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Use both hands and both ears to sample 2005's auditory offerings

What Kanye Said: Yes, we know. The subject of Kanye and Katrina has been covered ad nauseam, and nothing we say here is likely to change your perception of it. Regardless of how you feel about what he said, you have to give West credit for reintroducing mainstream hip-hop to politics. (Or is that politics to mainstream hip-hop?)

Sure, hip-hop's underground ghetto is a breeding ground for scorching polemics. This year alone saw the release of The Perceptionists' Black Dialogue, Immortal Technique's Revolutionary Vol. 2, and Sage Francis's A Healthy Distrust, but their messages are generally either convoluted by an esoteric and self-defeating concentration on "inside baseball" hip-hop politics or lost in a choppy miasma of bad beats and/or nonexistent distribution.

ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

In contrast, what Kanye said was clear, simple, and nearly ubiquitous. And though most of the focus was on his condemnation of Bush, perhaps more important was that he confronted the still-taboo issue of race in America. It's revealing that for the West Coast rebroadcast of the program, his comments were edited out. To paraphrase Ice T: We have freedom of speech just as long as we watch what we say, and when rappers step out of line — when they stop talking about bling, bitches, pimpin', and ho-ing — then the censors will swoop in. And as hip-hop grows more violent and restless, Kanye West may very well be the most dangerous man in the industry.

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