The Next Decade Is Going To Be A Golden Era In Hip-Hop, I Pinky Swear

2012 was just a taste of what’s to come for hip-hop. This culture has grown, matured, expanded and is now in the hands of some incredibly talented, intelligent, and ambitious young guys. These up-and-comers are a new generation. They’re influenced by progressive artists that span across multiple genres and several decades. They’re savvy with technology and know how to use the internet and it’s resources to their utmost advantage through social media, video sharing sites, personal blogs, and more. This class of rappers has begun to rise with crews. Collectives that support, encourage, and help them succeed; Kendrick has TDE, Joey has ProEra, and A$AP has the A$AP Mob. Hip-hop is back in the hands of the artists and out of the corporate. Creativity is flowing, collaborations are conducive, and projects are exciting. Some of these guys have one or two albums, some have multiple mixtapes, but for the most part they are all up-and-coming, save for El-P, but they are rising quickly, you better start watching them, cause they’re reinventing hip-hop right before our eyes and it’s damn fucking thrilling to watch. 2012 was a good year in hip-hop, but it’s just the start.

1. Good Kid m.A.A.d City, Kendrick Lamar No Shit. He was at the top last year, and he defended his crown. Undoubtedly Kendrick Lamar produced the greatest hip-hop album of this year, arguably this decade. This is one of the most impressive debut albums since Nas’s illmatic. GKMC is what I started listening to hip-hop for. It’s story telling. It has a potent and pressing messaging and is not preachy about it (Cough*NiceTryLupe*Cough). Kendrick draws you into his life. He drives you around Compton and shows you the gritty shit he and his crew get into. I began listening to hip-hop so that I could escape the drear of suburbia. It gave me a window into a foreign world that was so distant from everything I had every known: a world of tension, violence, struggle, and intrigue. The world that was depicted in the hip-hop I began listening to was surely lost in the mid 2000s, but Kendrick has brought it back, kept it captivating, and allowed audiences to experience a journey through his city: both a homage and a brilliant critique. As he said in Section.80, he’s talking about “money, hoes, clothes, god, and history all in the same sentence.” And many won’t get it. 2. 1999 Joey Bada$$ Joey Bada$$ is the freshman of the year. He hopped on the scene, seemingly out of nowhere, with his crew of Progressive Era Brooklyn misfits all doing ear-catching, ambitious big things. 1999 is raw, creative, hard hitting, and young. Bada$$ is overt with his influences, spitting over beats from MF

Doom, J Dilla, and Lord Finesse, as well as impressive in-house production from Chuck Strangers. This tape is faux-vintage done perfectly. It’s reminiscent of the 90s in it’s sound, image, and inspiration. The 90s were the “golden era,” filled with fun-loving rhymes, intricate samples, give-and-go collabs, and much more. Bada$$ is ready to bring hip-hop back. It’s ambitious, but the kids got mad chops, not to mention a crew of kids who can surely hold their own weight. Peep the posse release, “PEEP: the aPROcalypse.” And RIP, Rhyme In Peace to Capital Steeze, gone way to early, on the verge of success.

3. Cancer 4 Cure El-P El- Producto revisits the mic after his six year hiatus harder, sharper, and more intricate than ever. El-P has always been a genius with his beats; the production on C4C remains abrasive, loud and elaborate. El-P flaunts his drum machine mastery, with deep sequenced beats laced in gritty synths. On the mic he stays tough, primal, and quick with it. The album talks us through dark stories of torture, greed, and corruption, from the skewed, unique mind of a 37-year-old underground hip-hop veteran. With his years of experience El makes way for young bloods to shine giving guest spots to Danny Brown, Mr. Mothafuckin’ Exquire, and close compandre Despot. The album is nostalgic of Def Jux’s golden days: it’s very rough and grainy, yet calculated and pointed. It’s nice to see an underground leader still in the game, staying true to himself and his music, and yet making room for the next generation to break out.

