After another fun filled year of Hip-Hop, which included more than its fair share of good tunes to stock our iPods and enough bad ones to saturate radio airwaves, the Hip-Hop team has compiled our Top 25 Hip Hop tracks of 2012. Similar to the formula for the Top 25 Dance Tracks of 2012, our list reflects song quality and influence, as well as the composite interests of the team. After much deliberation, we understand that not everyone will agree with each song on this list, including some of our own writers. Having said that, we think the final product sums up the year quite nicely with contributions from 2 Chainz, The Robert Glasper Experiment, Kendrick Lamar and everyone in between.
2012 was one hell of a year. Here are Metrojolt’s Top 25 Hip-Hop tracks of 2012, let us know what you think:
#25: I Wanna Sell Drugs- Joe Cool
99% of the people that see this probably have no idea who Joe Cool is, which makes it inherently problematic for him to have one of the best songs of the year. But that shouldn’t be the case, because in the music business, ironically, sometimes the least known up and comers of the game often have the most talent. More importantly, Joe Cool is dope and the song is brilliantly relatable, so just listen. More from Joe Cool coming soon.
#24: I Got This – Big K.R.I.T.
Hailing from the dirty south, Big K.R.I.T.’s lead single from Live from the Underground is a hard-hitting track announcing his recent blow up in the rap world. Though not the most lyrically endowed rapper, his confidence and southern steez help to make this song one of my favorites of the year. The main message here is he knows he’s good and nobody is going to stop him from achieving success. I hope he sticks by his word because this guy is one of the hottest in the game right now.
#23: Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (ft. Mos Def)
From the seminal album Black Radio, Mos Def (a.k.a Yasiin Bey) graces this seemingly effortless Robert Glasper Experiment track with classic Mos expressions. The tight percussion section and Mos’ signature voice make for a song you can just as easily have playing in the background to a sunny afternoon as you can sit down and listen to every bar. As the Brooklyn rhymer promises in the chorus: “You are rocking the fresh, you are rocking with Def, yes you are rocking with the best,” which is something you can trust to find on any track with these talented musicians behind it.
#22: Yuck – 2 Chainz ft (Lil Wayne)
2012 was Tauheed Epps year and he demonstrates exactly why on the first track of his debut album, Based On A T.R.U Story. 2 Chainz delivers with his punchline flow and even gets a Lil Wayne verse reminiscent of his tenure as word play champion and best contemporary rapper. 2 Chainz covers all the bases with his broad subject matter utilizing alternating flows to stress his claims to fame, fortune, and swag that is all his own.
#21: Can’t Hide It- Sir Michael Rocks (ft. Rockie Fresh)
Sir Michael Rocks has made a case for breakout artist of 2012 and Rockie Fresh might make a similar case in 2013. The two Chicago Emcee’s take a pulsating beat out for a test drive and deliver a spectacular performance with quotable bars from both artists. This is a prime example of Rocks dispelling the “swag” that we and rap haters alike look for him and the rest of Jetlife to continuously exhibit in the new year.
#20: Enter The Void – Joey bada$$ & Ab-Soul
With both of these artists dropping breakout tapes this year (1999 and Control System), you can already tell even before listening that be dope track. But I had no idea it would be this good. Released later in the year after both artists had begun to gain significant recognition, Soul and Joey show that they are here for the long run and are only getting better . As for chakras and all –seeing eyes, everything that needs to be explained is right here.
#19: Hands on the wHeel – ScHoolboy Q (Feat. A$AP Rocky)
With his debut album Habits & Contradictions, ScHoolboy set the tone for 2012 with ‘Hands on the wHeel’ as the album’s banger. Best Kept Secret kills the production on this beat flipping Lisse’s inde rock cover of ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ into a fiery hip-hop beat. On top of the outstanding production, ScHoolboy and A$AP trade bars with ease, flowing smoothly through their ode to the nights we don’t remember.
#18: Maybe One Day – Blu & Exile (Feat. Black Spade)
Off of Blu and Exiles sequel, Give Me my Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, ‘Maybe One Day’ (Also known as ‘She Said It’s OK’) stands out as a climactic moment from the album based off of its both emotional charge and Blu’s incredible lyricism. Blu’s flow sounds nicer on this than it has sounded in a while which sparks hope for a revival of the underappreciated poet in 2013.
