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The Noisey Guide To Hip-Hop In 2012

By Noisey Staff

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[Portraiture By Meaghan Garvey]

2012 may very well go down as the year rap broke. I mean yeah, rap’s “broken” a bunch of other times in other years too, but this feels like hip-hop’s 1978 moment, the year in which everything changed and through the scorched earth emerged something new, different and weirdly, beautifully peaceful, even though everybody’s saying “fuck” as often as they ever have. After a few false starts (Thank You Based God), the internet fully realized itself as a viable method with which artists broke themselves, rather than just a single arm of octopus-like takeover strategy. Guys like 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, and Future, meanwhile, proved that the that hard work, dedication, and being radically unique can still make it happen for you. Everyone took more drugs, and it was awesome (except if you had a bad time, in which case it wasn’t awesome).

Every generation thinks theirs is the most important and vital of any that has come before it. Living in the present tense is an intensely subjective experience, and so everything you do feels young and radical. Which is to say that Cronkite and ‘em might have have been the Greatest Generation and won World War II for us, but they didn’t have rap music, and living in the world today makes you think about one more than the other. So with that in mind, here’s all of the most important stuff that happened in the most important year for rap ever. I don’t doubt that we’ll look back on 2013 with the same certitude of having reached a high-water mark. And just like this year, it’ll probably be true. Be sure to stream the awesome mix our own Skinny Friedman made for the occasion, complete with drops from The Kid Mero, who is literally the best shit-talker of all time.


[Mix And General Wisdom From Skinny Friedman, Drops By The Kid Mero]

A - A$AP Rocky
This year, Rocky headlined his sold-out Long Live A$AP tour playing the same venues as heavyweights like Rick Ross and 2 Chainz without having a single album in stores. This is tantamount to the 12-year-old kid from Rookie of the Year (and A Kid in King Arthur’s Court NEVER 4GET) pitching those like, burning fastballs for the major leagues except A$AP probably didn’t break his arm and suddenly get signed? (Or did he?). Either way, it begs a few questions as well as that dreaded phrase “line-skipper.” Is he really that great, or is it just that NYC rap fans grade the local shit on a curve?

Nah, he’s just that great. And we’re certain that Long.Live.A$AP is going to make 2013 Rocky’s year. -Wilbert Cooper

Honorable Mentions: Adam Yauch, Azealia Banks, Aesop Rock, All Gold Everything, America Is The Best Country For Rap But That One’s Kinda Obvious, Admittedly I Just Like Saying The Name A$AP Yams Aloud

B - Bass, Used In New, Exciting And Sometimes Annoying Ways
In 2012, hip-hop sounded differently than it ever had before. That's totally what everyone says about every year, but just go with us on this one. The big movements in production this year mainly focused on compelling asses to shake as well as motivating people to put special parts of their bodies into special parts of other people’s bodies. The main dudes who felt important were Mike Will Made It, who gave Future the sonic clouds that allowed him to blast off into outer space, Hit-Boy, who continued to make good on his name by following up “Niggas In Paris” with “Clique,” and DJ Mustard, who produced “Rack City” and several other very good and very similar-sounding songs. The unsung hero of the whole dealio was TNGHT, whose five-song EP managed to convince everybody that making wordless, stadium-sized bangers was not only a good idea but actually the best idea. 2012 is also the year that dubstep died only to be pretty much immediately replaced with the stuttering Chimera that is Trap. -Drew Millard

Honorable Mentions: Butts, Benjamins (Still All About Them), Busta Rhymes Didn’t Really Do Anything This Year

C - C is for Death Grips Because D is for Drake
I remember falling to the bottom of a mosh pit during Death Grips' performance of “Takyon (Death Yob)” at Pitchfork’s CMJ showcase this year. I freaked out for a split second because I was caught under trampling feet with no air. Then the teenaged rapper Haleek Maul, who put out the excellent Chrome Lips this year, helped lift me up, and I jumped right back into the fray. There were a lot of other familiar Mishka-clad kids raging in the crowd that night who I’d seen bouncing around at A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown shows, and they’re the rap fans I think about when I hear people claim that Death Grips is something “real hip-hop heads” can’t get into.

