2012 Year End Best Of Hip-Hop: Part One

Posted by Billyjam, December 17, 2012 11:00pm | Post a Comment
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.

Homeboy Sandman "Illuminati"
Most prolific and consistently high quality hip-hop recording artist of 2012 was Homeboy Sandman who unleashed hip-hop gems like "Illuminati" which was on First Of A Living Breed - one of three (count em) releases that he dropped on Stones Throw in 2012. As well as the album he dropped the two album quality EPs Subject Matter and Chimera.  And check out the Amoeblog interview with Homeboy Sandman published a couple of months ago.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis "Same Love (feat. Mary Lambert)" 
Best pride anthem hip hop song/video by non gay hip-hop artist: Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" featuring guest vocals by Mary Lambert won accolades all over including from Ellen DeGeneres for its bold support of gay marriage.  The song is one of several viral video hits (the more fun humorous "Thrift Shop" is even more popular) for the Seattle duo who had an incredible year in 2012 with the success of their album The Heist which features "Same Love" and a grip of other musically diverse tracks


Open Mike Eagle "Your Back Pack Past (feat. Has-Lo)" from 4NML HSPTL
Best consistently innovative indie LA emcee is Chicago transplant and member of Project Blowed Open Mike Eagle who gives hope to the genre with tracks like "Your Back Pack Past" produced by Awkward and featuring Has-Lo that is found on the artist - releasing music for eight years - on his Fake Four Inc. album 4nml Hsptl.

Lushlife "Magnolia"
Best equally skilled rapper/producer is Philly hip-hop talent Lushlife whose 2012 album Plateau Vision on Western Vinyl Records (a label that typically doesn't release hip-hop) features great tracks like "Big Sur" and "Magnolia" (above). I caught the artist in concert this year too when he was equally impressive as instrumentalist and emcee. Of course El-P also wins in this category but Lushlife gets props since he is newer to the scene.

  Karriem Riggins "Summer Madness"
Best producer/instrumentalist is Karriem RIggins whose Alone Together on Stones Throw featured songs like "Summer Madness" above. The drummer/producer has worked with all types of artists but the drummer producer unleashed his solo Alone Together in 2012 to wide acclaim and drew comparisons to J-Dilla (who posthumously released another album in 2012, Rebirth Of Detroit). Other noteworthy instrumental artists in 2012 included Elan, Computer Jay, and Dam Funk.

Wiley "Evolve Or Be Extinct"
Best high profile UK emcee to cross over to US audiences is rap/grime artist Wiley whose 2012 double album Evolve Or Be Extinct on Big Dada featured such tracks as the single "Scar" and the title track above.  There were lots more talented emcees out of the UK this year and also from neighboring Ireland where I spent a good bit of time in 2012 listening to such great Irish hip-hop artists as Lethal Dialect, Costello, and the UK born/ Irish based producer/DJ/emcee Moschops. 

Killer Mike "Reagan"
Best anti-Reagan song since the Reagan era was Killer Mike's "Reagan" (above) from his El-P produced 2012 album R.A.P. Music on Williams Street Music. It was thanks to El-P's production that I could fully appreciate for the first time Killer Mike who also joined El-P on tour in 2012 making lots of new fans along the way.  Note that the next video, immediately below, from Aesop Rock also includes a sample of former Republican President Reagan.

Aesop Rock "Zero Dark Thirty"

Best 2012 album worth the half a decade wait was Aesop Rock's pitch perfect Skelethon on Rhymesayers - which diehard fans patiently waited five years for and were most happy with the results. The album did (and needed to) include lyric sheets to help decipher Aesop Rock's ever intricate lyrics on songs like  "Zero Dark Thirty" (above).  Aesop Rock played a most memorable instore at Amoeba San Francisco back in July -  the day after their touring music gear got stolen.

 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. 

Relevant Tags

El-p (16), Lushlife (3), Best Of 2012 (31), Killer Mike (13), Saigon (2), Lethal Dialect (2), Moschops (3), Mally & Sundance Kid (1), El-p (16), Homeboy Sandman (41), Jj Doom (7)