2012 may one day prove to be a year that signals the beginning of Hip Hop’s renaissance. There were several standout albums and projects that are indications that the “fresh” is back in Hip Hop culture. The reemergence of the emcee and the further expansion of the influence of Hip Hop beyond the street and into the collective conscious of the world bodes well for the next era of b-boys, b-girls, backpackers, rappers, wordsmiths, emcees, and heads.
Rap was rap again with artists like Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Joey Bada$$, and Sean Price using lyrics instead of gimmicks. Kendrick Lamar proved he could be successful without compromising with the release of the critically acclaimed “Good kid, M.A.A.D. city”. 9th Wonder resurrected the Producer/Emcee dynamic with strong projects featuring Murs and Buckshot respectively. Alchemist followed suit with excellent collaborations with Action Bronson and Domo Genesis. Rising Inland Empire artist Stevie Crooks got an assist from LRG and crafted Cashmere Killer, a throwback project to the hey day of boom bap rap. Curtiss King’s Atychiphobia was a pleasant surprise and worthy of being introduced to the mainstream conscious.
There will always be a faction of artists that will do whatever necessary to make themselves relevant by rehashing and regurgitating standard Hip Hop motifs. Rick Ross continued to make his brand of stereotypical music aimed at wider audiences. However even Ross found himself under pressure to create dynamic lyrics with the recruitment of Stalley to MMG and a hungry Wale and Meek Mill pushing out respective projects. 2 Chainz changed his name and signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label and suddenly became the hottest rapper in the game for his non-linear lyrics, stunted flow and slurred delivery. Nevertheless, his debut album offered nothing new in terms of creativity and although it delivered some fan favorite club anthems it was an artistic flop. That seemed to be a norm in 2012, commercial artists made “hot” trendy songs to generate buzz to promote lackluster albums. Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music compilation “Cruel Summer” was a hit and miss with three strong singles but a lack of overall potency as an album. It also helped boost the popularity of Chicago native rapper Chief Keef but his debut album suffered from the same fate as many of the major releases of 2012.
The commercial artists like Drake, Lil Wayne and Kanye West may have found themselves in the rotation on radio stations but the true Hip Hop was burgeoning beneath the superficial. Artists like A$AP Rocky broke through into the minds and ears of fans with his brand if neo gothic Hip Hop. Frank Ocean emerged as one of the most intriguing artists of 2012 with his Channel Orange release and the confession that he had been in a bisexual relationship. Curren$y continued to deliver impressive independent material with the release of “The Stoned Immaculate” and the Scarface influenced “Cigarette Boats”. DOOM resurfaced from the depths of villainy to announce a brand new Madvillain project and also released the apocalyptic riddled “Doomsayers” single on December 21, 2012.
The theme for 2012 could be “The Return”. Nas resurrected his career again with the stellar “Life Is Good”. Nas did not deliver a single track that could’ve been deemed radio ready but yet found himself on the top of the billboard charts. Kendrick Lamar brought West Coast music a much needed shot of adrenaline with “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”. The album is ironically being called this eras “Illmatic” for it’s uncompromising vision and meticulously crafted narrative. The old seems to have become new as this generation discovers the substance of the past and looks at it with fresh eyes. 2013 looks to be yet another promising year for the culture.