Here we are at the last day of a calendar year once again and only a few months removed from the The Intermission and the first 75 songs we loved. When we started years ago, who knew we’d even see this many Decembers together, as writers and readers?
But we’re here and, as usual, we wanted to share the songs that gave us joy (and job security) for yet another year. As a staff, we gathered up the titles, sans rhyme or reason or any logical cohesion, except that we played these records on repeat so often they deserve mention as the key tracks that stood out from our personal playlists.
As always, there are no rankings here. We couldn’t do that if we wanted to because, as a Crew, every member stands strong behind their choices and blood would be spilled trying to crown one tune above the 100+ others. These are simply our favorites; feel free to add a few of yours in the comments.
1. Kendrick Lamar – “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst”
Let’s face it – every track on good kid, m.a.a.d. city deserves praise. But we’ll give a special shout out “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” a confessional/rally cry that sheds more light on the Kendrick Lamar backstory while lamenting Compton’s dog-eat-dog mentality.
2. Big Boi Ft. Bosko – “Tremendous Damage”
Big Boi has been in the game long enough to feel like extended family. So when the braggadocios emcee comes off as hurting – a clear theme of Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors – we offer an ear. “Tremendous Damage” is one of the most personal songs of Mr. Patton’s career, sharing the emotional struggles that have come with the passing of his father. Hard to imagine that there are still layers of Big to peel away, even at 37. But here we are.
3. A$AP Rocky – “Angels”
His patented Bone Thungs-N-Syrup style over a beat that can only be described as whimsical? Anyone else and we’d be laughing, but A$AP has made a career of churning out great leftfield sounds, a category that “Angels” calls home.
4. Rihanna Ft. Future – “Love Song”
The 2012 “Fire & Desire” this is not, but chances are this will be belted out at the loudest possible decibels at any random New Year’s Eve party.
5. Frank Ocean – “Crack Rock”
The singer’s all-too-real breakdown of crackheads would be a much harder pill to swallow if it weren’t presented in such a got damn catchy manner. Whatever floats your boat, Mr. Ocean.
6. Fun. – “Some Nights”
Fun. brought sing-songy stadium rock all the way back in 2012. Don’t get pissy because you’ve heard from them too much; if a song can get stuck inside your head as frequently as “Some Nights” can, melodically speaking, they’re doing something right.
7. T.I. Ft. Meek Mill – “G Season”
Tip at his trapping best or closer to it than any of us could have hoped. Trouble Man was a late-season highlight, harkening back to a day when the King Of The South moniker wasn’t in dispute.
8. Freddie Gibbs – “BFK”
A warrant has been issued for Freddie Gibbs’s arrest for what he did to that fire M-80 beat.
9. Chief Keef – “3 Hunna”
10. Toro Y Moi – “Rose Quartz”
Toro Y Moi still hasn’t released a studio, CDQ version of “Rose Quartz,” but that’s totally cool. Chaz’s live rendition of the cut from Lollapalooza 2012 is so funky that we’ll subsist until it (hopefully) appears on Anything In Return in January.
11. Petty – “Song Like This”
While the vast array of emotions displayed on his Petty Presley mixtape are what made us appreciate the project in the first place, it was the parched poetry reiterated on tracks like this somber silhouette that really helped us get inside the Nashville MC’s head and appreciate his music even more over time.
12. Jeremih – “773 Love”
Most of Mike Will Made It’s major hits this year came in the form of club-killing rap jams. Yet, when you combine this futuristic wave he cooked up for Late Nights With Jeremih with the Chicago singer’s sultry swagger, this may have been his most unappreciated assist.
13. IamSu! – “Mobbin”
In 2012, this multi-faceted Richmond rapper/songwriter/producer went from writing hits for other Cali rappers to keeping them for himself, with this slumping dedication to rolling deep in every aspect of life.
14. Mayer Hawthorne Ft. Snoop Dogg – “Can’t Stop” (Dam-Funk Remix)
If the string-infused original from Mayer’s How Do You Do debut wasn’t enough, the vintage synth genius Dam-Funk added to this trance-inducing remix was bold enough to reignite the overall sound of the song and extend it’s staying power even further.
15. Freddie Gibbs Ft. Kirko Bangz – “Bout It Bout It”
Freddie was feeling very Percy Miller on BFK and we weren’t mad about it. Between the project’s grimy intro and this should’ve been single, the Gary gangster somehow had us willingly revisiting sayings from 1997 with his thugged out crossover capabilities.