Hip-hop is going through a revolution right now. Since the rise of the idea that rap music is actually punk as fuck, stagediving and slam-dancing at a rap show is almost as expected as it was at hardcore show back in the ‘80s. And Death Grips are probably the furthest extension of that exuberant energy and aggression that has taken hold of hip-hop, drawing young people in because of their simplicity and brute force over complex metaphors or glamorous back up dancers. When it’s all said and done, Death Grips won’t be remembered for their stunt with the record label or that dong on their album cover (even though that shit was dope), they’ll be remembered for creating a sound that was almost as much of ahead of its time as it was reflection the exact things that characterize this moment in hip-hop. -WC

Honorable Mentions: Counting down to Long.Live.A$AP, Coachella Had A Hologram Tupac, Chris Brown Brawled With Drake Lol

D - Drake
When 2012 hit, Take Care was still lodged in my brain as firmly as cocaine particles are affixed to Gunplay’s mucus membrane. At this point I’ve probably listened to the fucking thing 200 times, and even though the album came out last November, Drake kinda-sorta dominated 2012. Not saying he’s bigger than Jay-Z—he’s still a second-tier superstar, the Rihanna to Jay’s Beyoncé if you will—but Drake definitely headlined the best tour of the summer and everything he touched this year turned to gold. Gold, Jerry! Except for that Aaliyah thing he did which sucked. But Drake was the best part of 2 Chainz’s “No Lie,” French Montana’s “Pop That,” Meek Mill’s “Amen,” Rick Ross’s “Stay Schemin’,” and A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems.” That, plus “HYFR” and “Take Care” (his actual singles that got released in 2012) would make up a way better EP than anything you put out this year. -DM

Honorable Mentions: Dallas As Second Rap City In Texas, Drugs, “Dope Boy” As Pronounced By French Montana, Danny Brown

E - Ecstasy
I’ve been trying to figure out why rappers are getting off on molly so much. Do drugs follow a trend cycle just like fashion? If so, does that mean heroin is going to come back in a big way? I really want to be ahead of the curve with this, because I was embarrassed the last time I did molly with my friends—I tried to put on a Pretty Lights song and got laughed out of a house party. Everybody shitted on my music taste and then they kept repeating that one line from the Trinidad James song. Man. I can’t wait until horse comes back around again and they start selling Supreme syringes. I’m trying to be the first in line. -WC

Honorable Mentions: Elvis Was Passed By Lil Wayne For The Most Appearances On The Billboard Hot 100, Eminem Put Out A Greatest-Hits Record That We Didn't Listen To, El-P Made White People Care About Killer Mike

F - Fashion
It seems that with super-macho rap guys like A$AP Rocky and Kanye West boldly wearing kilts/skirts/whatever you want to call it, hip hop is in love with avant-garde fashion. This is a good thing and a bit of a throwback to the early days of hip-hop, when the music was still intertwined with the weirdo art, disco, and punk scenes of downtown New York in the late-’70s. Part of the reason MCs are name-checking hilariously over-the-top designers and wearing clothes that would probably get them jumped in many hoods across this country is that it signals that they’re part of the cultural elite. The aspirational aspect of rap has gone from not just wanting to simply have money and spend it on whatever expensive bullshit you can get your hands on, but wanting to have actually have refined taste. The Internet also plays a major part in this connection between avant-garde drape for Rick Owens and Ann Demulester and rap, because thanks largely to the web this new crop of MCs coming up have a much wider array of influences than the artists that preceded them. When you see the Flatbush Zombies wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt, it screams something very particular about the age we live in. -WC

Honorable Mentions: Fanutation, Yeah I Like To Fuck I Got A Fuckin’ Problem, No Really I Keep Getting Robbed On Car Dates :/

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