You’ll have to excuse my absence for the past few weeks. I ended up making a return trip to my former stomping grounds in Los Angeles, where I spent most nights sleeping in my old bedroom. Rather than stay online most of the day like I do out East, I actually decided to spend a little more time trying to soak up whatever sun I could get, drinking more than I should, venturing to Las Vegas where I would get solicited for, in one slovenly gentleman’s words, “the jumpoffs,” getting a tattoo and simply remembering how it is to not have to be strapped to a laptop for about 14 hours a day.

It also helped that my mother doesn’t even know how to spell “WiFi,” much less have Internets access.

Alas, with the new year now upon us most people have returned to our hustle and bustle of our daily nine-to-fives, and as is the case around this time of the year your favorite publications and websites are wrapping up their “best of 2010” lists. While virtually every list should be taken with proverbial grain of salt, they do provide for some interesting conversation, as well as provide fodder for incessant e-barbs and constant cyber jabs. In a way though, this is what I feel keeps hip hop both refreshing and culturally relevant after all these years: the constant discussion and challenge to better itself as it ages. Without any form of debate, rap would probably be as boring as it was, say, a few years ago when the only people moving units were a far-past-his prime 50 Cent and a bunch of one-off Southern ringtone rapsters.

Whatever happened to Webbie anyways?

Anyways, year-end lists also accompany the “next up for the new year” index, where most of us inaccurately try to predict which rapster’s name will escape from our mouths the most in 2011. The stoned stylings of Wiz Khalifa garnered plenty attention last year as did the sporadic yet lyrically dense, verbal assaults of hip hop nomad Jay Electronica, while Drake and J. Cole seem on the verge of being some of the best things hip hop has to offer for the next decade or so. But let’s keep it real: the same artists who have put rap in a chokehold for the last five, ten, fifteen and twenty years will still have some form of input this year, from the random-ass guest appearance on the current hot song of the moment to the bizarre YouTube video to shilling expensive products we have no reason buying but will do so anyways.

*Eyeballs empty Ciroc bottle*

The last couple years have seen a shift in hip hop’s sound and aesthetic, and I’m equally anxious and excited to see what transpires this year. However, I do expect to do the cooking dance to some wanton nignorance provided by our beloved bamma rappers too. Some things just don’t change.