The 2012 Intermission: 75 Great Songs We’ve Enjoyed So Far

08.26.12 5 years ago 58 Comments

The first half of 2012’s in the books and rap’s had a healthy start. We’ve seen and heard our fair share of big hits and small beefs; watched older artists reasser their positions alongside upstarts looking to make their mark; heard catchy tracks that may their way to radio mixed with the tunes that will never make any countdown but still deserve their just due.

All of those songs make up our 2012 Intermission. Never looking to capture a absolute “best of” list – a trick that’s truly subjective – we’ve rounded up 75 standout songs that stayed on repeat on our collective sound systems. These are our favorites, feel free to add yours in the comments.

Photo: Pitchfork

1. Killer Mike – “Reagan” — Mike’s barbed critique of the Republican icon is on-point, but what really marks this track as one of rap’s definitive political rallies are his shots at both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Hip-Hop heads don’t need to be talked into hating Ronald Reagan; getting listeners to second-guess such liberal heroes takes a savvy political perspective and a large set of balls. (Listen | Buy)

2. Shawn Chrystopher – “One Of My Homies” — We’ve all got friends who stand on much different positions on life’s totem pole. So, it was easy to relate when hearing Shawn Chrys spit so intricately about his close associates and acquaintances. (Listen)

3. Mac Miller – “Desperado” — The experimental, brooding Macadelic marks a dramatic contrast to Mac’s bubble gum debut, Blue Slide Park. “Desperado” is easily one of the mixtape’s most accessible tracks; come for the groovy Clapton-esque guitar loop, stay for the pensive, introspective lyrics. (Listen)

4. Rick Ross Feat. Stalley and 2 Chainz – “Party Heart” — This is the soundtrack to the ride home from the club. Still full of liquor and the high that comes from from one of those nights, you need something that doesn’t bang as much as it simmers. (Listen | Buy)

5. Gucci Mane Feat. Rocko & T.I. – “Plain Jane” — First appearing on Trap Back, Mike Will’s production was rejuvenated with a verse from T.I. for Gucci Mane’s I’m Up tape. A cold instrumental, and some cold instrumentals, not to mention T.I and Gucci Mane collaborating? Burr. (Listen)

6. Kanye West Feat. Big Sean, Pusha-T & 2 Chainz – “Mercy” — Hip-Hop’s tastemakers make this record-setting summer just a little hotter. Swerve. (Listen | Buy)

7. E-40 Feat. Problem, Iamsu! & YG – “Function” — “Function” is the epitome of why E-40 is legendary. His typical vocal inflections, over a catchy beat, all wrapped into a song that seems to be the theme of today. We are all out here trying to function. (Listen | Buy)

8. FKi Feat. Iggy Azalea – “I Think She Ready” — From Transformers N The Hood, “I Think She Ready” showcases FKi alongside Australian raptress Iggy Azalea. Bits of eletronic and dubstep in the song add to the fun, playful mood curated by trap rap producing duo. (Listen)

9. Nacho Picasso & Blue Sky Black Death – “Naked Lunch” — Nacho Picasso is one thugged out and drugged out rapper, and nothing illustrates that better than “Naked Lunch.” Besides the beat that has as many layers to it as drugs that Nacho tries in hopes that something’s got to work, some of his wittiest and weirdest punchlines are found in the song by the same name as William S. Burroughs novel about a junkie. (Listen)

10. Big K.R.I.T. – “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” — Most raps about fathers dwell in the usual hate towards and insecurities attributed to not having pops around. Thankfully K.R.I.T. broke the mold to show how his figurative father’s wise, tough parenting made him the man he is today. (Listen | Buy)

11. Juicy J Feat. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne – “Bands A Make Her Dance” — Unexpectedly, Juicy J revamps his famous “Juicy J can’t…” line in “Bands A Make Her Dance,” and will always have a place in his heart for the ratchets, drugs, and alcohol. 2 Chainz continues to keep going like the Energizer Bunny, and Lil Wayne spits a verse that shows all hope isn’t lost for him. (Listen)

12. Curren$y – “Showroom” — Curren$y’s music was on probation for the longest. The charge got lifted the minute “Showroom” hit the play button. Every spin sounds like ‘08 Spitta all over again which, if you haven’t noticed, is pretty good. (Listen | Buy)

