Hey you guys,

So it looks like "Idlewild", the new album from Outkast, arguably the biggest, most commercially successful rap group in existence, was beaten like a misbehaving mule in first-week sales by the debut joint from Dannity Kane, the "winners" of the third season of Diddy's Making The Band.

Now I haven't heard Dannity Kane's album. So who knows, maybe they're better than Shakespeare and the Beatles combined. But judging from their photographs (and I am a firm believer in always judging a book by its cover) they look like a bunch of wanna-be Pussycat Dolls smoothed out on the O-Town tip with a Dream fizz to it.

There are lots of reasons why Outkast's album under-performed commercially. For starters it's a half-assed soundtrack to a muddled film. But it's nevertheless alarming when all-time greats like Andre 3000 and Big Boi get walloped by a pre-fab girl group cynically assembled by a past-his-prime Svengali.

Seriously, folks, what the fuck? What's up with hip hop this year? If the year in rap has a theme it's "all bets are off". Who could have guessed that the duo of Ceee-Lo and Danger Mouse would sell more CDs and score more crossover success than the inexplicably overlooked pairing of Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre? Who could have guessed that Jurassic 5's underrated, solid if less-than-spectacular new album would become such a critical whipping boy? Or that hit machine Pharrell's solo debut (which I probably should have given a B- or a C+ instead of a B) would belly-flop so hard and be so devoid of killer beats? Or that the one-time super-star DMX would return to such screaming indifference?

If DMX, Outkast and Dr. Dre can't guarantee huge first-week sales than are there any sure things left in rap? Now there have been a couple of albums I absolutely love this year: Ghostface's Fischscale and Rhymefest's Blue Collar but both are under-performing, which is all the more maddening in that they're both really fun pop albums. There's nothing remotely esoteric or inaccessible about Rhymefest's CD, but it doesn't seem to be doing much commercially. And there are a number of albums I like tremendously, from Busta's underrated Big Bang, The Coup's Pick A Bigger Weapon, Oh No and Georgia Ann Muldrow's new joints, Bubba Sparxxx's The Charm and The Roots' Game Theory for starters but collectively I imagine they'll be lucky to sell half as many copies as the last Black Eyed Peas CD.

Though he died on February 10th Jay Dee is ironically having one of his best years professionally, scoring songs on The Big Bang and Fishscale and putting out two terrific albums: Donuts and The Shining (look for a review in the weeks ahead) in addition to being eulogized extensively on the new Roots CD and throughout the blogosphere. It's been great seeing Dilla get so much over-due love but it begs the question: does a hip hop pioneer like Jay Dee have to die in order to get anything even resembling the recognition they deserve?

What do you guys think of the year in hip hop so far? What are you still looking forward to?