1. Kanye West (feat. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz) - “Mercy”: What more can I say except the tasteless “ass-” puns, spinning heads, and Italo Disco breakdown and money tall like Jordan is exactly what I wanted from a rap song this year. #swweeeerrrvvveee.
2. Ab-Soul – “The Book of Soul”: Even if this was just a story of a childhood disease and a dead girlfriend this song would be just as effecting, but Ab-Soul makes it more than just a couple of sad tales. Ab-Soul examines himself even at these lowest points, refusing to stop living each of his days to the fullest.
3. 2 Chainz (feat. Drake) – “No Lie”: Apologies to 2 Chainz, but this song is all about Drake’s middle verse. And the reason is because I have heard this song so many times that I have my own rapper hands for each individual phrase. *Index Finger Moves/Hands Stays in Place*
4. Miguel – “Adorn”: I have no idea how many times I have heard this song before one day in the car it hit me that I was listening to life-changingly good single. Though I wish I enjoyed more the first months or so of hearing “Adorn”, when it finally it me I felt like I had made up for all that lost time.
5. Ice Burgandy (feat. Sean Mack) – “PMBB”: Did anyone outside of rap blogs/Bricksquad super fans listen to this song? Part of me—the one that looks at Youtube views—says no. Yet another part of me—the good part—wants to say everyone listened to this and even the kids that cannot count to ten can rap this song.
6. Fort Romeau – “Jack Rollin”: My life needs more dancing. 2010 featured a lot of dancing and even 2011 had dancing. 2012 not enough dancing! So, while I loved this song, I cannot say I LOVED this song in the way that I should have.
7. Loverance (feat. Skipper & Iamsu! or 50 Cent) – “Up!”: The hook of this song “beat the pussy up” is surprisingly awful, which might be why the radio edit of the song connected with me more, as it lets me enjoy the excellent rare crossover regional tune—featuring 50 Cent maybe!
8. Chief Keef – “Love Sosa”: This song whittles down rap music to just the hook and warbled barely-there rapping. Somewhere J. Futuristic and Yung LA are plotting a comeback for this brave new rap world.
9. 2 Chainz – “I’m Different”: The number of evil glares I have given people trying to talk to me when rapping this song is probably a problem. But, “Two of everything/I’m too different”.
10. Trouble (feat. Gucci Mane, Rocko & Travis Porter) – “U Don’t Deserve Dat (Remix)”: The original is a multiple sided take on saying to both men and women to do better than get out of relationships that only hurt themselves. The remix eschews most of that is mostly just bragging and complaining about women. And, yet it works so well. Soooooooo well.
11. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”: That this song has not gotten old is unbelievable. I probably even like it more than earlier this year and I really really liked it earlier this year.
12. One Direction – “What Makes You Beautiful”: This song makes me wish I was 8 again. Like, I don’t know if you’ve seen an 8-year-old recently, but I wouldn’t be quick to go back to 3rd grade except to properly enjoy this revival of boy bands and good capital-P pop music.
13. Lil Reese – “Us”: “They want to knock me off the fucking edge like it’s a fucking widow’s peak”/“2012 might not be a fucking a legend/ trying to be a fucking legend” and “Promise that you will sing about me”.
14. Chief Keef (feat. Lil Reese) - “I Don’t Like”: The most important rap song of 2012 and its actually pretty damn amazing, not too bad for a bunch of teens up-heaving an increasingly stagnant rap world.
15. Odd Future - “Oldie” - The video. The dancing. The “I’m high and I’m bi”. The “ever since I first drew that doughnut”. But really though. The video and the dancing.
16. Juicy J (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz) – “Bands A Make Her Dance”: A MAKE HER DANCE A MAKE HER DANCE A MAKE HER DANCE A MAKE HER DANCE.
17. Mac Demarco – “Freaking Out the Neighborhood”: I am not even sure the lyrics matter here, but the mood established by Demarco’s guitar playing became my favorite music to have when driving through various small towns in North Carolina.
