Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2012
We're coming up on the final days of 2012 and as usual no one can truly predict what songs have the biggest impact on the culture until now. Looking back on the last 12 months, the most popular hip-hop songs this year were dominated by a mix of old and new faces. If there was one common theme, it was Mike Will Made It, the producer behind a handful of the beats. Young Money dominated as features, with appearances from Lil Wayne or Drake more than once. Also, many independent newcomers ushered in some refreshing energy, bringing a new wave of creativity to the genre that couldn't be overlooked. Many tracks shined in 2012, but these 10 ruled the radio and the internet. Find out which rappers made the cut below in the Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2012.
This track is an exposé of Azealia's versatility and shows why she has lasting star power. Despite all the attention she garnered for beefs in 2012, her EP ‘1991’ — named for the year she was born — leaves you itching for more. On '212,' an ode to her borough, the Harlem, N.Y., native spits rudeness and raciness with an English accent over a house style beat. Ms. “Rapunzel,” as she refers to herself on the track, marks her territory and explicitly warns all outsiders. Watch your step.
‘Hands on the Wheel’
ScHoolboy Q started off 2012 strong with his sophomore album, ‘Habits and Contradictions,’ which pushed him further into the forefront as the more hyperactive and charismatic member of the Top Dawg Entertainment crew. Unlike his “cleaner” brother, Kendrick Lamar (see 'H.O.C'), ScHoolboy is an avid smoker and is proud of it. “Weed and brew, weed and brew, life for me is just weed and brew,” he raps on 'Hands on the Wheel'. The Compton native is assisted by Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, giving the best of both coasts as newcomers.
‘Turn on the Lights’
We thought Jay-Z pronounced that Auto-Tune was dead in 2009, but Future proved otherwise this year with 'Turn on the Lights'. A hood ballad, the ATLien rap-sings about his search for a loyal woman. “I heard she keeps her promises, and never turn on you.” No one would deem this song special in the lyrical department, but it does have an easy rap-a-long hook carrying the track home. Future released a number of catchy hits this year from his debut album ‘Pluto’ in April, with this song being his most popular, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart.
‘Beez in the Trap’
Nicki Minaj has proven she will do anything that will coin her entertaining, no matter how weird or outlandish. She delved into pop-electro vibes on 'Starships,' but on the same album, ‘Pink Fridayz: Roman Reloaded,’ she switches back to her hip-hop roots and ditches the singing with 'Beez in the Trap.' She shows off her best bossy talk on this bass-filled, echoey track. The rapstress performed the song live with 2 Chainz at the BET Awards in June and even Beyonce was front row rocking her head and spitting the lyrics to the song. Even though Nicki may not literally be in the trap, this single is the soundtrack for how hard she continues going in the game regardless of her naysayers.
‘Bandz a Make Her Dance’
Juicy J is unapologetically ratchet on this one but the fact listeners favored it gives wonder to who the shameless ones really are here. J’s melodic flow over the hard rumbling bass plus addictive claps are bound to grab anyone listening. And if Juicy is King Ratchet, then Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz are his loyal prince and duke of the soverieign strip club state where all the chicks are “clapping and they ain’t using hands.” This song has definitely stamped itself as the official stripper national anthem. But the radio and our iTunes have definitely embraced it as well, as it currently sits on the top ten of the Billboard Hip-Hop/ R&B charts.
If any hip-hop artist would get the most progress award this year, it would go to 2 Chainz. With a string of other well-known hits from his album, ‘Based on a T.R.U. Story,’ released in August, 'No Lie' featuring Drake has been his most successful to date. Not only has it hit No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B charts, it was recently certified platinum for selling over one million digital copies in the United States. “I’m just tryna do it for the n—-s that’s tryna see a million before they die,” Drake raps on the hook. Based on the stats, I guess 2 Chainz really “ain’t never tell no lie.”
No contest, this is the party song of the year. The French Montana track was a riot in itself with features from current rap A-listers Lil Wayne, Drake and Rick Ross. 'Pop That' owes much of its success to the classic it sampled. Although many of the folks dancing to Montana's track these days were too young to remember when “I Wanna Rock” by Uncle Luke was released, including 'Pop That' producer Anthony Lee, the classic has been played religiously since it was released in 1992. Now 20 years later, this rap gem is a great update and will probably be played for years to come as well. Doo doo brown lives on.
This year, Nasty Nas took a risk with this song and it paid off. The 39-year-old rapper owes much of his 2012 comeback success story to the women in his life, especially his daughter Destiny Jones. On 'Daughters,' the Queens, N.Y., MC sentimentally raps about his love for her and reveals feelings of regret of not being able to guide her through teenage growing pains. Although he angered Destiny's mom for calling out their daughter's bad behavior on record and probably embarrassed his child in the process, the track from his No. 1 charting album, ‘Life Is Good,’ reminded folks why Nas is considered one of the best storytellers in hip-hop.
‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’
“Po' up. Drink.” Kendrick Lamar has a knack for creating catchy hooks and this is the best that it gets when it comes to songs he's released this year. Although just climbing into the top 10 of the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts, it has been an internet favorite since it debuted this summer. On the track, K. Dot rhymes on the alcoholics in his family and his peers love for gettin' lit. When other rappers may just tell you to turn up in the club, Kendrick reminds you of the consequences of diving into too much liquor without sounding preachy. The track only heightened anticipation of his debut LP, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city,’ released in October.
You can’t have a list on the Best Hip-Hop Songs of 2012 without 'Mercy,' the most popular rap track this year. Kanye West went all the way left with a sample in patois, which was taken from a reggae song by Super Beagle called 'Dust Out a Sound Bwoy.' Featuring appearances from G.O.O.D Music representers Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz, they all drop memorable lines. The track finds the rappers boasting of their crew's untouchable lifestyle. A standout line comes from Big Sean’s playful punchlines. “Now we out in Paris, now we Perriering / White girls politicin', that’s that Sarah Palin,” he rhymes. 'Mercy' wins overall, selling two million copies to date.