13. Joey Bada$$ – “Waves” — Lil’ Joey’s got big dreams and rhymes them as eloquently as any 17 year old could. If only more rappers from his generation had the same lyrical and life ambitions then we’d be alright. (Listen)

14. Nas – “The Don” — Hold on, the lil homey made a banger? Stop the presses, alert the authorities and beep your momma cause Escobar season has returned! (Listen | Buy)

15. Jarren Benton Feat. Dizzy Wright & Aleon Craft – “Half Ounce, Quarter Pound” — Funk Volume flexes its lyrical (and ignorant) prowess as the two emcees from opposite ends of the country trade rapid-fire bars about burning the friendliest of leaves. (Listen)

16. Ab-Soul – “The Book Of Soul” — Ab-Soul’s recital of love lost is far from a hacken-eyed sob story. It’s a stream of consciousness wrought with conviction and regret: regrettably rare in today’s rap scene. (Listen | Buy)

17. Gunplay – “Jump Out”  —  2012 was a breakout year for Gunplay & while he garnered a lot of critical acclaim for his performance on K. Dot’s “Cartoons & Cereal” as well as his verse on MMG’s “Power Circle”, it was this hyper-violent, blissfully ignorant lead single off of his Bogota Rich mixtape that helped solidify his spot as Maybach Music’s not-so-secret secret weapon. Don Logan got next. (Listen)

18. Danny Brown – “Fields” — With a rolling instrumental that sounds just as haunting & desolate as the very streets Danny Brown is describing, “Fields” is a striking portrait of the poverty stricken neighborhoods of Detroit. On an album that spends much of it’s runtime extolling the virtues of the high life, “Fields” is sobering to say the least. (Listen | Buy)

19.  Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Thuggin’” — The title to this one is self-explanatory. And it feels so good. (Listen | Buy)

20. Prodigy Feat. Havoc – “Who You Bullshittin’” — One listen to this Sid Roams-produced banger off of H.N.I.C. 3 and you’d almost forget the fuckery surrounding these two earlier in the year. As usual, Pistol Packin’ P has his sights aimed squarely at the wannabe thugs & his man Hav has got his back, just like always. Vintage Murda Muzik. I’m gonna act like that Twitter shit and the ensuing fallout didn’t even happen. (Listen | Buy)

21. Stalley Feat. Anthony Flammia – “Lover’s Lane” — The Block Beattaz gifted Stalley a number of gold-standard beats in Savage Journey, ‘Lane’ being no exception. And newcomer Flammia brings some heat on the hook. Stalley would be rude not to show up with such impressive bars. (Listen)

22. Big K.R.I.T. Feat. Big Sant and Bun B – “Pull Up” — This straightforward speaker destroyer is one of the standouts from K.R.I.T.’s long anticipated major label debut. Guest turns from the underrated Big Sant and southern legend Bun B feed the fire stoked by the Mississippian’s opening verse (Listen | Buy)

23. ScHoolboy Q Feat. Jay Rock – “2 Raw” — One of many highlights off of Habits and Contradictions doesn’t reinvent the hype track. It simply reinforces that TDE does it better than most. Consider the following bars for proof: “Probably slidin’ down your region, off this Henny got me leanin’/Ain’t no secret that we ballin’ and yo ho be referee-in,’” hollers Q in a way that begs, ‘the fuck you mean, I ain’t the best?’ (Listen)

24. Pusha-T – “Exodus 23:1” — I’m far from a hater, and generally wish most people that don’t play for the Dallas Cowboys all the success and happiness in the world. Still, I much prefer Pusha T when he sounds a little bitter. Anytime he feels overlooked or disrespected we get songs like this (Listen)

25. Childish Gambino Feat. ScHoolboy Q & Ab-Soul – “Unnecessary” — Q shreds this beat into confetti and then covers it in gasoline and lights it ablaze just for good measure. He just wanted to be thorough with his demolition so nobody else would have the balls to approach the wreckage. (Listen)

Photo: Terry Richardson

26. Frank Ocean – “Bad Religion” — The buzz has been huge and the acclaim has rolled in fast, but Frank Ocean has the songs to back it all up. “Bad Religion,” a highlight from an album full of them, honestly tackles love, pain, and faith in a way that shows why he’s the rare contemporary star worth paying attention to for their lyrics. (Listen | Buy)

