The Year 2012 in Review
Author: Zach 'Goose' Gase
Goose's Year in Review
This was a pretty crazy year for me. This was the year I graduated from college, and started my career as a professional journalist. This year I advanced my rap journalist aspirations, as I got to interview rappers like De La Soul, Substantial, Murs, Fashawn, Masta Ace and others, for RapReviews and Okayplayer. This was also the year where I moved back into my parents' house, went through a pretty brutal break up, moved away from my closest friends and a bunch of other downer stuff that I don't really need to get into.
Music has always been my outlet, whether it be writing about it, creating it, or just throwing on a record on the turntable after a long day. This year, it seemed music played an even more vital role, as albums like "Life is Good" and "Cancer4Cure" got me through the hardest couple of months of my life. Going to random concerts, not only got me out of the house, but gave me a few hours to get lost in brilliant performances from Macklemore, El-P, Kendrick Lamar and Killer Mike.
As a long time reader of RapReviews, the end of the year lists have always been my favorite. I loved that they allowed their writers make their own lists, because that way I could see each individual's personal taste. So naturally when I came onto the staff last March, I was really hyped to make an end of the year list. So here is my list; brace yourself, it's very extensive and long-winded:
Albums I Wished I Listened to In 2012:
In 2011, I listened to almost every album imaginable to make my end of the year list for my blog as complete as possible. This year, I had to be a grown up, and I missed out on a lot of music. Some of these albums I actually own, but haven't really gotten around to listening to them. I'm sure if they're as great as people say, I'll get to them some day.
O.C. & Apollo Brown - "Trophies"
Mello Music had a huge year. And this is yet another critical darling that I never got around to listening to. Brown is a phenomenal beatsmith, so Im sure the beats are crazy, and O.C. has one of the best resumes of any rapper with 2 classics to his credit.
Sean Price - "Mic Tyson"
I bought this album, and have only played it once. From what I heard, it had dope beats and great rhymes - what you want from a P! album. I'll play this album more during those slow months (Jan-March).
T.I. - "Trouble Man"
I've played this a few times, and I bet it would've cracked my top 20, but I just don't have the time to sit down and absorb it fully. Tip sounds like he's rhyming better than he has in 5 years, but the beats don't seem to be that great.
Again, I own this album. When I had to drive my dad's car for 2 days, I played it a few times in his CD player, but didn't really absorb much. The beats were better than I expected, and the raps were as solid as you'd expect.
RZA - "The Man With Iron Fists OST"
This is an album that suffers from having 2 songs that are really incredible: Kanye West "White Dress" is his best song he's done since "MBDTF" and RZA's collab with The Black Keys is amazing. I'll play the whole thing front to back, one of these days.
Meek Mill - "Dreams & Nightmares"
I've always sort of slept on Meek because I was waiting to hear an LP from him. And when he finally dropped his album, it came out during a time when I was obsessed with some of the year's bests (Macklemore, Danny!, Kendrick, etc.). I'll get to this eventually.
2 Chainz - "Based On a T.R.U. Story"
Yes 2 Chainz cannot rap. At all. But fuck you. Dude is the most entertaining emcee in the game right now. I've played it a few times, and it's surprisingly great. He has endless one-liners that are totally ridiculous, but he pulls it off because he's so damn funny.
MHz - "MHz Legacy"
I'm a terrible Ohio hip hop fan for not hearing this album yet.
Pac Div - "GMB"
Played it once, and it sounds like it could be among their best work. Definitely one of the most consistent crews in the game right now.
Albums That Just Missed the Cut:
Schoolboy Q - "Habits & Contradictions"
The most brash rapper in Black Hippie dropped a gem. Cut 3-4 tracks from the album and it's in my top 15, easy.
Copywrite - "God Save the King"
A pretty great record from the Ohio great. "A Talk with Jesus" is one of the year's best songs.
Masta Ace - "MA_Doom: Son of Yvonne"
This album was kind of a disappointment for me. Ace came correct with the raps, and he rapped over great Doom beats, most of which I have never heard.
De La Soul Presents: "First Serve"
This isn't quite the De La album we were hoping for, but it's pretty close. I'm sort of surprised this didn't make my top 20, but it was a pretty great year.
Most Disappointing Albums:
Lupe Fiasco - "Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1"
Everything about this album from it's overly bloated title to it's album cover, drips in douchey pretention. This album was total butt from beginning to end. We were all hoping that it would be a return to his first 2 LPs, but it seemed like Lupe was more interested in overcompensating that ignorant, EDM trash that he dropped last year, with his over-the-top, holier than thou political ideals.
