2012 was a critical year for hip hop in the US. The early 2010s saw hip hop flush out tired acts from the 2000s and bring in a batch of young creatives ready to advance the culture. By 2010 acts without longevity to their music were out of action. However, the likes of Kanye West, Jay-Z, Pharrell and Lil’ Wayne survived. While the culture was no longer saturated, it was also relatively empty and primed for new talent to step up to the plate and surely enough, new talent arose.
The young hip hop artists that arose in the early 2010s were all unique and weren’t looking back to the 2000s in any way, shape or form. Although she had been around on the underground a while, between 2009 and 2010, Young Money launched Nicki Minaj into the mainstream. Minaj was completely different and was the polar opposite of 2000s hip hop. She was goofy, she wore bright colours, rapped in different accents, was theatrical and was a fantastic rapper at the same time.
Shortly after, Odd Future arrived (OFWGKTA). OFWGKTA were pioneering in the way they fused LA Skate culture with hip hop. Two completely separate entities that before would have seemed incompatible, Odd Future seamlessly married. The skate culture came through in the way they dressed and presented themselves as a collective. Often with skateboards in hands and vans, the crew wore skate clothing brands, brightly coloured tees and humorous sweatshirts but somehow made it work with hip hop — more fresh talent.
Quickly on their heels was A$AP Mobb. Fresh out of Harlem, the A$AP Mobb bring a new sound to hip hop through “cloud rap”, and, along with the likes of Swedish rapper Yung Lean, they helped the subgenre to take off rapidly. But they weren’t the only stars in Harlem, next would come A$AP AV’s ex-girlfriend in the form of Azealia Banks.
First picked up by Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw and then Hot97, Azealia Bank’s breakout single ‘212’ was a groundbreaking song. Aside from the fact she uses the word “C*nt” in the song, for someone to be able to fuse hip hop and house with such ease is an extremely rare talent, and the fact that the follow-up singles were just as good was astonishing.
There were plenty of artists surfacing in the early 2010s, but the diversity in style, aesthetic, sonics and brand was just astonishing. The following playlist is a thorough showcase of all the classics released in the year 2012. There are some big names you might recognise and some more underground names you may not have heard of. So take a listen to our ‘Essential Mixtape’ of the top ten hip hop tracks from 2012.
The 10 hip hop tracks released in 2012:
- ‘Oldie’ – Odd Future
- ‘Brain Cells’ – Chance The Rapper
- ‘Waves’ – Joey Bada$$
- ‘Wonderful’ – Childish Gambino featuring Josh Osho
- ‘Just What I Am’ – Kid Cudi featuring King Chip
- ‘1991’ – Azealia Banks
- ‘Talent Show’ – Wiz Khalifa featuring Snoop Dogg
- ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ – J. Cole featuring Missy Elliot
- ‘Ace Hood Flow’ – Skepta
- ‘Next Hype’ Tempa T