My 2012 top ten
Aesop Rock - Skelethon
Possibly the most personal and complete album this year. Definitely evidenced an artist growing from point a to point b with a lot of really fun songs, some dark, some light and the best production from Aesop ever. I liked how every song sounded great live as well as it did recorded, which was a huge selling point because Aesop sometimes sounds shit live. Everything about this album, from sound to songwriting to cover art and packaging was complete.
P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here
Great followup to a great album (Never Better). This album has all the elements of a POS album but really spotlights a different direction the artist took. I like how beatwise, this sounds nothing like the last two albums. I also find the album less angry which allows it to be more focused content-wise. It's more socially involved in counterculture but it doesn't shove it down your throat. The art was cool too. I liked the book and all. Kinda short though.
Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid m.a.a.d. City
Really glad I bought this album on impulse. Great narrative and some great thought provoking material. One song is shite and stupid (Poetic Justice) and a couple feel awkward and out of place (Good Kid and Compton). It's an intelligent concept album that doesn't try to hard to be intelligent or a concept album. The songs that are really good are really fucking good though and the narrative makes even the bad songs worth listening to. I can't say I love the bonus disc but it's nice to have. I'd rank this a tie with the POS album.
Murs & Fashawn - This Generation
At first I wasn't sold on this album, mostly because the beats felt a little off. More listens opened me up to this album a lot. It's like two west coast rappers getting together exploring the similar experiences and themes of their respective eras without it being a nostalgic clusterfuck. Beats grow on you as well. Some of the tracks are kind of dumb but its not a record you need to take seriously. Its very laid back.
Brother Ali - Mourning in America & Dreaming in Color
The more I listen to this record the more it grows on me BUT I get really annoyed at times with Ali's preachiness on the record. It's obvious that he's found a good sound match with Jake One and the sound is a total departure from the Ali/ANT sound but its good. When he's not shoving it down your throat, the message on the album is quite succinct. Won More Hit is a really bad song though all around.
Blu & Exile - Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them
Does this count as a 2012 release? I count it since it's different from the one that leaked. Anyhow, great album. Really enjoyed Exile's production on this more than below the heavens. This album is just really enjoyable to listen to. Makes you feel happy and shit. It's a typical Blu album though. Has that feel to it.
Killer Mike - RAP Music
I thought this album wouldn't turn out well but I was really happy that both artists were able to work as a cohesive unit. Mike is all over the place and a lot of the tracks on the album have some range in terms of topic. I really like that he's not afraid to talk shit about Reagan or cops. Really ballsy record all around. Good hype music.
Gangrene - Vodka & Ayahuasca
This album came out in January and has been in rotation on my mp3 player all year. Good sign. It's a great album that kinda came out of nowhere. Is got a good overlying theme and the beats are great. The rapping while still not anywhere near the best has improved and a few guest features well placed make it lyrically better.
Del the Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought - Attractive Sin
Bought this on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. I think this is the best Del we've had since Deltron and I can appreciate that. The beats aren't blow your mind amazing but the fact that Del brings it on every track and doesn't back down makes this album as awesome as it is. Was surprised that it didn't get a lot of buzz despite the reviews.
El-P - Cancer4Cure
At first I fucking loved this album but it kind of fell off my radar. It's another great effort from El-p but it just leaves me feeling like something is missing. It doesn't feel as new York as the previous two albums. Lyrically I think El-p is still doing his thing and the album doesn't really lack anything that a typical El-p album would have, it just leaves me feeling incomplete. Still a great album.