Timoteo’s 2012 Year In Review
Is it really that time of year again? I have no idea where 2012 went; it seems like it was just January a few short months ago. In this seemingly short year, there has been a slew of superb releases – especially in the Hip-Hop realm. Like I’ve always said, making a year-end list is no simple task, and it’s inevitable that someone (or a lot of people) will disagree with my choices; however, opinions are unique to each individual, and we are all entitled to our own. If you feel the need to voice your opinion, leave a comment in the C-Section.
Top 10 Albums of the Year (10-1)
Brother Ali – Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color: Since Brother Ali dropped Us, things have drastically changed in his life. He parted ways with his long-time musical partner (ANT), and stepped outside of his comfort zone to team up with Seattle beatsmith Jake One – who handled all of the production on the album. When Jake One released White Van Music back in 2008, it was instantly obvious that these two make magnificent music together, and Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color further proves the point with no hindrances.
Koncept – Awaken: This is an album that took me by complete surprise. One day one of my buddies posted a video for the track “Aspirations”, and I was so impressed that I had to have the entire album. I’ve been digging all of the releases coming out of the Brown Bag camp, and Awaken is no different. Backed by powerful production from the Brown Bag clique and Marco Polo, Koncept dropped one of the most intimate records of 2012, and at the same time, he showed us just how bright the future could be for The Brown Bag AllStars.
Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson – Dice Game: When I heard that Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson were teaming up for a full-length release, I was pleasantly surprised, and I was also very excited to hear what these two were capable of creating in the studio. Let’s just say that Dice Game lived up to all of my expectations; Apollo’s soul laced beats hit so hard that they could pulverize pavement, and Guilty Simpson gives listeners the gritty play-by-plays that he’s known for.
Roc Marciano – Reloaded: Hip-Hop could always use more artists like Roc Marciano; his storytelling abilities are unbelievable, and he’s able to weave in wordplay in a seemingly effortless manner. His music reminds me of the very music that personified East Coast mafioso rap back in the 90’s. Much like his debut release Marcberg, Marciano’s sophomore album Reloaded gives listeners a front-row seat to a haunting hood matinee that would make emcees like Jay-Z and Raekwon nod in approval.
M.i – The Coldplay Sessions: I can’t believe that it has been almost a year since M.i released The Coldplay Sessions because I feel like it just came out last month; although, that’s probably because I still play the album on a regular basis. As I mentioned in my review of the album, I’ve never been a huge fan of Coldplay, but M.i did an incredible job of selecting samples and building beats that perfectly fit his laid back and mellow style. I have a feeling that things are only going to get better for M.i after he drops his collaborative project next year – Pushing Keyes – with Tyler Keyes. (Technically, most people would consider this a mixtape, but the quality is so good that I’m considering it an album.)
Apollo Brown & OC – Trophies: I haven’t been able to say enough good things about this album throughout the year. Apollo’s work on the boards throughout the last few years shows an incredible amount of work ethic, and when he links up with an artist for a project, he’s able to cater to their style with infallible results. Even though Apollo Brown has built a solid library of material, he’s still relatively new to the Hip-Hop game; teaming up with legendary Diggin’ in the Crates member OC on Trophies might have been the perfect pitch to show the masses that he has what it takes to be the best.
Oddisee – People Hear What They See: Whether people realize it or not, Oddisee is a producing emcee that has been on his grind for a long time. Over the last few years, he’s been making waves with his group Diamond District, but he has also released a good amount of top-notch solo material (Check out Rock Creek Park). People Hear What They See is an incredible observation of how humans have a propensity to behave based on external influences that affect their life on a daily basis, and the outcome is a precise painting of a vast sociological picture.
Skyzoo – A Dream Deferred: It’s a bold move to name your album after a Langston Hughes poem, but then again, Skyzoo is a bold emcee with unbelievable penmanship skills. This was easily my most anticipated album of the year, and it lived up to every expectation. The Salvation is still one of my favorite albums in the last five years, and A Dream Deferred did an outstanding job picking up where it’s predecessor left off. Skyzoo’s beautiful bars were backed by mostly original production from names like !llmind, Best Kept Secret, DJ Khalil and 9th Wonder – with momentous results. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Skyzoo is one of the greatest writers of this or any generation, and A Dream Deferred is another chapter in an already impressive novel.
