Let’s Take It Back To ’05—Remembering A Year In Hip-Hop & R&B

By Sofia Luu

One must not underestimate the power of a #throwback jam. A throwback song has the potential to set a dancefloor on fire. Or it can be the one that sets off a wave of feelings within you. One can associate a throwback song with a certain event in history or a personal memory. A throwback song is sentimental. It’s both a shared and collective experience. My feelings about #throwback jams are mixed. It makes me nostalgic for a time when I didn’t know much about music and just listened to music for the sake of listening to music. Things were a lot simpler then. When I’m stressed out, I listen to the same songs I listened to as a teenager and immediately feel some sort of instant relief. When it comes to stress therapy, I don’t see why we can’t have parties in library lobbies where they only play throwback jams.

Ten years later, I’m sitting here listening to Ciara’s Goodies, which was released in 2004 but 2005 was the year Ciara blew up internationally with her hits, “1, 2 Step” and “Oh.” Looking back to 2005, I can’t help but realize how fucking phenomenal of a phenomenal year it was for music. it was critical in the sense that I wasn’t a teenager yet and did not have the disposable income I would have in a few years. However, what I did have was the Internet, friends who listened to a ton of music, and this beauty of a website we all know as YouTube, which is also a decade old come this February. A significant chunk of all of the great songs that received significant mainstream airplay in 2005 were actually part of albums that were released in 2005. Nevertheless, I like to think of the year that 2005 was the year that really introduced me to artists like Kanye West and Ciara.

I didn’t really start listening to music actively until I was in sixth grade. However, growing up, I do remember listening to a lot of hip-hop and R&B. Being an eight year-old consumer of these two particular genres probably didn’t mean anything back then, but it would serve as a sufficient foundation for the development of ten year plus interest in hip-hop and R&B. Back then, I didn’t quite understand why my older cousins listened to these two particular genres. However, after taking an interest in the musicology of genres such as techno, punk, and of course, hip-hop, I finally understand why.

Hip-hop and R&B came from a place where the music was strongly shaped by experiences of black struggle and resistance, something that many people of colour can easily identify with. So they say that if you work hard and never give up, you’ll find light at the end of the tunnel in form of the American Dream. Success was measured in dollar signs, which for the recently landed immigrant, was also measured in time. For some, enough time invested in waged labour would pay off. For others, it just wasn’t enough. The themes in hip-hop deal with race, class, and struggling to make it in a society that just won’t let you. These are themes that also resonate with many first-, second-, or third generationers, the sons and daughters of immigrant parents who came to America or Canada with hopes of a better life and prosperity.

Looking at the Best Of lists of 2005 tells you a lot. R&B killed it that year with Ciara, Amerie, and Teairra Mairi, to name a few. I can recognize more R&B and hip hop songs that hit the radio in 2005 than I can with rock and other genres. 2005 was more than just the year of all of these great hip-hop and R&B songs that we still love today. It was the first year that I could actually remember specific memories associated with the songs that were pretty popular that year. A lot happened or took place that formed the basis of my understanding of popular mainstream culture. When someone asks me why so much of hip hop and R&B resonates with me, it’s because there’s a lot more substance in these two genres, substance that I can understand, than what one would find in say, indie rock. Not much has really changed in ten years, to be honest. 2015 is the year we anticipate new albums from Ciara and hopefully Kanye West. But honestly, it will probably be the year another mediocre white rapper wins the Grammy award for Best Rap Album.

Kanye West – “Jesus Walks”

Technically, College Dropout was a 2004 album, but it was the album that won Kanye West’s first Best Rap Album accolade at the 47th Grammy Awards along with Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks.” Later that year, he would release his sophomore album, Late Registration, which would also win Best Rap Album. Ten years later, Mr. West is still making perfection with nearly everything he touches. However, ten years later, we’re still waiting for Mr. West to nab not just another Best Rap Album but also his first Album of the Year award.

Twista – “Hope” (ft. Faith Evans)

Coach Carter was the first time I lied to my mom about my after school whereabouts. I told her I was going to work on a school project, but instead, was ten minutes away from home, holed up in a movie theatre watching Coach Carter. Based on a true story, Coach Carter was about a basketball coach, Ken Carter, who ends up cancelling the basketball team due to poor school performance. What really stuck with me, however, was the song “Hope.” Initially, I thought  the song was about losing your loved ones to violence. I wasn’t too far off, as listening to it a few years later and a quick Google search later led me to learning that “Hope” was actually about Twista’s own perspectives of the War on Terror. This song was “real” in the sense that eleven year old me could actually understand what was going on with the lyrics. This coupled with images from Coach Carter still fresh in my mind, it really stuck with me over the years.

Bow Wow – “Wanted”

I remember receiving a Future Shop album and bought Wanted because a boy I had a crush on back then was really into hip-hop. It’s not exactly a great album, but it did spawn two catchy singles, “Like You” featuring  Ciara and “Let Me Hold You” with Omarion. The one song that stuck with me however, was “Big Dreams.” Once again, the common theme here is that Bow Wow touched upon ideas that I could easily relate to. In the neighborhood I spend a significant part of my childhood in, gang activity was a huge part of some teenagers’ lives, and for the most part, our parents’ worries.

Amerie – “1 Thing”

Amerie’s “1 Thing” was in the Top 10 of Pitchfork’s Top 50 Singles of 2005 list, along with Kanye West’s “Heard Em Say” and Touch the Sky” and “Hate it or Love it” from the Game featuring 50 Cent. This was a huge song for me because it floored me when I learned that Amerie was part Korean. For some, this might not be a huge fact to fuss over. However, when I was eleven years old, there was a substantial lack of Asian-Americans in mainstream music. In the uber male-dominated world of hip-hop, Jin and Far East Movement were the big names back then. I didn’t know of any Asian-American artists in my favourite boy bands or girl groups. But in R&B, there was a chance for musicians of Asian descent such as Cassie, Amerie and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls to break into the mainstream.

Other essential 2005 jams:

Rihanna- “Pon de Replay”

Teairra Marí – “No Daddy”

50 Cent – “Candy Shop” ft. Olivia

Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together”

Kanye West – “Gold Digger”

Shakira – “Hips Don’t Lie”

Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha”

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