It’s the last day of the year, so when could it be more appropriate to take a look back at the months that were? And damn, what a year for rap it was. Killer Mike, El-P, Nas and Kendrick Lamar all dropped albums that would’ve been a shoe-in for album of the year in any other year, but 2012 made them compete fiercely for the title. Besides that, hip-hop grew a myriad of styles unparalleled in its history. From club-rattling trap tunes to soulful jazz-infused beats and from intimate personal stories to blaring stadium anthems, we heard it all. Compiling a list effectively reflecting both the year and our personal taste wasn’t easy, which is why we expanded to fifty cuts this year. It still wasn’t easy dwindling the list down to just 50, but that’s a problem I’ll gladly tackle again next year, if merited.
While the Spotify playlist found here is sequenced to ebb and flow nicely rather than to ascribe to any specific ranking, the cut it ends with is certainly the number 1 track of 2012, at least in my book.
Killer Mike’s Reagan is simply hip-hop in optima forma. The slow build-up gives it an epic feel (the song is one third underway and past the first verse before the drums even hit) and the content fits it like a glove. While describing the problem of Reaganomics in a broad sense and rap’s similar focus on greed and personal wealth in the first verse, its effects are met in the second verse with a much more personal, autobiographical slant which remains easily relatable. It’s easy to understand why Mike was glad with the passing of the 40th POTUS once you’ve heard where his distaste comes from. When he proclaims “I’m glad Reagan dead” at the end, leading into EL-P’s blistering musical finale, it’s become nearly impossible not to pump a fist in the air, with a goosebumps-riddled arm attached to it.
As said earlier though, competition was fierce, and 2012 was a great year to be a rap aficionado of sorts. Peep our 50 favorites below and toast to the new year, let’s hope it’ll be just as great musically as this one was! Cheers and happy 2013!