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City: I don’t really know what I can say about Kendrick that hasn’t already been said: The kid is utterly amazing. From the first time that I listened to Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City, I knew that it was an instant classic. Kendrick’s storytelling abilities come alive like on GKMC, and he does a fascinating job telling stories from multiple points of view. Although the production (in my opinion) on GKMC isn’t as spectacular as I had hoped, all of the beats fit Kendrick’s style perfectly, and ultimately, it makes the album exceptional.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist: From the first time that I listened to this album, I haven’t been able to put it down. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis put together one of the finest albums I’ve heard in a long time, and in my opinion, the best album this year. The Heist contains brutally honest lyrics and magnificent multi-layered originally beats with live instrumentation – the perfect ingredients to the recipe for an instant classic. I really hope that these two continue to do work in the future because the future of Hip-Hop has never looked so bright. You can call The Heist hipster rap music, or you can call it whatever you want: I call it great music any way that you look at it.
Honorable Mentions: Sean Price – Mic Tyson, Statik Selektah & Termanology – 2012, P.O.S. – We Don’t Even Live Here, El-P – Cancer For Cure, El-P & Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music, Illmaculate – Skrill Talk
Top 5 EPs (1-5)
Jellyfish Brigade – The Art of Being Pulled Apart: I’ve been a huge fan of Lucas Dix since the early days of Hives Inquiry Squad, and he’s made some tremendous strides since his early days as an emcee. On The Art of Being Pulled Apart Dix teams up with producer The Great Mundane to release a spectacular three track effort filled with hypnotic melodies and philosophical lyrics. Couple with Gills and a Helmet, The Art of Being Pulled Apart has me in high anticipation for the duo’s debut full-length album – Diving Lessons – that drops in Spring of 2013.
Chad Hatcher – Bridges EP: Chad Hatcher is a singer/songwriter form Nova Scotia, and he’s mostly well known for collaborating with fellow Canadian emcee Classified. On Bridges, Chad breaks out seven new songs that have never been heard before – including an awesome cover of Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” and the spectacular track “Live By The Sea”.
Brown Bag AllStars – The Brown Label EP: The Brown Bag AllStars have really been gaining momentum the last couple of years, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. The Brown Label EP was released by 2DopeBoyz at the beginning of the year, and let me tell you, all of the the tracks are well above par – especially the J57 laced track “Rottweilers”. With their roster of talented producers and emcees, Brown Bag AllStars are going to be making noise in the East Coast Hip-Hop scene for years to come.
Brother Ali – The Bite Marked Heart EP: The good brother dropped this little gem in honor of Valentine’s day back in February, and it was a smooth and soulful ride that was great from beginning to end. The bulk of production was handled by Jake One; however, ANT produced two tracks on the project, and I thought they were both a great, particularly “I’ll Be Around” – which features Phonte and Stokley Williams. The Bite Marked Heart was also a great way for Ali to depart from his sound with ANT and introduce the direction of his new material with Jake One.
Blu & Exile – Maybe One Day EP: Let me tell you, I was ecstatic when I heard that Blu & Exile were going to be releasing new music this year. My anticipation only grew to astronomic levels after I heard the track “A Man”; it was the embodiment that made everything about Below the Heavens incredible: Deep philosophical lyrics, and precisely chopped soul samples. Unfortunately, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them just felt like something was missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Top 3 Mixtapes (1-3)
Joey Bada$$ – 1999: Chris Deline had a beautiful write-up on this kid earlier this year. His music is the epitome of everything that made East Coast Hip-Hop great in the 90s. 1999 is an incredible introduction into the mind of a 17 year old Brooklyn high school student; it’s brutally obvious Joey Bada$$ was influenced by many of the elders that came before him. This is another mixtape that teetered on the brink of being album quality because it’s so good. If this mixtape is evidence of what we can expect from Joey on a consistent basis, he may have a long and lustrous career in Hip-Hop.
Skyzoo – Theo Vs. JJ (Dreams Vs. Reality): It’s been one hell of a year for Skyzoo; he released Theo Vs. JJ just one month before A Dream Deferred came out, and it was a great predecessor to his follow-up to The Salvation. Skyzoo is great at building bridges between his albums with content, and Theo Vs. JJ did a excellent job of picking up where The Great Debater left off. This is yet another mixtape that was on the brink of being an album – or an EP at the very least.
XV – Popular Culture: I love this mixtape, but when it was released, I kind of got frustrated. XV is one of my favorite emcees out right now, but I’ve been waiting on The Kid With the Green Backpack for the last two years now, and it’s another album that’s reaching Detox status. Last year Vizzy released the spectacular effort Zero Heroes, and Popular Culture follows the trend in a strong string of mixtape material. If you’ve ever listened to XV before, you know that he goes crazy over pop culture, and you’ll find references littered all over this project.
