The Bigg Dogg's Top Hip-Hop Albums of 2012

January 21, 2013 -


What’s up Daily-Beat Readers! Allow me to introduce myself: My name is “The Bigg Dogg” Max Dartey. I'm a big fan of old-school and alternative hip-hop. Some of my favorites include The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Common. I’m also the Hip-Hop Director of KXSC Radio, USC’s college radio station, as well as the host of  “The House of Hip-Hop” every Sunday night at 10 p.m. Now that I’m done shamelessly plugging myself, let’s get on with it.

Let me start off by saying that this list, as well as every piece that I’ll publish in the future, is solely based on my opinion and my personal tastes, so don’t get butt-hurt if I leave off an album that you really like. That being said, here we go…

Honorable Mentions:

Tomorrow People – The Physics | Bizarre Tribe: A Quest to the Pharcyde – Amerigo Gazaway

The Way Things Work – Noesis | Miles To Go – Relic


5. 1999 – Joey Bada$$

Joey-Bada-on-Fallon-608x408When one of my professors told me that there was a kid in high-school who just dropped a hot mixtape, thoughts of Soulja Boy went through my head, and those were not happy thoughts. Luckily, I was proven wrong because Joey Bada$$ is the future of hip-hop. 1999 is a throwback to my favorite era of hip-hop, the 90’s. The production is very polished for a mixtape, featuring a balanced mix of laid-back and hard beats and MF Doom assisting on few tracks. As good as the production of 1999 is, the true star is Joey Bada$$ himself. For a guy so young, he shows a lot of control and maturity in his flow. I can only compare him to a young Nas circa Illmatic. If 1999 is an indication of things to come, the future is very bright for Joey Bada$$.

Recommended Tracks:

“Summer Knights” | “Waves” | “Survival Tactics” | “World Domination” | “Righteous Minds”


4. good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kendrick Lamar

kendrick-lamarMost mainstream music critics have this album on the top of their list, and for good reason. In a time when most mainstream rappers are garbage, Kendrick Lamar is a breath of fresh air. Much like Joey Bada$$, he's a new-school rapper with old-school qualities harking back to 2pac and the golden age of west-coast hip-hop. Even though there are times when Kendrick’s voice gets really annoying, he shows that he is one of the best MC’s in the game today with solid flow and matching lyricism. It also doesn’t hurt that all the producers on the album were hand-picked by none other than Dr. Dre. Even though there are a couple of tracks that sound like your typical Top 40 trash, GKMC is damn good album, not as good as Section.80, but damn good nonetheless.

Recommended Tracks:

“The Art of Peer Pressure” | “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” | “Real” | “Compton” (Featuring Dr. Dre) | “The Recipe” (Featuring Dr. Dre) | “Black Boy Fly” | “Now or Never” (Featuring Mary J. Blije)


3. Mourning in America & Dreaming in Color – Brother Ali

1619_brother-aliTo be very honest, this might actually be my personal favorite on the list. Sonically, Mourning in American & Dreaming in Color is different from all of Brother Ali’s previous work. Ali’s previous albums were produced by Ant, the producer and DJ for Atmosphere, but due to issues pertaining to availability, Ali chose to collaborate with producer Jake One, who has worked with the likes of 50 Cent and De La Soul. Despite the change in sound, Brother Ali not only delivers, but delivers in a big way. Political albums aren’t that prominent nowadays but this one successfully blends poignant political commentary with a sense of optimism. Brother Ali proves that you can be socially conscious without sounding like a whiner (I’m talking to you, Lupe Fiasco).

Recommended Tracks:

“Letter to My Countrymen” | “Only Life I Know” | “Stop the Press” | “Mourning in America” | “Work Everyday” | “Need a Knot” | “Say Amen” | “Fajr” | “Namesake” | “Singing This Song”


2. Life Is Good – Nas

230px-Nas-04Before he released Life Is Good, I was starting to think that Nas was overrated. Even though his debut album is considered by many, including myself, to be the greatest hip-hop album of all time, his subsequent work since Illmatic has failed to live up to that standard. Sure, he's made some pretty good albums like It Was Written, but nothing that was particularly outstanding. Luckily for Nas, Life Is Good is the follow-up album I've been waiting for. In what is by far his best work since his debut venture, Nas goes back to basics and shows why he's considered to be one of the greatest MC’s to ever pick up a mic. At the age 39, Nas has fully embraced his role as one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen  and knows that when it comes to his music, he needs to act his age. This is more than I can say for some other rappers from Nas’ era (looking at you, Snoop Dogg). His lyrics reflect his maturation and give listeners a glimpse into what’s going on in his mind: self-reflection, nostalgia, and a little bit of heartache. From a production standpoint, Life Is Good is my favorite album of the year. The beats are old-school, yet the still have a modernity about them that appeals to casual listeners. Any thoughts I had about Nas being overrated, were swept away by this record. Life must have been good to Nas lately, because this album is a classic.

Recommended Tracks:

“Loco-Motive” (Featuring Large Professor) | “A Queens Story” | “Accident Murderers” (Featuring Rick Ross) | “Daughters” | “World’s An Addiction” (Featuring Anthony Hamilton) | “Back When” | “Stay” | “Cherry Wine” (Featuring Amy Whinehouse) | “Bye Baby”


I. The Heist – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

imageIf you told me 2 years ago that I’d be hearing Macklemore on the radio, I would’ve laughed in your face. Turns out the joke’s on me, but in the best way possible. After 10 years of paying dues, Macklemore has replaced Sir Mix-A-Lot as the king of Seattle hip-hop. His fans had been waiting 3 years for this album to drop, and they were not disappointed. The Heist skillfully manages to appeal to Top 40 listeners while still satisfying the most difficult of hip-hop snobs, thanks in large part to the production of Ryan Lewis. Macklemore brings his brand of humor in songs like “Thrift Shop” but still manages to get serious in songs like “Same Love.” Decades from now, depending on whether or not Macklemore and Ryan Lewis can keep up their good work, we may look back and say that The Heist is one of the most important albums in hip-hop history. Is it the first indie hip-hop album to make it big? No. Atmosphere did it and Mac Miller did it. BUT, The Heist was able to take the quality and critical acclaim of Atmosphere and combine it with the mainstream appeal of Mac Miller, something that no other completely independent hip-hop artist has ever done, at least not in recent years. I can only pray that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis can keep topping the charts without turning their backs on their loyal fan base.

Recommended Tracks:

“Ten Thousand Hours” | “Can’t Hold Us” | “Thrift Shop” | “Jimmy Iovine” (Featuring Ab-Soul) | “Wing$” | “Awake” | “Starting Over” | “Cowboy Boots” | “Victory Lap”

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