Posts Tagged ‘Hit-Boy’

2012 was a really great year for rap producers, probably a better year for producers than rappers, which seems to have been the trend for the last few years. ¬†It is notable that 2012’s list sees the inclusion of several producers who work through primarily sample based means, several who work primarily in the field of original composition, and several who are equally adept in both fields or use interpolation to recreate previous compositions. ¬†This strikes me as notable as I cannot think of a year where there was quite so much balance between the various modes of production. ¬†2012 was also a tough year to select just 10 producers for this honor, as admittedly Roc Marciano, Ka, Harry Fraud, Willie Green, Aesop Rock and others had some very noteworthy production in 2012, but didn’t make the final cut. ¬†As with the rappers, this is in no particular order.

Key Nyata “Suicide Capital” produced by Blue Sky Black Death

Blue Sky Black Death

It’s kind of amazing that it feels like this collective is still “proving themselves” in the industry given the number of years and dope projects they have to their name. ¬†In 2012, BSBD dropped the final two pieces in the trilogy of projects they released with Nacho Picasso over a very tight time frame. ¬†They then quickly retooled and put out projects with the new group Skull & Bones as well as Deniro Farrar before the end of the year. ¬†They’ve got a ton of new material in store for 2013 as well, but it will be interesting to see if they can continue to garner some more major label placements like they did on eXquire’s EP this year. ¬†Perhaps it’s a pipe dream, but it would be amazing to hear BSBD do a full length project with a vocalist who could really float amid the ether of their production the way an Ethelwulf, Future, or Chief Keef could. ¬†Future and Keef seem like a bit of a stretch, but an EP with Wulf seems like it could happen if the two sides came to the table. ¬†Laptop A&Ring aside, there really weren’t many producers who were on BSBD’s level in 2012 so as always it will be interesting to see where they take their game in 2012.

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It is worth acknowledging that this is exactly the type of album on which rap writers love to cut their teeth, bring out their axes to grind, and throw all of their personal prejudices and hang-ups into the mix as well. ¬†There will be those who praise this album as the greatest rap album of the last decade and those who decry it as a massive¬†disappointment. ¬†It’s the type of album where pay-per-click websites are dying for their staff to write about it, and it’s the type of album writers love to talk about in the most hyperbolic terms possible to attract as much attention as possible. ¬†Critics have been spending the last week discussing why this album is doomed to fail: the excessive hype, the fact that Kendrick is being asked to deliver a classic major label debut despite the fact that he doesn‚Äôt have a track record that necessarily suggests that‚Äôs a probability, the fact that the things Kendrick does best don‚Äôt necessarily translate well with the popular radio rap aesthetic, the fact that very few rappers deliver their first classic album on their third full length album, and the likelihood that Aftermath/Interscope would force him to sacrifice too much of his creativity and individuality in favor of more commercially viable material.¬† It’s also worth noting that all of these seem like legitimate concerns. ¬†Add to that the pressure on Kendrick to deliver an album that both returns the West Coast to the forefront of the industry and an album that shows that rappers who can rap their ass off are still allowed to do so in the world of mainstream rap. ¬†It’s fair to say that expectations around this album seem nearly insurmountable.

good kid, m.A.A.d city¬†starts with the sound of someone flicking on an old reel to reel era family video of two boys praying to Jesus to beg forgiveness and ask salvation and guidance. Eery keys begin to penetrate mid-prayer slowly developing into the backdrop of a story tale dedication to “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter.” ¬†There’s a constant push and pull through¬†good kid, m.A.A.d city, between a teenager who wants to do the right thing, wants salvation, but is constantly challenged by sin, desire, and the allure of women and the streets. It’s a push and pull felt by everyone one form or another, accentuated by the temptations of the city and the magnetism of the lifestyle presented by the rappers he and his friends idolize.

This has been a great year for albums that are musical cohesive, or stylistically cohesive,¬†good kid, m.A.A.d City¬†is not always either of those, but it maintains its cohesion through a much less frequently used methodology ‚Äď and one that‚Äôs much more difficult to pull off on a rap album ‚Äď thematic and narrative cohesion. ¬†The story that Kendrick has to tell is a different narrative of authenticity in rap music. ¬†good kid, m.A.A.d city is a¬†narrative relevant to 2012 and a personal narrative from an artist who grew up in a society filled with drugs, crime, violence, and poverty, who tried to stay out of trouble, but couldn’t always avoid its enticement. ¬†It’s a story that nearly anyone can relate to, but it’s also the real story of so many of today’s rappers. ¬†What makes the story unique is that unlike most of his peers, Kendrick Lamar is comfortable telling it and owning it, and recognizes that the listener will connect to it despite his lack of posturing and the refusal to bow to the whims of the record industry’s misguided perception of who a rapper – particularly a rapper from Los Angeles or Compton – should be and how he should act on record. ¬†The fact that this album was made at all is a minor miracle, and the fact that Kendrick pulled it off so well on a mainstream stage is nothing short of remarkable.

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