Published on December 17th, 2012 | by joseph goral1
The Best Albums I Didn’t Review In 2012
By Joseph Goral
There’s a shitload of music that comes out every year. A shitload is probably an understatement, a fuckton is more like it. With a fuckton of other stuff going on in my life, I barely have time to listen to music let alone write a coherent and intelligent review on it. Rather than do a list of what I thought was the best music in 2012, I wanted to take some time to provide a brief synopsis of some albums I listened to quite a bit but just didn’t have an opportunity to speak on. With that being said, I’m also gonna give my opinion on what was the best hip-hop album of 2012 and why anything else sucks in comparison.
El-P - Cancer4Cure
I’m a holy fuck what did he just utter marksman. In one bar, El-P sums up his entire career and why he’s constantly lauded as an innovator in a mostly stagnant culture. Cancer4Cure is ridiculously awesome. The album is not only a maturing of El’s style, but a landmark in a music career that has pushed the boundaries of what is considered to be hip-hop. The album is paranoid, eerie, introspective and fucking fun to listen to all at the same time. From the jump, he pulls no punches as far as production or lyricism. What’s really ill about this album is rather than work in a completely different direction as many artists often do, El lulls the listener into a false sense of security with familiar sounding tracks only to skullfuck what you thought you were gonna hear with well crafted, personally blistering rhymes. Topics range from occasional heroin abuse to letting his neighbor know he’s okay with it if she wants to murder her spouse. $4 Vic/ FTL has to be one of my favorite tracks of his ever. It seamlessly transitions from a eulogy for his deceased best friend (RIP Camu Tao) to an Orwellian love song. Slick. Line of the year goes to Danny Brown with the quotable I’m Ric Flair with thick hair, yellin’ out woo gettin’ head in a director’s chair. Check out the video for The Full Retard and have a few laughs and pump this shit like they do in the future.
Sean Price – Mic Tyson
Sean P went for the motherfuckin’ throat on this one. Who am I kidding? Sean P always goes for the throat. There isn’t a single track on this entire album that is soft in any way shape or form. If you haven’t heard Sean Price before, check out Monkey Bars, which is widely regarded as one of the best hip-hop albums since your parents were prepping for Y2K. From the get, it’s the kind of grimy, gutter rap that makes Michael Vic look like Sarah McLaughlin in comparison. I could do a track by track breakdown of this but each track is just straight body bag shit. A guest appearance from Rock (of Heltah Skeltah) would have made the album fully complete in my opinion but he’s got Rustee Juxx on there so that’s close enough. The album has production credits from motherfucking heavyweights like Alchemist, Evidence, Babu and 9th Wonder plus one helluvan awesome guest spot from Pharoahe Monch. It’s rap before rap became bullshit.
Gangrene – Vodka & Ayahuasca
Alchemist was on a roll this year and this is really what started it off. Unless it was an album fully produced by El-P, chances are there was a banger of an Alchemist beat on that motherfucker that made you nod your head so hard your brain popped out your forehead. Usually it’s kinda corny (Read: hella corny.) when producers try to rap. Remember Puffy in his shiny suits? Yeah, that kind of corny. Alchemist and OHNO are both production heavyweights in their own right and actually can rap. I would tend to think that at least a few of the rhymes were ghostwritten though, but who cares? Overall, it’s a solid listen for the production value alone. Plus, the video for the single is ill as fuck. Check that shit out by clicking here and look for the cameo appearance from Ill Proscuitto himself, Action Bronson.
Action Bronson – Rare Chandeliers
Speaking of Ill Prosciutto, Bronson ended 2012 right with this one. Fully produced by Alchemist (Told you dude was everywhere this year!), this effort is my favorite of his releases. The rhymes are well crafted and the production is perfect for Bronsalino, whose style is impeccable when paired with the right beats. This one is reminiscent of his collab with Statik Selectah from last year and washes away any doubts that he’s gonna be a great that his lackluster mixtape Blue Chips may have impressed. It’s full of everything you would come to expect from Action and no less. There are a few good guest features as well which definitely don’t detract in any way, shape or form. Sean P bodies the shit and pretty much steals the show from Big Twin or Bronson. With mad singles and videos that got a ton of attention, he cemented his place as not only an up and comer but an artist that can make classics with hella replay value. In fact, he stopped through Milwaukee to film a video with KHB’s Dana Coppafeel and Riff Raff. Check for the Uni-Fi van artwork from Rockford native Ryan Lape.