4. No Idols Domo Genesis and The Alchemist The Odd Future buzz has died down considerably from where we were last year salivating over Tyler and his troops. For a while the crew kept it all inhouse, sticking tightly and inclusively with one another. But in 2012, they began dispersing, collaborating with other artist and producers, and Domo Genesis linked up with The Alchemist to produce one of the more surprisingly notable mixtapes of the year. No Idols is tight, live, and well calculated. Domo sounds more confident solo than ever before on posse cuts. It’s refreshing to hear OF-style verses over non-Tyler beats. The Alchemist is a careered, veteran producer, his obvious history and experience allows Domo to sound mature and seasoned on the beat. The tape also offers a slew of dope features. The title track is a vibrant toe-to-toe between Tyler and Domo. Earl comes through, eager to hit the mic, heavy, deep, and expressive. Action Bronson’s on here, Freddie Gibbs, Prodigy, Smoke DZA, Vince Staples.

It’s great to see OF cats jumping out their comfort zone, their family, and shining through with other artists, producers, and MCs.

5. Control System Ab Soul TDE killed it this year. Undoubtedly Kendrick was the one who shined the most, but that is not to take away from the entire team at all. Ab-Soul’s Control System is an incredible mix of political, social criticism with angst and frustration, produced with his utmost creativity and style. Mine, as well as many others, first introduction to Soul was on the “Ab-Soul Outro” on Section.80, and he blew my fucking mind. Hell, he blew Kendrick’s fucking mind. “Can you repeat yourself Soul?” Kendrick asks, as if the listeners didn’t fully get it the first time. Well, Control System is Soul’s reiteration. It’s his debut masterpiece: imaginative, unique, and versatile. Ab-Soul is known to sprint, jog, and stroll all over the beat, drastically changing his cadence and flow in a matter of bars, but what’s so amazing about this album is that the variety of beats mimic his flexibility so well. Control System ranges from the airy, coked out “Terrorist Threats,” featuring Danny Brown, to the hypedriven “Sopa” with guest spot from TDE right-hand-man Schoolboy Q, to jazzinfused, piano-laden “The Book of Soul.” Ab-Soul is incredibly talented on the mic, and Control System is very well crafting. It’s wide-eyed, yet tight and permeable. TDE is the most impressive hip-hop collective to watch right now. They’re mature, smart, young, and having fun; that’s what hip-hop should be about. Schoolboy Q’s “Habits and Contradictions” is supposedly a great album as well. I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to it. Mostly because I bought Control System on Itunes and then had no more money on my Itunes account to buy it. But I hear it’s dope. Q’s really impressive. I saw him live. He likes bucket hats. He has face tats. Someone please send it to me…?

6. Traphouse Rock Kids These Days Seeing live jazz elements resurge back into hip-hop is really really appreciated. For too long hip-hop has been muddled by generic, processed, digitally manipulated beats. It wasn’t organic, fresh, or even musical. Kids These Days has reinvented what it means to be hip-hop artists, evocative of The Roots, they are a full-fledged hip-hop/ jazz fusion band. Equipped with 8 pieces, Kids These Days is able to create a full, dynamic, and truly unique sound. This album, with the production help of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, is wholly impressive. It is tight, practiced, and yet raw. These kids, 20s and younger, are classically trained jazz musicians with an affinity for hip-hop. In terms of their MC, lyricism, energy, and flow, Vic Mensa is up there with any new comer in the hip-hop game. Using the mic as his instrument, Mensa brings a rough hip-hop edge to the band. He’s incredibly agile and poetic with his pen.

Traphouse Rock is a big step in the right direction for the future of live hiphop. It’s inclusive, captivating, creative, and funky as fuck.