27. Lemonade – “Neptune” — Rarely has Indie and R&B intertwined so seamlessly. Glistening synths and tumbling drums pop out of the shadows, and lead singer Callan Clendenin has a voice that makes you believe he can save the song’s relationship in limbo.  (Listen | Buy)

28. Future – “Truth Gonna Hurt You” — Aside from illustrating Future’s compelling ability to transform token songs for women into album highlights, this record is a showcase for Atlanta producer Mike Will, who channels the soulful melancholy of Ridin’ Dirty-era UGK to great effect. (Listen | Buy)

29. JMSN – “Runaway” — It’s not quite Kanye’s 2010 epic, but the apex of JMSN’s †Priscilla† is a beautifully sombre pull of the plug on a relationship with which he plays tug of war on his lushly-produced debut album. (Listen | Buy)

30. Stalley – “Live At Blossom” — The fuzzy guitar, swelling strings, and victory march drums signal success, and Stalley’s too aware of the potential pitfalls around the corner to be knocked off his perch. (Listen)

31. A$AP Rocky – “Goldie” — If G.O.O.D.’s “Mercy” was summer’s heat, then Rocky’s “Goldie” was spring’s F-5, barn-blitzing tornado. Swag. (Listen | Buy)

32. Amigo The Devil – “Perfect Wife” — A song this demented has never had a video this perfect. (Listen | Buy)

33. Playboy Tre – “Care After Me” — Another record dealing with an untimely passing, the ATL lyricist get brownie points for for having showing the other side of being drunk and not only reveling in the ignorance. (Listen)

34. TiRon & ScHoolboy Q – “Love Me Not” — We know TiRon is a lovebird, but Q? I guess Hoover Crips wonder about the fairer sex once in a while too. (Listen)

35. SL Jones x DJ Burn One Feat. Rittz – “M.D.M.A.” — Few rappers today can keep up with Rittz and when he’s rapping over a Burn One beat, he may as well be walking on air (see what I did there?). If you’re still one of the few who thinks the South is still devoid of lyricism, look no further than Paraphernalia and prepare to have your mind blown. (Listen)

36. Curren$y Styles P – “Jekkyl & Hyde” — Monsta Beatz’s Afrobeat inflected production steals the show, but Spitta and The Ghost more than hold their own. (Listen)

37. The xx – “Open Eyes” — Jamie, Romy and Oliver slipped this early Coexist leak into Google Reader feeds within the first week of the year. The minimalistic ambiance is trademark xx, but it sure opened eyes when it ended the group’s almost three-year hiatus. (Listen)

38. Major Lazer – “Get Free (Feat. Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors)” — Speaking of beloved acts reappearing from nowhere, Diplo and Switch resurrected their dancehall Frankenstein, Major Lazer, for “Get Free.” Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors tagged along, too, giving the hoppy production a shrieking personality and vocals. (Listen | Buy)

39. Ghostwridah – “Die” — Emotion is such a difficult intangible convey in a record but authentic feeling speaks for itself. Ghost’s four minutes of philosophizing had me playing out my funeral in my head over and over again for weeks. (Listen)

40. Darq E Freaker Feat. Danny Brown – “Blueberry” — You can thank Pitchfork for this track. Because of their interview with Danny and his admitting that he dug Darq E.’s shit, the two recorded this grimey slab of schizoid Hip-Hop about pill-popping and nose candy. A case of PBR and an advanced copy of Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz. for Pitchfork will suffice. (Listen | Buy)

41. Clams Casino – “I’m God” — Alright, “I’m God” isn’t exactly new, but dammit, officially getting to hear Clams’ gorgeous Shroom-Hop without the #basedgod deserves re-branding as a 2012 highlight. (Listen)

42. ScHoolboy Q Feat. ASAP Rocky – “Hands On The Wheel” — If you were at SXSW, there’s a good chance you saw ScHoolboy’s breakout single performed a few times. If you listen to Shade 45, you’re probably sick of it. Either way, there’s no denying this combination of such murderous verses and Best Kept Secret’s killer beat. (Listen | Buy)

43. Starlito – “Hope For Love” — The trials and tribulations of Starlito make for superb songs. The messier Star makes his life seem, the better the tracks and projects become as his pain and paranoia total up to our listening pleasure. (Listen | Buy)