18. Nicki Minaj (feat. 2 Chainz) – “Beez in the Trap”: Not to dismiss Nicki, but by the time this song came out I was in the middle of my 2 Chainz love affair and well he says “hair weave killer” and I still enjoy this verse. That cannot reflect great on me can it?!
19. Meek Mill – “Dreams and Nightmares”:The 180 degree turn that happens in this song still even after dozens of listens gets me to start thrashing my arms around as if I pumping up for the most important fight of my life.
20. Treated Crew – “#1 Crew”: Rapping subpar. Beat amazing. Mano, who has had a pretty great 2012, is a Chicago producer people need to start noticing more.
21. Gucci Mane – “Plain Jane”: Do you understand how much it pained me not to include Big Sean’s verse from “Brought Out Them Racks” on this list? A lot! Rocko mentions dinosaurs and Mike Will got one of the better recent singles out of Gucci Mane, so I accept not putting Big Sean here.
22. Kendrick Lamar – “Sing About Me”: The parenthesis of “(Her Vice)”, “(Her Evils)” and “(Her Pain)” probably soured me on those songs from Section .80 even before I heard the songs. While the quality of those songs varied, Lamar must have gotten tired of this typical rap trope of dudes providing the moralizing voice for a women and here breakdowns his own work and one of the worst tropes of “conscious rap”.
23. Ne-Yo - “Let Me Love You”: Nearly ever pop and r&b star has gone EDM in the few years. But Ne-Yo has been working Stargate for years and after the success of “Give Me Everything” it isn’t surprising to see him go full blown EDM. This song is great, but I cannot say I didn’t also enjoy his Calvin Harris collaboration “Let’s Go”.
24. Flo Rida (feat. Sia) – “Wild Ones”: Big Dumb Pop Song Is Amazing And Flo Rida Has More Hits Than Your Favorite Rapper.
25. YG (feat Ty$ & PC) – “Go So Deep”: At some point this year I compared this to a chillwave song, and I am going to stick with that and if so it’s the best chillwave song since Washed Out “Feel It All Around”.
26. Future (feat. Rick Ross, Wale, Gunplay & Meek Mill) – “Same Damn Time (MMG Remix)”: I don’t think the original is actually that great, so MMG’s new verses are more than welcome. Especially when two of those verses come from two of the most energized rappers in Gunplay and Meek Mill.
27. Jay Ant & Iamsu! – “G Thang”: Sexy late night minimalism from a couple of guys that held down Ratchet music in the just below ground underground this year. Hopefully some radio station played this at 2am, but if not there is still time.
28. David Guetta (feat. Sia) – “Titanium”: 2012’s greatest drunk white people song to sing along with.
29. Cash Out – “Cashin Out”: The “Racks” of 2012 was better than “Racks” of 2011 and had the classic line “I got a condo on my wrist/I’m cashing out”.
30. Honey Cocaine – “Bitch Please”: I think it is just I follow the wrong rap blogs, because Honey Cocaine is actually liked by a lot of people, and yet I have never read anything about her. Most of her stuff is Ratchet shit talking, but she does it better than most people, now if I could only find who produced this beat.
31. Ty Money (feat. I.D.)– “She Twerkin”: Never would have heard this if not for David Drake. So, thank you David, because swag rap by way of Chicago is amazing.
32. King Louie (feat. Juicy J & Pusha T) – “My Hoes They Do Drugs”: Generic drug song. Nu-Southern rap production. On paper this shouldn’t be that good. But, you know what a bootleg mixtape somewhere has a Juicy J song called “She’s Dancing Like She’s Fuckin” on paper. So miracles can happen sometimes.
33. Lil Durk – “Ls (Anthem)”: Of the big three Chicago drill singles this was the only one not to not receive a major label remix, which was probably for the best. It did not need celebrity/rapper rants nor did it need more false posturing. And nearly a year later Durk’s song is still able to hold up against nearly all songs from the city.
34. Cher Lloyd – “Want You Back”: Part Rap. Part British. 100% excellent pop. Not surprised some people don’t like her, but you know what like Ke$ha she has more swagger than most rappers that actually appear on radio stations, so I cannot be mad at her.
