This has been an exciting year for Hip Hop. While it’s common to live in the moment and despise the latest gold-toothed bargain bin rapper to somehow make it big (you know who I’m talking about…) the benefit of the Internet and our brains which grant us long attention spans should remind us of the many wonderful, impacting and meaningful projects that dropped in 2012. Even better, we all have different shades of what is “great,” and what’s on my list may not find a spot on your list, so RESPECT MY LIST MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA PLZKTHNX.
Moreover, I’d like to thank Rod and Ken for allowing me to come on the site and do whatever it is I do here. I can’t believe it’s nearly been a year since I asked to drop a coupe dimes to flesh out their written review angle, and hopefully I managed to do that. I also want to shout out Chican George for being a really cool guy, my predecessor on the site even, and Nazeeh and Shane for stepping up to write reviews for DEHH. Oh yeah, I also want to say hello to Cal Chuchesta! Does he like rap? Maybe.
If you’d like to harass me about this list, follow me @f3mdog.
MY FAV ALBUMS OF DA YEAR
YEAH DATS RIGHT DON” ASK ME NO QUESTIONS I AINT CHANGIN NUFFIN
(HONORABLE MENTION) Death Grips – The Money Store/No Love Deep Web
I’d be a bold-faced liar to say that Death Grips hasn’t harassed my life in so many ways for the past two years. I don’t find much entertainment in MC Ride’s harrowing lyrics that sound like the culmination of poor parenting and watching a Harmony Korine film while mainlining cocaine, but the production by Zack Hill and Flatlander perfectly surrounds and enhances the madness therein; plus, the fact that they created such a dystopic world in one medium deserves praise. This is the music most traditional hip hop heads love to hate because it’s supposed to draw those emotions out of you.
(10) RiFF RaFF – Birth Of An Icon
Dude, I’m just as surprised as you are. The Rap Game Tom Selleck made it on the list and there’s not much to say about this pick besides “ICE ON MY WRIST LOOK LIKE I SLAPBOX A PENGUIN.” But with all seriousness, I enjoy him the way people enjoy 2 Chainz.
FAV TRACKS – Jose Canseco, Larry Bird, ICU, Deion Sandals
(9) Lecrae – Church Clothes
A good amount of Christian rap really gives me an odd feeling. Either it relies too much on faith and not enough on skill, or it tries so hard to secularize itself that its initial intention dissipates. Nonetheless, Lecrae found a pleasing medium on Church Clothes, as he brought to light many issues that plague society while providing the solution he sees fit. I also dig the production he curated for this.
(8) K. Sparks – Read Between The Lines
I should probably give this more time, but whatever. Track one to the last offer some of the best spiritually charged lyrics with, no joke, the most consistently solid production this year. K. Sparks takes his time when producing a project, and listening to the final cut makes the wait so worth it.
(7) Jhene Aiko – Sailing Souls
Yes, this mixtape came out last year BUT ITS MY LIST GET OUT MY FACE SUCKAH. I love Jhene’s concentrated vocal range and her grown approach to love, and the fact that I barely pay attention to the R&B scene makes my adoration for her music even more alarming. As Darcwonn explained in his article, R&B nowadays usually starts forming in people’s pants rather than in their love for another, and Sailing Souls offers a gracious alternative to that offense. Here’s hoping her debut album can top it.
(6) Big K.R.I.T. – 4evaNaDay
KRIZZLE! Man, this was truly poised to be the Mississippi rapper’s year in many respects, and it still was to some degree, but I feel that some connection was lost between Return of 4eva and Live From The Underground. Anyway, 4evaNaDay will always stand as the worthy sequel in my eyes. Look no further for a Southern artist who not only flows and breaks a mean beat, but keeps the soul in his music.
(5) Oh No – Ohnomite
Every once in a while, it’s nice to just get a package of songs that defiles the “Hip Hop Is Dead” mantra. Oh No’s Ohnomite is just the remedy to that argument, as each rapper goes in with barrel-chested aggression over Oh No’s slick, eclectic production aided by a hidden cache of Dolemite blaxploitation records. I took the record to task for not paying clear homage to the deceased comedian, but make no haste in realizing the funk that runs roughshod throughout this album.