#17: Naked Pictures – Vic Mensa & Thelonious Martin
Vic Mensa really came into his own in 2012, getting national recognition with the ridiculously talented Kids These Days. Scarily enough, Vic’s solo bars are just as strong as the verses he pens for KTD and ‘Naked Pictures’ is a perfect example of this. In it, he laces jazzy production from Thelonious Martin with vivid imagery and heartfelt lyrics that beautifully display his quick wordsmanship. As an added bonus, he released an extremely artistic video, directed by his resident video man Austin Vessly, that brings his music to life.
#16: Chandelier – Curren$y
I have heard people try to argue that Curren$y had an off year this year. This is 100% false. Curren$y was just as consistent as ever, and ‘Chandelier’ is a testament to that. He flips Tone P’s solid production into something intensely personal and genuine, spitting “real life situations…just [taken] from looking through [his] phone” about some of the women in his life. On top of the great song, the video is solid, making it definitely one of the best in his discography.
#15: Survival Tactics – Joey Bada$$ & Capital Steez
This 17-year old Pro Era rapper is a young badass with an old soul, and tackles the first verse of ‘Survival Tactics’ with an aggressive, tight, and confident flow. Capital Steez takes the second verse, cleverly spitting lines like “Everybody claim they used to rap/ But these ain’t even punchlines no more, I’m abusing tracks/ Leaving instrumentals blue and black.” This song, a skillful showcase of two young rappers’ hip hop survival skills, put Pro Era on everyone’s To Watch List. Tragically, Capital Steez’s recent death at 19 years old leaves us without the chance to see the young rapper grow into his limitless potential; hopefully, Joey Bada$$ will seize his opportunity and live for the memory of his old friend, blessing us with a new brand of rap for years to come.
#14: All Gold Everything – Trinidad james
I’ll keep it simple, ‘All Gold Everything’ slaps. It’s a great party song of 2012, and definitely worthy of a spot on this list. Beyond that, “Pop a molly, I’m sweatin’, Woo!” has caught on like wildfire, ask Lebron.
#13: Stay- Nas
Nas’ Life is Good was one of, if not my favorite album of 2012 because with it, we get to see one of the greatest lyricists of all time get more personal and introspective than we’ve ever seen. ‘Stay’, along with ‘Daughters’, ‘Bye Baby’’, and ‘Roses’ offer Nas in all of his rap godliess at his most vulnerable. What particularly sets ‘Stay’ apart is the jazzy horn, which was used before during Kanye’s G.o.o.d Friday series on Cyhi Da Prynce’s ‘Whoop De Doo’. It was No ID’s collaboration with Kanye that brought that sample to light back then, so its fitting that No ID would bring it back on ‘Stay’ and give it to Nas who absolutely kills it.
#12: Terrorist Threats – Ab-Soul (ft. Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko)
From his debut solo album, Soul Brother #2, and member of TDE, delivers this heavy track communicating the mires of living in America as an African-American male. Get your dictionaries out for this one because the proclaimed “Human Dictionary” lives up to his name. Also prepare for a brief history lesson about ancient Sumerian and Babylonian culture (don’t worry, there won’t be a test at the end).
#11: Same Love — Macklemore
Another important song for Hip Hop this year is ‘Same Love’, which gives you music with a real, pertinent message. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis leant their voice to a cause for this track, advocating for same-sex marriage rights. A heartfelt tribute to loved ones in the LGBTQ community, ‘Same Love’ reminds us of what activism via hip-hop can look like. Peep the video and review here.
#10: My Type of Party – Dom Kennedy
Now for many of us West coasters (not to mention Dom Kennedy fans worldwide), The Yellow Album was on full blast at house parties for the entire summer. ‘My Type of Party’ is one of the reasons for Dom’s summer takeover: it showcases his vibed-out, minimalist flow over some very mood-specific production that fit perfectly in the background of many blurry summer nights.
#9: The Book Of Soul – Ab Soul
A beautiful and heartbreaking ode to Black Hippy member Ab-Soul’s longtime girlfriend Alori Joh, who recently passed away. Over a smooth and jazz-influenced production from Tommy Black, Ab-Soul raps about personal drive, adversity, love, faith, death, and grief with unparalleled lyricism. His final, poignant bars: “Don’t be dethroned by these systems of control/ Just keep your fingers crossed and get them locks off your soul.” A five minute long uncensored glimpse into the heart and soul of Ab-Soul; the greatest track of an already incredible album, Control System.