35. Ty$ & Joe Moses – “The Man”: Mustard&B is what no one called DJ Mustard’s more R&B tinged production and while I am not a big fan of either Ty$ or Joe Moses. Mustard squeezed out an amazing song and a pretty good mixtape from the duo.
36. The Wanted – “Glad You Came”: I don’t think I enjoyed this song’s thump thump more than this summer driving around Atlanta with my aunt as she observed that all of the songs on that station that we were listening to sounded the same. She was right though!
37. Big Sean – “Guap”: My girlfriend does not like this song. One of my favorite rap writers doesn’t like this song. Who knew Big Sean could inspire so much hate. The guys says he’s gonna pay the sky! How could someone hate that?!
38. Hospitality – “Eighth Avenue”: Remember when David’s favorite album of 2009 was Camera Obscura’s My Maudlin Career? Well, Hospitality filled the “one indie pop band I will actually listen to and care about quota for the year” in 2012. And the song is lovely as well.
39. 100s - “My Activator”: I have said a lot of mean things about Tumblr rap before, but you know what a kid younger than me able to willing to fully embody a unique rap persona is hard for me to not appreciate. And the dude can also write a tight song, so that does not hurt.
40. Tex James (feat. Stuey Rock) – “Smart Girl”: The producer of this song is the constantly underrated Mr. Hanky. But, the promoter of the song is the real name that should excite someone: Mr. Collipark. Never letting the dream of managing and producing forever misunderstood rap songs and rappers.
41. Wiz Khalifa (feat. Juicy J) – “T.A.P.”: Spaceghostpurrrp at some point dissed Wiz Khalifa and this beat mysteriously got to Wiz Khalifa. Not to step on toes, the story of this song is kind of funny, but since I cannot tell that store; I’m happy this song holds up on its blunted own.
42. Grimes – “Genesis”: Entirely forgot this song had video. The song is good. I have kind of grown lukewarm on Grimes’s actual album, but this and a few other tracks remain strong highlights from Grimes’ breakout year.
43. Traxman – “Lifeeeee is for Ever: One day this started playing in my mind and I couldn’t understand why except it got me to listen to “Purple Rain”, then feel dumb that I somehow forgot about this amazing song.
44. Waka Flocka Flame – “Rooster in My Rari”: 2012 should’ve been Waka Flocka Flame’s year. He got to release another major label album. He had a minor hit to close out 2011. But, it wasn’t meant to be as the rest of his singles flopped; including this amazing song that features a guy in a giant rooster suit in the video. A man in giant rooster suit in a rap video! Still reeling from the fact people did not love this song more.
46. Cloud Nothings - “Our Plans”: This is the only song that could be classified as “Rock” on this list, so take that how you will, but I do really like this album and this is one of the better tracks from it.
47. Fat Trel – “Swishers and Liquor”: Fat Trel why are you working with Master P? When is your next mixtape out? Will Cardo produce for it? Why is Cardo rapping? Why does Big K.R.I.T. rap? Why is this song so scary? Did this make the existence of Spaceghostpurrp redundant?
48. Ariel Pink – “Schnitzel Boogie”: I have never had schnitzel, but for an album full of weird pop numbers this was the one that I could not say no to and is somehow it is even better than the song called “Pink Slime”—which is pretty great!
49. Mouse on tha Track & Box – “All the Way Live”: I am going to blame the lack of popularity of Mouse on tha Track on hipsters and saying that his post-Trill Ent career is a giant exercise in not playing into the blog cycle and getting unrewarded. But, if that rant doesn’t persuade you to listen, the hyper-kinetic beat and Mouse and Box’s supercharged rhymes will. Vote Yes for Mouse on that Track in 2016.
50. Jeremih (feat. Natasha Money) – “Fuck U All The Time”: I didn’t listen to this mixtape till last week otherwise this amazing song would be higher. Sorry to have underestimated you Jeremih.