Aesop Rock – Skelethon
I don’t really have much to say about this album. Any time someone would ask me what I thought of it, all I could say was Well, it’s an Aesop Rock album, that’s for sure. It’s good but in all honesty there really hasn’t been much growth on Aesop’s part from his previous releases. Other than to make a very stark change in his delivery or style, there isn’t much ol’ Aes Rizzle can do to grow as an artist. He kinda pigeon holed himself into being the de facto weird rap king for life. Sure, the subject matter is dope, his word choice is unparalleled and of the delivery is ill but it’s no different than Bazooka Tooth stylistically. What’s different here is the lack of any guest appearances even from the apparent father of his style and long time collaborator El-P. Even though this has been steady rotation for months now, I would argue that given the choice I’d much rather listen to Labor Days. Video-wise, the two singles from the album were brought to life pretty well. The video for ZZZ Top is kung-fu-fuck-yeah rad and the visuals for Zero Dark Thirty are art-fuck-fancy-pants awesome.
Kanye West Presents Cruel Summer
How much I actually enjoyed this album was a huge surprise to me. I’ve thought Kanye was an asshat since College Dropout but I’m pretty sure everyone else and their mother does too. Over the course of the last few years, he’s assembled a pretty ill roster of talented artists under his label GOOD Music. Pusha T is at least somewhere on my top ten, Cyhi is alright with it, Kanye is dope no matter how stupid he dresses, Big Sean’s above average and how can you not like R. Kelly? Dude micturated on an underage girl and women still throw their undergarments at him. Bodily fluids aside, this album is raw from start to finish and not even in an I only listen to commercial rap music when I’m driving around smoking weed kinda way. The addition of Ghostface to the album version of New God Flow turned that track from really ill to ridiculously dope. Plus, the remix for Chicago rapper and gang banger Cheef Keef’s Don’t Like goes like a motherfucker. Of course, Pusha kills it with that Ric Flair shit, Kanye defines lesbianism for us, Jadakiss describes a jean jacket in the most awkward way possible, then Big Sean raps and Keef does the same verse he did for the original. By far this was the best compilation album that came out this year. In comparison, MMG’s Self Made Vol. 2 is this album’s inbred cousin that wears a McDonald’s large French fry box for a hat and occasionally masturbates in public.
Nas – Life Is Good
Really, what can you say about one of the illest to do this rap shit ever? Great album, no need for me to say anything else to that effect. The lead single, Nasty was released in 2011 and gave me a pretty damn good idea of what to expect and it exceeded the hype. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to it like five times in a row then thank me and buy me a beer next time you see me in public.
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Speaking of living up to the hype, I really only gave this a couple of spins because this shit did not live up to the hype. This album was widely touted as being the next Illmatic and let’s face it, there isn’t gonna be a next Illmatic. Trust me, all rap fans want to hear something on par with Reasonable Doubt or Illmatic but it just ain’t gonna happen. It’s a lot like comparing Kobe or LeBron to Jordan. No matter how good they are, if you’re a Jordan fan, you don’t see them as equals. In 10 years, hip-hop heads might be saying that some record is gonna be the next Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City but only time will tell. The problem with comparing new shit to classics is that they just don’t ever live up to the hype. This is a great album but my personal opinion of it was hampered by the comparisons. Don’t get me wrong, Kendrick is slick with it. Swimming Pools is a good example of what to expect from this album. It’s ill but not that ill. The story telling on this album is close to on par with greats like Raekwon or Slick Rick. Production wise, this shit is hella nice and I mean hella nice. Content wise though, I think he kinda hurt his commercial appeal by doing a concept album but some asshat probably said the same thing about the content on Reasonable Doubt. I could be that same asshat in 10 years.
Minus The Bear – Infinity Overhead
What? Did you think I only listened to rap? Have you seen the beard I have on my face? It at least denotes that I’m some sort of hipster dipshit with a wide array of musical tastes. I’ve long been a fan of these dudes. We synced part of our wedding video to one of their songs. That being said, this isn’t their best album to date. When I first saw the video for Steel And Blood, I had high hopes for this record. The video itself was pretty well put together conceptually and the song is ill. This particular release of theirs does sound great though more commercial than previous efforts. While I think they achieve a more commercial appeal, this record isn’t as catchy as others of theirs. Maybe I just need to listen to this more but overall, it sounds like an attempt to get paid by using their music on some shitty teen drama. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Now, when my wife watches Gossip Girl or some other dumbshit TV program, I get to sometimes hear good music in the background and not want to whip my shoe at the TV as badly when Chuck Bass squintingly tries to seduce Blair one more time. Shame me in public next time you see me for knowing that much about Gossip Girl and admitting it. I’m sure we could even create a new genre for this type of music as it sounds like it belongs in the background right off the bat for these types of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this album but just didn’t feel that it lived up to its predecessors. They get bonus points for using the word caucophony in a song and not sounding like Cool Ethan.
