Roughly 20 years and 2,000 hangovers ago, Tha Alkaholiks uncorked a song called "2014." The L.A. rap trio sketched the coming year as inhabiting a crumbling dystopia -- Blade Runner meets Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. In 2014, they prophesied, hip-hop would survive thermonuclear civil war and Chernobyl rock-rap mutations.
Yet here we are, health still hale, limbs intact, no matter how many millions of YouTube views are racked up by covers of "Thrift Shop."
The allegory extends to any tributary of sound. There will always be good and bad artists separated by a vast gulf of briefly flickering bands, DJs and rappers who won't be around next year (Craig Mack syndrome).
With another year in the rearview and a new one just starting, these are some things I'm looking forward to now that we're safely on dry land.
Top Dawg Entertainment's new releases
Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith recently molly-whopped GQ for comparing him to Suge Knight and Death Row. Judging from a recent tweet about TDE dropping six albums this year, the Carson label's business model runs closer to No Limit's.
But rather than mass-produce records, Top Dawg seems intensely dedicated to quality control. His empire remains invincible thus far, and figures to annex new territory with Schoolboy Q's Oxymoron, debuts from rapidly ascending new artists Isaiah Rashad and SZA, and possibly a new Kendrick Lamar album.
Guitar bands starting to figure it out
Maybe it's wishful thinking to write that guitar rock is due for a rebound. Call it a closed-minded generalization, but most contemporary "indie" guitar bands seem as bland as steamed kale. One problem stems from the sort of insularity that caused large swaths of rap to stagnate in the mid- to late '00s. Instead of drawing from sounds outside the genre, the artists opt to immure themselves in nostalgia.
There are plenty of exceptions, but most of them artfully meld guitars with ideas from dub, soul, funk, African music, dance, R&B, pop and hip-hop. (Examples include Peaking Lights, Haim, Ariel Pink and the Silver Lake originator, Beck.)
The new independent
The free-for-all Internet was supposed to obviate the need for record labels, but the chaos instead led to a wealth of small, digital-savvy imprints creating a new underground guard. Over the last three years, 100% Silk and Not Not Fun, Leaving Records, Duppy Gun, Fade to Mind, Friends of Friends, Post Present Medium, Wedidit, Brainfeeder, Innovative Leisure, Odd Future, Alpha Pup and Hellfyre Club all have earned a reputation for risk taking and nurturing raw talent.
Another "new rules" truism is that regionalism is antiquated. But the vitality of L.A.'s music scene depends on actual brick-and-mortar spots. Whether it's Low End Theory in Lincoln Heights, the Alchemist's lab in Santa Monica, the Funkmosphere, the Do-Over or the Stones Throw HQ/studio in Highland Park, having a spiritual nerve and smoke center matters. It's still the best way to incubate talent and exchange ideas.