1. Goldie-A$AP Rocky
A pounding catchy beat? Check. Excellent lyrics with even better delivery? Check. A unique sound? Check. Yes, A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” has it all. This Harlem-based rapper exploded onto the rap scene in 2012 and “Goldie” is the reason why. With subtle shout outs to other rappers (“Cristal by the cases/wait hold up that was racist”), superb wordplay (“Yes I’m the s**t, tell me do it stink?”), and trademark swagger (“You could call me Billy Gates, got a crib in every state), it hits all the high notes and then some. It leaves popular rapper’s music (looking at you 2 Chainz) choking in its dust.
2. Just What I Am- Kid Cudi (feat. King Chip)
Kid Cudi is back. That is all that has to be said about the first single from his upcoming album. The personally produced beat is reminiscent of his best work on his popular Man on the Moon albums and the guest verse by King Chip perfectly sets the stage for Cudi. When he does begin rapping, you can tell he has been through a lot. His verse is all about his well-known struggles with addiction and depression (“Whatever, that man ain’t wearing these leather pants/I diagnose my damn self, these damn pills ain’t working fam/In my spare time, punching walls, f***ing up my hand”). It’s poignant subject matter for a rapper that has never been afraid to be open with his internal struggles.
3. Thrift Shop-Macklemore
Sometimes a rap song is good because it perfectly embodies the personality of the rapper. Thrift Shop, by Seattle area rapper Macklemore, is one of those songs. It is a song about picking up clothes at a secondhand store, but it fits who Macklemore is so well that you barely notice. The beat is irreverent, the bridge is ridiculous and the verses make numerous jokes, but you can’t help tapping your foot and hitting replay repeatedly.
4. The Recipe-Kendrick Lamar (feat. Dr. Dre)
Kendrick Lamar, rap’s newest star, delivers his best rhymes over a Dr. Dre-produced track that highlights the greatest parts of the rapper’s home state of California: women, weed, and weather. Lamar’s verses are particularly well done, and his flow matches the beat perfectly and is articulate. This is the crown jewel from Lamar’s debut album and lays a foundation down for future success.
The eccentric rap group’s best track from their second mixtape hits all the right notes, from the odd beat to the group’s trademark unapologetic lyrics. Hodgy Beats verse is excellent, Domo Genesis delivers a superb line about the group’s new found fame: “N****s tryna figure out, but all I hear in my interviews/Is why this so cool? You n****s are so unusual.” Then Tyler, The Creator and the strongest rapper of the collective, delivers one of his greatest verses with his trademark flow. The song comes together perfectly and is without question one of the best tracks of 2012.