A$AP Mob – Lords Never Worry
Last year A$AP Rocky was probably the most squawked about rapper to hit the scene. In what seems like an attempt to capitalize on that, his crew, A$AP Mob put together an album. While I’m a huge fan of Wu-Tang, Tribe, De La and rap groups in general due to the diversity in sound and content they provide, I am not a fan of the entire clique hopping on the back of one successful artist to put out some crap mixtape. Nelly did it with the St. Lunatics, Eminem tried to do it with D12 and so did almost everyone else who’s been a big solo artist in hip-hop. These albums usually suck, have one good track that you can listen to three times and then would rather never hear again in your entire fucking life. This album is kinda like that. When I first heard the collab track with Flatbush Zombies, I was hyped. Plus the track is called Bath Salts and that shit is hilarious to me. This gothic trap rap vibe that they portray is kinda cool in a kinda corny way. If you paint your fingernails black, don’t expect me to believe that you’re pushing bricks of coke. That shit does not go hand in hand. Overall, the album isn’t that bad but truth be told Bath Salts really is the only track I actually wanna hear when I put this shit on. A$AP Rocky gets hella bonus points for putting out this motherfuckin’ banger to start 2012 off right. Now if he’d just get his head out of his ass and squash the beef between him and Spaceghost Purrp, we’d hear more shit like this instead of shitty crew albums. Gamer nerds listen close for the bomb timer sound from Counterstrike.
POS – We Don’t Even Live Here
I’ve seen POS live a handful of times and always felt like his music translated so well from stage to speaker. This album starts off a lot less abrasive or exciting than I would expect. The first four tracks are sleepers for the most part. Fuck Your Stuff is catchy but not quite as hard as the title would lead you to believe. Maybe it’s meant to lampoon the materialism perpetuated by mainstream rap music while extolling his own DIY virtues and counter-cultural ethic. Sure, why not? By the fifth track, if you’re still listening that is, there’s a glimmer of that excitement that his previous releases had from front to back. From the middle of the album on, the momentum builds steadily. From track 4 on, it’s the the POS we’ve come to know and want to riot with. The introduction of blatantly synth-heavy production coupled with the staccato yet on point as a sharpened screwdriver flow that POS works so well is raw as fuck. The reference and rework of classic hip-hop lines is ever-present as with his previously releases. I do think the guest appearances could have been better picked. Busdriver hasn’t been relevant since 2003 when he was on the Tony Hawk’s Underground soundtrack. The album as a whole is a success and ends on a familiar yet softly anthemic note.
You can read my review of the album here. I’ve watched the video for Big Beast at least 20 times. At 10 minutes long, that’s roughly 2 1/2 hours of my life spent watching that shit. I’d call that time well wasted.
To be honest though, in 2012 there wasn’t a lot of greatness. Most artists put out status quo efforts that should have been taken back to the drawing board until they were ready. Maybe I expect too much as a longtime listener and participant of hip-hop culture or maybe I just have higher opinions of years past. However, I think this is the same mindset that people who make great rap records have. They consistently work toward not only a personal evolution of style but also toward contributing relevant, thought provoking and progressive material to hip-hop. There are garbage rappers out there that have no business making music. Would any one in their right mind say French Montana’s stupid ass is a great or even going to be? No way in hell. Dude’s a former video assistant turned coke rapper. Get the fuck out of here with that shit. Conversely, any one who would argue that there isn’t good rap music coming out these days has 1995′s dick stuck in their ear. Pusha T put out one of the realest verses in a long time and coupled it with the realest fucking music video I’ve seen since God knows when. Fucking A, Mystical leaked this track recently which pretty much shits on 95% of what I heard this year. Watch yourself indeed. The quality releases might be few and far in between, but 2013 promises a new R.A. The Rugged Man album and Mac Lethal is heading back into the studio as well. All in all, 2012 wasn’t all that bad: the world didn’t end, I have a son on the way, we made a lot of cupcakes and I painted some pretty rap sprays on some big walls.
Oh and this clusterfucking awesome roster of rappers including Juicy J, Jim Jones, Flatbush Zombies, El-P and Flosstradamus all hopped on A-Trak’s beat and went pork on that shit. Fuck a piss test is right. Way to close out 2012.