7. Rare Chandeliers Action Bronson “In only one year, considered as a veteran.” Bronson opens his utterly ridiculous, caricatured video accompanied single, “The Symbol,” and he’s completely right. The big-bellied, Ghostface-sounding, gourmet chef-turned rapper (how many hyphens can I use?) has been a name in the hip-hop game for a little over a year now and yet gets love, features, and respect from upand-comers to veterans. His status as a chef allows him to be one of the only rappers that can consistently, or excessively, use food references to create the most graphic and vulgar sexual innuendos. As a friend said, “His rhymes are sexual and edible.” On the contrary, sometimes he says shit like, “Stick knives where you poop.” What makes Bronsolini so lovable is that he is halfserious all the time. The album art is unbelievable: wolf hat, blunt, shotgun. The videos are theatrical and over the top. Plus you can watch him on Youtube seer Ahi-Tuna. Although his rhyming always stays crisp, gruff, and imaginative. Once again, as with No Idols, The Alchemist comes through seamless on the production with heavy bass and beats strong enough to support Bronson’s weight, complimented well by lighthearted piano ditties and goofy samples. Bronson was all over the place in 2012, and will undoubtedly stay that way next year. 8. D.R.U.G.S. Flatbush Zombies The undead Brooklyn trio delivers with their smoke-filled, psychedelic, debut mixtape D.R.U.G.S. (Death and Resurrection Under Gods Supervision). Thug Waffle, the Zombies previously released single, received high online praise and Youtube fame, but this is their first full-length cohesive project. It’s dark, lackadaisical, and a lot about weed and girls, but it’s executed with swagger, attitude, and precision. Meechy Darky, half the emcee team that makes up the Zombies, is consistently more cohesive and orderly on the mic, while Juice stays unstructured, carefree, and relaxed. Eric Arc Elliot, their in-house producer, consistently provides complimentary, forceful instrumentals. The Zombies are surrounded by ambition in New York’s budding hip-hop scene; they’re affiliated with the A$AP Mob and are managed by blog aficionados/ full-time high status creative’s The Madbury Club. The Zombies have made a unique name for themselves with their sadistic negligence. They are definitely not for everybody’s ears, but then again, they’re not Death Grips. Check them out. Or at least watch the video for Thug Waffle, a lot. 9. Nehru Jackets Heems In 2012 Das Racist broke up, Himanshu went solo. He started Greedhead, an independent hip-hop centered label consisting of his friends and other

people he knows who make cool music. He was featured in Forbes for doing so. He wrote articles for Vice, the Village Voice, Fuse, and more. And he released two solo mixtapes, Nehru Jackets and Wild Water Kingdom, to vast critical acclaim. Heems somehow managed to go from being an Econ. major at Wesleyan to an independent hip-hop mogul—it’s fucking inspiring. Nehru Jackets comes in classic Himanshu fashion as he raps eye-rollingly political commentary, on Bad Bad Bad, “If you wear a turban you can’t be a cop/ but you can shoot one.” This 25 track mixtape is the most in depth project Heems has taken on without his compatriot Kool AD, and he sounds poised as ever, or as ever poised as Heems can be. The verses are loose and slushy, but somehow stay mildly coherent and tight. Many of the beats come courtesy of Heem’s longtime friend, Mike Finito. Finito flatters Heem’s delivery with shaky, open drums, versatile samples, and classic Punjabi influences. As the head of a label now, Heems has to provide and support for his troops, and he does so through features. On Nehru Jackets is Big Baby Gandhi, Lakutis, Despot, as well as Kool AD, Mr. Mothafuckin’ Exquire, Action Bronson, Childish Gambino, and more. Heems is surrounded by a talented group of MCs and producers, he has an unbelievable work ethic, and continues to amaze, captivate, and confuse audiences with each and every release. Also, Womyn is one of the most pro-women rap songs I’ve heard in a while.

10. Royalty Childish Gambino Always with tons of swagger, Gambino opens his first mixtape since his debut album release, talking about the times he went back stage at a Roots concert and reminisced with Questo about Whitney Huston, and Black Thought told him he cares too much. This mixtape just bumps super hard. It’s energetic, exciting, and joyful. Though for much of it Gambino stays in his comfort zone with witty wordplay, pop cultural references, and reminders of how people used to say he was an oreo. But he pulls in impressive production from boi1da, skywlkr, as well as doing much of it on his own. Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of this tape are the features. Makes you think who the fuck is Gambino networking with? Ghostface shows up on here, as well as the RZA. Bun B gives Gambino love. Beck comes through with production and a rap verse on “Silk Pillow.” Somehow he’s affiliated with TDE and hooked up with Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul on “Unnecessary,” who both destroy him. Danny Brown pokes his head in on a chopped and skrewed remix of Britney’s “Toxic.” Nipsey Hussle comes through. And Tina Fey does a lil guest spot skit on the outro in which she curses, references My President is Black, namedrops Nordstrom, and admits to not feeling comfortable saying the N word. Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, is doing progressive, unfathomably things right now in the music and entertainment industry. He’s connected to veterans in both industries and has built a support system, fan base, and

friend base that will undoubtedly help him succeed and grow in years to come. Keep watching him, he’s doing big things, and he likes to talk about it. That’s my take on 2012 and the music that I listen to. I’m sorry it’s past New Years, I get distracted easily. I’m not totally sure who really cares. But if you read it, and like hip-hop, let me know what you think. Cool. Matthew Schonfeld.