“No Lie” might have been 2 Chainz’s lead single, but the song was really stolen by Drake with only a hook and a verse. But, this isn’t that new, because he has been doing this the past year with songs by Rick Ross (“Stay Schemin”), Meek Mill (“Amen”), and even Waka Flocka Flame (“Round of Applause”), but “No Lie” is the current peak of his recent guest work.
Drake can rattle off lines like “Forbes list like ever year” and “She thinks I’m the realest out, I said ‘Damn that makes two of us’” that are pure narcissism, but they can still sound so great coming out car speakers and somehow even better when you are rapping along with them for the 30 or 40th time.
Even, the line “I just need to know what that pussy is like, so one time’s fine with me” even if not phrased the same way is a sentiment I’ve heard from people plenty of times my last couple years of college (I’d also say that Drake’s fan base is probably not too much older than his mid-20s self, so that doesn’t seem too surprising). Also, that particular line is captured excellently in Director X’s video as 2 Chainz and Drake both hold up a single finger with disinterested looks, as if to shrug their shoulders over whatever may or may not happen to these women they are talking about.
Drake also benefits being placed between 2 Chainz’s almost completely nonsensical sex raps allowing him to kind of run with the same idea with some actually though behind his words. The longer the verse goes and the more hand motions you invent to go along with Drake’s verse makes it by the end, when Drake says “We don’t talk shit, we just state facts (Yes Lord)” you’re so caught up in Drake’s—and by extension your—ego enough to have said the entire verse and not care about whether you agree or disagree with Drake’s words, because his sentiment has found a way to ring true.
- When I read that Drake’s album leaked, I gave it a listen as people on twitter were talking so much about it, and production by Jamie XX and rumored Lex Luger work made more interested a lot more interested than the previous singles.
- On, my first listen, I was kind of blown away by the first 6 songs, especially the opener of “Over My Dead Body” with the opening vocals from Chantal Kreviazuk. I definitely soft crooned “over my dead body” the first few times I listened to that song.
- I don’t know where this rumor started, but until the album came out the credited producer of “Cameras” was Lex Luger, which helped make that particular song an early highlight. It was actually done by 40 with some help by Drake, but imagining Luger doing this type R&B track would have been such a step up from his stuff like “That Way”. But, either way, the song never stopped being a favorite and I would have enjoyed it if it went on for the entire 7 minute run time.
- So, on my second listen of “Look What You’ve Done” I was walking back to my dorm from class and had to stop the song before Drake’s grandmother called in, to keep myself from crying and breaking down in the middle of campus. My first listen of the song, I didn’t know where it was going, so I was caught off-guard by Drake’s examining his different familial relationships. But, on that second listen and understanding better where Drake was coming from, I couldn’t help but see it reflect my life back at me, after I was just in an argument with my parents.
- “And I leave out and you call me, you tell me that you are sorry/ You love me, and I love you, and your hearts hurts, mine does too”.
- “The way you got your hair up, that’s me, and that voice in your speaker, that’s me”, stuck with me because it is a feeling of drowning in sorrows that I have tried to avoid recently, which makes listening to the opening so painful, as I feel like the girl just sitting around in self-pity, as their previous love has already seemingly moved on. This has created a tension listening to the album that remained unresolved even a few months later, because Drake is the main character telling his perspective of this story, which is fine except when I am one that is crying from his actions.
- “I hate when people say they feel me (I hate that shit), it’ll be a long time before you’ll feel, if ever (for real)”. At some point in December, I texted my friend saying that if I catch myself rapping the lyrics of “Over My Dead Body” or “The Ride”, I’m clearly not having a good day.
- I kind of wish, I spent more time on this point, but this album turned Drake around from a guy I kind of sort of liked on hooks to one of my favorite current day rappers, which is something I certainly didn’t see happening when I first started the album.
The first interlude on Take Care is the bizarre “Buried Alive Interlude”, where Kendrick Lamar makes paranoid references to Drake and his own recent careers. Yet, Lamar’s verse in addition to going through one too many vocal effects feels tacked onto the end of “Marvin’s Room”, as if Drake lost a bet with Kendrick to appear on the album, and figured this would be the best place to bury the appearance. The track is a weird bit of inside baseball that unless you’ve been trolling rap blog the last few years, you probably won’t care about and is the first of the guest appearances that sound like contractual obligations—Cash Money’s Nicki Minaj and Birdman, and Drake’s good rap friend Rick Ross—and, who do not add anything to the album except for a very skippable middle section.
