Hey what’s up everyone. I want to first off thank all my viewers and artists old and new for supporting Embassy: Interactive this year. I look forward to providing more material for your eyes and ears going into 2013 and will be adding more features to the site for constant improvement.
2012 was a good year for music and I hope that you all had the chance to check out most of the very notable releases. Here is my list of favorite albums that were released this year, all listed in alphabetical order. While I will admit there were plenty albums released I didn’t get the chance to hear, the projects listed below should be more than suitable for your listening pleasures. To get an idea of what I like in an album, I’m a sucker for conceptual albums and overall song cohesiveness. Oh yeah, lyrics will always be important to me in a track, so even though I do like my occasional ratchetness and ignorance in a song, if the project isn’t saying much I’m bypassing it.
If there’s anything on here you think I missed definitely make a suggestion in the comments section below. Don’t say your own music either, it’s tacky lol. Enjoy.
Embassy: Interactive presents Favorite Albums of 2012
1.) DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles – Kolexxxion
Out of the artists that have worked with my favorite producer DJ Premier, Bumpy Knuckles is easily in the top five when it comes to overall artist/producer chemistry. Bumpy Knucks does not disappoint on 2012’s album “Kolexxxion”. Giving justice to Preemo’s trademark chops, kicks & snares that were rumored to be rejected beats that were shopped around for other artists projects (Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, Immortal Technique, etc), Bump made them fit right at home with his aggressively direct flow and “smack the shit out a wack rapper” lyricism.
Favorites: “Shake The Room”, “The Lah”, “B.A.P.”
2.) Emile Sandé – Our Version Of Events
The UK singer/ songwriters’ debut album “Our Version Of Events” was easily my pick for best R&B project this year, beating out BJ The Chicago Kid’s “Pineapple Now~Laters” and Miguel’s “Kaleidoscope Dream”. This is one of those project where it’s no easy task trying to select a favorite song on there. The whole project flowed cohesively with every track showcasing Sandé’s powerful vocals and excellent songwriting abilities, so there were no filler tracks to skip here. With her recent work on Alicia Keys album “Girl On Fire”, I expect more behind the scenes work from Sandé as she continues to tour and prep her next release.
Favorites: “Heaven”, “My Kind Of Love”, “Next To Me”
3.) Gary Clark, Jr. – Blak & Blu
Texas Blues rocker Gary Clark, Jr. first caught my attention with a ringing endorsement from Alicia Keys during an interview prior to her performance with him at her non-profit organization Keep A Child Alive’s The Black Ball fundraising gala. Having released a few pieces of work actually beginning as far back as 2004, for me it was his excellent performance at this years’ epic concert Made In America that truly set the stage for him. Releasing his first major label debut “Blak & Blu”, the album is an excellent mix of Blues, Rock and some R&B. Some of his long time fans have had issues with “Blak & Blu” saying this album is a mix of his EPs 2010’s “Gary Clark, Jr.” and 2011’s “The Bright Lights EP” with filler tracks, however for a new listener like myself it satisfied my needs perfectly.
Favorites: “Bright Lights”, “Numb”, “You Saved Me”
4.) Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
I’ll admit that I was very eager to hear this album due to the fact I had no idea what direction the Interscope backed project would go. Would it be another concept project similar to his previous release, 2011’s “Section 80”, or a typical major label release full of guest appearances reaching for radio play singles? What we got was in my opinion a very daring major label release concept album, creatively weaving K. Dot’s seamless flow with a story of a kid growing up in Compton pressured by friends, sex and crime to eventually finding his path to righteousness and using music as a gateway out of the environment he lived. I am curious to hear what’s next from Kendrick the next go round.
Favorites: “Money Trees”, “The Art Of Peer Pressure”, “m.A.A.d City”
5.) Killer Mike & El-P – R.A.P. Music
It may be just me but I think Killer Mike has always been considered criminally slept on as an emcee for far too long. One of the best hip-hop albums of the year, Mike shines completely while forming the perfect marriage with album producer El-P’s trademark sound which has been in a league of its own since 1996’s Company Flow album “Funcrusher”. Mike leaves no stone unturned on “R.A.P. Music”. Whether it’s tackling socio-political topics on the track “Reagan”, being introspective on the track “Willie Burke Sherwood”, or just having fun with some clever storytelling “Jo Jo’s Chillin” and putting on for Atlanta with “Big Beast”, this album is damn near perfect and is a must listen to any fans of hip-hop.
Favorites: “Reagan”, “Willie Burke Sherwood”, “R.A.P. Music”
6.) Mikkey Halsted – Castro Mixtape hosted by Don Cannon
2012 featured a ton of news regarding the city of Chicago, Illinois. Between the school teachers’ strike, extremely high levels of violence, and the controversial impact of teen rapper Chief Keef, The Windy City stayed a topic of discussion pretty much throughout the year on the news and social networks. The artist I felt illustrated the city’s vibe and atmosphere best was none other than former Cash Money Records artist Mikkey Halsted. Describing himself as “the common denominator between Chief Keef & Common”, Halsted spit an insane amount of game on his DJ Don Cannon hosted mixtape “Castro”. Produced largely by No I.D. and Cannon, Halsted does his thing whether he’s kicking some OG knowledge (“Obamanonics”), tales of street life (“Pain”) or showcases his creativity with the track (“PTSD (Voices)”). Although the song “Gone” featuring Lupe Fiasco & Jim Lavigne was not a feature on this or his follow up project “MMM”, it also held the honor of being one of my favorite tracks of 2012.
