With 2012 upon us, expectations are naturally high for new music from established and newer artists. 2011 was a cool year from a hip hop perspective, with high profile releases such as Watch The Thone, The Carter 4, Cole World, as well as under the radar gems such as Charity Starts At Home, The Wonder Years, and countless others that may or may not ring a bell within hip hop circles. I was excited because hip hop did not stay contained within the box; hip hop matured a little more in 2011. Kanye had us excited in the first quarter of the year with his most recent solo release, while Common closed out the fourth quarter with an excellent offering that harkened back to his hungrier Windy City days.
On the local front, a wide range of talented wordsmiths ripped microphones and showed what the art of mastering ceremonies was all about: Gods'illa, Last Born Child, OOH from BrownFish, Los, Mullyman, Jay Mills, Jay McGraw, Oddisee, Si-Notes, Caddy Da Don. These names and many more showed the diversity that the Baltimore-Washington region offered. Some were strictly underground, some reached for a broader audience. The common thread with this diverse listing was the desire to be true to what he or she brought to the table within the hip hop realm. I, along with many others, welcomed this musical diversity.
I had the opportunity to witness many a performance during 2011. Controlling the stage seemed to be a lost art over the past few years, but I noticed that creating that aura from a performance standpoint was something that was being sought by artists nationally and locally. Royce Da 5'9", Lauryn Hill, Phonte, 9th Wonder, Rapsody, The Away Team, Median, Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, Smif N Wessun showcased what true, authentic performance skills are all about on the stage when I witnessed their unique appearances. Here in Harm City, NowChild Soundstage was the proving ground for many up and coming artists and emcees, with the soon to be famous Judah's Juke Joint taking center stage on Thursday evenings. As the coined phrase goes, "Thursday Is The New Saturday". Thursday evenings did much to heighten expectations for a Baltimore and beyond hip hop scene. The aforementioned Gods'illa, DMV royalty in my humble opinion, brought a 90's aesthetic to the 409 E. Preston Street location. Others took turns breaking molds and creating new ones at Judah's Juke Joint, the brainchild of Mr. Baltimore City Slicka himself OOH, a staple on our burgeoning hip hop scene for the better part of two decades. Last Born Child, one of the dopest artists here AND abroad, time and time again showed what true hip hop and mic mastery was all about. UllNevaNo, Golden Seal, Si-Notes, The Bangladesh Project, Eazzie Da Tattman, Greenspan, and so many others made their separate and collective spirits known within the cavernous walls of the creative hotbed at NowChild. There are so many other artists that I have seen at Judah's Juke Joint (including my sons A-Dub and Coppa, known to the hip hop community as Flight Squad). To me, that has been THE high point of creativity in 2011, because of the communal vibe that was, and still is, present.
So what does 2012 hold for us as a hip hop community? I envision new releases by Rick Ross, OutKast, Jay-Z, Kanye...the list goes on and on. I see the boundaries of this artform expand to a limitless area, where cats won't be necessarily judged by pop culture OR the underground circuit. I want to witness much respect for artists that paved the way for the newer breed of emcees. I believe that we are going to be in for some surprises, so stay tuned.