!!