2012 is almost gone and it’s time to take a look back at the best Hip-Hop albums of the year. It was extremely difficult to pick ten records. Good albums from Big Boi, Brother Ali, KA, Saigon, and Sean Price among others deserve recognition but just missed the cut. It wasn’t easy, but here are the top 10 Hip-Hop albums of 2012.
10. Ab-Soul – Control System
Black Hippy member Ab-Soul comes in at number ten on the Top Hip-Hop albums of 2012 list with Control System. Control System is a psychedelic and melodic release that sounds like a mixture of East Coast and West Coast Hip-Hop. Ab-Soul’s introspective lyrics are integrated with humor that allows Control System to avoid being either too heavy or too silly.
9. G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
You can always count on Kanye West to deliver the goods with anything he touches. In 2012 Kanye released a compilation featuring the artists signed to his G.O.O.D Music label titled Cruel Summer. Songs like ‘Mercy’ and ‘Clique’ from Cruel Summer became Hip-Hop anthems in the summer of 2012.The compilation was mostly used to highlight G.O.O.D. Music signees Big Sean, Pusha T, and CyHi The Prince but guest verses from the likes of Jay-Z, Common Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Jadakiss, and 2 Chainz gave Cruel Summer star power and solidified it as one of best releases of 2012.
8. DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles – The KoleXXXion
Freddie Foxxx rhyming over Primo beats? Sign me up. While it’s not quite on the level of a Gang Starr release DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles’ The KoleXXXion is exactly what Hip-Hop has been missing. An album full of Premier’s signature chopped samples and scratched hooks can never get old. Bumpy Knuckles is Hip-Hop’s original bully and rhymes like it throughout The KoleXXXion. Bumpy and Preem blend together perfectly on The KoleXXXion and give Hip-Hop a much needed dose of masculinity.
7. Rapsody – The Idea of Beautiful
The spotlight on female rappers has been extremely dim in recent years. The success of Nicki Minaj has unfortunately inspired a slew of wack clones, but thankfully we have Rapsody. Out of Snow Hill, North Carolina Rapsody is a female emcee directly from the lineage of Lauryn Hill, Bahamadia, MC Lyte, and Queen Latifah—she can spit. Her debut album The Idea of Beautiful is indeed a beautiful album that balances straight spittin’ and storytelling over soulful sounds provided by 9th Wonder’s Soul Council.
6. O.C. & Apollo Brown – Trophies
If you like beats and rhymes then Trophies is for you. Detroit Producer Apollo Brown joined forces with Diggin’ in the Crates emcee O.C. for a boom bap smorgasbord called Trophies. Trophies is a consistent album with hard beats and hard rhymes that sounds like an up-to-date mid-90’s rap release.
5. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
Coming out of left field was the first full-length album from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist. The Heist is a fun album that doesn’t shy away from serious topics, like on the controversial Gay rights song ‘Same Love’. Macklemore’s honesty is what makes The Heist refreshing. Lewis’ production seems to be perfectly suited for Macklemore’s flow and that’s what makes it all work. While not necessarily traditional, The Heist is easily one of the best Hip-Hop albums of 2012.
4. Roc Marciano – Reloaded
Underground hero Roc Marciano quietly returned to the scene in 2012 with his sophomore album, Reloaded. Marciano’s laid back flow coupled with his dark production painted a picture of the New York streets that hasn’t been seen in well over a decade. Marciano’s attention to detail in his lyrics is second to none and his beat-making abilities are swiftly catching up. Reloaded is a modern throwback album for those that still appreciate gritty beats and rhymes.
3. Blu & Exile – Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them
While not quite on the level of their first album Below the Heavens, Blu & Exile’s second album, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them was one of the best albums of 2012. Exile’s production is still grossly overrated five years after dropping a classic. Blu is still one of the most slept-on emcees in the game. The chemistry of Blu and Exile produced a beautiful listen that won’t be fully appreciated until years to come.
2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, M.A.A.D. city
Sophomore albums are typically disastrous but Compton, California emcee Kendrick Lamar destroyed that idea with his second album good kid, M.A.A.D. city. The album is an exciting look into the life of a young Kendrick Lamar. good kid, M.A.A.D. city is honest and sonically soothing. Kendrick strayed away from the norm and actually released an album, not just a collection of songs. GKMC is a much-needed shot in the arm for the culture that will inspire a new generation of Hip-Hoppers.
1. Nas – Life is Good
In 2012 Nas returned with his first solo album in five years, Life is Good. Life is Good is an album that details Nas’ well-publicized divorce with singer Kelis. The title also serves as a mantra for Nas and the listener to remind us that despite lifes’ troubles things can always be worse. Songs like ‘The Don’ reminded fans that Nas still goes for his on the mic, while ‘Daughters’ gave listeners a peek into the life of Nasir Jones, the 39-year old father of two. With production handled by No I.D. and Salaam Remi, Nas created what was probably his best album since Illmatic. Life is Good is definitely the best Hip-Hop album of 2012.