The ugly haze of this summer, with its record heat, tragic mass shootings and nauseating electoral politics, couldn't push hip-hop music from the cultural stage. If it wasn't Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps flummoxing an NBC interviewer by shouting out Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne on camera, then it was the unusual sight of 35-year-old rapper 2 Chainz ascending to the top of the charts in a little under a year. Nas, a rapper consistently underrated and fussed over by critics, won their grudging respect with his new album, Life Is Good, only to hit a speed bump when a journalist alleged that he used ghostwriters on his 2006 self-titled album. And we all expected Rick Ross to have the biggest album of the season, but God Forgives, I Don't underwhelmed us. Maybe his well-worn formula is growing old, or maybe he should've used more beats from Lex Luger.
Other storylines from the past two months include MF Doom's first album in three years, a collaboration with producer Jneiro Jarel as JJ Doom; Aesop Rock's first album in five years; Prodigy of Mobb Deep's first album since getting out of prison in 2011; and Beanie Sigel's final album before starting a prison sentence. As Ross himself once said, it's deeper than rap.