Big K.R.I.T. - "Live from the Underground"
I was really hoping this album would be good. K.R.I.T. was this year's J. Cole, and is yet another rapper to join the "the mixtape was better" category. I still have hope for his sophomore effort though.
G.O.O.D. Music - "Cruel Summer"
Kanye's winning streak is over. It had to stop at some point didn't it? This album wasn't bad by any means, just underwhelming and confusing. With that much talent on the roster, why are you doing songs with R. Kelly, Teyana Taylor, and Chief Keef? Better question: Where's Q-Tip and Mos Def? This album spoiled brilliant performances from Pusha T (whose solo LP is going to be a fucking problem) and Big Sean (who also dropped a pretty great mixtape this year).
Obie Trice - "Bottoms Up"
This wasn't really a bad record, just pretty forgettable. Trice dropped 2 great albums under Shady Records, but they also had 2-3 cuts I could do without (because they obvious attempts to get on radio). I was hoping this album would have all those great moments, sans the cheesey tracks. It did not.
Prodigy - "HNIC 3"
I wish I could say this album was the most embarrassing thing Prodigy did in 2012. Obviously the Twitter fall out with Hav was the biggest "what the fuck" moment of the year, but his third installment of the once illustrious HNIC series was a close second.
JJ Doom: "Keys to the Kuffs"
This was Doom's first release since 09, and it didn't move me in the least bit.
Albums I Wish I Ignored:
KiD CuDi & Dot da Genius - "WZRD"
Just a huge mess. Who's a worse guitarist: Cudi, Wayne or Andre 3000? Death is not an option.
Styles of Beyond - "Reseda Beach"
This album was beyond corny. I had to review this for a site, but I never did it because it was so painful to sit through.
Substance Abuse - "Background Music"
Yet another album I had to review, it's bad. I don't know how they get guest spots from MC Eiht and KRS.
Lupe Fiasco - "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album"
(See above, or check out this behind the scenes video on how Lupe picked out his album cover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx6fwfBKCIQ)
Prodigy - "HNIC 3"
(See above, if you want, but I wouldn't bother.)
Albums I'm Glad I Ignored:
Rick Ross - "God Forgives, I Don't"
His collab with Andre 3000 enticed me to download it. I played that song and the track with Hov and Dre, and nothing else. Not mad.
Tyga - "Careless World: some nonsensical subtitle"
I remember back in 2009, people who lived down the hall from me loved this guy. I was convinced he was the worst rapper to ever be signed to a record label. He's improved slightly in three years, and yes, he was thaaat bad before.
Game - Jesus Piece
I got duped into listening to "The R.E.D. Album" last year because I had to review it. Wasn't going to happen again this year. This guy is a living train wreck, and everything he does makes my blood boil.
Slaughterhouse - "Welcome To: Our House"
Their self-titled album was trash. I imagine this album is the same thing, except with 3-4 tracks made specifically for teeny boppers. For a once promising group of rappers, they've disappointed me so badly. Joell Ortiz is a great rapper, but his voice sounds like nails on a chalk board, and I punch a baby every time he says "Yowza." Royce was my favorite rapper in 2008-2009, he's still good but he hasn't moved me in years. Never been a fan of Joe Budden - he's got talent, but his corniness has always overshadowed that. Crooked I, who used to be my least favorite member, is now the most tolerable. Dude just raps and does it well.
Death Grips - both albums, especially the one with a cock on the cover
Pitchfork's darling of 2012. They're super edgy. They combine the sounds of power tools and amateurish rapping. They somehow scammed their way into a major record deal, but they decided it'd be edgier to piss off their label by releasing their album for free and put a dick on the cover. Super edgy.
Blog Rap All-Stars:
I get tons of internet rappers sending me shit everyday. Most of the emails, I skim and then ignore. Sometimes I feel compelled to download it, and even more rarely, I listen to it. Most of that shit sucks. Here is a list of the albums I received in my inbox that were great.
FlamesYall - "Oh Yeah! The Drift of the World"
Full disclosure, FlamesYall is my dude. He lets me rap over his beats (I'm on this album), even though he's a much better producer than I am rapper (I'm the Phat Cat to his Dilla, if you will). This album is some of his best work. He worked with Scroobius Pip and his protégé Jackamo Brown to make this album.
Yes Yes Yalls - "9000"
The Yes Yes Yalls sound like they should be some east coast, boom bap rap collective that only talk about b-boying and how good they are at rapping. But Shameless Plug and company, are actually into something much cooler. Plug is of a rare breed of emcee that raps and sings, but does both very well.
