Hello everyone, welcome to the end of 2012. It’s been quite a great year for hip-hop music. A lot of new rappers coming, and others fading out, new trends, new relationships, new styles, etc. What really impressed me was how many rappers started moving away from the industry complex of labels and A&R’s. It shows that the indepedent label is making a huge rise in popularity, as well as power. Also, the new trend leads to a lot of really quality, thought out albums. The age of crumbling under the label’s power might finally be coming to an end, atleast from the sight of the Billboard charts. 5 albums specifically stood out from the crowd to me:
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid m.A.A.d City
It’s always refreshing to see new up-and-coming rappers come out of the gate hungry and ready to prove something. Names like A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Hopsin, Macklemore, and others all made large waves. One of the more technically gifted rising rappers dropped one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard in the past decade. Starting the list off is Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid m.A.A.d City.
What really impressed me was how cohesive and structured the album was from song to song. Kendrick makes the listener feel like they’re being led through Compton straight from his own eyes. Terrific storytelling as well as directed and conscious subject matter really put this album above the rest. Not to mention, his ability to combine complex rhyme schemes with a staggeringly precise flow makes for impressive listening.
Many critics and fans alike positively received the project. In fact, I went through a period where I had the album on repeat every day.
Mainly, I want rappers to follow suit of Kendrick and create their own lane in making a monumental concept album. The very idea of a “concept album” seems so rare these days.
Nas – Life is Good
As far as Hip-Hop goes, Nas is the poster child for how hard it can be to achieve a long and successful career after having your debut album become one of the most respected and critically acclaimed albums of all time. Illmatic became the measuring stick of what fans expected to hear from Nas. Though he has released a couple more solid albums throughout his career (It Was Written, Stillmatic, God’s Son, for example), the other five have not been received as well. Various things have been attributed to this lackluster performance, mostly from poor beat selection and inconsistency. In Life is Good, however, Nas has a return to form of what got him here in the first place: gritty intricate flow, vivid stories, and a hungry attitude. Posthumous music from Heavy D and Amy Winehouse add to the excitement of the project as well. Most importantly though, he has well-produced beats. Salaam Remi and No I.D.’s production on the album match perfectly with Nas’s sharp flow. Life is Good stands as the triumphant return of Nasty Nas.
Game – Jesus Piece
2012 served as a triumphant year for The Game. Jesus Piece was a very solid release, luckily overshadowing his mediocre release in 2011, The R.E.D. Album. This effort really shows that The Game may not be as famous and on top of his game as he once was, but is still capable of making a quality project. Of course, it also makes a big difference when you can get all the right features and find the right collection of head-banging beats.
The unfortunate thing about the album is that Game is mainly lacking in the majority of his lyrical performance on the album. A lot of the features have catchy lyrics, but not necessarily very well thought out or impressive verses. King Chip shines, as well as J. Cole. In fact, on the song “Pray”, I’d even claim that he has the best verse on the whole album.
One thing I noticed when I first listened to the album was how all of the beats really blended together with similar tempos and smooth samples. Game consistently used the same ideas on the majority of the songs as well, things such as “grey ghost” and “Christian Louis Vuitton shoes”. As obnoxious as that might sound, it actually helps bring the full picture of Game’s message together.
Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor 2
Lupe Fiasco is a great example of a rapper that returned to their original self after having a really unfortunate experience with a label forcing him to make an album he didn’t fully feel comfortable with (something that Wiz Khalifa went through as well). However, in 2012, he decided to prove all of the critics and fans wrong. He wanted to tell everyone that he had not gone pop, that he was the same guy who made huge waves in the rap game the first time Food and Liquor came around. Songs such as “Bitch Bad” really drives home what Lupe is good at: delivering messages that people can relate to and learn from, all while delivering it with intricate rhyme schemes and intelligent lyricism.
Songs such as “Lamborghini Angels” also showcase his lyrical ability, something that was not as present on Lasers. It’s great to see that Lupe is safely back in the game.
Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
It’s great to see that even without Outkast (currently) not performing, Big Boi is still dropping really high quality and entertaining material. He really outdid himself this time, bringing different genres of music together to create what he does best, innovative and original sounds. That’s what he brought to Outkast, and that’s what he continues to do in his solo career. After not hearing from him for quite some time, he impresses many.
I personally enjoyed the album tremendously because it helps usher in a new era of hip-hop. A lot of mainstream hip-hop has started to venture into other genres, such as EDM (electronic), and alternative rock. Big Boi goes for a more jazzy, big band sound that brings you back to a revitalized version of swing. Very interesting, and original to say the least. Especially when it comes to having a whole album focus around the idea.
All of these albums are very worth a purchase, and projects you can hear over and over. Look into past projects from all of these artists as well, especially if you’re not familiar with a couple. I think you’ll be very impressed.