Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kannon's Top 20 Hip Hop Albums Of 2012


IT'S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR AGAIN. For the Milk Crate's top 20 Hip Hop albums of 2012. And don't worry, if you disagree with what I choose, I hate you too. So it's all good. ENJOY!

20. Wiz Khalifa - Taylor Allderdice
It was always interesting to me that the tape that made everyone start jumping on the Wiz Khalifa bandwagon (Kush & OJ) is the exact point I started to fall away. This is easily my favorite Khalifa project since Burn After Rolling.

19. Mac Miller - Macadelic
Mac Miller's career reminds me a lot of Asher Roth's. He drops a cool mixtape to garner some recognition (Greenhouse Effect / K.I.D.S.). Gets pigeon holed. Drops a subpar debut album (Asleep In The Bread Aisle / Blue Slide Park). And then puts out an amazing mixtape a few years later (Pabst & Jazz / Macadelic). There is no question that this is Mac's best, most cohesive body of work to date. And He may be making a non ironic fan out of me.

18. Game - Jesus Piece
Admittedly, I havent been a huge fan of Game over the years, but this album is hands down my favorite of his. It may be due to the amount of guest features, which almost makes this album feel like a compilation of random artist and Game just happens to be featured on every song. But either way, Game improved his beat selection, stopped name dropping, and stepped his content up. I've given this album a handful of spins already, and plan on doing so more.

17. Casey Veggies - Customized Greatly 3
Casey Veggies is improving with each project he drops. Flow, delivery, lyrics, beat selection, it all came together on this tape. "Roses" has become one of my favorite songs of this year, plus I got to chop & screw it for the CLAV9 tape. Dope mixtape from front to back, and I look forward to Mr. Veggies only getting better.

16. Fly.Union - Zenith
While this tape only had 10 songs on it, there was not a bad one in the bunch. Iye and Swiffa provide some awesome soundscapes, and combined with Jerreau, the three of them make great raps over the beats. I know that's not eloquently put together, and I dont care. It's just an awesome body of work, and if you haven't heard it yet, go get it, cause it's free.

15. T.I. - Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head
Tip returns to his roots with this one. And by "his roots," I mean, his King roots. It's a little bit commercial where it needs to be (Guns & Roses), but overall, its full of some great story telling, and that street grit that only T.I. can provide. No shitty pop songs featuring Rihanna that make me want to murder myself, either. And it's undeniable that T.I. should be one of the only rappers still allowed to use the word swagger.

14. Big K.R.I.T. - 4Eva Na Day
Arguably better than Krit's actual debut album, but I dont know anyone that would argue it. This was more of what we loved about Krit. That southern style, laid back beats, smooth flow, and none of this "WHAT YOU MEAN YOU AINT NASTY?" garbage that came included on his debut. I dont know who dropped the ball on Live From The Underground, but it just didn't hold up against this tape.

13. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
Admittedly, I showed up late to this party. Like, really late. Like, I listened to this album for the first time 2 days ago. Then I listened to it again yesterday. And it moved up a couple more spots each time I looked over my list. Yes, some of El-P's beats are weird, but somehow Killer Mike just makes it work. Not only that, but his rugged style actually kind of shines over this production. I know a lot of people had talked about this album throughout the year, and the only thing I can say about it is that I wish I'd listened to it earlier.

12. Wale - Folarin
I wanted to wait until I listened to this tape before putting the finishing touches on my list. And like Asher Roth's Pabst & Jazz last year, it was a down to the wire entry that simply couldn't be left off my list. I actually really like the direction Wale has gone since joining up with MMG, and he continues to impress me with his latest offering.

11. Joey Badass - 1999
This time last year, I didn't know who Joey Bada$$ was. This time this year, he's got one of my favorite albums of the year. It's rare someone can do that out the gate. But Joey Bada$$ is a rare individual. His style is beyond his years, his content is street savvy, soulful and still relatable. This is one of those albums that you put on and just let play from front to back. And with a all of his original production coming from in house, I can only imagine big things for his Pro Era crew. Unless they turn out like the ASAP Mob. But that doesn't take away from Joey.

10. Cafeteria Line - HNGRY
Last year, TiRon and Ayomari had my sleeper album of the year. These kids are incredibly underrated and incredibly talented. This year, they teamed up with the rest of their crew for a compilation album that was amazing all the way through. While some songs definitely stuck out to me more than others, I dont think I wouldn't listen to any of the songs on the album. Which I can't say for the GOOD Music compilation. A well rounded crew of emcees, singers, producers and more, I only see this creative collective getting better with time. And hopefully more people will start to notice.

09. Big Boi - Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors
Another last minute pleasant surprise. I liked Big Boi's last solo album, but I love this one. He's always had an experimental style with Outkast, and seeing him finally kind of explore that on his solo record was amazing. I feel like his last album was supposed to be a "Hip Hop album," and this is more the album that he's always wanted to make. It has funk, soul, rock and jazz influences littered through the album, and most of the features are from bands and singers. And in my opinion, against that live funk sound, is when Big Boi is most in his element. And who doesn't smile like an idiot during "She Said Ok"????

08. Schoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions
While I do recognize the talent from Schoolboy Q, his album last year just didn't hold up for me, and ultimately landed him the 21 position on my 2011 list, which resulted in no recognition haha. But this year, I went back a couple times during the year, and re-listened to Habits & Contradictions, and he's smoothed some of those problems out this go-around. And while I wasn't super into "Hands On The Wheel" like everyone else seemed to be, "There He Go" is one of my favorite songs of the year. I look forward to Q only getting better as he finds his style and niche a little more.

