by Galilee Abdullah
Looking back, 2012 was the year of the trap artist. It was the year that everyone started to “turn up” and when artists like Juicy J and 2 Chainz became household names. However, let me start by saying that this is not where I will display my appreciation for mainstream trap music. I’m sure that artists such as Robert Glasper will not be on anyone’s “turn up” soundtrack. So, yes, there is always room for “wait. Hold up. Please let me roll up,” just not here. This is a list of some of my favorite music releases (albums, mixtapes, and EPs), including the mainstream and the not-so-mainstream releases of the year 2012.
This album is a sequence of odes to nature. Much like Peter King’s “African Dialects,” Muldrow implements a chant-like Afrobeat vocal style in some of the tracks on this album, such as in the song “Calabash.” Muldrow borrows from various styles to produce the album “Seeds.” Along with hip-hop beats produced by musicmaker, Madlib, comes scat singing and the channeling of both modern and classic R&B and soul. Despite the often lengthy use of repetition, this release from Stones Throw Records is ultimately a great listen.
This is a jazz album. It is not R&B, it is not soul, it is not experimental Hip-Hop; it’s J.A.Z.Z., jazz. Jazz is in a constant state of redefinition. From fusion jazz, to modal jazz, to free jazz, to bossa nova, it is at its core, jazz. To say “Black Radio” is not a jazz album is like saying Bobbi Humphrey’s “Blacks and Blues” or Donald Byrd’s “Places and Spaces” are not jazz albums; which, of course, is not true. In this project, Rob G graces our ears with the wonderful collaboration extravaganza that is embodied in “Black Radio.” With the appearances of Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Lupe Fiasco, Glasper presents a new and modern take on jazz. And, it’s beautiful. He also brings in the vocal likings of Bilal, Erykah Badu, and Musiq Soulchild, among several others. This is definitely one of, if not my all-time favorite release of 2012.
BJ the Chicago Kid has appeared on several hip-hop songs with Freddie Gibbs, Kendrick Lamar and a few others in the past few years. Chances are, you’ve probably heard him on somebody else’s track. “Pineapple Now-Laters” is BJ’s chance to show out on his first solo project. Two songs on this album are very telling of the talent that this fairly new artist possesses; “I Want You Back/Lady Lady” and “His Pain II,” which features recent hip-hop phenom, Kendrick Lamar. But, there are slight inconsistencies on this R&B album due to his tendency to change styles from track to track (some tracks have a classic Marvin Gaye “Since I Had You” R&B/Soul style while some have a more modern R&B sound). However, there are still several great tracks to choose from which makes it one of the better albums released in 2012.
In the style of Oliver Nelson’s “Sound Pieces for Jazz Orchestra,” The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble returns in collaboration with ex-Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter, Kelan Phil Cohran, to produce this twist on big band jazz. It is a brass heavy album, with a steady constant beat in each song. Unlike 2010’s “Heritage” EP, the tracks of this album have more of a marching pace than that of a traditional jazz piece. It does not disappoint.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all and it’s pretty exhausted: this is a great album. It’s consistent and never strays from Ocean’s distinct sound. This sound embodies the modern “alternative R&B” that has emerged in the past few years in artists like Ocean and The Weeknd. “Channel Orange” is Ocean’s first studio album with a very strong tracklist. But, why do I think that this is one of the best albums of 2012? Pink Matter. (And, if you’re really ‘bout it: in the true fashion of DJ Screw’s “Late Night F***in’ Yo B****”, OG Ron C released the mixtape, Channel Purple. Listen to Pink Matter Chopped & Screwed and zone ooooooooout).
For clarification, Madlib + Freddie Gibbs = MadGibbs. As far as Madlib collaborations go, this EP has me more than ready for a full MadGibbs album, “Cocaine Piñata.” This release also whets the appetite for the next Talib Kweli collaboration on the upcoming album “Liberation 2,” another Guilty Simpson collaboration, and the possibility of another Madvillain album in the upcoming year or so. “Shame” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, is a great track and this EP is a wonderful presentation of two talents.
Let me start by saying, Azealia Banks is…different. She’s an acquired taste and yes, many times I have had to Google her lyrics because of some indecipherable jumble of consonants in her songs. But, all in all, I love this EP. Azealia channels the music of the ballroom voguing scene for songs like “1991” and “Van Vogue” (she has even sampled the documentary film “Paris Is Burning” in her 2012 mixtape Fantasea). Her music is a cross between hip-hop and the aforementioned ballroom dance music to create what to some is considered “hip-house.” All fours songs of this EP are great, and Azealia is a significantly distinct addition to a relatively small group of female hip-hop artists.
4eva N A Day
March 25, 2012
Big K.R.I.T. would generally be considered an inconsistent rapper. He would fit the mold of the southern rapper: the slab, candy paint, wood grain wheel, pimpin’, “Swishas & Dosha” rapper, but he has some notable exceptions. This mixtape is a more wholistic representation of who K.R.I.T. is as a rapper, and is definitely one of my favorite projects of 2012. He channels that Swishahouse, Big Tike, “25 Lighters,” traditional Texas rap that was once the bloodline of the southern rap scene, to create songs like “Me and My Old School.” However, he often strays from the braggadocio, candy painted cars, “I gotta ho” type lyricism to write more emotional lyrics for tracks like “Yesterday,” and “Boobie Miles.” As a whole, this mixtape represents the daily chronicle of the life of a young southern male. It is definitely, in my eyes, the best mixtape of the past year.
Honestly, the last time I saw Dwele, he was on tv, standing in some nonexistent fake-vintage McDonalds café jazz club singing about coffee drinks. And to make matters worse, his last project was less-than-satisfying. But, this album has definitely revived my liking for this neo-soul/R&B artist. “Greater Than One” was a great musical addition to 2012. This release goes to show how Dwele is still producing great music, and the track “What Profit,” is definitely a favorite of the past year.
Initially, I was very unenthused by the music of the new California based hip-hop artists who make up the group “Black Hippy” (Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul). Upon further listening, however, I have grown to appreciate some of the projects released by the artists of this group, specifically this album. All I heard was “hot sauce all in our Top Ramen, ya bish” and I was feeling it. Kendrick has combined drug/alcohol based lyrics with lyrics that describe the prevailing culture and issues of the city in which he was raised, to create this great album. It is undoubtedly one of the best of the past year.