The subtitle for this post? “Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky had good years.”
25. “In the A” – Big Boi, T.I., Ludacris
Of course there’s no good video for the song that starts of this list. “In the A” is pretty much the sequel to “General Patton” and the closest thing on Vicious Lies and Dangerous rumors to vintage Big Boi.
24. “Shoulda Known” – Childish Gambino
A somewhat melancholic song, “Shoulda Known” was one of many solid tracks off his Royalty mixtape. The song features much of the wordplay you’d expect from Childish Gambino. Some great minimal production too.
23. “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
This feels like cheating a little bit, since “Can’t Hold Us” has been around for a while, but it was included on 2012’s Heist. Anyways, a great little pump-up song, “Can’t Hold Us,” and even got some respect from Seattle Seahawk’s coach Pete Carroll, who asked Macklemore how they could get it played every game at CenturyLink field.
22. “Black Lip Bastard” – Black Hippy (Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar)
Tomorrow’s Top Albums of 2012 will show what a great year three of these four artists had. “Black Lip Bastard” might as well be a victory rap for Top Dawg Entertainment and Black Hippy. You’ll get up their soon Jay Rock. Right?
21. “Daughters” – Nas
Hey guys, Nas is back! “Daughters” was a very personal song that showed the rapper as a family man, rather than the person he was in say, Illmatic. A little boring in terms of the beat, but the great lyrical content makes up for it.
20. “Thug Waffle” – Flatbush ZOMBiES
Flatbush Zombies took a lot of people by surprise after more or less having the same aberrant style as Odd Future. That being said, they are a truly unique duo and have a lot of potential to break out even more in 2013. “Thug Waffle” is an amazingly produced song and a great introduction to the group.
19. “Remember You” – Wiz Khalifa, The Weeknd
Dirty. That’s the best way to describe this song, whether you take it as good or bad. These guys really are going in the opposite direction of Murs’ “Nina Ross.” Whatever you make the song’s content and Wiz Khalifa’s flop as a whole, “Remember You” is a great song and helped The Weeknd continue his torrid pace in 2012.
18. “Females Welcomed” – Trinidad James, Reija Lee
“Females Welcomed” is sort of a lone wolf here, with no real connection to the other songs/artists. Regardless of your opinion of Trinidad James, you have to appreciate the hook and evolving beat of the song. The ending with Reija Lee is also a great little touch.
17. “Oldie” – Odd Future
Earl’s back! It was an up-and-down year for Odd Future. As a group, their mixtape was sort of disappointing, their act got old for some fans, and leader Tyler, the Creator didn’t do much in 2012. Frank Ocean had a HUGE year, and Earl’s return has paved the way for some great future projects. But one great thing to happen Odd Future as a group was “Oldie,” a song that wonderfully showcased each of the group member’s abilities.
16. “Fuckin’ Problem” – A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Drake, Kendrick Lamar
A feel-good song with a nice message…er…an incredibly addictive song that is near-impossible to play on the radio, “Fuckin’ Problem” is a fantastic song boasting a really interesting line-up. The A$AP Rocky-Kendrick Lamar pairing is a hip-hop head’s dream, while 2 Chainz and Drake do a great job as well. In fact, Drake might have be up their for top guest verse of the year.
15. “Clique” – Kanye West, Big Sean, Jay-Z
This song was more or less “Mercy-lite,” but don’t let that take away from its quality. Substituting Jay-Z for Pusha T and 2 Chainz, the three artists on “Clique” each rap over solid production with ease and a style/verse that perfectly suits them.
14. “Swimming Pools (Drank)” – Kendrick Lamar
No one really knew what to expect from good kid, m.A.A.d. City. In an interview, Kendrick Lamar said it would be completely different from Section.80, and he was sort of right. “Swimming Pools (Drank),” the lead single off of GKMC, showed that it would be darker, with its anti-substance content. Despite all this, the song received great reviews from fans and critics, and opened the doors for the upcoming album.
13. “Just What I Am” – Kid Cudi, King Chip
Cudder is back! Nothing like a nice King Chip feature to help get back to his mixtape/Man on the Moon: End of the Day roots. “Just What I Am” was the song that Kid Cudi fans were looking for, something that showed he was forgetting his work with WZRD.
12. “Chum” – Earl Sweatshirt
Just missing the Top 10 is Earl’s “Chum,” a bleak song that details his childhood and early rap career. This song is Earl’s first single since returning to the States, and it has people buzzing about his next album. With Odd Future more or less in the rear view, 2013 could very well be Earl’s breakout year. His next album, Dorris, has no official release date yet, but based on “Chum,” people can know what to expect.
