Mind Inversion Exclusive: Lucas Dix Weighs in on Hip-Hop in 2012


Top 10 Albums (no particular order)
Kendrick Lamar: Good Kid, m.a.a.d. City
“Swimming Pools (Drank)”

Kendrick Lamar has the Outkast factor.  I can listen to his songs, intently focusing on the lyrics while getting lost in the scenes he vividly describes, or I can zone out, not pay attention to what he’s saying and dance to the beat while singing along with the incredibly infectious hooks.  GKMC feels like 3 Stacks and Big Boi rolling through Compton with Caine and O-Dog from Menace II Society.

Standout Tracks:  Money Trees, Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, The Art of Peer Pressure, Swimming Pools (Drank), The Recipe

Aesop Rock: Skelethon
“Cycles to Gehena”

Aesop Rock is my favorite writer out of all the hip hop I’ve listened to in my 27 year old life.  His ability to mine the mundane constantly inspires me. Aesop is able to extract such beauty out of what seems like odd song concepts.  From a tune about bad haircuts to a track about driving motorcycles away from problems, to a joint about hating vegetables while growing up, the dude makes every song relatable to the human condition.  I broke down when I first heard the lines, “Baby, this is how the great escape goes when you can’t take your dead friends’ names out your phone”.

Standout Tracks:  Cycles to Gehenna, Crows 1, Zero Dark Thirty, Grace, Gopher Guts

El-P: Cancer for Cure
“The Full Retard”

El-P’s music makes me want to cock my hat to the side, put a snarl on my face, punch a kitten and look for the government phone taps in my house.  It’s trunk rattling BDP type bangers that are delightfully frantic, evidenced by lines like “Bump this shit in your floating whip system//Bump this shit in the bread line and the prison. Bump this shit in the chip under your wrist skin// (El you are so f*cking paranoid)”  I saw him live in June and watched an entire crowd form a mosh pit and jump around for the entire set.  One of the best hip hop artists at any level. Period.

Standout Tracks: The Full Retard, Drones Over Brooklyn, Oh Hail No, Colder Tougher Killer, Stay Down

Sapient: Gunwings Redux
Download Link: http://sapient.bandcamp.com/album/gunwings
“Glorious Day”

Sapient is one of the best technical hip hop artists out there.  I love listening to his creative multi-syllablic rhyme schemes, the heavily layered doubles that add depth and dimension to the tracks and the falsetto laced harmonies he sings on bridges and hooks.  Gunwings is actually a “redux” (redo) of his album Barrels for Feathers.  He changed the beats up, added some features and altered the choruses. Oh yeah, and it’s free.  I posted the download link.  Do yourself a favor and peep this before his new album Slump drops in February.

Standout tracks:  Clouds Clear, Glorious Day, One of the Many Ways, Stronger, Grown Up

Ka: Grief Pedigree
“Born King N.Y.”

Grimey, grimey, gully, gutter, mother f*cking rap music.  Dude spits hard, intelligently, and vividly.  If you like early Wu Tang and Mobb deep with a 2012 twist to it, this album is for you.  It feels like walking through an alley with a baseball bat and a philosophy degree on a cold, bone chilling winter night.

Standout Tracks: Chamber, Summer, Iron Age, Vessel, Born King N.Y.

Dark Time Sunshine: Anx
“Never Cry Wolf”

Zavala, the instrumentalist of DTS, may be my favorite producer in rap right now.  He is one of the best at making a beat shake your bedroom while still maintaining a strong emotional quality.  The same song will make you nod your head spastically while tearing up.  Onry Osbourne, the very abstract emcee for DTS, sounds comfortably at home over the production and the guest spots are woah (Busdriver, Aesop Rock, Reva Devito, Ceschi, Child Actor, Swamburger from S.O.S.).  Sidenote:  Gavin and I once played a Hives Inquiry Squad show and Onry was in the crowd.  When we got done rocking our first three songs, Onry screamed out “Ya’ll f*cking spit hard.”  I will forever hang my hat on that.

Standout Tracks:  Valiant, Overlordian, Look at What the Cat Did, Never Cry Wolf, Take My Hand

Action Bronson: Rare Chandeliers
“The Symbol”

He is a big, burly, red-headed, red-bearded dude who was a former chef, sounds faintly like Ghostface and raps about blunts, women, rapping better than you, fine wines and delicious cheeses.  You really can’t go wrong with that. Plus he does projects with just one producer, making them sound more cohesive than albums that patch together beats from 10+ different instrumentalists.  This particular release featured the soundscapes of the one and only Alchemist. This is the rap I listen to when I make elaborate dinners on Sunday nights and want to feel like a dun dada.

Standout Tracks: Rare Chandeliers, Modern Day Revelations, Gateway to Wizardy, Dennis Haskins, Mike Vick

Wu Block: Wu Block
“Crack Spot Stories”

Ummm…it’s Wu Tang and D Block linking up for an album.  Ghostface, Sheek Louch, Raekwon, Styles P, Jadakiss.  Need I say more?

Standout Tracks:  Crack Spot Stories, Pull the Cars Out, Coming for Ya Head, Different Time Zones, Do It Like Us.

IAME: Lame$stream
Download Link: http://iame.bandcamp.com/
“Swaggupy” (ft Young Coconut)

IAME, a Sandpeople/Oldominion represenative, does a bit of everything well.  He’s a great story teller.  He puts his naked, raw and honest self into his song concepts.  He has a wonderful writing style that frequently leaves me waiting in anticipation for how he’ll finish his rhymes.  His hooks are catchy, whether he is rapping them or somebody else is singing them.  Lame$stream is a follow up to equally as excellent 2011 release, Lame.  Both are available at his bandcamp for download, which I’ve linked.

