20) Rustie: Essential Mix
- Rustie really came to the surface this year allowing his music to cross boundaries from dubstep to grime to hip-hop. Others have done it before him, but none sound this alive. Can't wait to hear his collaboration with Danny Brown in 2013.
19) Chromatics: Kill for Love
- Kill for Love is irregularly long for this kind of album, it is drawn out like a disco full of nerds sitting in the corner. Actually it's the perfect soundtrack for that.
18) Big K.R.I.T.: 4Eva N a Day
- K.R.I.T. is a very isolated rapper, rarely has features and his subject matter is never extravagant. The track Red Eye depicts the strain his career has on his relationship with his girlfriend. "I can't be what you want me to be/you shooting too high cuz you ain't aiming at me" he argues before unabashedly promising "but if you willing to try, then I'm willing to leap/outta the window of pain and fall in love with your feet". Insomnia has K.R.I.T. lying awake in bed, unable to sleep because of sexual desires for a girl claiming "you help me sleep". Then there is the epic closer The Alarm, reminding black males not to fall into the trap of materialism (seems to be his biggest theme). This isn't a perfect mixtape, but those three songs are definite highlights. Not a party record, my personal and should be listened to by yourself, preferably before bed.
17) Rick Ross: Rich Forever
- Trust Rick Rozay to make a mixtape that sounds like a million bucks, completely obliterating the chaos and raw sound that constitutes a tattered mixtape. Luxurious and powerful production with features by Diddy for crying out loud. It's his best yet and it's not even an actual album. Rick Ross gets a lot of criticism and I admit that some aspects I would join the bandwagon, however even though he raps about a completely false lifestyle and the topic is a constant hyperreality obsession with drugs and money, he has the flow and production team to back it up.
16) Beach House: Bloom
15) Jessie Ware: Devotion
- This is a smooth and soulful pop record, down-tempo and does exactly what it says on the tin. No wild gimmicks, its this type of record in the traditional sense. Jessie Ware has the album the way she has seemed to have wanted with no tampering of image manipulation.
14) Purity Ring: Shrines
- This album just has undeniable, thriving energy with belching beats that can't help but put a smile on your face.
13) Schoolboy Q: Habits and Contradictions
- I love the samples on this album, especially for There He Go!, which takes Menomena's Wet and Rusting, which reminded me that I even had that album. Schoolboy Q is part of Kendrick Lamar's crew, but certainly doesn't look like a fucking "black hippie" There is a harrowing line on Sacrilegious, an album opener if there ever was one. In response for cleansing himself of his sins he claims "but I done did some things I don't think I could ever wash away". Jesus!
12) Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory
- It's nice to hear an indie band not acting like a bunch of fucking puss-cake hippies, it gets tiresome and gay. Cloud Nothings screamed their lungs off, but in a coherent and accessible manner. They weren't French crooning their way through it, they dropped their balls and went all out. Nirvana would be proud.
11) Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream
- This fella right here must eat pussy and I commend him on it. Fair fucks to him for writing this material in 2012 and have men and women tapping their feet to it Where Frank Ocean offers more complex songwriting, Miguel keeps it basic, even though they do share the same vulnerable attributes. Realistically most RnB males these days are vulnerable except The-Dream or The Weeknd. Miguel pulls it off though because his songs aren't the recyclable hits that vomit themselves on dancefloors every month. Adorn is a giddy love hit that could be loved now or 1963. Candles in the Sun is a "we are the world" type song that is genuine and moving. Pussy is Mine is an example of vulnerability among men, who need a girl just so they can stand out.
10) Grimes: Visions
9) EL-P: Cancer for Cure
- EL-P still holds that futuristic sounding production, obviously still obsessed with Blade Runner. However this is probably his most easy listening album yet. You listening to this type of record when you are walking down the street and hate everything and everyone around you. It is cathartic for your bad moods. The aggressive ambiance matches his fascination with the toughness of New York. Also the track Hail No contains the best rap line of 2012 courtesy of Danny Brown: "I'm Rick Flair/with thick hair/yelling out wooohh, getting head in the director's chair".
8) Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city
- It was Kendrick Lamar's year, from a mainstream perspective anyway. He released this concept album, which is a very good one indeed. However, some have compared it to Illmatic...that's just blasphemy. Even if with time, this becomes a classic, people were comparing the two straight away. Kendrick is obviously very talented and has is own style, but his lyrical technique is just not in Nas' league. Standouts include Backseat Freestyle, m.A.A.d city, Swimming Pools and Sing About Me, I'm Dying from Thirst. After my first listen to this album one thing came to mind...Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973). Kendrick reminded me so much of the main character Charile, played by Harvey Keitel. This young man, who is living among killers, thieves, the gangster lifestyle and he is torn between God, religion and the contradictory street life. That was the main aspect I took from this album.
