In news that may make some of us feel particularly old, Outkast’s classic hit ‘Hey Ya!’ turned ten this week. Happy birthday, ‘Hey Ya!’. Unlike many hits of the era, the song’s shown some impressive staying power over the years, still getting casually dropped in funtime clubs and even recently taking out democratically-voted song contests online.
But while Andre 3000 and Big Boi have continued their careers to varying degrees – ‘Dre’s currently starring in a Jimi Hendrix biopic, and Big Boi released his second solo album earlier this year — there are a host of classic millennial hip-hop and R&B artists who’ve gently wish-washed off into the sleepy lake of irrelevance.
I mean, does anyone remember these guys?
After smashing onto the American music scene in April 2002 with her cheeky Biggie Smalls-sampling single ‘Foolish’, Ashanti climbed from strength to strength. She became the only recording artist since The Beatles to have three songs in the Billboard Top 100’s Top 10, and more notably, became the first woman to ever accomplish such a feat. Following her less successful second album (a slightly cringe-worthy Christmas release) and a few spots in films like Coach Carter and John Tucker Must Die, Ashanti went rather quiet on us. Not in an ‘Aaliyah: killed in a plane crash’ kind of way, but more of an “America’s stopped caring about you, because America” kind of way.
In 2009, Ashanti starred as Dorothy in a New York-based production of The Wiz. She was dropped from The Inc. record label a few months earlier, and has struggled to make any resounding impact on the chart scene ever since. Admittedly, her music video for her 2013 single ‘Never Should Have’ has racked up almost two million YouTube views, but it’s possible this is due to the “Oh yeah, I remember Ashanti!” wave that earlier successes have allowed her to surf. Other than that, it’s been announced that she’ll feature on Michelle Obama’s hip-hop album which plans to combat childhood obesity and she also ‘twerked’ on live national television earlier in the year alongside her mother, as you do.
You may remember Blu Cantrell from her 2001 track, ‘Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)’. In the film clip, she drove around in her ex-beau’s silver convertible and did just general ‘sassy Blu exacting revenge’ behaviour like “beam in a beamer”. In 2003, she tag-teamed with Sean Paul and ripped off Dr Dre with her release ‘Breathe‘, but then nothing. Oh, I guess there was that time she appeared on NBC’s Celebrity Circus in 2008, and it’s a little weird that she used to date Jay-Z, who last year became father to little ‘Blue Ivy Carter’. Nope, nothing suss at all.
After Latino superstar Baby Bash’s hit single ‘Suga Suga’, he quickly went from talked about to not talked about. A shame, really, considering he did have that one other good song, ‘Cyclone’, which featured the genius lyric, “You move your body like a cyclone…”, ingraining the image of female nightclub patrons being unexpectedly caught in treacherous weather to all who listened.
Since then, he’s completed a film called Primos, which was a comedy about three cousins who work in a bakery but aspire to riches. He also endorsed a new energy drink for women, which shared the same name as his 2011 release ‘Go Girl’ (weird), in an effort to raise funds for charities that contribute to breast cancer and ovarian cancer research (oh, that’s okay then). He is planning on releasing his eighth studio album this year, and naturally the working title is Weedsmoke.
In 2003, the world got Chingy. Following a mediocre support spot on a Nelly tour, Chingy became the protégé for teen-singer-rap-verse-go-to-guy, Ludacris. Being signed to Luda’s label Disturbing Tha Peace gave his lead single ‘Right Thurr’ a launch pad into the musical stratosphere.
His, er, interpretation of the English language (see lyrics: I like it when you move it right thurr, right hurr/lick your lips when you’re talkin’, that make me sturr) may have caused outcry in some literary circles, but it also saw most of the world switching their hips as they walked and letting down their hurr… as in, he sold 2.8 million copies of his debut record, Jackpot. His second, third, fourth and fifth studio releases failed to garner any significant industry attention, but he had a few TV roles in the all time greats My Wife & Kids and George Lopez, as well as a cameo in the big-screen masterpiece, Scary Movie 4.
Later on, there was that time he had beef with Nelly because they couldn’t agree on who had come up with the word “derrrty”, which is an argument we can all relate to. At present, there’s another EP in the works called ‘Chingology’, which is scheduled for release later in the year, and we’re all anxiously awaiting to see what word he will Chinganize next. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a re-imagining of the term “scissoring”.
While most of us will remember Fat Joe for hit single ‘What’s Luv?’ with the aforementioned Ashanti, he was actually kicking around the American rap music scene long before 2002. He featured on tracks with LL Cool J and Big Pun and Jennifer Lopez in the ’90s, and his third studio album Don Cartagena reached number 7 on the Billboard 200.
