Here is the next end of the year wrap up as 2012 winds down. The Top 10 projects that were for sale. Again, naming just 10 in a spectacular year of music is next to impossible but in addition to Sol’s Yours Truly, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist and GOOD Music’s Cruel Summer, I wanted to highlight some more dope albums that I enjoyed a lot. I am hoping to start a discussion so feel free to tell me what you liked and where I went wrong!
10. Murs & 9th Wonder – The Final Adventure
These legends have been giving us amazing music for a long time. Both in their respective solo efforts, collaborations with each other and various other ventures, seeing the name 9th Wonder or Murs attached to a project is generally a good omen. This album did exactly what they set out to do, “go out on top”. While it is disappointing that we won’t hear any more full lengths from these two, they have given us plenty of great music to listen to and The Final Adventure is a bittersweet cap to their series.
9. Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dagerous Rumors
Big Boi, half of OutKast, has been an innovator of sound for well over a decade now and he really has shown no signs of slowing down. VLDR literally sounds like nothing else out there. His rhymes are as tight as ever but the overall vibe of the album is from another planet. A new age funk that finds Funkadelic, The XX, Organized Noise and more rolled into one. While people continue to place Andre 3k in their top 5 GOAT list despite his lack of releases (Ke$ha remixes do NOT count) Big Boi stays relevant to music and solidifies his legacy with another killer album. This is both fun and introspective. We get a new look at Big Boi and our ears couldn’t be happier.
8. Curren$y – The Stoned Immaculate
It has been years in the making but we finally have it. Curren$y’s major label debut! After lacing the underground with quality music for a long time (and continuing to do so even with this release) we finally get a big named album from Hot Spitta. It ventures away from the Curren$y sound that we have come to love (and some could complain is monotonous although I don’t think so) without him sacrificing any of his incredibly smooth flows or clever lyrics. Curren$y is the definition of cool. The type of guy who makes eating one brand of cereal cooler than another or makes you feel good because he does the same everyday shit, like play Playstation, that you do. He continues to do things his way even through a deal with Warner Brothers. The production is on point, the features are dope and Spitta is Spitta. What’s not to like?
7. Big K.R.I.T. – Live From the Underground
Although his latest string of mixtapes are considered to be albums by many fans, LFTU is in a new category as his debut, for-sale album. At this point, I can’t decide whether I like his production or his lyrics more. He addresses the stereotypes of the South head one; dismissing some, proving others wrong, and dealing with the true ones as only he can. Producing his own music is one of KRIT’s biggest advantages because he can really shape and craft his sound from the bottom up. The cohesiveness of this project is on another level. KRIT has put out some amazing projects and this is only the beginning. I cannot wait to see what’s next.
6. RZA – Man with the Iron Fists
Unfortunately, I live in South Korea right now so I have been unable to watch RZA’s movie, however, the sound track itself is phenomenal. Kicking off with a banging Black Keys/RZA collab, the OST never turns back with a wide variety of music that is all dope. It has Kanye back on his old-school soul ish. Danny Brown somehow steals the show on the posse cut “Tick Tock” with Raekwon, Pusha T and Joell Ortiz. M.O.P and Pharoahe Monch trade aggressive New York bars. A great arrangement of hip hop legends and new comers plus a Wu-Tang reunion. It may be a movie soundtrack but RZA definitely put out one of the best albums this year.
5. Kendrick Lamar – good kid m.A.A.d. city
This one is probably going to end up in the top slot on a lot of peoples’ lists and it IS great. We haven’t heard story telling like this in a long time. I thought I was in the backseat of the car while Kendrick and his friends robbed a house during “The Art of Peer Pressure”. Scoring MC Eiht was genius as the two Compton-ites made “M.A.A.D. City” possibly the best song of the year. Even though Kendrick has put out a number of projects over the last few years, he saved a lot of personal info and stories for this debut. Even the most diehard fans of K. Dot’s got to learn something new about him and all of the news fans he made got a great starting block to research more of his music. Kendrick was definitely hip hop’s man of the moment for a lot of 2012 and he deserved it. I was a little disappointed in the lack of TDE in house producers – Digi+Phonics and way beyond disappointed to see ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul absent from the album. Kendrick says there are bigger things in the works though, so for now, we will have to trust him…
4. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music
This was probably the most surprising collaboration of the year. Killer Mike linked up with El-Producto to spit some knowledge on everything from politics to hip hop to raising kids. While it was surprising, there are no complaints over here, this album was fantastic! Mike implicitly and explicitly proves himself to be the “reader of the books and the leader of the crooks” as his hard hitting songs can find a home in the club and his insightful lyrics could be quoted in political rhetoric. He does an amazing job of explaining his situation, and that of many who had a similar upbringing, while making all of it sound spectacularly. El-P and Killer Mike gave us the best surprise of 2012.
3. ScHoolboy Q – Habits and Contradictions
Out of all the projects I am talking about, Q’s Habits and Contradictions got the most play on my iPod. For the first few months, I would have a new favorite song every 2 weeks as I learned the lyrics to over half of the album. TDE has bred a very competitive friendship amongst its members as all of them collaborate on music while also pushing each other to be better. ScHoolboy Q has grown tremendously and I cannot wait for his next release. He doesn’t have the hype that surrounds Lamar just yet but I think each ember of TDE will get their turn and none of them are going to disappoint. ScHoolboy Q has a crazy flow that he switches up from one track to the next; no rhyme scheme gets boring or becomes predictable. Without the hype and expectations of a major label, Q was also able to keep almost everything in house save a few features. “THere He Go” and “Hands on the WHeel” both have excellent cases for best song of 2012. You be the judge.
2. Roc Marciano – Reloaded
It’s been quite a long time since Roc Marc was on our charts with 2010′s Marcberg. Reloaded is more than worth the wait. This guys is just fire – incredible production, tight rhymes and an awesome style. I think it is safe to say that no one’s slow-flow can touch Marciano’s. This guy is New York from the brim of his Yankee fitted down to the end of his untied Timbs; NY is lucky to have someone carry on their tradition in such an authentic way in today’s day and age where most NY rappers on the mainstream do not have that sound. Roc does though. The beats are above top notch and there is not one skippable song on here. If you don’t know who Roc Marciano is, WAKE THE FUCK UP!!! His last two projects have been two of the best I’ve heard and I think he has a lot more left in em.
- NaS – Life is Good
Legend! Legend! Legend! How can someone put out something as dope as Illmatic and then as dope as Life is Good 18 years later? Legend. That is how. You may not like everything NaS has done over the course of his storied career but he is still here and making some of the best music out. Salam Remi and NaS have developed amazing chemistry; they were even able to use unfinished Amy Winehouse vocals and turn them into a beautiful song. After NaS’ seemingly brutal divorce with Kelis, we knew he was going to have a lot to say for this one. When he released the album cover of him sitting there holding Kelis’ wedding dress and heard about how she packed her bags and only left the green dress in NaS’ house, we realized that we had underestimated just how much was on his mind. The usual complaints about NaS’ inability to pick beats or make choruses are nowhere to be found on Life Is Good. The complex rhyme schemes and intricate story telling that make NaS one of the greatest is aplenty. This was a win for NaS but more importantly, this was a win for Hip Hop.