- Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste (Rhapsody)
- Big K.R.I.T., Cadillactica (Rhapsody) (Rolling Stone)
- Black Milk, If There’s a Hell Below (Wondering Sound)
- Busdriver, Perfect Hair
- Cities Aviv, Come to Life
- Clipping, Clppng
- Common, Nobody Smiling (Rhapsody)
- Flying Lotus, You’re Dead! (Wondering Sound)
- Future, Honest (Rhapsody)
- Kevin Gates, By Any Means (Rhapsody)
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Pinata (Rhapsody) (Spin) (Rolling Stone)
- Ghostface Killah, 36 Seasons (Rhapsody) (Rolling Stone)
- Lecrae, Anomaly (Rolling Stone)
- Logic, Under Pressure (Rhapsody)
- Nehruviandoom, Nehruviandoom (Rhapsody)
- Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint (Rhapsody)
- Open Mike Eagle, Dark Comedy (Rolling Stone)
- Isaiah Rashad, Cilvia Demo (Rhapsody) (Rolling Stone)
- Ratking, So It Goes
- Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 (Rhapsody)
- Serengeti, Kenny Dennis III (Rhapsody) (Wondering Sound)
- Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty (Rhapsody) (Rolling Stone)
- Step Brothers, Lord Steppington (Rhapsody) (Rolling Stone)
- The Underachievers, Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium
- YG, My Krazy Life (Rhapsody)
This compiles the most successful artists of 2012. It’s based on an ephemeral and highly subjective mix of record sales, industry buzz, et cetera, and has nothing to do with my personal tastes in regards to who made the best music (or worst, for that matter).
Honorable mentions who did not make the list include Lupe Fiasco, Big K.R.I.T., Chief Keef, Schoolboy Q, B.o.B, Insane Clown Posse, Ca$h Out, Dev, Juicy J, Iamsu, DJ Khaled, Lecrae, TobyMac and Action Bronson.
For previous years (2010 and 2011), click on the “Best Of” tag below.
This list of noteworthy artists of 2011 has been compiled well after the fact, much like its 2010 predecessor. But unlike that year, which saw clear “winners” like Eminem, Nicki Minaj and Drake, 2011 was fragmented, with lots of players but few big, dominating names. I suppose that Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross are perennials. But what to make of those artists who had chart success, like Ace Hood and Young Jeezy, but didn’t generate any real excitement? Then there were artists that moved us for various reasons, such as the Game’s batshit interviews to various websites, the Beastie Boys’ late MCA’s public battle with cancer, and regional rap heroes E-40, Trae and DJ Quik. There were various Internet fancies: Main Attrakionz, Mr MFN Exquire, Roach Gigz, G-Side, and Death Grips. And there were a surprising number of one-hit wonders, like YC, Tinie Tempah and, most notoriously, Kreayshawn.
With so many candidates, this year’s list could have been easily expanded, but I think keeping it at 25 names leads to a more rigorous process. As before, they were chosen from using an abstract yet informed opinion on industry impact and commercial success. It is not a “best of 2011” list.
Honorable mentions include Stalley, Shabazz Palaces, Common, Snoop Dogg, New Boyz, Gym Class Heroes, Action Bronson, Flo Rida, Pusha T, Meek Mill, Childish Gambino, Sole, Dev, Blu, and Serengeti, in addition to the ones cited above.
This post marks a bit of housekeeping and, hopefully, a new tradition. 2010 was the first year I began to cover hip-hop music comprehensively without being limited to a certain sector (underground hip-hop, for example) or city (when I lived in Atlanta or other places). (It’s a nice coincidence that 2010 was the start of a new decade as well.) Due to my new job as hip-hop editor for Rhapsody, I listened to every rap album of note, not just the most critically-acclaimed or the ones I thought would fit my personal tastes. My perspective on which artists are the most important from an industry standpoint include quite a few that I normally wouldn’t give attention. These artists are listed in alphabetical order, and shouldn’t be confused with a list of my favorite albums from that year.
I’ve learned to grow wary of “top” and “best of” lists after years of making them both privately and for various publications. Eventually, personal bias becomes the point of the list instead of a useful guide to the best of a certain form or art. But a collection of newsmakers and noisemakers seems agnostic enough. Or maybe that’s just a cowardly response to the problem. I didn’t use any mathematical formulas to compile this particular list, so it is still just an opinion masquerading as an objective analysis. It is not a list of the top Billboard sellers from 2010, but a vague yet informed look at the ones who achieved a combination of cultural and commercial impact.
Having said that, these are the 25 noteworthy artists of 2010, along with a brief summary of recorded highlights. Honorable mentions include Lil B, Gucci Mane, Onra, Ana Tijoux, Reflection Eternal, Lloyd Banks, Travie McCoy, and Soulja Boy.