7) Burial: Kindred EP
- Burial a.k.a. William Bevan is quite a shy fellow, only unhooded in 2008 because of pressure from the press after been nominated for the Mercury Prize. His music certainly reflects loneliness and isolation. The only traces of human activity are sampled singing voices that sound like ghosts haunting the track. It's a soundtrack to the night in the city, but when everyone is long gone and your only friends are the streetlights.
6) Action Bronson: Blue Chips
- This mixtape is a complete mess, chaos reigns when Action Bronson decided leave his kitchen in Flushing, Queens to take a trip to producer Party Supplies in Williamsbourg, Brooklyn. Bronson makes a dozen slip ups during his verses, but continues anyway, and Party Supplies samples are bizarre, you can even hear him turn the volume up and down on the Mac while recording. All these drastic mistakes are what make Blue Chips so charming, its like a behind the scenes album. Most interesting album of the year.
5) Nas: Life is Good
- I was privileged to have been living in New York when Nas released this, walking around the boroughs, taking subways, sipping cappucinos in Little Italy. I remember downloading it on my day off and just began walking. Perfect soundtrack for it. Nas has had hit and misses since the landmark Illmatic in 1994, but he always been on point with his rhyming technique. Former enemy Jay Z became bigger than God since their feud, however Nas has matured in subject matter, whereas Jay Z really is talking about the same stuff. Nas and MC's like Raekwon and Ghostface seem proud of their veteran status and age. Jay Z is trying to act in his twenties and sometimes, not always, but sometimes it is extremely embarrassing. Like his verse on 2010's Monster. On Life is Good Nas talks about personal issues such as his daughter reaching those curious teenage years and his divorce with Kelis. Then he proves how relevant he is as a great storyteller and lyricist on tracks such as Loco-Motive, Nasty, The Black Bond. Also, uses former classic producers such as Large Professor for luscious tracks such as Stay. It is a cinematic album that is appropriate material for an MC his age. Jigga take note.
4) Japandroids: Celebration Rock
- The title really says it all. Celebration Rock is a power-house of a rock record that sound like it's fighting for its life, they are willing to die for this. Their video for The House That Heaven Built exhibits this the best.
3) Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music
- Killer Mike has probably been Hip-Hop's most political MC since Eminem at the dawn of the millenium. I still think his That's Life in 2006 is his best attack on...well everybody. Teaming up with EL-P for production was so right. One producer for an entire album, if they click, can become a classic e.g. Dr. Dre & Eminem, RZA & GZA/Raekwon, Pharrell and Clipse. And these two clicked, fused and exploded. EL-P's futuristic, trunk rattling beats and Mike's booming voice create a nihilistic, political, southern classic. Killer Mike is conspiracy paranoid, but his conviction makes you adhere to his beliefs. Reagan is an outstanding blast at not only the Reagan Era, but also his generation for thinking money will give them equal status in American society. For Mike, rap is his religion and the way he raps on this thing you can see he means business.
2) John Talabot: fIN
- John Talabot from Barcelona, similar to Burial, traps vocals within his instrumentals. However, these tracks sound more upbeat, exotic and world travelled. Depends on your mood, but Talabot's taste is more expansive. This can be listened to in a club, or in a more personal setting. Whereas Burial, the fuck, forces you to listen to his music just on earphones, preferably in the dark while you sob. fIN is also one of the most easiest listening house albums ever.
1) Frank Ocean: Channel Orange
- Being homosexual sells apparently. Now I don't know if Ocean is actually all about the cock or not, but regardless Channel Orange is going to be seen as an RnB classic. However, I would find it extremely cunning if Ocean and his PR team decided to pull off this gay angle, fair deuce to them if something along those lines occurred because that was a major factor in this album's commercial success. None of it would take away the fact that this is a great album, but I would be impressed from a business standpoint. With this album, you have so much variety ranging from neo-soul and electro-funk to psychedelic and is heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder. Ocean's subject matter is complex and takes some hard listening such as the epic sprawl of Pyramids. He explores the heartbreak and confusion of unrequited love (yeah...with a guy), luxury and drug abuse, but also has great triumphant tracks such as Lost and Monks. It really is a universal record that challenges RnB even while its transcending now more than it has in years.