Live: Jeremih Headlines Ladies Night At Webster Hall

Webster Hall
Thursday, September 6

Better than: Going to sleep and hoping that someone else got this story right.

Generally speaking, I have no problem with a narrative. Artists influence artists, and sounds influence sounds. Sometimes an artist or a sound is so compelling or so right for the moment that traces of it seem to appear just about everywhere. Other times, however, that narrative becomes a crutch on which critics can lean and blinders that can turn a genre as diverse as ever into a reflection onto the souls of two men. Sadly, this is how things work in—or really around—contemporary r&b, where either a poverty of knowledge or imagination leaves many unable to talk about Jeremih's excellent new mixtape, Late Nights, without invoking the always coupled, actually-very-different "Frank Ocean and the Weeknd," sometimes even in the subhead.

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Live: Rick Ross Lives Out His Dreams At Summer Jam

Hot 97 Summer Jam
New Meadowlands Stadium
Sunday, June 5

Better than: Sitting at home and moping like 50 Cent.

Rick Ross closed out Summer Jam.

Just so there's no revisionist history here, let's remember how incredible that statement is. Three years ago, Ross was the punching bag of hip-hop, the laughingstock of the streets. After recording countless verses that fetishized Tony Montana fantasies, someone pinched him—Ross' cartoonish thought bubble vanished into thin air, and he was rudely snapped back to reality. He wasn't a druglord superhero; he was William Roberts, a grown man playing dress-up, a former correctional officer who wanted to be a rapper so badly that he rewrote his personal history. Two years ago, he wasn't being played on New York radio.

And here, onstage at Giants Stadium, was Rick Ross—his chest puffed out, his black-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt open wide but still somehow stretching tight—cheered on by fifty thousand strong. They welcomed his street anthem, "B.M.F.," chanting a chorus and cadence that, in various incarnations, has blasted out of car windows on 125th ever since it came out last summer: "I think I'm Big Meech, Larry Hoover." Rick Ross can make up a lot of things, but even he couldn't make this up.

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Radio Hits One: The Disappearing Urban Crossover Hit Says "Look At Me Now"

Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" has topped Billboard's R&B/Hip-hop Songs chart for seven weeks in a row, and it recently peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. In terms of Brown's career, it's notable for being the singer's first top 10 hit in the two years since that whole violent incident with then-girlfriend Rihanna that he's done such a terrible job of making anyone but the most diehard #teambreezy members forgive or forget. But on a broader scale, "Look At Me Now" is significant for becoming the first R&B chart-topper to crack the top 10 since Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" hit No. 1 on both charts back in late 2009. (Brown's first big comeback hit, "Deuces," as it happens, was the only R&B No. 1 to crack the top 20 of the pop charts last year.)

That may not seem especially unusual, but consider this. The Hot 100 has been absolutely dominated by urban radio hits for pretty much the entire past decade; rappers and R&B singers occupy the chart's No. 1 spot more often than pop singers, and certainly far more often than rock bands. And it sure doesn't feel like hip-hop's been any less ubiquitous or culturally relevant the last couple years than it'd been before that, does it? But the impact of hip-hop has reached a lot of places far outside the purview of urban radio lately, which kind of explains what's going on.

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