This year a handful of artists surprised us by up and changing their lanes. There were rap stars gone skate stars, name changes, game changes and bass drops, and (mostly!) better. Four, for example:
The Year Of 2 Chainz; or, The Most Successful Rap Name Change Ever
Nobody was more productive than Tauheed Epps in 2012, who, according to some records, tallied something like 98 singles, a BET Rookie of The Year trophy, a No. 1 album and three Grammy nominations to his new name. To his new name, 2 Chainz, that is. Prior to this year, he was going by Tity Boi, one half of Playaz Circle or “Duffle Bag Boy,” or he was simply hanging somewhere off our radar. So why the name change that wrought this best year ever? As he explained once and for all to Shade 45 — “Every single interview I do they like, ‘What’s up with the name change?’ This is the universal answer,” he said — earlier this year, the motivation for the moniker change was threefold: 1. He likes jewelry; 2. It’s more “family friendly;” and, 3. He was ready for a second act. “You know,” he said, “like 2 Chainz, second chance. So I thought that that would have a little more substance.” And what a substantive second chance it has been. 2 CHAAAAINZ!
Taylor Swift Drops The Bass
There was of course that dubstep thing that had us in a tizzy, but Taylor Swift’s swerve was about more than just an unexpected but totally thoughtfully incorporated bass drop or two. There were also collaborations pop savants like Max Martin and Shellback, songs without even a lick of country influence, choreographed dances and references aplenty to “grown-up” things like culpability (“I knew you were trouble, so shame on me now”) and sex (“I’ll do anything you say if you say it with your hands”). Pop stardom was never out of the question for Taylor, really, but after this past year which she painted Red, there will be no returning to the starry-eyed and ponytailed guitar slinger she once was. Like she tells us, she tells us: never ever, like ever. And we(e-EEEE!) are just fine with that.
Lil Wayne Lands His First Frontside 180 Ollie, Doesn’t Look Back
Lil Wayne put out a few great verses and a decent mixtape in 2013 as he has done almost every year since he debuted with the Hot Boyz, though music was clearly not his priority. Rather, Wayne spent the better part of his year shouting out the parks that let him shred, on UStream showing off his inhome skate ramps, and bragging about the moves he nailed (frontside 180 ollie and his “pop shuv down a 3 stair,” if you’re counting); staying up all night, sometimes falling off and hanging out with Tony “The God” Hawk. He rapped on but, more memorably, skated across the MTV Awards and the BET Awards shows’s stages, opened up a skate park of his own, and then he went and said that “Rap is taking a backseat to skating. I believe my fans deserve some peace from me. I’ll be on my skateboard in the meantime” and our hearts dropped like Wayne down the half pipe. Peace from the once prolific rapper is the last thing we want! Wristguard Weezy’s been fun, but here’s to hoping he gets back to the mic more often in 2013.
Usher Gets Weird, Forgets To Drop The Bass
Of course Usher chose Valentines Day, a risky but furtive if done right day, to change his game for good with “Climax,” his dark and stormy and oh-so-good collaboration with It Boy producer Diplo. Unlike Usher’s usual fare, the blustery Top 40 style hits that he’s been making for years and years now, “Climax” is wounded and patient and climactic only because, well, there is no discernible climax here (which, in 2012, means: no bass drop). Diplo that morning described it as a “radiohead quietstorm,” and there is a lush string section by hipster classical composer Nico Muhly. We couldn’t have seen this coming, but we’re not sure we’ll ever be able to dislodge those fifteen harrowing seconds of “AT ALL‘s” now that we have heard them.
Looking 4 U wasn’t all weird, it still had plenty of typical Top 40 style hits thrown in, but the lead single dropped jaws.