Before we start, let's be clear this retrospect is presented with no empirical data – there were no pollsters out at malls or restaurants asking each shopper/diner for their insights, though unofficial Facebook polls were taken. The accounting firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers was not charged with tabulating the results. Nielsen was not called in to rate the list – the Aesthetically Speaking It List of 2013.
Also, let it be stated that the author of this list is also an event producer and some of the events that made the list were produced in association with said author. In such instances, these events will be denoted with an asterisk.
Now with the housekeeping out the way, let's get to the It List.
It Artists (music)
The Twin Cities offers a wealth of outstanding musical talent. Come on, Prince is from here. Enough said. But allow us to say more. 2013 saw the emergence of several other outstanding artists in soul/R&B and hip-hip. So, who made the list?
For outstanding soul, the It "award" goes to Timotha Lanae. When your album ("Red") tops the soul charts in London, you're doing something very right. "Red" is a timeless project that we're shocked isn't garnering her more attention here in her hometown. The Twin Cities needs to take a cue from the Londoners and get hip to Lanae.
"It" song of 2013: We have a tie. "Beautiful" by Lia Renee Dior and "Wish You'd Let Me Love You" by Janey Neal.
Contrasting songs – "Beautiful" is a life-affirming feel good melody that provides daily motivation, while "Wish" is an emotional tale of one yearning for the love of another – but both are equally outstanding. Dior's "Beautiful" was one of the most played on KMOJ – FM, while Neal has yet to crack the limited R&B/soul/hip-hip airwaves in Minnesota, but that takes nothing away from her song. In fact, it maybe says a lot more, considering Neal had only social media and live performances to get her music out. Kudos to both talented artists.
2013 just may have been the year of the woman, as the It List award for outstanding hip-hip goes to Lioness.
The Lioness' mixtape, "Queen" is a hands down no doubter for the best hip-hop project of the year. While Grrrl Prty and its standout member Lizzo was the media darling of other outlets (and certainly not without merit), Lioness was grinding the club scene showing up her male counterparts time after time. The Lioness' true coming out came in July when she opened for Doug E. Fresh and proudly proclaimed her stake as queen of the hip-hop jungle.
The It CD of 2013 goes to Villa Rosa with "Blue Diamond Island." "Blue Diamond" is the joint project of Maria Isa and Muja Messiah. While Messiah holds his own and has an undeniable flow, Isa, the duel threat singer and MC elevates "Blue Diamond" to It worthy status. Do not be shocked to see her on the national radar very soon.
The It DJ of 2013 is DJ Willie Shu. Shu – or Shu Nasty, as he's often called – has risen to area stardom with his unique ability to cross DJing genres, spinning everything from hood-hop to underground hip-hip, to neosoul to fusion. What sets Shu apart is his willingness to play songs and artists that aren't the same five to 10 that we hear at almost every other party. Shu takes it back to the era when DJs actually broke records instead of relying on radio to dictate what gets played.
2013 saw a plethora of great shows and events come to the Twin Cities. Music's new royal family of Jay Z and Beyoncé both had tour stops here. Drake came through. Janelle Monae brought her electric show to Hennepin Avenue and Bilal*, Rasaan Patterson, Algebra Blessett* and Dwele* all graced the Twin Cities with their presence. But when we talk about the concert event of 2013 it's hard to top pancakes being served at 6 a.m. while listening to Prince at Paisley Park. Even better than his three-day stint at the Dakota Jazz Club, Prince, and his new all girl band at Paisley was simply magical.
Honorable mentions in this category go to Dwele at the Dakota*, Anthony Hamilton at Epic and Hugh Masekela at the Dakota.
The It party of 2013 was the Black Out Affair at Seven featuring DJ Kid Capri. Where the White Out Affair fell flat, the Black Out delivered three-fold. Something Special, who produces both events, showed why they have been among the preeminent party producers in the Twin Cities for more than a decade with this year's Black Out.
The It concept event goes to Thee Urbane Life* for Expressions graphic t-shirt party (Vol. I). Concept parties are nothing new (i.e. White Out/Black Out) but the t-shirt party took it to another level. Two hundred and fifty plus urban professionals dressed down in unique (often outrageous) graphic (and yes, some were "graphic") tees partying outside on the back deck at Darby's to the tunes of DJ Dell Dilla was the breath of fresh air that the Twin Cities had been looking for.
The It club goes to The Light for its resurrection from Elixir. The space was once a drab and congested spot suffering from an identity crisis. Was it a club or a lounge? Light was opened up, updated with new décor, bright lights and most importantly, enhanced sound.
There we have it, the It List of 2013.