44. Danny Brown – “Grown Up” — Most people consider D. Brown an acquired taste, but on this Scion AV-sponsored single, the Fools Gold rhymer took it back to his childhood and delivered maybe his most mainstream track to date and received universal acceptance. (Listen | Buy)

45. Sol Feat. Ray Dalton – “Need Your Love” — This highlight from Seattle rapper Sol’s Yours Truly album might be a bit sappy to some, but between the elegant ukulele strumming and killer hook from Ray Dalton, you’d be foolish not to at least add this one to the late-night playlist. (Listen | Buy)

46. Hoodie Allen – “No Interruption” — If you weren’t feeling this goofy, speaker-blowing single from the leader of the Hoodie Mob, you should lighten up a bit. Fueled by solid spit and the confidence of an All-American Internet sensation, there’s a reason this Long Island rhymer was able to turn his first non-sampled single and DIY mantra into both the number one album on iTunes and a country-wide hit. (Listen | Buy)

47. A-Trak Feat. Danny Brown & Juicy J – “Piss Test” — Atop a sinister concoction from his boss A-Trak, Danny Detroit hijacks this destructive track with a double-time flow that will leave you with a broken rewind button. (Listen | Buy)

48. BJ The Chicago Kid Feat. Kendrick Lamar – “His Pain” — Two of the year’s breakout stars from each of their respective genres, The Chi-Town Kid enlisted K-Dot to tell a twisted tale of karma that’s so vivid it will give you shivers. (Listen | Buy)

49. Saigon – “Hungry” — With Sire behind the boards, The Yardfather returned to rare form on this appetizing heater from his slept-on mixtape with Just Blaze, Warning Shots 3. (Listen)

50. Don Trip – “Allen Iverson” — Fueled by the heart of a warrior and angst of being backed into a corner by society, Don Trip channeled Bubba Chuck for this highlight single from the Memphis MC’s Guerrilla Gangsta Grillz. (Listen)

51. Theophilus London – “Dance Hall Days” — There were a few jams on Theo’s Rose Island mixtape that could’ve made this list. However, there was something about this perfectly-worked Wang Chung cover that had the TSS staff dancing all night. Well, everyone except S. Cadet. (Listen)

52. Childish Gambino Feat. Alley Boy, Swank and Tina Fey – “Real Estate” — Childish Gambino isn’t a personal favorite, and the beat deserves a “C-” in Generic Ominous Southern Production 101, but Tina Fey makes a strong bid for best ad-lib rant of 2012.5 here. Khaled’s days are numbered if Liz Lemon ever decides to swap her self-deprecation for self-promotion. (Listen)

53. Killer Mike Feat. El-P – “Butane”R.A.P. seems deservedly destined to top most critic’s lists come the end of 2012, so we’ll save the pretty, flowery words for that occasion, and instead offer a brief reminder that “Butane” bangs like whale penis. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! (Listen | Buy)

54. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Feat. Mary Lambert – “Same Love” — 2012 has brought many signs of hope that equal rights for gay couples is realistically on the cultural horizon. With Frank Ocean’s heartfelt letter affirming his relationship with a man, Hip-Hop in particular is seemingly growing more comfortable at exploring the controversial topic. “Same Love” comes across as proudly self-righteous, but thanks in large part to a soaring chorus by Lambert, Mack & RL have crafted a “message” song that manages to stay soulful and accessible, despite sporting its political stance so blatantly. (Listen | Buy)

55. Ab-Soul Feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Illuminate” — T.D.E. solidified their position as Hip-Hop’s Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half of 2012, with repeated strong showings by Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul, and of course, K. Dot. “Illuminate” has a dreamy and lovely backdrop, which is subsequently torn to shreds by Ab-Soul’s rapid, whirling flows.  (Listen | Buy)

56. Big K.R.I.T. – “KING Pt 2” — Heavy is the crown, but none may be better prepared to wear it than K.R.I.T. (Listen)

57. Pusha-T Feat. Kanye West – “New God Flow” — Kanye has always been the most talented at selecting exactly the right sample or snippet to fit a particular song’s vision and his hit streak continues with a perfect resurrection of a classic Ghostface line from “Mighty Healthy.” (Listen | Buy)