Masterminds - "Giant Antlers"
These guys should get all the attention The Death Grips got. They make that edgy, lo-fi, experimental hip hop, but they do it well.
WRATHMATICS. - "a charlie brown beat tape."
Hip hop and Charlie Brown, together at last. Dope beat tape.
iLLmont - "Shawty"
I got hip to this ATL crew from Danny!'s title track off of his latest. This record runs long, but it's pretty entertaining through out.
DJ Manipulator - "Dusted the F#%k Out Vol. 1"
Very dope beat tape. I've heard thousands of boom bap producers this year, most of them sound like a Primo rip-off. DJ Manipulator does not suck.
Finally Goose's Top 20 Hip Hop Albums of 2012:
Gift of Gab - The Next Logical Progression
Yes, Blackalicious front man, Gift of Gab dropped an album this year. And it was great. "Grown Man Rap" (I hate that term) at its finest.
Substantial - Home Is Where the Art Is
I've been a fan of Substantial for a while. It's great to see him getting more exposure, and his first album with (non-Ross) MMG is his best work to date.
Aesop Rock - Skelethon
I've never really been into Aesop too much. This album was his first on Rhymesayers, and since I generally buy everything they release, I decided to go ahead and get his latest. I've dug several songs from his previous albums, but never could sit through a whole album of his, until this one. "Gopher Guts" is a brilliant song.
P.O.S - We Don't Even Live Here
This album was a bit of a curve ball. The Minnesota emcee has always been known to bend the fuck out of the hip hop genre, until it was no longer recognizable, but he used thrashing guitars and screaming to do that (with surprisingly awesome results). While his latest album isn't nearly as great as his 2009 opus, the electro-heavy record continues his hot streak, with a little help from Bon Iver-front man.
Blu & Exile - Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them
The long awaited follow up to the duo's 2007 classic, got a bit of a false start when it was released online last year. Luckily it got a proper release this year. No it's not Below the Heavens 2, but it's still quite good. Although it still doesn't shake that feeling I get when I listen to blu, that he's totally spoiling his talents.
Rapsody - The Idea of Beautiful
9th wonder's protégé dropped a phenomenal record. Save your obvious Jean Grae and Lauryn Hill comparisions. This lady can rap her ass off, but can also scope her dense lyricism into great songs, unlike many female rappers who try to hard to be dope, and don't know how to make a good track. Her passion for hip hop radiates on nearly every track; she's going to be around for a while, I got a feeling.
The Coup - Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley and crew dropped another great record. They get a little electronic with the beats, but it's still funky as hell. They get a little political (as usual), but they're still funny as hell.
Big K.R.I.T. - 4evaNaDay
Yeah, "Live from the Underground" missed the mark, but at least he gave us yet another great mixtape in 2012. "4eva" is not nearly great as his first two tapes, but it's his most cohesive to date.
Murs & Fashawn - This Generation
West Coast indie rap's "Watch the Throne" was one of the most fun listens of 2012. They traded bars over funky, classic west coast beats, and you can literally hear them building a friendship in the songs. Plus their hidden bonus track, is one of the best strip club songs I've heard in a while (rivaled by Big Boi's equally awesome "She Said Okay").
Mac Lethal - Irish Celebration *
This album gets the (*) because technically it came out on New Years Eve, 2011. But since it only gave fans like 3 hours to play in 2011, I count it as a 2012 album. Lethal, who blew up virally thanks to a rap about pancakes, but "Irish Celebration" is a true testament to his ability as a rapper.
Danny!: Payback (2.0)
The album that almost wasn't. I put (2.0) on the title because the Okayplayer version that was released in September was quite different than the version that was supposed to come out in January. Danny! became one of my favorite rappers in the past year, and Payback is another phenomenal release. Hopefully he can build off of the relationships he's built this year, and get a bigger audience.
Oddisee - People Hear What They See
Oddisee was one of those guys I'd hear about all the time, but I never actually got around to checking dude out. Then someone posted his acoustic performance on "You Know Who You Are" and I instantly copped "PHWTS" and never looked back. One of the year's best produced albums.
Ab-Soul - Control System
This record sort of came out of nowhere for me. "Long-Term Mentality" was decent, but I always thought Schoolboy Q was far better than Soul. Then "Terrorist Threats" dropped (along with my jaw). This is one of the year's best lyrical performances.