In 2004, he featured on his crew Terror Squad’s ‘Lean Back‘, but made more headlines for his beef with 50 Cent. Their feud spilled over to the 2005 VMAs, and climaxed when Fiddy released a pretty weird ‘fake funeral’ video for Fat Joe on YouTube.
While trying to scrape back into the charts, Fat Joe became ‘slightly less Fat Joe’ or ‘Pudgy Joe’ by shedding 45kgs. Unfortunately, he also spent four months in the slammer this year for tax evasion.
Ja Rule shares a similar story to Fat Joe. After topping international charts with ‘Livin’ It Up’ and collaborating with Ashanti and JLo on ‘Always On Time‘ and ‘I’m Real‘ respectively, the remainder of his musical output skewed towards the mid-range of Top 40 charts the world over.
Between 2004 and 2006, Ja Rule earnt a whopping $3 million, but failed to pay tax on any of it and, as a result, he received a 28-month prison sentence, or shall we say, he was ‘Ja-Ailed’ (that’s right, ah-huh, that’s right). He too had some serious conflict with 50 Cent, but in May 2011 their feud officially ended, with Ja Rule coming out and saying: “You don’t have to be at war with somebody, but it’s also kind of like US and another country that they may not get along with. We don’t gotta go to war, but we’re not friends either. But we can coincide inside of a world.” American rap beef is almost exactly like international politics and warfare.
It’s safe to consider the Under Construction phase of Missy Elliot’s career (think 2002’s ‘Work It’, or “Ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod gniht ym tup I”) as her golden age. While earlier numbers like ‘Get Ur Freak On‘ and ‘4 My People‘ achieved some chart success, it was her work towards the beginning of the millennium that really saw her earn a place amongst music royalty.
Despite producing the lead single for Step Up 2 (‘Ching-A-Ling’) in 2008 and a heavily downloaded remix of Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night‘ (‘T.G.I.F’) in 2011, Missy has pretty much fallen off the relevance radar. In 2011, she explained her absence as a result of severe ‘Grave’s disease’, an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to enlarge to twice its normal size, bringing on symptoms such as increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep and irritability (thanks, Wikipedia!).
Still, it’s pleasing to note that she’s not serving any time in prison for tax evasion, and is instead working behind-the-scenes with a hand in upcoming releases from Timbaland, Faith Evans and Beyonce.
To many folks, the most enduring memories of Sean Paul will be of the infectious Jamaican rap verses he contributed to Beyonce and Blu Cantrell numbers in the early noughties. His first album Dutty Rock, which spawned the hits ‘Like Glue‘ and ‘Get Busy‘ earned him considerable commercial success, but you really can’t think of Sean Paul without thinking of ‘Temperature’ (Wanna be the papa/you can be the Mom. Uh-oh!).
Sadly, his following releases failed to live up to the successes of his first two, and Sean Paul has spent the last few years wafting around the MySpace music circuit trying to re-crack the American market. His sixth studio album is pegged for release this month, and he recently featured on the new single by British Spice Girl-wannabes, The Saturdays, titled ‘What About Us?’, which skyrocketed to the top of the UK charts in its first week of release.
Shaggy, whose real name is Orville (not even kidding), became renowned in the late ’90s/early ’00s for his girl-getting curls and an instantly recognizable Jamaican rap style — even if it did leave a few asking, “Sorry Shaggy, what?” In 1995, his hit ‘Boombastic’ became the theme for Levi’s, but the year 2000 granted the Shaggster his greatest fame: his album Hot Shot was certified 6x platinum in the US with singles ‘It Wasn’t Me‘ and ‘Angel’ enjoying chart success across the globe.
While his third studio release ‘Lucky Day’ made waves in the European market, the rest of the world began switching Shaggy off (although in 2002, he did remake the Scooby-Doo theme as ‘Shaggy, Where Are You?’ for the re-released film, which is not a regrettable life occurrence). Since then, he’s floated around at relatively forgettable gigs, performing at charity shows and singing alongside Cyndi Lauper. In fact, he even released a remake of Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ just last year; the film clip had a rather aggressive ‘digital artist on tumblr’ aesthetic and featured Eve (of Gwen Stefani’s ‘Let Me Blow Your Mind‘ fame). Sadly, no one cared.
Henry Boles is a South Australian writer living in Melbourne, where he’s resided for seven months without a Myki Card. You can follow him on Twitter @henry_boles if you wanna hang out sometime.