2012's Best Hip-Hop Albums and Mixtapes

2012 has been a killer year for hip-hop, so we thought we'd sum up our favourite mixtapes and albums to have come out of it. In no particular order, we've got Meek Mill, Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross, Ryan Leslie, G.O.O.D. Music, Lupe Fiasco, Ab-Soul, Joey BadA$$, The Game, Big K.R.I.T., Nas, XV and Kendrick Lamar. Here goes:

Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2 (download via Datpiff)

2012 was big for Maybach Music, and Meek Mill definitely played a pivotal role. Dreamchasers 2 was a follow up to 2011's first volume, and set out to hype fans up for the release of his debut studio album Dreams and Nightmares. With features from Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Wale and Big Sean, Meek had a great guest list for this project.

Highlights: Amen, Lean Wit It, A1 everything, Use To Be

Wiz Khalifa – Taylor Allderdice (download via Datpiff)

Although Wiz Khalifa had commercial success with his 2011 album Rolling Papers, some of his fans thought he'd sold out. With Taylor Allderdice, Wiz Khalifa fans rejoiced - he'd returned to what he does best. This may be in the lyrical comfort zone, but it's a really well produced project which helped to reassure many doubters. 

Highlights: Never Been (Part II), My Favourite Song, O.N.I.F.C.

Rick Ross – Rich Forever (download via Datpiff)

With top notch productions and a multitude of high calibre features from the likes of Nas, Drake, 2 Chainz, Pharell, Stalley, Wale and John Legend, this felt more like an album rather than a mixtape. Although Rich Forever is reminiscent of previous Rick Ross projects, this one's got more versatility - and it definitely pleased many of his fans. 

Highlights: Triple Beam Dreams, Stay Schemin, Holy Ghost, Rich Forever

Wiz Khalifa – O.N.I.F.C. (download via Datpiff)

Wiz khalifa's second appearance in this list shows how far he's come. He's clearly now living a  more luxurious lifestyle and it reflects here. Taking every opportunity to remind listeners of his accomplishments and dedication to lighting up, the album bears similarities to his previous projects, but that's what you expect from Wiz Khalifa. 

Highlights: Paperbond, Bluffin, The Bluff, Got Everything, Time, Rise Above, Up In It and Remember You

Ryan Leslie – Les Is More (download from iTunes)

Ryan Leslie's switched up his style, now rapping as well as singing. Filled with flawless productions and signature hooks, Ryan Leslie finds the perfect balance. Les Is More is a magnificent display of musical excellence and in my opinion Ryan Leslie is one of the most underrated artists in the game.

Highlights: Ups and Downs, Ready Or Not, 5 Minute Freshen Up, The Black Flag, Dress To Undress You

G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer (download from iTunes)

Cruel Summer really showed off the G.O.O.D. Music collective as exactly that, rather than Kanye West's side project. They're one of the top hip-hop collectives out there right now, for sure...

Highlights: Mercy, Clique, Cold, New God Flow, Bliss

Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor II : The Great American Rap Album Pt.1 (download via iTunes)

Compared to Lupe's previous project Lasers, he seems to be more comfortable with himself in this album. What I like most about this album is that Lupe seems inspired again; the tracks here are reminiscent of the first volume of Food and Liqour. The lyrics are the winner.

Highlights: Bitch Bad, Strange Fruition, Roses, Around My Way

Ab-Soul – Control System (download via iTunes)

Top Dawg Entertainment's Ab-Soul proved himself among the other Black Hippy members, displaying his rap talent as an interestingly deep thinker whose conscious lyrics seek to uplift and enlighten the listener. With Control System, Ab-Soul definitely goes from the underdog to confidently dominating the spotlight.

Highlights: Terrorist Threats, Sopa, Lush Demons, Illuminate

Joey BadA$$ - 1999 (download from Datpiff)

Aged just 17 and hailing from Brooklyn, Joey's sound is all '90s hip-hop - pretty refreshing in 2012. Taking cues from funk, soul and jazz, and combining with a high standard of lyricism and production, his understanding is spot-on. 

Highlights: Waves, Survival Tatics, Daily Routine

The Game – Jesus Piece (download from iTunes)

The Game did not disappoint with his fifth album - and its features from Meek Mill, Common, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. It feels more like a compilation album at times, with some classic tracks along the way. 

Highlights: Ali Bomaye, Jesus Piece, All That (Lady), Pray, Name Me King, See No Evil

Big K.R.I.T. – 4Eva N A Day (download via Datpiff)

Big K.R.I.T. (King Remembered In Time) dropped this amazing mixtape in anticipation of his next big album proper - and it's full of slick storytelling. It's a great display of his depth of lyricism and impeccable production skills.

Highlights: Red Eye, Down & Out, Wake Up,

XV – Popular Culture (download via Datpiff)

The latest offering from Wichita, Kansas is MC XV. What really makes this mix tape shine is the production and XV's lyricism. Although Popular Culture wasn’t as polished as his previous project Zero Heroes, it still ultimately demands your attention - and it got many people excited for the release of his 2013 studio album The Kid With The Green Backpack.

Highlights: Her Favourite Song, Go On Without Me, Hi, Life, Zombie land Rule 32, One of One

Nas - Life Is Good (download via iTunes)

After almost two decades in the game, Nas has reached legendary status. And this album lived up to expectations - Life Is Good has got something for everyone - the love song, conscious rap songs and the gritty tracks too. Nas also touched on more personal topics like his divorce from Kelis and his relationship with his daughter. His place amongst rap royalty should not be questioned.

Highlights: Bye Baby, The Don, A Queens Story, Daughters, Roses, Cherry Wine, Where's the love

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City (download via iTunes)

With the critical acclaim of Section 80 everyone was excited for the release of Kendrick Lamar's highly anticipated debut studio album Good Kid, m.A.A.d. city. From start to finish, this LP lives in its narrative - and Kendrick Lamar shows his strength in the way he can tell a story so fluid and vividly. The production and engineering on GKMC is absolutely amazing, along with its structure and concept.. 

Highlights: All of it


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