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While you were drinking egg nog and fighting with your family, WKYS spent the last few days of the year slowly announcing its “DMV’s Hottest Rappers of 2010” list. Despite what seemingly everyone who sees it seems to think, it is a pretty solid top 10. Check the breakdown:
1. Wale 2. Phil Ade 3. Diamond District 4. Tabi Bonney 5. Kingpen Slim 6. Bear Witnez 7. Garvey The Chosen One 8. Boobe 9. DC Don Juan 10. RaTheMc/Fat Trel (tie)
Yes, there are some omissions; a few of personal favorites of mine didn’t even make the cut. That’s the problem with numbers like 10: They tend to be finite. But on the whole, the list offers a very accurate cross-section of D.C.’s increasingly diverse hip-hop scene. Rising national stars rub elbows with local favorites, street dudes share space with underground purists, up-and-comers are next to still-active veterans. (Sorry Head-Roc, Asheru can enter the discussion whenever he actually starts making music again.) Wale obviously takes the No. 1 slot, which despite whatever flaws he may have, is a pretty undeniable choice. Especially when “Hot” (i.e. popular/buzz-attracting) is the unit of measurement. Wale is the city’s most visible rapper and will probably remain so for some time. The rest of the list is a similarly predictable act of canon-building, which is maybe necessary as an introduction to these artists. Anybody who loosely follows the scene could have probably offered a rough estimate for at least the top five. The most unexpected (though very welcome) inclusion was Bear Witnez at No. 6. Last year’s very impressive Bear Season tape seemed to fall on deaf ears, but apparently his “I’m A Hustler” was “one of the most played local songs” on D.C. radio this year. I hadn’t noticed, as this is a dubious distinction of the tallest-midget variety. D.C. radio very rarely plays D.C. music.
This seems to be the main complaint stemming from the experiment (apart from the inevitable “WHAT ABOUT MY FRIENDS!?” crybaby TLC shit): Why doesn’t KYS play any of the artists that they just listed? It’s a fair complaint but one that suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of how radio works. WKYS is owned by the national conglomerate Radio One. KYS DJs are beholden to a playlist that is dictated from above; they can’t just walk into the studio and play whatever the hell they want. The people who write the checks and playlists at Radio One and WKYS do not know what a Garvey The Chosen One is.
This list, however, is a good sign, because it shows that there are at least a few people within the station’s walls who are paying attention to local music. Maybe they’re as frustrated as fans are that this stuff isn’t making it onto the air. Maybe they’re hoping the list will pass through the desk of the program director and the next time a Fat Trel single lands in the same place he’ll recognize the name and give it a fair shot. I’m not sure how realistic a goal that would be, given how fucked up the mainstream radio power structure still is. But at the very least it’s a small outlet within that system where these artists are being taken seriously, where a few more eyes and ears can land on their talents. Instead of nitpicking over the small things the list gets wrong, embrace it for what it gets right.