Track #1 – Goldie

Here it is, my favorite song of 2012. It’s not “cinematic”, there’s no greater artistic statement to be made, but…there’s just something about it that I love. Hit-Boy’s production, the understated simplicity in a swag-filled verse that really, honestly, doesn’t say that much, and that goddamn chorus (I’ve been shouting I SAID IT MUST BEEEEEEEEE at random intervals for quite some time now), all the pieces kind of just come together on this track. It’s just so much fun to listen to, and when it gets down to it, that’s really all I’m looking for in my music.

And there you have it. Top 10 albums are up next, and now that 2012 is officially over, I can make unbiased judgment (yeah, right) at last.

Track #2 – m.A.A.d. City

Without a doubt the best track Kendrick did all year, and it’s been critically overlooked by pretty much every music publication I subscribe to. The song starts out on a wobbly synth that wouldn’t be out of place in a club setting, and just when you get comfortable with where the song is going-

WAKE YO PUNK ASS UP!

MC Eiht jumps in out of nowhere to trade verses with Kendrick as the beat slams into overdrive on some old-school Dr. Dre(-esque) shit, complete with strings and thundering percussion. Then the song disappears as Kendrick takes hold in the final verse, pitching his voice up and down to a chilling and ultimately satisfying result. By the end of it, as his voice gets uncomfortably, unreasonably high, the beat kicks back in with a huge whiny synth line before treading out. Not even counting the lyrics (which are awesome, especially the final verse), the music alone is enough to make this song top ten material.

Hit the powder then watch this flame that arrive in his eye…

Track #3 – The House That Heaven Built

It’s pretty telling about my personality in terms of music that the two top rock tracks I listed for the year are both arena-sized anthems, packaged and ready to go for movie trailers and sports warmups. This song is climbing to the peak of a mountain and then diving off the top. It’s oversized, over the top, and the lead singer can’t quite hit the high notes as cleanly as he would’ve hoped. But that’s okay, it makes the song all the more endearing as a result.

Track #4 – Bird On A Wire

RiFF RAFF is an enigma. Much like Lil B, I have no idea where the person ends and the stage presence begins. After really getting into his music though, I’m pretty sure that there is no stage persona for him, he’s just RiFF RAFF all the time. In any case, after being dismissed as a “joke” rapper for several years now, he decides to quit fucking around on this track and just absolutely lay down the verse of his life. Not even Action Bronson’s fabulous feature can outshine lines like “Poppin’ hood in Transco Towers,
prowlers prowling, Gucci towels and bathroom vials” or “Aston Martin, sparkin’ one in valet parking”. Not to mention Harry Fraud’s ridiculous beat, which he lets ride for a solid minute after the verses are over just so we can enjoy it more.

Track #5 – Stay Schemin’

The Untouchable Maybach Empire does it once again with this song. Rick Ross has effectively become a parody of himself at this point in time, but it doesn’t even matter, because his lying is damn convincing. He sounds like a menace, unable to even be bothered to show up for his court date (“got a budget for the lawyer tho”). Drake spits one of the best verses I’ve heard from him on this track, and French Montana earned a special place in my heart for creating a word he didn’t even say. It’s a slow-rolling banger of a track, and the fact that it held up as well as it did after coming out in January says quite a bit about Rozay’s staying power.