The other interlude is “Good Ones Go” where is Drake reflecting and coming to grips with the women that got away. The production by 40 and Drake is not too different from the rest of the album, but on the line “I’m been chillin in the city where the money goes high, and the girl go down/ In case you been wondering why my new shit sounds so H-town/ And when it’s all done, baby I’m still your if you still around” has an echo on the final word that further deflates Drake’s rhymes. This is made even more noticeable, because before those lines Drake speaks at a near whisper; he then takes a couple breaths in an attempt to rap the next few lines. Yet, instead of there being a sense of strength and confidence his verse, Drake stumbled over his words creating the opposite effect. Invoking the regret hovering over the echoed words of “she knows, she knows”.
Talking about these songs with others over the past few weeks, arguing over their slippery meanings, there’s precious little in the way of consensus; we’ve all used it for breakups, for family emergencies, for nights when we’re feeling low and can’t quite settle on the source. But there’s so much in these songs, so many situations to which they seem to hold up a mirror, what we take from them seems forever in flux. Their history, like ours, is constantly changing. One thing keeps coming up, though: Everyone I’ve talked to mentions that they can’t imagine getting through their twenties without it. I certainly couldn’t have. Bet those guys who made it feel the same way.
Paul Thompson, from his review of The Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I reissue.
I haven’t lived much (20 years). So, I don’t know if Take Care or any other album I’ve talked about this year will fit the description Thompson gives Emergency and I, but reading about the power of this particular album makes me look forward to whatever occupies that place in my life.
The Drake memes are fun, but there’s an implicit regression; a nastiness and a frustration. A settling for status quo because the way he expresses himself is unfamiliar and, yes, sometimes hard to reconcile, assuming corniness is an issue for you. I’ll take it over the alternative, I think.
Sean Fennessey, from his excellent piece “Boo Hoo Sad Story” on Take Care.
Practice - Drake
“Back That Azz Up” by Juvenile is over 13 years old, so Drake probably first heard the song in Middle School as it slowly rose from New Orleans to become a national hit. The song remains great at getting people to the dance floor, but that quality is lost Drake’s remake of the song in “Practice”. Produced by 40 with some co-production from Drake, the first dour minute of the song turns the joy and party of the original song into the most self-centered song on Take Care, a difficult feat for an album entirely focused on Drake’s experiences of love and love lost.
Earlier on the album, “The Real Her” Drake covers the similar ground of discussing a woman’s sexual past and coming to the conclusion that right now all that matters is that she is with him, because as he says in “Practice”: “All those other men were practice for me”. This reimagining of “Back That Ass Up”, highlights that while it might be yelling a command to women to “back that ass up” there’s an immense amount of joy and communal warmth in the Bounce inspired original. But, there is no warmth or community partying here: just Drake’s ego. He doesn’t up a faux-good guy routine; the album is coming to an end and Drake is having his victory lap. This makes for a rather loathsome narrator (especially compared to the joyous and jovial Juvenile) but the heel is a pose Drake graciously embraces to show his strength and confidence, even if it’s a bit misplaced.
We all self-conscious” has not taken on a new meaning post-Dropout. Conjecture about West revolutionizing the sound of modern hip-hop is mostly a fallacy. Not much has changed, though a few Brion hacks might appear to offer someone like Cassidy an oboe loop or two. In general, what makes West’s sound and personality so vital is that it is completely singular. The maddening contradiction, the goofball ridiculousness, and the furious fist-raising still comprise an original voice. Though you’ll notice I hesitate to use the phrase “everyman” to describe West. Not every man could have written a headphones album that’ll rattle your trunk.
Sean Fennessey, from his Pitchfork review of Kanye West’s Late Registration.
Well, it just took a few years for rap to catch up to him.