07. Rick Ross - God Forgives, I Don't
Rick Ross is one of those guys that everyone loves to hate. But really, most of your favorite rappers lie, Ross just got caught. That said, I honestly think that Rozay has only gotten better since his correctional past was outed. His last three or four projects have all been pretty above par. And while a lot of people would put his mixtape, "Rich Forever," above this one, I can't do it. This one has "Sixteen." This one has "Presidential." This one has "Diced Pineapples." This one has "So Sophisticated." And while Stalley is starting to lose me, I even really like "Ten Jesus Pieces." This was my go-to work out music for a good chunk of the year. And even now, where I have a little playlist put together, at least 6 songs from this album are on it. It just gets me PUMPED UP. ROZAY!

06. Ski Beatz - Twilight
This is one of those albums that you listen to all day every day for the first month that you have it. Ski Beatz re-captured something inside of himself for this album, because both of his first two 24 Hour Karate School projects were kinda meh, and this joint really blew me away. Maybe it was the lyricists featured throughout the project, Maybe Ski just found that spark that makes him great. Maybe it was a little of both. Probably both. But I can't even tell you how hard it was to only select one song from this album when I was selecting tracks for CLAV9. I wanted to just blend this album and put it out as CLAV9.

05. AEli - Reminiscing With Wine
First off, it's pronounced "Ay-EE-Lie." Like, "Ay Eli, lemme get a verse!" Which is exactly how he described it to me over twitter when I asked him how to pronounce his name haha. Second off, you probably don't know AEli. And that's fair. He's not big. He isn't gonna be on XXL's freshmen list next year, and he won't have a guest verse on Cruel Winter. I found him on Tumblr. And while that seems like nothing, he does have a pretty solid base of fans in the California (more specifically, LA) area. I toyed with the idea of leaving him off this list simply because he sings and raps, but if Drake can be on a hip hop list, so can he. And simply put, there are few albums this year that I listened to more. His beats are inventive (he produces), his voice is strangely haunting (he sings), and his verses are sharp and witty (he also raps). And in this DIY era, his album can't be overlooked for lack of promotion. It's one of my favorites, hands down.

04. Ab-Soul - Control System
Ab-Soul's latest body of work simply holds up. That's the best way for me to describe it. I can listen to it now, and it's just as good as it was the first time though. And Ab-Soul is another one who's impressed me in the past, but really just got it right on this album. From the beats, to the content, to polishing his delivery, it all just came together in this stellar body of work. And as the Top Dawg Under Dog, he consistently holds his own on tracks with Kendrick, Q and Rock, and this year even worked with Talib Kweli, Colin Munroe, Joe Budden, Twista and many more. He's quickly stepping out of the TDE shadows and getting himself some recognition as an incredible talent.

03. Oddisee - People Hear What They See
There are few times when I listen to an album for the first time, and my immediate reaction is, "This is the album of the year. I don't care that it's barely June, this is the album of the year." And coming off one of the best, most inventive EP's that Ive heard in a long time (Odd Renditions Vol. 1), Oddisee has re-won me over this year. I fell in love with Oddisee's production back in like 2003-4 when he was working with Half Tooth Records, but I hadn't heard a full album from him yet that really moved me. So, I kinda stopped watching for him. And this album changed all of that. I dont know if he just needed some time to make it right, but as this was his official, "debut" album, he did it right. Simply amazing.

02. Ro Ransom - Ransomnia
While I knew this was going to be pretty high up on my list this year, I'd forgotten how much I like it. As I was preparing to compile this list, I narrowed down about 40 albums and went back skimming through them for little reminders of which albums I considered to be great. And this album has crept back into regular rotation for me. Ro Ransom used to record under the name Nero (before that weird electro/dubstep group got popular), and while I did enjoy his earlier work, it still seemed a bit immature. He was, I believe 16 or something when his first tape came out. At only 19 now, he has already grown leaps and bounds. And I dare anyone to listen to this album only once. Not a bad song on it.

01. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid m.A.A.d City
As much as I didn't want to be "that guy" who puts Good Kid Maad City at number one, I just wouldnt have felt right not doing it. It was definitely my favorite album of the year. And I think a big part of that was just that Kendrick has been one of a few new emcees to build hype around his debut album, and exceed expectations. I had no idea that this was going to be a concept album (although the "short film" thing should have tipped me off), and not once did I get bored or feel anything was forced. One big argument I have heard about this was that while it was a great album, there aren't really any "singles" from it. Which just seems silly to me. Because I can genuinely enjoy bumping "Real," or "Money Trees" by themselves, just as much as I enjoy the album as a whole. And if we're being honest, this list is about Albums. And this is the best, most complete, cohesive hip hop album we've had in many years. And it would simply be a disservice to myself and to the hip hop community to not recognize it for what it is. An incredible, honest, gritty, number one album.

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetically):
Childish Gambino - Royalty
Curren$y - The Stoned Immaculate
Dom Kennedy - Yellow Album
Emilio Rojas - Breaking Point
G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Summer
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
Meek Mill - Dream Chasers 2
Nas - Life Is Good
Substantial - Home Is Where The Art Is
XV - Popular Culture

Kannon's Top 10 Non Hip Hop Albums of 2012:
01. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
02. Chet Faker - Thinking In Textures
03. Colin Munroe - Unsung Hero
04. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
05. ZZ Ward - Til The Casket Drops
06. Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio
07. Peter Anthony Red - The Projectionist
08. The XX - Coexist
09. Céu - Caravana Sereia Bloom
10. Sonnymoon - Sonnymoon

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