#8 Gold Alpinas – Dom Kennedy (Ft. Rick Ross)
Although Ricky Rozay’s attempt to establish a West Coast presence on MMG with the courting of Dom Kennedy and Nipsey Hu$$le was unsuccessful, it did lead to some really nice tracks (check ‘Fountain of Youth’). Gold Alpinas is a perfect example of this, with his Bossness lending a solid 16 to Dom’s anthem to his Beamer. Dom did what Dom does on this one, using as few words as possible to illustrate a complete and well-defined idea. Hopefully we’ll get at least one more collaboration from these two in 2013.
#7 Cartoons & Cereal – Kendrick Lamar Feat. Gunplay
One of the biggest mysteries of 2012 is why Kendrick decided to leave this track out of good kid, m.A.A.d. city because I think it meshes so well with the rest of the album. ‘Cartoons & Cereal’ was huge for Kendrick because set the stage for the album and hyped everyone’s expectations for it. ‘Cartoons & Cereal’ paints a haunting ode to his childhood of Looney Toons and Fruity Pebbles. He gives us two fantastic verses, almost cinematic in nature, that take shots at all the haters, while simultaneously letting the listener into the his backstory. As dope as Kendrick is on this song, he is nearly outshined by a career defining verse from Gunplay, who drops all inhibitions and lets his emotions pour out.
#6: Bitch, Dont Kill My Vibe -Kendrick Lamar
Considering the parameters of this list I think ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ perfectly encapsulates a lot of what Kendrick has brought to the hip-hop scene this year. It is impossible for just one song to summarize Kendrick’s talent but it is this track that tends to leave people speechless after listening to his 2012 classic.
#5: Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst – Kendrick Lamar
One of the most moving songs from Kendrick’s masterful album good kid m.A.A.d city, ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst’ takes on two personal stories wrapped up in the cycle of senseless violence and crime that gives Compton its heartbeat. The song tackles the “thirst”, the never-ending rhythm of vices that define Kendrick’s everyday life in Compton, and his desire to give Dave and Keisha (the perspectives from which he sings in his first two verses) the musical memorial and remembrance they deserve. “The truth will set you free, so to me be completely honest/ You dying of thirst/ You dying of thirst/ So hop in that water, and pray that it works.”
#4: My Homie – Schoolboy Q
As you may or may not know, Q was a Figg Street Crip before he was incarcerated for murder some odd years back. Now if going to jail for murder doesn’t sound bad enough, imagine having to look your best friend from childhood in the eyes as he snitches on you in court. Ain’t that some shit. This is a song about loyalty, friendship, and questioning those who you once trusted. This album is honestly one of the most slept on, lyrical, imaginative, and real albums of the year. The production is off the hook, the content is consistent, and the lyrics are simple enough yet speak to so many different levels. If you haven’t yet, you gotta check this joint out.
#3: Bible On The Dash – Gunplay
It is often said that life imitates art and this is never more apparent than with Gunplay’s banger off of Rick Ross’ Black Bar Mitzvah mixtape. ‘Bible On the Dash’ depicts exactly the lifestyle that lead rapper Gunplay to threaten his accountant and rob him of his chain on camera but simultaneously one that allows him to spazz out on this standout track. Gunplay revels in his troubled past and prays for his cloudy future with this insightful track about living life on the edge.
#2: Dom Kennedy ft. Kendrick Lamar – We Ball
Strategically speaking, is it wise to play your best card first or last? Dom Kennedy decided the best defense was an unstoppable offense, and let Kendrick Lamar break the sound barrier on the second track of his breakout tape, The Yellow Album. After Dom opens up levy on the first verse, Kendrick shows everyone why he was the rapper of the year in 2012. Kendrick plays jump rope with the track, tossing words back and forth until he has everyone giggin with the emphatic, “ya bitch fixing her makeup in my rims nigga!” The West is back and Dom and Kendrick are ambassadors for the best coast on this harrowing track.
#1: Schoolboy Q (Ft. Kendrick Lamar) – Blessed
Whether it’s the raw emotion of the lyrics, the profound simplicity behind the message, or the way the sample suspends time for just a moment before the bass and drums kick into another gear, simply put, this song is fuckin beautiful. We all know that Q hasn’t lived the most privileged life growing up, nor was it the easiest or most fun, but when he looks around at the rest of the world, he can see that he is still truly ‘Blessed’. There’s no objective metric to place it squarely above the rest, and I don’t know if Q and Kendrick are capable of reaching perfection, but this song right here comes about as close as it gets.