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Buy one of the following CDs from amazon.com:

Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz, 'Kings of Crunk' (2002)

Justin Timberlake, 'Justified' (2002)

Michael Franti, 'Everyone Deserves Music' (2003)

Outkast, 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below' (2003)

Paris, 'Sonic Jihad' (2003)

'2004 Grammy Nominees' (2004)


Here to Save Us All: It would have been a long, lame year if Outkast hadn't released 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.'

Get Low

Shake it like a Polaroid picture! A musical snapshot of 2003.

By Todd Inoue

IT SHOULDN'T have taken a trip to New Orleans to get excited about music, but it did. I was up in a club, and a DJ spun a set of regional tunes from Southern hip-hop acts like the Gucci Crew, Juvenile, Cash Money, MC A.D.E. and this cat DJ Jubilee. It was beautiful to hear these gems in their native element--booming from a club sound system.

I hadn't heard of DJ Jubilee before, but after some Googling I learned he's a special-ed teacher who laid some of the groundwork for the whole "New Orleans Bounce/shake dat ass" oeuvre. The records sounded beaten to shit, as if stored on some kitchen shelf between the coffee can and the rock salt.

One of his songs, "Get Ready, Ready," on which Jubilee shouts out names of dances and schools like a square-dance caller, had the place going ballistic. Honeys fresh from the salon took over the dance floor en masse, throwing their backsides out with a ferocity that can only be linked to local pride. It was either a big nostalgia trip or a testament to the lasting impact of Jubilee's records. I'm betting it was the latter.

In 2003, it was hard to find records that will have that visceral impact 10 years from now. 2003 tested the limits of attention deficit disorder. To cover their bets, many artists went the cover song route--a "get airplay quick" ploy that benefited Counting Crows, Uncle Kracker, No Doubt, the Ataris and others. The cover-song novelty came and went faster than a nervous john and was about as fun as a pre-planned kiss under the mistletoe.

So thank God that Outkast released Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. It would have been a long year without the ATLiens' complexity and creativity. Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz's single "Get Low" would have been just a guilty pleasure any other year, but in 2003 the crunked-up single stood out like Rush Limbaugh at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. To hear the kids in the stickered Acuras pulling out of high school parking lots barking, "To the windooooow to the walls / To the sweat drops down my balls! To all you bitches crawl!" offers testament to how much release people wanted out of music this year.

The year also marked the official return of progressive political music, as dead prez, Spearhead, Paris (Sonic Jihad) and even John Mellencamp took Bush to task. DJ Z-Trip acefully blended spoken word, rock and hip-hop tracks, slapped "The Anti-War Mix" on it and put it up free on his website. Hip-Hop Slam and Hard Knock Radio both released excellent antiwar compilations. Punks formed a protest collective under the Bands Against Bush banner, but most of these statements were ignored, and if there was any negative response, it was over artwork, not musical content.

To me the most offensive musical trend in 2003 was the rise of the acoustic guitar-slinging bores: Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and John Mayer. Inescapable and excruciatingly bland. A lot of people hate on Justin Timberlake, but homeboy came correct. He pulled a reverse Lionel Ritchie, going from wack to funky with help from Timbaland and the Neptunes.

When blandness has become a selling point, it isn't surprising 2003 might have been the first year when merchandise outsold actual music. It probably already has--$35 concert T-shirts have long been a slush fund--but the scope of merchandising reached ridiculous proportions. 50 Cent, Eminem, Jay-Z, Outkast, Snoop Dogg, J-Lo, Master P and Ice-T all had clothing lines hanging in Macy's boutiques. Ronald Isley pimps custom furs. Big Boi raises pit bulls. Def Jam spread out to cable TV, Broadway and video games. Cell phones jingle with the sound of a downloadable ring tones at 99 cents a pop. Bobblehead dolls, DVDs, books, poseable action figures, T-shirts, posters, yoga mats and ugly ass trucker caps take up precious bin space in record stores.

All this mass merchandising pointed to the fact that just making music as a career choice is played out. To be an artist in 2004 means diversifying your appeal and familiarizing yourself with all levels of the marketing game. And if that means slapping your logo on ironic trucker caps and selling them for $25, so be it.

(So does anybody reading this have any DJ Jubilee records? Holla)

2003's Top Singles:

"Get Low"--Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz and the Ying Yang Twins
"Hey Ya!"--Outkast
"Crazy in Love"--Beyoncé
"Frontin'"--The Neptunes
"Rock Your Body"--Justin Timberlake
"Get Busy"--Sean Paul
"Ignition" (Remix)--R. Kelly
"A.D.I.D.A.S."--Killer Mike
"Callin' Out"--Lyrics Born
"In Da Club"--50 Cent

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From the January 1-7, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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