Hip Hop 2012: Its Been…Something

RiFF RAFF

By Brandon Bastaldo

It’s been quite a…year I guess. There’s been a lot of of unforgettable things that have gone down, and continue to go down, like Drakes’ pants do at his concerts. Roll with me as we maneuvre through some of the best and worst hip hop moments of 2012.

ARTIST OF THE YEAR: RiFF RAFF

This one might come as a shocker, but any who have been following MTV, SODMG or the now simply titled Riff Raff’s career know that this Houston Texas rapper has come quite a long way from his inaudible beginnings on the MTV reality show From G’s to Gents. It was back in 2009 when Jody Christian made his first majorly broadcasted appearance as MTV Riff Raff: a drunken dude covered head to toe in tattoos, making little sense and only entertaining in the same way that Honey Boo Boo is.

Since then, Riff Raff’s million plus viewed Youtube videos have made him into a serious online success. He’s been signed to Souljah Boy’s S.O.D. Money Gang Inc. record label, worked with hip hop heavy weights like Action Bronson and Snoop Dogg and even had James Franco act a well mimicked portrayal of him as Alien in Harmony Korine’s latest teenage sex, drugs and violence expose Spring Breakers.

Riff Raff aka Jody Highroller gets this spot because of his iron clad work ethic: Riff puts up visuals for a new track or collaboration nearly every week. A recent signee to Diplo’s Mad Decent record label and member of goof hop group Three Loco alongside Andy Milonakis and Dirt Nasty, its obvious that Riff Raff is certainly up to big things.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Good Kid, m.A.A.D. City

Sure to be topping many best of 2012 lists is Compton, Cali native Kendrick Lamar‘s Good Kid, m.A.A.D city. On paper, the reasons are a no brainers: the album had colossal sales of 242 000 in its debut week alone, premiered on the US Billboard 200 at number two, ultimately seeing Lamar’s more socially conscious focus beating out Taylor Swift‘s songs about her ex-boyfriends.

But for many, Good Kid,m.A.A.D. city is top choice because it represents one of those rare moments when hip hop lovers actually get to see someone with incredible and undeniable talent finally getting theirs.

Good Kid, m.A.A.D city is Lamar’s major label debut, and now being triply signed to Dr.Dre‘s Aftermath Entertainment, Interscope Records and Top Dawg–we’re actually witnessing Kendrick’s hard work affording him the luxuries to produce more of his continually evolving sound.

Part of Black Hippie–which is composed of Lamar, School Boy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock–I’m sure 2013 will hold many more good fortunes for this newcomer, recently turned hip hop heavyweight.

(Oh, and it’s also the album to prove that no matter how old, how reformed and how out of touch Shyne is with hip hop, he still will never stop being a shitster).

BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST OF THE YEAR: Trinidad James/ Joey Bada$$

Prepare yourself, this one’s a two parter:

1) “Shit sounds like 007 on N64…” says Trinidad James on the intro to “All Gold Everything”. Ignorance has many forewords, but there is no song, no artist or video that could have been better preceded than Trinidad James’ break out track. Sporting a neck dripping with thick gold chains, a puppy in one hand and every colour relating to his Trini ancestry all over, James brought the eccentrics of swag rap together with his customized southern verses to fashion something that is much different than anything else going on in the 2 Chainz-wannabe infested waters of hip hop.

Coining the phrase “Popped a Molly I’m Sweatin!” James’ influence on the face of modern day internet hop is undeniable.

2) At only the tender age of 17, Brooklyn, New York new comer Joey Bada$$ and his Pro-Era crew put themselves and BK back on the map, in new ways this year. Often compared to an Illmatic era Nas, Bada$$ and his about 18 deep crew wafted a breath of 90s hip hop specific air into the stale draft that some facets of the industry continue to wallow in. Featured on Harlem representer A$AP Rocky‘s upcoming sophomore album Long.Live.ASAP on a track with modern day hip hop royalty like Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf, Danny Brown and Action Bronson, you could certainly say that this teen has put his foot in the door.

BEST SONG OF THE YEAR: “Thug Waffle” – The Flatbush Zombies

Since the release of the visuals for this weed, scratch that, zombie smoke anthem back in June, I’ve probably listened to the Flatbush Zombies‘ “Thug Waffle” about… 200 times. Okay that’s a bit of an overstatement–or is it?–but you get the point.

This is the track that slapped all those unaware of the Flatbush Zombies ‘poison ink’ flow awake, and with a video that’s as much a super steezy advertisement for grills, weed and Eggo waffles, “Thug Waffle” is a great introduction to any new comers to the zombie universe.

Frequent collaborators with New York’s refreshing hip hop movements, 2013 will surely see that “niggas know the time”.

WORST SONG OF THE YEAR: “Birthday Song”- 2 Chainz feat. Kanye West

“All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe,” says 2 Chainz in “Birthday Song” featuring Kanye West. And with that said, I think it’s fair to say that 2 Chainz helped to pen the track that would replace 50 Cent‘s 2003 international drunken birthday bash anthem “In Da Club”. As my most dreaded, hated song of the year–I cringe at any social function where this blears–it’s hard for me to listen to Kanye dumbing himself down to 2 Chainz’s signature 10 word verses, especially considering West’s lyrical talents.