(4) Nas – Life Is Good
Nasty Nas’s tenth project definitely grew on me. While his lyricism rarely strayed far from the stoic, monotone declarations he’s known for, it still felt a bit… lacking, I guess. But those multiple listens slowly peeled the album’s layers. While I expected another 40-minute tour through Queensbridge’s gnarly canals aided by one of its survivors, I was instead treated to the reflective musings of a post-success thug — that is to say, a man who comes to a pretty optimistic conclusion following his adventurous life. It does have a major setbackf (SWIZZ BEATZ WHYYYYYYYY) but everything else is golden. Life Is Good. Life Is Good.
(3) Brother Ali – Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color
Brother Ali is an artist I have sadly slept on for far too long. The one song that I stumbled upon years ago, “Breakin’ Dawn,” evidently wasn’t enough for my feeble mind to understand the aching power that this man was distilling in his music. At least I wised up on this release. Each track brings the mind of a brother, a husband, a countryman, and on every occasion a soulful artist, using his podium to spark an interest in social consciousness, the importance of family and spreading love among one another. And yo, Jake One does his thing on those beats! I still have to give this a couple more spins because it grows and grows with each spin.
(2) Killer Mike R.A.P. Music
Killer Mike’s another rapper who I friggin’ hibernated for an eternity. Yes, if not for the enormous hype concerning El-P’s producing the album and the fact that the Internet was literally flipping for a whole month during its release, it would gone over my head. Clearly it’s spot on the list proves otherwise; R.A.P. Music showcases the greatest overlapping of Atlanta-tinged spottieottiedopalisciousness and real-world urgency. From the face-breaking rhymes of “Big Beast” to the chilling, front-porch paranoia on “Reagan,” each track adds details that depict a man who takes reality to an almost cartoonish degree, which makes the bass-heavy, 5-dimension production from underground rap king El-P seem more necessary than people might take it. And if you don’t dig “Don’t Die,” I don’t know what you are doing with your life.
(1) Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
I cannot even pretend to slightly enjoy anything Kendrick drops… I LOVE his music. He creates the music that not only solidifies the unparalleled potential contained in the soul of the youth, but that sort of potential that flourishes in such an open-ended genre as Hip Hop. And it still bugs me that my first forays into both of his albums always catch me off-guard; simply put, he’s one of those rappers who needs to be treated with a hands-off approach with few assumptions on a first listen to digest and get what he’s going for. After all, his most devoted fans threw up red flags for certain singles like “Swimming Pools” and “Backseat Freestyle,” both of which pack enough commercial appeal to shame Maroon 5 for centuries, but how interesting it is to hear those same songs within the song cycle and have your doubts melt away.
Aside from the artful storytelling, his top-notch cornucopia of flows and deliveries truly makes one forget how tepid his normal voice sounds, and the solid production really agitates the ride, whether by setting the lights dim on “Sherane,” placing the listener in the back of a busted-up Ford Pinto on “Backseat Freestyle,” or even in the throes of Kendrick’s consuming guilt on “Sing About Me/I’m Dying Of Thirst.” I could go on and on about this album, but that would be unnecessary at this point. I love this album alot, ya bish.
TOP TEN HIP HOP TRACKS I HEARD PERIOD
- Kendrick Lamar – Sing About Me/I’m Dying Of Thirst
- Gensu Dean – Forever feat. Large Professor
- Lecrae – Misconception feat. Propaganda, Braille, Odd Thomas
- Rick Ross – Holy Ghost feat. P. Diddy
- Stretch Money – Smile
- Killer Mike – Don’t Die
- Kendrick Lamar – Cartoons & Cereal feat. Gunplay
- Big K.R.I.T. – Me And My Old School
- Lushlife – Anthem
- Styles P – Holiday Any Emcee