By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Over the past few years, year-end critics' lists have multiplied faster than the worry lines on Ben Bernanke's brow. Mark our words, the Internet and your local Barnes & Noble's magazine rack will be brimming with head-spinning, eye-glazing permutations of praise for the following albums: Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, the National's Boxer, Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, M.I.A.'s Kala, Radiohead's In Rainbows, LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, and Battles' Mirrored.
If you want to parse the exact sequence of those records in your favorite publication or blog, feel free. We're going in a different direction. In 11 cities, from Miami to San Francisco, we asked musicians, MCs, DJs, athletes, and, in one case, a Michael Stipe-impersonating electrician to tell us what music they loved most this year. It could be albums, songs, or an artist's collected works, and need not be dated 2007. We simply wanted to know what was moving our interviewees right now. Interviews in 11 cities are included below.
This just seems more like the way we listen to music now: With everything available to everyone free and on demand, the old days of anticipating release dates and then treasuring new albums appear to be on the wane.
Miami: DJ I-Dee's tracks to relax.
Unlike most of his neighbors, turntable wunderkind Isaac DeLima did not choose his South Beach digs for their proximity to the neighborhood's nonstop party. Rather DeLima, a.k.a. DJ I-Dee, landed in Miami almost three years ago from the D.C. suburbs with a plan to attend culinary school.
But then his DJ battle career blew up. In 2005, an 18-year-old I-Dee was crowned the national DMC turntable competition champion, one of the youngest ever. He'd quickly rack up a string of national and international prizes before retiring from the battle circuit just two years later.
Growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, DeLima still remembers when his bedroom-DJ brother showed him his first battle video: the 1994 DMC World Championships (Roc Raida won). He was hooked — at only 10 years old. No matter. He learned his way around the decks in secret, standing on a box to reach the turntables.
DeLima attended his first regional DMC competition as a 14-year-old spectator in 2001. Three years later, he'd win, qualifying for the national DMC championship. In 2005, he won that, in San Francisco (and was summarily kicked out of the 21-and-over club as soon as he grabbed his trophy). He would then go on to place third at the international competition in London. In 2006, he took the two biggest remaining U.S. titles on the battle circuit, at the Gong Supremacy and Scribble Jam championships. By age 19, he was done, ready to concentrate on his own original music. And he had moved to Miami Beach — for peace and quiet.
"I'm traveling a lot of times during the week, so I love to keep this place in Miami for a feeling of home," DeLima says. "This is my space to relax." It seems his enviable precociousness has led him to find one of the city's few quiet, pedestrian-friendly pockets amid the chaos.
I-Dee has big plans for his own musical productions, genre- and media-crossing creations. For example, industrial rock remixed on the decks in a truly humorous, faux-horror video? Sure, why not, and it works. So he's holed up in the lab, doggedly working to finish his first album of all original material, due out in 2008.
Still, like any worthy party selector, record collector, and postmodern music-maker, DeLima devours new music releases as if they were Tic Tacs. But as a true child of turntablism's cut-and-paste ethos, he's more into individual tracks than complete albums.
"Honestly the last album I listened to in its entirety was Chromeo's Fancy Footwork [released in June on Vice Records]," he says. "In the new digital age, and as a DJ, I usually download the singles that I need, and if there's more than one song that grabs my attention, I'll download the whole album. That happens very rarely for me personally, though."
Here, then, are his favorite 2007 bangers:
Talib Kweli, "Hot Thing" remix, feat. Ne-Yo and Jean Grae: "Jean Grae is about to be revealed to a lot of mainstream hip-hop fans and really bring back the female MC. Nowadays the majority of them are in trouble with one thing or another. She's been around for quite some time, however. Be sure to look out for her major debut on Kweli's label, Blacksmith."
Justice, "D.A.N.C.E." Benny Blanco remix feat. Mos Def and Spank Rock: "Definitely one of the best songs of 2007 for me. The remix, though, features the mighty Mos Def, B-More/Philly booty-mover Spank Rock, and production from 19-year-old Benny Blanco. Cop the Bangers & Cash EP from Benny and Spank while you're at it."
RJD2, "You Never Had It So Good": "RJD2 goes a different route this time around with his latest album, The Third Hand, by singing on a majority of his tracks rather than strictly producing. The reason I liked this song is because I believe he got a sample off Super Mario RPG for SNES; it had me thinking back to '95/'96."