Brother Ali - Mourning in America, and Dreaming in Color
It was definitely time for Ali to work with someone outside of Ant. Jake-One laced Ali with some great production, and Ali delivered. This was his most politically charged album he's ever done, but he never turns into Immortal Technique or Lupe on "FL2:TGARA pt 1." I definitely appreciate well articulated political thoughts, over dope beats, without being lectured to. Well done, Mr. Ali.
Big Boi - Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
This was one of the year's more polarizing albums. I can definitely see how a lot folks wouldn't like this one. But I'm a pretty big indie rock fan, so this album caters to me pretty heavily. Big Boi does what he does best, kick dope flows over progressive hip hop production. He's two-for-two, by my count.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
I've been on the Macklemore bandwagon for a while now, and I'm so happy to see dude get this much shine. His album debuted at number 2, and now his single "Thrift Shop" is really starting to take off. This album was everything I'd hope it'd be, after waiting for three years for a new project.
Killer Mike - RAP Music
This was my number 1 album for much of the year. Nas and El-P leapfrogged Mike on my rating system, but without thinking much about it, I said "RAP Music" was the year's best record. Killer Mike channeled his inner Ice Cube, while El-P was all on his Bomb Squad during this record.
Nas - Life Is Good
Finally a Nas album we can all agree is great (I actually love "Hip Hop is Dead" and think "Untitled" gets an unfair bad wrap as well). The timing of this album was perfect for me because I had just gotten out of a relationship. The album cover had us all thinking this was Nas' "Blood on the Tracks" or "Here, My Dear," and yeah there are glimpses of that on "Life is Good" (Bye Baby is still very hard for me to listen to, despite it being one of Nas' best songs). But Nas seems oddly comfortable with his situation. He's surprisingly not bitter about his rough divorce and financial woes, and was even able to make the year's best love song "Cherry Wine," which is undoubtedly in the expansive Nas canon.
El-P - Cancer4Cure
This album feels like a fucking punch in the throat to me. Another album that came out during the worst summer of my life, and it's hard to listen to these days because it takes me back to that dark period. "Works Every Time" is a song about battling substance abuse, but the lyrics "It's like a fresh start to a new world, and I already want to go home" hit close to home as I struggled as a college graduate, working as a janitor, who missed my old friends. "$4 vic" is probably the best hip hop song of the year, and is just absolutely breath taking, and perfect for anyone who feels like the world is taking a giant shit on them. A very bleak album, but still manages to end with the second half of the album's closer "FTL (Me and You)."
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, M.A.A.d. City
I saw Kendrick perform in late July. He opened for Mac Miller/Wiz Khalifa. He was the main reason I went to this show. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed at how disengaged the crowd for of teenagers wearing YOLO shirts were during his set. But as I drove off, during Wiz Khalifa's set, I thought to myself, come October, they'll give a damn who he is. I love being right.
"good kid, m.A.A.d. City" is among the early 2010's classic albums that consist of: Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," The Roots "undun" and if mainstream recognition does not matter to you CunninLynguists "Oneirology." Kendrick takes you on a journey from a brash teen, on top of the world because he just experienced the wonders of the opposite sex for the first time on "Backseat Freestyle" to becoming a man, dealing with death and disappointment, on "Real."
Top 25 Rap Songs of 2012 (in order of most played, which is not necessarily the order of how I feel they should rank):
Kanye West - "White Dress"
El-P "$4 Vic/FTL (Me and You)"
Kendrick Lamar - "Money Trees (ft Jay Rock)"
Aesop Rock - "Gopher Guts"
Nas - "Cherry Wine (ft Amy Winehouse)"
Nas - "Bye Baby"
El-P - "For My Upstairs Neighbor"
P.O.S - "Where We Land (ft Justin Vernon)"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Starting Over (ft Ben Bridwell)"
Kendrick Lamar - "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst"
Oddisee - "You Know Who You Are"
Schoolboy Q - "Hands of the Wheel (ft A$AP Rocky)"
Big Boi - "Apple of My Eye"
Ab-Sol - "Terrorist Threats (ft Danny Brown)"
DJ Khaled - "Hip Hop (ft Scarface and Nas)"
Brother Ali - "Only Life I Know"
The Coup - "Magic Clap"
Danny! - "Keep Your Head to the Sky (ft Collette)"
Mac Lethal - "Jake + Olive"
Substantial - "Check My Resume"
Blu & Exile - "Seasons"
Kanye West - "New God Flow (ft Pusha T and Ghostface Killah)"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "Same Love (ft Mary Lambert)"
Killer Mike - "Reagan"
Copywrite - "A Talk With Jesus"
Originally posted: December 25, 2012