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Comeback kids, rhymin' Limeys and songs about partying defined Hip-Hop Nation in 2006.

It was the year of deep thoughts and the year of partying (and sometimes, deep thoughts about partying): There's room for both viewpoints now in hip-hop's increasingly diverse underground, which is good news indeed. Critical darlings Spank Rock might have merely made Too $hort safe for all of the eggheads who thought they were too $mart for him the first time around, but even so, was there an album more fun in 2006 than the high-concept/low-art Yoyoyoyoyo? Didn't think so.

Both fun in their own thoughtful ways were albums from the Bay Area's Ise Lyfe, whose SpreadtheWORD suggests he might someday take over Mos Def's mantle as hip-hop's activist poet laureate, and Georgia Ann Muldrow, an adventurous L.A. artist who reassembles urban music in novel ways on Olesi: Fragments of an Earth. Both discs make great soundtracks for the parties in your mind.

It was the year of self-promotion: Well, every year in hip-hop is the year of self-promotion, but today's kids certainly have it down pat. Just ask Jibbs about his favorite hip-hop trend of '06, and he barely blinks before answering.

"I would definitely say that the hottest trend," he offers with a chuckle, "was people that got their chains hangin' low."

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