16. Kids These Days – “Bud Billiken”
Named after a fictional character that idealizes bettering Chicago youth and featuring an awesome Crucial Conflict interpolation, this energetic single from Kids These Days’ slept-on Traphouse Rock project showed these Windy City youngsters have the style and talent to become the Roots crew to a new generation.
17. Danny Brown – “Molly Ringwald” (Prod. by AraabMuzik)
Even though we question where Fool’s Gold came up with the title for their Loosies rap compilation, this turned-up quick-hitter from the MPC master and Detroit’s prettiest rapper was ill enough to justify both endless plays and randomly yelling the name of this former ’80s actress.
18. Chels Ft. Paige Allyn – “Out My Window”
Backed by floating pads and whimsical organ blips, this track from NOLA MC Chels’ True School For The Moon Children puts listeners into the mindset of a young old soul who’s seeing the world around her develop at a pace that can be hard to keep up with, unless you’re as calloused as she is.
19. Trinidad Jame$ Ft. Spook, Coop & Snake – “Team Vacation”
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there. Trinidad and co. vividly retell what happens in a few nights spent under the flashing lights of Sin City.
20. Killer Mike – “R.A.P. Music”
Seeing and hearing God in our music.
21. Lupe Fiasco – “Bitch Bad”
One of the most important songs of the year. Form, function and fashion meet and a discussion began allowing Lupe to add another positive stripe to his legacy as an artist who continually stirs the pot.
22. Kendrick Lamar Ft. Jay Rock – “Money Trees”
Kendrick didn’t get out-rapped by his TDE cohort. But, lord have mercy, Jay Rock’s delivery and details are second to none. Bonus points to K.Dot for making a quick slang term without even attempting to.
23. Flatbush ZOMBiES – “Face Off (L.S. Darko)”
Give them time and the ZOMBiES could be invading more iPods.
24. Jessie Ware – “Running”
Jessie Ware’s rocking with a Neo ’80s sound with a dash of Sade? We’ll have all of that; thank you very much. Her departure from dance music served her well here and on the rest of Devotion, her debut album.
25. Grande Marshall – “2-3 Shidd”
Philly’s got talent that’s floating right below the radar but ready to blow. And when it pops, Grande’s name will be one of the first mentioned.
26. Lake Street Dive – “Bad Self Portraits”
We’ve heard a lot of music. A lot. However, we can’t recall falling head over heels for any bad quicker than we did Lake Street Dive. The only thing we can request from this quartet is that they please release more material in 2013. Did we say “please”?
27. Nas – “Loco-Motive”
Many thanks are in order for Nas’ direct acknowledgement of the “trapped in the 90s n*ggas.” Descriptive, vivid, and unmistakably New York, “Loco-Motive” is Nas doing what he’s done better than every other rapper for the past 20 years.
28. Frank Ocean – “Lost”
There are few things worse than corrupting something, or someone, you hold dear. Sullying something as pure as love is akin to adding baking soda or lactose to the snow white stimulant Frankie’s gal whips up in the kitchen on this bouncy standout from Channel Orange.
29. A$AP Rocky Ft. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T. “1 Train”
Every rapper that bloggers used to like before they gained national fame gets busy on this one, and Hit-Boy shows that he has more than stadium-ready, glossy beats in his diverse arsenal.
30. Shy Glizzy – “Money Problems”
From the simple, earworm, hook to the naked honesty, the Southeast DC youngin’ defines the well-worn phrase “keeping it real.”
31. Kingpen Slim – “Dead”
Slim and The Ghost commit double homicide over Mark Henry’s sinister guitar lick and a bassline that sinks to the lower registers like a mother’s heart upon witnessing her child outlined in chalk.
32. Gucci Mane Ft. Future – “F*ck The World”
A by-product of Gucci Mane’s prolific year, “F*ck The World” saw him link up with Future who provided one of his better hooks, out of a lot of great hooks, from the year. Future raps, “I put my heart in every verse,” but both he and Gucci offer up a fairly deep song disguised by the flippant “F*ck The World” title.
33. Blue Sky Black Death & Nacho Picasso – “Public Enemy”
With the help of partners in crime/production duo Blue Sky Black Death, “Public Enemy” is ultra slow, and so drugged out that one can nearly catch a contact high from Nacho Picasso. Deeper than the sh*t talking, bragging, and weirdo raps that have carved his lane, Nacho’s inclusion of the Seattle Police Department makes this song all the more relevant and chilling.
