Real Talk: The 12 Best Albums Of 2012

Despite large sales numbers becoming more and more difficult to secure, the ultimate goal for any artist remains the album. We here at TSS have a varying range of tastes; a quality we believe helps cover a wide array of topics and influences. It also assisted us in picking 12 albums we were fans of in 2012.

From politically inspired, to groundbreaking debuts, to therapy disguised as music and everything in between, there’s an eclectic vibe and what we hope a method to our madness here. In a few minutes, two handfuls of our favorites will be known. Next up, yours. Leave your top 10, 15, whatever in the comments and see how they align with ours.

Page 2

Killer Mike and El-P – R.A.P. Music

After years of great music, Killer Mike finally put together his classic record. Powered by boisterous productions from El-P, Mike let loose with his most politically charged and focused album to date. Complain about rap all you want, but you won’t complain about R.A.P. (Buy)

Page 3

Ab-Soul – Control System

Before Kendrick’s debut turn rap on its head, his Black Hippy brother-in-rhyme dropped a project to less fanfare, but equal quality in Control System; a project providing an intricate and often times painful look into the life of the self-proclaimed “Black Lip Bastard.” We’re running out of ways to say these TDE guys rap. And for good measure, “The Book Of Soul” is one of the best things to happen to Hip-Hop in 2012. (Buy)

Page 4

Sean Price – Mic Tyson

You want political commentary? Heart-wrenching storytelling? Something uplifting? Well, you don’t want this album. P delivers bar after bar of insults aimed at crappy whippersnappers and the putrid state of Hip-Hop. And he does it so incredibly well. (Buy)

Page 5

Freeway – Diamond In The Ruff

The term underrated – like classic – is thrown around more often than it needs to be in Hip-Hop. Yet, it defines Freeway nearly to the tee. Diamond represented a beautiful blend of Philly street corner grittiness and soulful elegance catering to nearly all facets of rap listeners. As long as Free continues to put out good music, he’ll always have a spot in TSS’ e-office rotation. Can the same be said for you? (Buy)

Page 6

Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. City

One of the most significant debuts in recent memory. Not just because of the quality – because, at this point, the album doesn’t require much more trumpeting – but because of how it was received by the general public: M.A.A.D. City moved over 240,000 copies in its first week. A win for hip-hop. (Buy)

Page 7

Big Boi – Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors

How does Big Boi do it? Somehow, he seems to get better with age. People missing Outkast albums should instead focus on the quality music Big is putting together these days. VLDR is a musical onslaught that harkens back to Kast’s glory days. (Buy)

Page 8

Roc Marciano – Reloaded

An even more engaging embodiment of the mid-90s New York street rap ethos than his 2010 debut, sophomore offering Reloaded finds Roc Marciano in fine form — stacking syllables and firing off clever slick talk over mostly self-produced beats that alternate between chilly, ominous arrangements, and backdrops that could score a ’60s-era mafioso flick. The cinematic connection extends to Marciano’s strong eye for detail (“motion picture rap, we’re like filmmakers”), a skill that helps breathe color into his raps, even as he sounds almost half-annoyed at having to explain how his clothes are flyer, his guns are bigger and his women are more desirable. (Buy)

Page 9

Nas – Life Is Good

At its core, Life Is Good is a complex character study of Nas’ current condition. He’s no longer a wise-beyond-his years stick-up kid, but a father with a teen of his own (“Daughters”); he’s coming off a bitter divorce from ex-wife Kelis (“Bye Baby,” “Roses”) and he’s steadily uncomfortable with being one of the few familiar faces in his tax bracket. These are interesting issues to wrestle with at face value, and Nas made sure to do them justice, delivering consistently inspired performances on the mic. Behind the boards, Salaam Remi and No I.D. were there conducting the project, assuring that weak production wouldn’t threaten to run the whole thing off the rails. (Buy)

Page 10

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

In an era when ignorance is beyond bliss and a full-blown marketing machine, Macklemore & his producer Ryan Lewis challenged the nearsighted industry with their honest brand of progressive hip-hop. Featuring mainstream-ready concepts for folks needing a voice and production capable of conveying a wide variety of moods, this universally-sound project proves big label influence isn’t necessary to make a splash as a DIY rookie. (Buy)

Page 11

Future – Pluto

Future’s auto-tune, warbly croon over the likes of Sonny Digital and Mike Will Made It instrumentals sounds weird on paper, but it worked so well on Pluto that he decided to re-release the album as Pluto 3D. The Astronaut Kid might reside on Pluto and Mars at the same damn time, but he has an uncanny ability to draw on situations that can appeal to anyone, like being unable to move on from that one person in “Neva End” or the realities that make us who we are in “Permanent Scar,” not to mention the ease in which he created trap love ballads and club bangers alike. (Buy)

Page 12

Curren$y – The Stoned Immaculate

Known for his love of cars, Miss Mary and dropping mixtapes and EPs without a moment’s notice, Spitta proved once again crafting a studio album capable of being mentioned with some of his more ballyhooed free releases was well within his job description. If staying in and bringing in 2013 with some friends and a loud pack is your New Year’s move, let this be the soundtrack. (Buy)

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