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The List: Top 150 People, Places And Things In Hip-Hop During The XXL Era

Nas Hip Hop Is Dead
> “Hip Hop Is Dead” (pg. 56)

Hip-hop was in a precarious spot in 2006—D4L’s snap-happy “Laffy Taffy” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, for goodness sake. Hip-hop wasn’t quite “dead,” but it was as a response to this fleeting moment that Nas announced, in May 2006, the title of his eighth studio album would be Hip Hop Is Dead, which ended up hitting stores that December. The bold proclamation gave rise to endless debate—old heads versus the new school, Southern stars versus the New York establishment, one online commenter versus another.

> Jay Z’s Retirement (pg. 58)
> Eminem & Elton John Perform Together (pg. 60)
> Eminem & Jay Z Perform At Yankee Stadium (pg. 61)
> Hyphy Music (pg. 67)
> DMX Gets Two No. 1 Albums (pg. 67)
> good kid, m.A.A.d. city (pg. 68)
> Backpack Rap (pg. 69)
> Jay Headlines England’s Glastonbury Festival 2008 (pg. 69)
> Chopped & Screwed (pg. 70)
> The Legend Of Dr. Dre’s Detox (pg. 72)
> Mixtapes (pg. 76)

While hip-hop mixtapes date back to the 1970s, they hit an all-time high in popularity in the early 2000s, helping artists such as 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew, T.I., The Diplomats and many other rappers both signed and unsigned get their music to the streets via DJ-helmed compilations and later their own self-made discs. The music on the tape could’ve been rare, never-heard verses, album outtakes, new original songs or even remakes of other artists’ songs. Often the tapes would act as a platform for rappers to get new music heard or maybe even diss a competitor. The tapes frequently included crazy skits or artists speaking recklessly. “Mixtapes were like radio for the streets,” says the West Coast’s DJ Skee. “It was a way to break artists and records early.”

In the mid-2000s with the rise of the Internet and MP3s, there was a birth of online download communities such as, and that began offering mixtapes on their sites. Traditionally up until that point the tapes were sold by vendors in the hoods and out of car trunks across America. Skee explains, “With the Internet and blogs, they’ve replaced [street mixtapes] in terms of music discovery because you don’t have to wait for somebody else to put together a compilation.” He continues, “When an artist puts something out now, you can go out there and find it.”

By late 2000s mixtapes became less of a promo tool and more like an album. By the time Drake came along in 2009 with his breakout mixtape So Far Gone—a mixtape in name only—he changed the game again, likening the mixtape to a digitally released demo of sorts. More recently, mixtapes have served as jumping-off points for new artists like A$AP Rocky and Chance The Rapper, who found avid supporters via viral projects. Long live the mixtape.

> Trap Music (pg. 76)
> The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (pg. 78)
> Crunk Music (pg. 80)
> Three 6 Mafia Wins The Academy Award For Best Original Song In 2006 (pg. 81)

> Julie Greenwald (pg. 57)
> Kevin Liles (pg. 62)
> Chris Lighty (pg. 64)
> L.A. Reid (pg. 67)

L.A. Reid has become one of the most successful music executives in hip-hop. Noted for signing and developing such acts as OutKast and TLC early in his career, L.A. was also the CEO of the Island Def Jam Music Group from 2004 to 2011, helping make the label a roaring success by building a broader roster with shrewd signings while developing stars like Kanye, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. Now Reid’s the chairman of Epic Records and signed new sensation Future.

> Hype Williams (pg. 68)
> Lyor Cohen (pg. 70)
> Russell Simmons (pg. 78)
> Jimmy Iovine (pg. 80)

> California (pg. 56)
> New York (pg. 58)
> Atlanta (pg. 60)
> New Orleans (pg. 61)
> Miami (pg. 74)
> Houston (pg. 80)
> Hollywood (pg. 80)

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