This track may be playful, but I’m seriously concerned about the futures of the millions of grade sixes around the world listening to this song and getting their first grind on. I only hope that their life aspiration isn’t to get buried in the Gucci store.

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR: Nicki Minaj Shows People She’s Really Crazy at the Grammy Awards

Up until her performance at the 54th Grammy’s, Nicki Minaj was probably the closest thing to being the black Madonna. Arguably so, her extravagant displays were a little better received before her exorcist inspired, schizophrenic theatricals seen performing “Roman Holiday”. After giving a presentation composed mainly of weird grunts, screams and fast paced yelling all in an Angelina Jolie–yet somehow worse– styled British accent, Minaj could have only been possessed by the spirits of Mili Vanilli, Yoko Ono, or any other ‘artists’ whose live acts never cease to. . .entertain us.

MUSIC VIDEO OF THE YEAR

This one’s another split for me, and a hard to believe one, at that.

1) I am well aware that 2 Chainz’ “Birthday Song” featuring the “don’t drink and red carpet” spokesman Kanye West, was my pick for Worst Song, but I’m a firm believer in duality. And that’s why the video for “Birthday Song” takes half this spot. Although the song is an exercise in seeing how much one can rap while drunk, this video for “Birthday Song” is, well, kick ass. Directed by Andreas Nilsson, we’re thrown into a surreal dream filled clowns, elderly Pakistani men downing malt liquor and families sharing cakes made of women covered in whip cream. It’s like Nilsson is giving us a look inside of Eminem‘s head, when he was on drugs and maybe watching Honey Boo Boo. Amazing.

Tits! Tits and ass everywhere!

2)The other part of this category goes to windy city rapper Keith “Chief Keef” Cozart for the visuals for his track “I Don’t Like” featuring Lil Reese–an exercise in utter and unabashed simplicity. Filmed in a white room filled with blunts and shirtless Chief Keef clones with 8 packs, director DGainz created a effortless music video formula that has been many times imitated and parodied. With over 20 million Youtube views, Chief Keef’s essentially three word song is obviously the shit people do like.

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Earl Sweatshirt

After the considerable internet buzz created by Earl Sweatshirt‘s 2010 debut album Earl, and as one of the founders of the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), fans and critics were patiently awaiting Earl Sweatshirt’s return from his rumoured kidnapping, alien abduction or imprisonment. But when we all learned that this 18-year-old rapping prodigy’s mom shipped the young rapper off to an at risk boys retreat in Samoa, it didn’t stop fans from rocking “Free Earl” t-shirts, saying “fuck Earl’s mom” and patiently waiting to hear any new material. Sure Earl wasn’t exactly James Dean any more, but the kid can rap his ass off, so it’s okay.

Since returning in February and doing a few features and spots here and there, it wasn’t until early November that we finally got to hear the first official single from Earl since his return. With a mellower sound that yet still has “something sinister to it,” “Chum” doesn’t fail to live up to everything we’ve been hoping for. The track is rumoured to be appearing on Earl’s third studio album Doris, and these kick ass visuals for the song were dropped two days later.

LETDOWN OF THE YEAR: Kreayshawn’s Somethin’ Bout Kreay

If you use the internet, chances are you’ve seen or heard of Natassia Zolot aka Kreayshawn. That’s because when Kreayshawn dropped her famed “Gucci Gucci” in May of 2011, the song went viral and received more than two million views in two weeks.

Although “Gucci Gucci” boosted Kreayshawn and other members of the White Girl Mob to internet hip hop celeb status–which is actually a thing now–it wouldn’t be till September of this year that Kreay was finally able to drop her debut album Somethin’ Bout Kreay.

With more than a year worth of anticipation, fans and nay sayers were obviously curious to see if this 23-year-old music video director turned rapper has what it takes to be more than an internet sensation. Unfortunately, Somethin’ Bout Kreay sounds more like a spacy experiment in fem hip hop than anything solid. It’s not to say that Kreayshawn hasn’t parleyed her previously one dimensional talent into a grander exciting act, but it would be an all-out lie to claim that her album can stand up to repeat listens. Currently headlining her Group Hug tour and rolling deep with her female power house comprised of up in comers Chippy Nonstop, Honey Cocaine and Rye Rye, there’s still much faith to be had in Kreayshawn who seems to be sharpening her skills every day.

MEME-ORABLE MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Kanye West Has a Sextape

I’m a firm believer in the saying, “if you lay with dogs, you’ll wake up with flees.” Well in this case, the flea carrier in question is reality TV celeb Kim Kardashian, who Kanye West has been dating since March. It seems like much of Kim’s behaviour has rubbed off on Kanyezee, and the most obvious example of this was when West made headlines around the world earlier this year after news of an alleged sex tape of the Evil Kanyevel floating around the web.

RadarOnline–the website who first confirmed the existence of tape–was reportedly offered $1 million for Kanye’s allegedly 28 minute long love sesh. Being the airtight vessel of Hennessy and music production that he is, it’s no surprise that these tapes didn’t see the light of day before Kanye’s legal team shut the whole thing down with a cease and desist letter, barring anyone from even showing even a screen shot.

But really that’s all it takes. Just one, freeze frame photo to stand as actual evidence that West doesn’t just rub one off in a room full of mirrors, like we all thought.

@BrandonBastaldo

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