Standout Tracks: Yeah Huh, Lame$tream, April (Thaw), Swaggupy, We All Win

Frank Ocean: Channel Orange
“Thinking About You”

I know this isn’t a hip hop album persay, but I couldn’t leave this off the list due to how much it altered hip hop/urban culture.  First off, I’ve been listening to R&B since I was 9 and I’ve only ever heard songs about clubbing, missing a girl, loving a girl, sexing a girl, Moms or Jesus.  As much as I love the genre, it hasn’t been the best at inspiring existential thoughts or challenging reality.  However, Channel Orange breaks that mold.  Frank Ocean questions religion, sings of Sierra Leone, criticizes those who’ve spent their whole lives rich and croons to both women AND men.  Most of you have probably heard of his letter explaining his past relationship with a male.  If not, you should check it out.  I feel like years from now, when gay marriage is legal and we are wondering how the hell we as a society remained so bigoted for so long, we will view his letter, these songs and this album as catalysts for a culture’s acceptance to an alternative lifestyle.  Not only does this album have genre-breaking, society changing implications, but the dude can also sing beautifully.

Standout Tracks:  Thinking About You, Lost, Bad Religion, Pink Matters, Forrest Gump

Top 5 EPs (no particular order)

Milo: Milo Takes Baths
Download Link: http://miloraps.bandcamp.com/
“The confrontation at Khazad-dûm”

Milo’s music is often mentioned as being “Nerd-Hop”, but I feel that label doesn’t do him any justice whatsoever.  Yeah, he likes to reference Dragonball-Z, Lord of the Rings, philosophers, vegetarianism, etc., but said references sound more like the confessions and desires of a college student trying to find himself rather than a comical rambling of “look at how nerdy I can be” statements.  He does an excellent job of balancing the humorous and the heartfelt, as evidence with choruses like “I wonder if these other rappers spend too much time on asshub// I wish I was a merman so I could fall asleep in the bathtub// so I would never drown.”  Milo Takes Baths makes me feel like I’m 20 years old again, sitting around a television playing Waking Life while altering my mindstate and having conversations about God, Pulp Fiction and everything in-between.  I love it. Milo has a double EP releasing on January 1st 2013 with Hellfyre Club.  Get this and then go get that.

Safari Al: Highlands EP
Download Link:  http://safarial.bandcamp.com/

Safari Al is in a crew with Milo and the Highland EP is the fine opus he released into the universe in 2012.  Based on Safari Al’s recent journey to Guatemala, this project exists in the natural world, where the sugarcane weeps and the sky is so pretty it hurts.  He is another emcee who seamlessly weaves between emotive spitting and effortless crooning, which automatically makes him someone worth bumping in my book. When he sing songs the lines “turn, turn, turn from the ground like worms, worms, worms” on “Saccharine”, I belt along with him in my rundown whip with a huge smile on my face. I am greatly anticipating future works from him.

Jellyfish Brigade: The Art of Being Pulled Apart
Download Link: www.jellyfishbrigade.com

Come on, I wasn’t going to leave my own shit off this list.

Brother Ali: The Bite Marked Heart
Download Link: https://soundcloud.com/rhymesayers/sets/brother-ali-the-bite-marked
“Shine On”

I admit, I haven’t listened to the full length he released this year, which isn’t acceptable since I absolutely loved this EP.  Brother Ali’s strength lies in his ability to be a warrior and a lover in the same body.  This project focuses on showcasing the latter side of the Rhymesayers vet.  Throwin Phonte on a verse and a hook is always a good look and the writing on the track “Years” is the best I’ve ever heard from Ali.  This is free on the Rhymesayers soundcloud page.  Cop it, then go listen to the LP he put out and tell me how it is.

Rap Class: Greatest Hits
Download Link: http://droppinggems.bandcamp.com/album/greatest-hits


Dropping Gems are the homies.  They are a great electronic label from the NW and the dude Rap Class dropped a great hip hop instrumental project with them earlier this year.  I may be a bit biased on this because RC and I have had amazing conversations about teaching, Wu Tang, and how the next Outkast album will be hip hop’s version of Graceland.  However, I don’t think I am because he’s gotten lots of love from big publications like XLR8R.  If you want some dope head nodding beats to clean your house and dance to, cop this project.

Top 15 Songs (no particular order)

Kendrick Lamar: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”

Killer Mike ft T.I. and Bun B: “Big Beast”

Rick Ross ft Andre 3000: “Sixteen”

El-P: “Stay Down”

Frank Ocean: “Forest Gump”

A$AP Rocky: “Goldie”

Pusha T: “Exodus 23:1”

Jaramie the Great ft Yenom 57: “Going Green”

Nas: “Daughters”

P.O.S. ft Justin Vernon: “How We Land”

Brother Ali ft Phonte: “I’ll Be Around”

Aesop Rock: “Gopher Guts”

Kanye West ft R. Kelly: “To the World”

Big Ban ft Hives Inquiry Squad: “Black Friday”

Jellyfish Brigade: “The Character is Me”


Lucas Dix is a teacher and an emcee for the hip hop groups Jellyfish Brigade and Hives Inquiry Squad.  You can follow him at @jellyfishbrgde.


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