34. The Jealous Guys – “Love and Other Drugs”
Over Jay Curry’s heartstring-tugging, sad violins, The Jealous Guys bemoan the perils of “Love And Other Drugs.” While the song is a little melancholy, the duo mixes their flow up and work beautifully with the instrumental to make love and drugs sound more than appealing.
35. Pink Dollaz – “No Makeup”
From the stellar Pink Drugs tape, the rambunctious, self-assured “No Makeup” was one of the highlights from Pink Dollaz. Oozing self-confidence, the song was equally part sassy and equally part dance inducing, a perfect introduction to the all-girls crew.
36. Ab-Soul – “The Book Of Soul”
Ab’s elegy for Alori Joh will tug at the emotions as a man explains his love for a woman.
37. T.I. Ft. Juicy J & Trae The Truth – “Fightin’ Words”
“As the title suggests, everything about the song laughs in the face of the weak at heart. Tip’s venomous hook is complimented by an ill-tempered verse. From there Juicy J’s tales of trippy living comes off additionally catchy as his flow appeared to integrate with the instrumental damn near flawlessly.”
38. Two9 Ft. Key!, Curtis Williams, & Jace of Retro Su$h! – “They Love It”
Two9 members Key!, Curtis Williams, and Jace craft a hopelessly catchy song with “They Love It.” The entire Two9 crew has had a breakout year, and they seemed to foreshadow it with cuts such as this, rapping about how everyone loves them. Despite that, their laid back cadences and ability to ride nonchalantly on the back side of the beat overshadow give people a reason to love them.
39. Scotty Ft. Playboy Tre & SL Jones “Too Cool”
Besides making music that anyone can relate to, Scotty demonstrated that his hook game was second to none, with “Too Cool” being almost too cool for its own good. So cool, in fact, that he had to grab Playboy Tre and SL Jones to up the ante in the remix.
40. Trouble Ft. Gucci Mane, Rocko, & Travis Porter – “U Don’t Deserve Dat (Remix)”
2012 taught me that Trouble is an excellent rapper, with him broaching touchy subjects like creepin’ women and domestic violence, and still spinning it into a song worthy of repeat play. For the remix of “U Don’t Deserve Dat,” Gucci Mane, Rocko, and Travis Porter all contribute worthy verses, but Radric steals the spotlight. Say what you want about the guy with the ice cream tattoo on his face, but there are rare glimpses to his hilarious humor, and this is one of them.
41. Domo Genesis & Alchemist – “F*ck Everybody Else”
The Alchemist had an amazing 2012, and his collaborative project with Domo Genesis was a big part of it. Young Doms flexes a lean and stripped down lyrical approach in this quick but effective gut punch from the No Idols mixtape.
42. Adele – “Skyfall”
One word: EPIC
43. Miguel – “Do You”
“Adorn” received much of the praise from Miguel’s immaculate sophomore LP, as it should. “Do You,” however, was yet another example of buddy’s propensity to produce not only a radio smash, but high-quality R&B in the process.
44. Dom Kennedy – “1:25”
Dom managed to make a record providing the ideal soundtrack for whatever one can imagining happening at 1:25 in the morning.
45. Game Ft. JMSN & J. Cole – “Pray”
Nas should act as if that “Black Girl Lost 2” track never happened, and give the title to this song.
46. Big Sean – “RWT”
“I’m perverted as fuck, got a pole in the house
Got your girl and her girl and they hoein’ it out
But you standin’ outside cause no hoes is allowed
If you work like I work, you would throw in the towel
Once you get in this life, man, there’s no comin’ out
And haters look at me like snow in the south
Sean spazzed THE hell out here.
47. Freddie Gibbs Ft. Problem – “On Me”
Freddie may be from Gary, Indiana, but this offering found on Baby Face Killa has 75 degree, clear sky weather while riding down Sunset Boulevard written all over it.
48. T.I. Ft. Akon – “Wonderful Life”
T.I.’s father and his slain-best friend, Philant Johnson, reach out to Tip from the grave reassuring him even through all the trials and tribulations, life is, indeed, wonderful. It almost felt like Tip needed to make this record to cleanse his soul.
49. Dizzy Wright – “Can’t Trust Em”
Don’t let Dizzy get in his zone. Weak rappers will suffer the consequences.
50. Nas Ft. Amy Winehouse – “Cherry Wine”
No prisoner of the moment here, but from the afterlife, Amy helped Nas deliver one of the best and most vulnerable tracks of his career.