11. “Hands on the Wheel” – ScHoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky
And here’s the opposite of the anti-drinking message from “Swimming Pools (Drank).” Sampling Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” perfectly, “Hands on the Wheel” helped throw ScHoolboy Q’s name out there, if features in 2011’s Section.80 weren’t enough. The pairing seems like a great match, and ScHoolboy’s eventual appearance on “PMW” shows that he’s paying A$AP back.
10. “New God Flow” – Kanye West, Pusha T, Ghostface Killah
What’s interesting about this song is that the final version isn’t even the one most people have heard. For a while, “New God Flow” only featured two artists, Kanye and Pusha, with no appearance from Ghostface Killah. Prior to Ghostface’s inclusion, it was a pretty good song, but Ghostface’s verse has so much great wordplay that it’s a shame there are versions out there without his submission for guest verse of the year.
9. “m.A.A.d. City” – Kendrick Lamar & MC Eiht
MC Eiht is passing the Compton hip-hop torch. This panicky song conveys a real sense of paranoia and urgency, specifically from Kendrick’s first two verses. Then MC Eiht comes in doing exactly what he’s been doing for years, which is pretty much emphasizing his street life. What takes the cake here is Kendrick’s final verse, which might be one of the top three of the year. It’s a change up from his first two, and uses some really interesting effects and pacing, concluding the song perfectly
8. “Thrift Shop” – Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Wanz
All this talk about how rich rappers are probably paved the way for the sleeper hit that was “Thrift Shop.” Frugality and outdated, gross clothes are the subjects here, as Macklemore’s glides over Ryan Lewis’ funky beat. Wanz deserves to be the top non-hip-hop feature of the year, his deep voice somehow conveys lightheartedness perfectly and his ending verse is absolutely hilarious. “I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible…”
7. “Grown Up” – Danny Brown
Danny Brown’s style can be somewhat inaccessible to passive rap fans, but on “Grown Up,” he spits over a chill beat that is perfect for his voice. Content-wise, it’s a feel-good song that can be anthem for people struggling, or a pick-me-up for people feeling down. Fun fact: the percussion in the song the song is from the Gorillaz’ “Tomorrow Comes Today.’
6. “Ali Bomaye” – Game, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross
Once “Ali Bomaye’s” takes off, it never lands. An absolute banger and pump-up song, it’s absolutely fitting that this song’s namesake is from Rumble in the Jungle. This song has one of the best rap puns of the year (Spring Break/springs break line), and one of the best features of the year via 2 Chainz. When I say a song is “fire,” this could serve as a perfect example. Nice skit at the end too.
5. “1 Train” – A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T.
Ok, this might be cheating since it only leaked, and technically isn’t official yet, but it’s so perfect that it needs to be on this list and needs to be this high. Produced by “producer of the year,” Hit-Boy, “1 Train” features some of the best young talent in the game. Everyone who goes in does a great job, but the two that shine here are Big K.R.I.T. and Danny Brown. It does have a bit of a cypher feel, but when everyone is doing a great job, then that’s a really, really good thing. A song whose ridiculous line-up lives up to their names.
4. “Goldie” – A$AP Rocky
This song deserves a “produced by Hit-Boy” along with it, because the best part of “Goldie” is its production. Hit-Boy struck oil with this beat that combines a low, ever-present bass and a series of ascending and descending high notes seamlessly. Now, this isn’t to say that A$AP deserves no credit, so let’s just say that this song would not be fourth without some great verses.
3. “Mercy” – Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean, 2 Chainz
You couldn’t and still can’t escape it. The lead single off of Cruel Summer, “Mercy,” was destined to be the megahit it is today. It was one of the few G.O.O.D. Music songs that actually saw the summer, and its popularity has lasted through the fall into winter. Every person, from Big Sean to 2 Chainz, was fire on this song.
2. “Money Trees” – Kendrick Lamar & Jay Rock
The hottest non-single to come from GKMC, “Money Trees” quickly became a favorite among hip-hop heads. Jay Rock must have felt left out being the only member of Black Hippy to not release an album this year, because he brought everything on his verse. Along with 2 Chainz on “Ali Bomaye” and Gunplay on the next song, Jay Rock’s verse is up there for guest verses of the year.
1. “Cartoon & Cereal” – Kendrick Lamar & Gunplay
Yup, Kendrick was king. A precursor for what was to come on good kid, m.A.A.d. City, “Cartoon & Cereal” was dark, thoughtful, and unique. As a standalone song, it was a bit of a surprise, with its weird samples and pacing. But between the incredible verses from Kendrick and Gunplay, this was the best song of the year.