Nicki Minaj freaked out, Rick Ross redeemed himself, and Jay-Z made a baby.
Hip-hop in 2012 was defined by a series of ups and downs, but for the most part it was pretty… weird. For one, what the hell is the definition of hip-hop these days anyway? Is it singing, is it rapping, is it that sing-songy rap shit that Drake does when he’s crying on his bed with a velvet comforter? Who really knows? Gone are the days of sticking to the four elements as an indicator of what’s hip-hop, and 2012 is proof of that. So, here are a few moments in hip-hop from 2012 to remind you that your life isn’t nearly as interesting as that of a sing-songy rapper.
Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: The Rise of Black Hippy
Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. While this quartet of badassness revealed that there probably wouldn’t be a Black Hippy album (despite being collectively signed to Top Dawg Entertainment), individually Black Hippy ran the Rap game. ScHoolboy Q dropped Habits & Contradictions in January and fucked our heads up by sampling guitar-toting Lissie’s cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” on his cut “Hands on the Wheel” with A$AP Rocky. Then In May, Ab-Soul did his crew proud with #controlsystem, where the family showed up on the “Black Lip Bastard” remix. Finally, after Section.80 made us cry real tears in 2011, Kendrick Lamar dropped good kid, m.A.A.d. city, in October, proving that we really don’t need Dr. Dre’s Detox after all.
Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: The Tupac Hologram
This is what happens when you invite rappers to headline Coachella: They start resurrecting legends. So Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg reached a part of Cali they probably never frequent for the Coachella Music Festival in April, and they brought ‘Pac with them. He emerged on stage to perform “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” with Snoop followed by a riveting rendition of “Hail Mary.” This was just strange. The “Tupac’s Alive” yahoos returned to say it really was Pac up there, and then T-Boz and Chilli were like, “Hey let’s get a Left Eye hologram and get that TLC tour going.” This can’t be a thing that shows up in 2013. Let’s kill the holograms, please.
Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: A$AP Rocky Proves He’s Still Awesome
In 2011, A$AP Rocky offered up LiveLoveA$AP to the weird rap gods, and they named him one of their leaders. He brought A$AP Mob with him, but 2012 was more about A$AP’s awesomeness and less about the music. We were teased for months that LongLiveA$AP would arrive before Halloween, and that never happened. A$AP played bizarro JFK in Lana Del Rey’s video for “Ridin’” which was cool, but then he goes and takes over again with “Fuckin Problem.” The 40-produced song had 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar, muddling over nymphomania and bringing enough girls back to the crib. It was another high point for A$AP Rocky, but it only made us ask, “OK, where the hell is your album though?” That Lords Never Worry mixtape was not enough.
Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: We Lost Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys
Why is this a weird moment? Because we always assumed certain architects of hip-hop would live forever. When hip-hop lost Yauch in May, it was a shock, despite knowing about his battle with cancer. In 2009, cancer was found in his parotid gland that spread to a nearby lymph node. While it caused the Beasties’ Hot Sauce Committee to never release, 2011 saw Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, and that was the last project from the Beastie Boys. This year, Yauch was too ill to attend the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame awards, before passing weeks later. A part of hip-hop died on May 4, when Adam Yauch passed away at the age of 47. Fuck cancer.
Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: G.O.O.D Music Is Actually a Thing
Kanye West has been talking about G.O.O.D. Music since, like, 1967. So many different artists were rumored to be a part of G.O.O.D. Music over time, that it became hip-hop’s Menudo. Well in September, the collective album Cruel Summer dropped, and with it came songs like “Mercy” New God Flow” “Theraflu” aka “Cold” and “Clique”. This album did a few things for hip-hop. For one, it re-instilled our love of 2 Chainz. While Chainz was bopping around as Tity Boi and getting everyone’s attention, and his album Based On a T.R.U. Story made a presence in August, his affiliation to G.O.O.D. and his presence on “Mercy” really drove the point home. Oh yeah, and “Theraflu” kicked off that beautiful union between Kanye and Kim Kardashian known as “KimYe”. Tell PETA my mink is draggin’ on the floor.
Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: Rihanna
So much to say about this broad. First, after her make-ups to break-ups with Chris Brown, she turns to Drake, and then turns to Meek Mill. The result was some convoluted Twitter beef that ended in W.i.P. in Soho where a fight broke out and we’re all still having to hear about it. Rihanna goes on Oprah and cries, and then she charters an aeroplane with 150-plus members of the media in November, starves them and deprives them of sleep, only to land the plane seven days later and claim she’d do it all over again. Musically, everything was fine, since everyone and their mother is singing the Sia-penned “Diamonds” at this point. Her album Unapologetic (which arrived in November) will probably win an award or something, but only after Rihanna takes home the Hottest Mess in Music Award of 2012.
Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: Frank Ocean Comes Out and We’re All Tuned into Channel Orange
Frank Ocean, the sometimes rapping/always singing member of Odd Future, made the boldest announcement in recent music history on the Fourth of July when he posted a letter on his Tumblr page saying that he'd had a relationship with a man. Whether that means he’s gay or bisexual is still very much up for debate (along with his friendship with Willy Cartier), but either way he shocked hip-hop to the fucking core. The homophobic undertones in the industry have been present for three decades plus, but Frank said to hell with all that and walked out of the closet. A week later he dropped Channel Orange, debuting at Number two on Billboard, with songs that reveal relationships with both men and women. Take that, homophobes!
Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: Ratchet Arrives and LL Cool J Cosigns It
Ugh. Why, though? So the whole “Ratchet Movement” in Rap is not new, really. Back in 2007, Hurricane Chris dropped an album called 51/50 Ratchet and he whole-heartedly believed he would be the Godfather of Ratchet with his hit single “A Bay Bay.” Yeah, no. That never happened. This year, though, “ratchet” became the hip-hop slang of choice, meaning anything from going to a party and triple-fisting, to getting into a fight and pulling some woman’s wig off. It carried into music, where artists like Future, Tyga, and to a lesser extent 2 Chainz categorically dropped some “ratchet” tunes (Rack City, bitch). Shit got really weird in October, when LL Cool J released the song “Ratchet”. You know how you’ll love a song and then you hear your dad singing it, and suddenly it’s not so cool anymore? Well, that’s exactly what happened with Ratchet. Thanks a lot, Uncle L.
Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: We Forgive Rick Ross Thanks To Meek Mill
Rick Ross’ history with law enforcement became the elephant in the room that was larger than the bearded nipple-slipping bawse. It was the forgivable unforgivable thing that echoed throughout Rick Ross’ many projects. Then Meek Mill happened. While 2011’s Dreamchasers warmed us up; this year’s Dreamchasers 2, and the October release of Meek’s debut album Dreams & Nightmares, meant suddenly everyone was totally thankful Rick Ross gave him to us. It was a feeling similar to Eminem bringing Slaughterhouse to the forefront (August’s release of Welcome To: Our House was another high point in Rap this year). However, Ross cosigning Meek allowed us to digest July’s God Forgives, I Don’t and June’s Self-Made Vol. 2 by Maybach Music Group. Congratulations, Rick Ross. Your penance has been served.
Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: Nicki Minaj Scares Everyone
It used to be awesome how scary Nicki Minaj was, so when she dropped Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded in April, we all knew hip-hop had lost her forever. She felt it too, especially when Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg dissed her on stage at June’s Summer Jam, causing Lil Wayne to make Nicki cancel her set that night. Then Nicki hops on American Idol and screams at everyone’s favorite psycho Mariah Carey (the televised feud should be epic), yells some more on her E! show My Truth, and drops Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up in November, where she tries rapping again. Finally, now that she’s rapping again, she goes and tells Hot97 to never play her music ever again. What the hell is going on, Nicki? Stop being so scary, I love it!
Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: Jay-Z and Beyonce Drop the Collaborative Project Called “Blue Ivy”
Let’s end on a high note, here. On January 7th, hip-hop’s First Baby was born. Blue Ivy Carter arrived, and so did Jay’s new song “Glory” (he’s a business, man!). While Nas’ dedication to his daughter on July’s release of Life Is Good was poignant, we never get to see a vulnerable Shawn Carter. We haven’t really seen many photos of this beautiful child, knowing she exists is enough for right now. We look forward to 2013, where B.I.C. will probably release her first mixtape, debut album, line of trainers, and brand of non-alcoholic champagne. She’s making us proud already.
Follow Kathy on Twitter: @kath3000
Read more about Hip-Hop: