The essence of hip-hop can be harnessed in the music of artists whose careers have spanned decades or concentrated in 16 hot bars of ill lyrics by a new artist. In 2012 we witnessed the evolution of hip-hop embrace the good, the bad and the rawness that forever remains in the DNA of the genre.
This year, hip-hop shined on each coast and all points in between. Hip-hop's favorite son, Nas, Compton, Calif., newcomer Kendrick Lamar, Mississippi native Big K.R.I.T., and wild child Nicki Minaj dropped some of the biggest rap albums of the year. In 2012 rap illustrated how its prowess reaches every corner of the globe while still being nestled in the hearts of old-school heads and new-school apprentices.
Nearly two decades after releasing Illmatic, Nas flexed his longevity with Life Is Good, which offered one of the most poignant rap songs of 2012, "Daughters," with an assist from GRAMMY-winning producer No I.D. Lamar embodied youthful bliss in the California sky with the Dr. Dre-blessed "The Recipe." This infectious West Coast anthem has one of the tightest samples (Twin Sister's "Meet The Frownies") over a pulsating beat, making for a combination that has been on repeat on my iPod.
Minaj's Pink Friday pushed boundaries with a strong, in-your-face delivery that demands listeners to take notice of her in this male-dominated genre. Lupe Fiasco challenged the rap game on and off the mic with Food & Liquor II, an introspective collection of rap songs indicative of his antiestablishment views.
Rap's evolution continued with the golden era's Q-Tip signing to GRAMMY winner Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label. This newly formed bond is poised to propel the genre further given these two artistic minds have already individually altered the rap landscape. While this collaboration surely marks a highlight in 2012 and beyond, rap experienced the dimming of its light with the untimely passing of one of the genre's business pioneers, Chris Lighty.
Whether you like the political assertions of Fiasco and Killer Mike or the club-tastic rumblings of Minaj, the Weeknd or West, 2012 delivered an intense flow of lyrics, beats, rhymes, vision, and culture.