Top 10 Tracks of the Year
2.) “Starting Over” – By Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Off the album The Heist) (Prod. By Ryan Lewis)
3.) “Compton” – By Kendrick Lamar (Feat Dr. Dre) (Off the album Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City) (Prod. By Just Blaze)
4.) “Paradise” – By M.i (Off the album The Coldplay Sessions) (Prod. By M.i)
5.) “Goodbye” – By Slaughterhouse (Off the album Welcome To: Our House) (Prod. By HitBoy)
6.) “The First 48” – By Apollo Brown & OC (Off the album Trophies) (Prod. By Apollo Brown)
7.) “Make it Out Alive” – By Statik Selektah & Termanology (Feat Freddie Gibbs & Crooked I) (Off the album 2012) (Prod. By Statik Selektah)
8.) “The Art of Being Pulled Apart” – By Jellyfish Brigade (Off the EP The Art of Being Pulled Apart) (Prod. By The Great Mundane)
9.) “Dump Truck” – By Gangrene (Feat. Prodigy) (Prod. By Alchemist)
10.) “A Man” – By Blu & Exile (Off the EP Maybe One Day) (Prod. By Exile)
Producer of the Year
This category was especially tough because there was so much quality material put out this year from an array of incredible producers. 9th Wonder dropped a wealth of material; El-P dropped two amazing projects; Apollo Brown produced two incredible albums; !llmind made waves just about everywhere in the Hip-Hop community, but there was one artist that stuck out in the back of my mind more than anyone because of his groundbreaking work this year.
The production efforts that Ryan Lewis put forth on The Heist are admirable to say the very least. He single handedly changed the way I view production on a Hip-Hop album with his decadent display of live instrumentation. All of the beats on The Heist are layered with perfect precision, and the instrumentals are so beautifully organic that they simply cannot be ignored. When I listen all of the compositions by Lewis on The Heist, two words come to mind: symphony orchestra. Most, if not all, of the songs on The Heist are fully capable of being performed in an orchestral setting. Lewis has elevated the bar for production, and I have a strong suspicion that he’s only going keep innovating for many years to come. In an era where sampling is becoming less prevalent, it’s crucial to have top-tier original beats, and Ryan Lewis has shown the world that he’s got what it takes to be the best.
Emcee of the Year
Honestly, I think I’d be kidding myself if I said another emcee deserved the award more than Kendrick; mainstream or not, this kid’s work is impressive, and it’s obvious that he’s going to have a long and prevalent career in the Hip-Hop industry. I’ve said that his storytelling skills remind me of Ghostface numerous times, and to me, Tony Starks is one of the greatest. As my buddy Dylan has mentioned to me a few times, although Kendrick was signed to a major label, he didn’t succumb to the pressure of making top 40 record hits like Slaughterhouse: he made it on his own terms. Without hit records, and a huge major label push, Kendrick moved 240,000 units; that’s an impressive feat any way that you look at it.
Biggest Disappointment of 2012
Slaughterhouse – Welcome To: Our House
I don’t even think most people know how much I was anticipating this album before its release. When I heard the machine was signing with Shady Records for the release, I was honestly excited for these guys to get a major label push – then I heard Welcome to: Our House. It’s pretty obvious that Eminem and Slaughterhouse moved towards a more commercially friendly sound on the album; a lot of fans felt like it was the right move to make, but I don’t agree. Even though Slaughterhouse had two radio friendly songs on their self-titled debut, the rest of their tracks were rock solid – the same cannot be said for Welcome to: Our House. It’s not as horrendous as I had initially thought, but it comes nowhere near my expectation level for these guys.
Most Anticipated Releases For 2013
Pushing Keyes (M.i x Tyler Keyes)
Ever since Prep Time, I’ve wanted to see Tyler Keyes and M.i collaborate on a full-length album, and in 2013, my wishes will be fulfilled. Pushing Keyes will be produced entirely by Tyler Keyes, and I’m sure it’s safe to say that M.i will be coming correct with the laid-back lyrical heat that he’s known for. From the interactions I’ve had with Mr. Keyes, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the production on Pushing Keyes will most certainly push the envelope.
Man The Riverboat (Jellyfish Brigade)
With their last three short – but impressive – offerings, the guys from Jellyfish Brigade have been gaining a lot of momentum, and their smack keeps growing. Even though The Art of Being Pulled Apart is only three tracks, it shows a lot of growth, and I’m very interested to see what Lucas Dix and Jeffrey Acciaioli will bring to the table on Diving Lessons.
I was going to actually have something in this post about Jay Electronica because Act II: The Patents of Nobility still isn’t out yet; however, I don’t want to beat a dead horse. Plus, we all know that’s coming out in 2403 with Dr. Dre’s long awaited album Detox.