Catchiest damn hip-hop song of 2012: MaLLy & The Sundance Kid "Shine" from The Last Great….
Another year over, a new begun - well almost - so it is time to look back at 2012 in hip-hop, which in my opinion has been a really incredible year especially in terms of indie releases. I will focus primarily on indie releases in this first of a two-part hip-hop 2012 retrospective. Indeed 2012 was a great year for the genre with a wide and rich variety of hip-hop being made by artists from all over, including some incredibly well-made videos - all done on tight budgets. Year-end lists are by their very nature subjective and this one is certainly no exception. Like all year end "best of" lists, it is wide open to change and alterations (additions or deletions) at a moment's notice. Odds are I wont even agree with my own picks this time next month since my tastes are constantly changing and since there is just so much good music that I am constantly catching up on.
However with that said if I had to pick one hip-hop song based on pure catchiness of both production and lyrics, a song that grabs me as much today as when I first heard it eight months ago, it would be MaLLy & The Sundance Kid's "Shine" (video above) from their 2012 album The Last Great….
Below are more of my favorite things in hip-hop from the past year - all subjective since it is one person's opinion based on what I heard (and I only heard a fraction of everything coming out with so much music out there these days) and focusing more on songs (and ones with videos) than on albums, and on specific individual achievements artists might have made over the year. Of course I will exclude tons of great stuff but I am including a lot of good, in my opinion. Thanks for checking it out and please submit your favorite hip-hop items of 2012 in the comments box below. And check back in a couple of weeks for Part Two in the Amoeba Best of 2012 series which will include more of the commercially popular releases.
Open Mike Eagle "Your Back Pack Past (feat. Has-Lo)" from 4NML HSPTL
Wiley "Evolve Or Be Extinct"
Killer Mike "Reagan"
Aesop Rock "Zero Dark Thirty"
Saigon "Blown Away"
Most deserving to be commercially large but somehow isn't yet is BK emcee Saigon who drops another great release for the second year in a row. The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses on Suburban Noize. Saigon has the sound - both vocally and production wise - that is commercial radio ready but perhaps it is because he can be too political at times in his music, like in "Blown Away" above, that he has not yet locked in that level of the game yet.
Jasiri X "Trayvon"
Best politically charged song/video to summarize what the general consensus was the Trayvon Martin case was Jasiri X's speedily recorded and released song/video in direct response to the early 2012 shooting incident in Florida that caught the attention of the nation. The ever political Jasiri X has a strong track record of jumping on hot topics like the Trayvon case and articulating what many are feeling.
JJ Doom "Guv'Nor"
Best DOOM related release. MF DOOM is the hip-hop gift that keeps on giving, year after year - for decades now and 2012 saw the release of JJ Doom's Keys To The Kuffs on Lex Records. JJ Doom is the collaboration of DOOM and Jneiro Jarel and they delivered a great album in 2012 with tracks like "GuvNor."
Kid Koala "8 Bit Blues"
Best concept album expertly executed of the year was by turntablist/producer extraordinaire Kid Koala whose deconstructed, scratch masterpiece 12 Bit Blues on Ninja Tune came in two versions (LP and CD) and featured such tracks as "8 Bit Blues." Incredible, as was the Canadian artist's accompanying tour's live show.
El-P "The Full Retard"
Best album for helping raise awareness of cancer in a year when it mattered was emcee/producer El-P's stellar 2012 release on Fat Possum (his own Def Jux label is on permanent hiatus) Cancer 4 Cure which was dedicated to his pal/former collaborator Camu Tao who died from cancer. The album came out in a year when hip-hop lost MCA of the Beastie Boys to cancer.
Casual (ft. Del The Funky Homosapien + J Rawls) "Respect Game Or Expect Flames"
Bay Area hip-hop collective to have the best year in 2012 was the long-running Hieroglyphics collective whose numerous releases by members in 2012 included Casual's collaboration with J-Rawls Respect Game or Expect Flames on Nature Sounds / Fat Beats that included the title track single above with a cameo from fellow Hiero Del the Funky Homosapien. 2012 was also the year that the emcees' collective launched the first Hiero Day festival in downtown Oakland on Labor Day.