Favorites: “Momma In My Ear”, “Pain”, “Weak MF”
7.) Nas – Life Is Good
I think it’s fair to say that Nas released one of the best mainstream hip-hop releases this year along with Kendrick Lamar and quite possibly his best album since “Stillmatic” depending on how you felt about his 2002 release “God’s Son”. (1 hot album every 10 year ave… never mind). Executive produced by No I.D., the album features Nas spitting with grittiness, maturity and vulnerability we haven’t heard since “God’s Son” on tracks like “Loco-Motive”, “Bye Baby” and “Daughters” (one of my favorite tracks of the year). While there are a few missteps on the album (Mary J.Blige’s crispy chicken commercial singing on “Reach Out” and the blatant commercial track “Summer On Smash”), the album itself is still a great piece of work worth repeated replays, especially with the additions found on the iTunes Deluxe Edition.
Favorites: “Daughters”, “A Queens Story”, “Back When”
8.) Oddisee – People Hear What They See
Record label Mello Music Group had themselves a spectacular 2012. With notable releases from respected veteran emcees O.C. and Guilty Simpson, relative newcomers The Black Opera and Substantial, among others, the label definitely kept heads nodding all year long. One of my favorite projects of the year was courtesy of MMG, and that honor belongs to emcee/producer Oddisee for his debut project “People Hear What They See”. The self produced project came fully loaded with introspective stories, uplifting and motivational tracks that never came off feeling “preachy”, just a smooth and necessary ride from a very talented artist. I definitely expect 2013 to be even bigger for Oddisee and hope that not only he continues to bless us with the products of his own craft, but also gets more involved in other projects as the executive producer.
Favorites: “Let It Go”, “Do It All”, “American Greed”
9.) Skyzoo – A Dream Deferred
Brooklyn emcee Skyzoo is one of those hip-hop artists that I don’t think could ever make a wack song, ever. He is lyrically as consistent as they come with his steady delivery, niche for rhyming over the perfect track and excellent concepts for albums. Following up the success of his debut album “The Salvation” and his critically acclaimed mixtapes “Corner Store Classics”, “The Great Debaters” and “Theo Vs. JJ (Dreams Vs. Reality)”, Sky takes full advantage of his platform with the stellar album “A Dream Deferred”. Giving us insight into his life and influences with the lead single “JanSport Strings: One Time For Chi-Ali”, this is another one of those albums where it’s difficult to select a favorite track. Every track is a solid listen perfectly crafted by Skyzoo and fitting to the whole cohesiveness to the project.
Favorites: “Dreams In A Basement”, “JanSport Strings: One Time For Chi-Ali”, “Steel’s Apartment”
I can’t front, when I first heard of the idea of a Wu-Block album I was initially ecstatic. Wu Tang Clan & The Lox/D-Block have always released consistent collaborations (“Run”, “Broken Safety”, “Cartel Gathering”, etc) and the album was announced to be spearheaded by respective members Sheek Louch and Ghostface Killah, who also happens to one of my favorite emcees ever. While the first couple releases from Wu-Block (“Barry” & “Batman”) were not bad, my expectations were starting to be disappointed as I felt the songs were better as album scraps. Luckily they were just testers and the album itself is something that definitely stood out in its own lane. While I’ll admit the project didn’t push the envelope in terms of concepts, the two emcees and other members give us a straightforward project that I think should meet all diehard fans expectations.
Favorites: “Crack Spot Stories”, “Drivin’ Round”, “Bust Shots”
In addition to the albums above, these albums also received a ton of play by me and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Amerigo Gazaway of Gummy Soul – Bizarre Tribe
A very creative instrumental album blending the production of A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde
BJ The Chicago Kid – Pineapple Now~Laters
The newest addition to Motown Records hits the bulls eye with his soulful debut album.
Freddie Gibbs – BFK Mixtape hosted by DJ Drama
Man, Young Jeezy is going to miss having Gibbs on CTE, being that he was the standout artist, can flat out rap & was received well by mainstream & underground alike.
The Man With The Iron Fist Soundtrack
RZA’s executive produced compilation and the best soundtrack of the year
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
There was no avoiding his hit single “Adorn” and that wasn’t even the highlight on this album.
OC & Apollo Brown – Trophies
The NY veteran & Detroit producer craft together a winner in this collaborative album.
Robert Glasper – Black Radio
Whether you’re just a casual fan of jazz or a die hard listener, this project is definitely one for your collection.
Roc Marciano – Reloaded
If you’re looking for pure NY Hip-Hop and NOT including this man in your search you are fucking up big time.
Sean Price – Mic Tyson
Expect nothing but the rawest, “smack the shit out of you” bars over some very dope production.
Sha Stimuli – The TrueMan Show EP
An extremely honest account of Sha’s outlook with his life, love, relationships and his own career in music.
This category is for the albums I was truly looking forward to this year that just missed the mark in some way or another.
Joe Budden – A Loose Quarter
Too many R&B features & muddled sound quality hurt Budden’s 1st non Mood Muzik project in years. Plus I’m actually growing tired of Joe addressing problems he actually creates.
Meek Mill – Dreams And Nightmares
I was hoping Meek’s debut would either be more introspective and provide us into why he is who he is today more and spend less emphasis about the rewards he’s reaping now or be more effective at it.
Ne-Yo – R.E.D.
Ne-Yo’s album had way too many techno influenced singles for my personal liking. I also felt the great songwriting I was accustomed to from him was sacrificed on this.
Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
For someone who doesn’t forgive he damn sure had a ton of songs aimed at women on here. The title didn’t match the concept and should have been more grittier.
Slaughterhouse – Welcome To: Our House
Probably my favorite album out this category. My disappointment comes from the album having too much of an Eminem feel on it and not their own. The songs aimed for blatant commercial appeal were also hit or miss with their fans, but I did like “My Life”.
Once again thank you all for taking the time to support Embassy: Interactive. If there’s anything on here you think I missed definitely make a suggestion in the comments section below. Peace.