It’s been a crazy good and competitive year for hip-hop, so settling on five of the best LPs of 2012 wasn’t easy. With all due respect to Rick Ross, D-Sisive, Muneshine, Miles Jones, P.O.S., the Coup, Public Enemy, Wu Block and the G.O.O.D. Music crew for putting out great records this year, here are five of the most essential releases you need to hear.
1. R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike
He’s been in the game for over a decade, showing up on key Outkast records and cultivating a solid catalogue of his own. But with his new production partner El-P, Hotlanta's Killer Mike has hit a whole new zone for his razor sharp rhymes and narratives. A forceful, charismatic MC with a political bent and infectious energy, Killer Mike just destroys on R.A.P. Music.
2. good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar
The most highly anticipated hip-hop LP of the year didn’t disappoint, as Kendrick Lamar’s trippy rhymes, hook-y catchphrases and dynamic flow may come to define 2012. With his Dr. Dre co-sign and the weight of his Compton cred (see the blustery lament of “The Art of Peer Pressure”), Lamar clearly thrives under hot lights and he conveys a unique joy in delivering the goods here.
3. Awe Naturale by THEESatisfaction
This Seattle group flew under the radar, but when Awe Naturale hit, it seemed like the most refreshing hip-hop/R&B hybrid in years. Airy and into some mystical hippy vibe, these ladies go beyond their Shabazz Palaces association for something all together their own and inspiring.
4. Hope in Dirt City by Cadence Weapon
Years in the making, Hope in Dirt City lives up to its clever name. Edmonton’s former poet laureate is rising out of some deep emotional muck here, and we hear the transition from bleak to bold. The soundtracks are bouncy and upbeat when Cadence Weapon goes in to silence haters but, when he takes it down for more confessional pieces, the adventurous arrangements get notably dark. Of note, check out Buck 65’s surreal feature on “(You Can’t Stop) The Machine” to win backstage passes to the international air show.
TMListen to a song sampling from Hope in Dirt City.
5. 12 bit Blues by Kid Koala
Montreal’s ingenious turntablist continues to give himself creative parameters and then challenge the heck out of them. Kid Koala describes this as a road record, a travelogue of his time away from home and there’s something about the weariness of the blues that works well within his particular hip-hop filter. He’s tasteful about pushing and pulling the emotions of his source material and brings the blues tradition into the 21st century with smarty-pants reverence.
12bitListen to a song sampling from 12 bit Blues.
Allow me to reintroduce myself: Killer Mike
Q&A: Kendrick Lamar
Real talk: Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces
5 for 20: Cadence Weapon
Stream Kid Koala’s 12 bit Blues, read a track-by-track breakdown
on Dec 17, 2012