1999: A Small Grammy Miracle
In the past week, a lot of venom has been aimed at the Grammy’s, and I am generally in full agreement of Todd and Wes’ remarks. But, I must give credit where credit is due and recognize that The Grammy’s supplied me with what was a fantastic primer in hip-hop at a pretty young age. Here is a little background.
In 1999 I was a spry 8th grader with a very limited knowledge of hip-hop other than the trash I heard on the radio. True, I had lucked into getting my hands on The Score, and then naturally gravitated toward The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and The Carnival Vol. I. But, The Fugees and their various side projects along with a little Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z was the extent of “good hip-hop” I had been exposed to. I don’t find this particularly embarrassing or anything, because I come from a relatively conservative community and the internet was not all that prevalent yet, so what was a poor lad to do.
Anyway, around this time, I heard Outkast’s “Rosa Parks” on the radio and absolutely fell in love with it. A trip to Best Buy to buy Aquemini became a necessity, and upon arriving I was disappointed to find out that they did not have a single copy stocked. Fortunately, under Outkast, Best Buy had stocked the 1999 Grammy Rap Nominees album, which had the track “Rosa Parks” on it. While I really wanted Aquemini, because I wanted to listen to more Outkast, I perused the tracklisting for the Grammy Rap Nominees album, spotted some familiar names (namely Wyclef, Lauryn Hill, and The Beastie Boys), and decided to make the purchase.
Little did I know, save a few tracks, I would be listening to the majority of this album well into my twenty’s. So because music releases are slow right now, and not much is peaking my interest, I thought I would revisit this now-classic collection, and rank the tracks from 13-1 based on least memorable to most memorable and say a few words about each.
13. Will Smith – “Getting Jiggy wit It”
Alright, maybe least memorable isn’t the best descriptor for this track, but I wish I didn’t remember it. If any song deserved to get the Grammy nod off of Big Willie Style, it was certainly “Miami”.
12. Jermaine Dupri & Mariah Carey – “Sweetheart”
You will see that Jermaine Dupri got two tracks on this album, and this one just doesn’t make sense. 1999 was the year of Jermaine Dupri, but there are much better options.
11. Mase & Puff Daddy – “Lookin’ at Me”
I don’t hate everything that Mase and Puff Daddy did, but I do hate most of it. This track is not terrible, but was definitely not worthy of a Grammy nomination.
10. Pras feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard & Mya – “Ghetto Supastar (This is What You Are)”
Pras really was the black sheep of The Fugees as witnessed by “Ghetto Superstary” being the only post-Fugees song of any significance. Overall, this track is decent but is really pushed to the next level by ODB’s sick verse. The man really had a knack for stealing the show.
9. Big Pun & N.O.R.E. – “You Came Up”
This is just solid rap. Big Pun was never the flashiest rapper, but he could straight-up spit. Sometimes less is more, and Big Pun proves that on “You Came Up”
8. Beastie Boys – “Intergalactic”
I’m quite certain that all three of us love the Beastie Boys, and I don’t think there is any point in their career where they have really disappointed. The production on “Intergalactic” is pitch perfect, surprising where you least expect it. The video is also an all-time classic.
7. A Tribe Called Quest – “Find a Way”
This was the track that got me into Tribe, and for that I am forever thankful. As always, Tribe keeps it simple on “Find a Way”, focusing on clever lyrics and an understated hook; a formula that makes them one of the all time greatest.
6. Jermaine Dupri & Jay-Z – “Money Ain’t A Thing”
Money, cars, women. That’s really all this song is about, but who better to hit big on this formula than Jay and Dupri. The interplay between the two is flawless, making “Money Ain’t a Thing” a true collaborative gem.
5. Wyclef Jean – “Gone til’ November”
The Carnival, in my eyes, is a flawed masterpiece. “Gone til’ November” may not be the best representation off that album, but it is still a great song; just not necessarily a rap song in my eyes.
4. Lauryn Hill – “The Lost Ones”
“The Lost Ones” is a really nice showcase for Lauryn Hill the rapper. Too often she is viewed as a singer first, when in all actuality she is the finest female mc alive. Her performance on this track is an absolute force.
3. OutKast – “Rosa Parks”
Still my favorite OutKast song, even among their wealth of fantastic material. It’s amazing that there were multiple songs that could even be considered better that were released in 1999.
2. Busta Rhymes – “Dangerous”
Normally, Busta doesn’t have a lot of tact. But keeping “Dangerous” a little more low-key and less outrageous than normal was the best move he ever made. Sure, bombastic Busta is what he is known for, but showing a little more self-control would serve him well. Oh, and the hook is crazy tight.
1. Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz – “Déjà vu (Uptown Baby)”
Have you ever heard another Lord Tariq or Peter Gunz song? Me neither, or at least I don’t think I have. The fact they were able to conjure “Déjà vu” is a testament to bottles really being able to catch lightning. It’s a bit of a throwback, with some killer wordplay, and I highly recommend you all check it out if you haven’t heard it.