58. OG Ron C Feat. A$AP Rocky – “Palace” — The legendary Houston DJ applies his signature chopped-up-not-slopped-up formula to A$AP’s debut, resulting in even more screwed-up concoctions of already Houston-ized tracks. “Palace” sounds like hang gliding over a canyon… at approximately two miles per hour. (Listen)

59. Kendrick Lamar Feat. Gunplay – “Cartoons and Cereal” — Nobody would anyone have expected that innocent Saturday morning TV and breakfast would bang your trunk so hard. Then again, there probably wasn’t a character named Gunplay in Looney Tunes. (Listen)

60. Locksmith – “The Pit” — Richmond, California’s just as bad of a hood as anyone’s ever seen, it just doesn’t have any mainstream artists rapping about it. Don’t believe me? Just ask Lock. (Listen)

61. Meek Mill Feat. Big Sean – “Burn” — With all due respect to Jadakiss and Styles P, this is the best “back-and-forth” display rap’s seen in years. (Listen)

62. KD – “Dreamz” — Sooner or later, folks will catch on to the self-proclaimed “realest outta Alabama.” This introspective number from his Crown Me mixtape delivered an audio nugget worthy of perching near the top of his catalog. (Listen)

63. J. Cole – “The Cure” — We haven’t heard much from Light Skin Jermaine in 2012. However, when he flipped The Throne’s second track to give us all an update on his life, the anticipation for new music hit code red levels. (Listen)

64. Klub Monsta – “Sam’s Street Child” — Blessed with a heavenly sample and Burn One instrumental, Klub Monsta delivered one of 2012’s finest storytelling tracks. (Listen)

65. French Montana Feat. Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne – “Pop That” — French’s X-rated smash single is like the National Anthem when it pops off in the strip club. (Listen)

Photo: Pablo Vasquez

66. Smoke DZA Feat. Action Bronson – “Turnbuckle Music” — Smoke DZA and Action Bronson are rap’s great wrestling ambassadors so a song with them paying homage to the greats just makes too much sense. An all-wrestling-themed EP por favor? (Listen)

67. 3D Na’tee – “Wake Me Up” — Na’tee may be the best musician representing the New Orleans street life right now in the same vein as Soulja Slim or UNLV before her. Want to know the mind of a hustler in dire times? “Wake Me Up” is the answer. (Listen)

68. James Crow, 5th Child, PyInfamous, Skipp Coon, Kamikaze, Coke Bumaye & 7even:Thirty – “Crew Joint” — There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned posse cut. And this is a posse cut of the highest order. Pack a lunch because this is quite a show. (Listen)

69. Omarion Feat. Wale – “M.I.A.” — Omarion deserves an apology from all of us. While the world was dogging MMG out for signing him, Omarion was putting out the best song on the whole damn compilation. Who saw that coming? (Listen )

70. Starlito – “Produced By Coop” — Word to the wise: you can make a song full of quotables without punchlines. Damn near every line ‘Lito spits is wisdom. (Listen)

71. Dom Kennedy Feat. Rick Ross – “Gold Alpinas” — That Aaliyah Sample >>>. Dom is as reliable in the summer as the hood ice cream man at 10:00 p.m. (Listen)

72. Denzil Porter – “Kanye West” — Rap can be fun sometimes in case you forgot. And it’d be hard to find a more amusing hook than this one Denzil provides.  (Listen)

73. Meek Mill – “Lean Wit It” — Too fast, too strong. One of Meek’s better songs of the year happened to be one of his first leaks off Dreamchasers 2. (Listen)

74. El-P – “The Full Retard” — Producto has had one helluva banner year so far: busting down subgenre borders and broadening his list of collaborators beyond his temporarily-suspended Def Jux imprint, but it’s this savage, rumbling solo cut that most accurately defines the essence of El’s magical 2012 run. (Listen | Buy)

75. Gunplay, Stalley, Wale, Meek Mill & Rick Ross Feat. Kendrick Lamar – “Power Circle” — Say what you will about MMG but they know their strengths and play to them well. Here, their differences in styles and approaches are what unite them as each MC – plus special guest K-Dot – steps up to knock out their verse out of the park and create one of the year’s best tracks. (Listen)

Around The Web