Mixtape Monthly #9: Best of 2012
Published: Friday, December 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, December 28, 2012 00:12
Big Sean– Detroit
This year proved to be another monumental one for rapper Big Sean. After dropping his debut album, Finally Famous, in 2011 and gaining enormous buzz because of his label, the ground was firmly set for Big Sean to drop his 2012 mixtape, Detroit.
Big Sean released three tracks from the mixtape before its release, the most notable being “RWT.” Although Big Sean’s first major track, 2007’s “Getcha Some,” held the same context as “RWT,” the surge in lyrical talent from the 19-year-old rookie who still hadn’t found his niche to the confident 24-year-old man we hear today is undeniable.
“Everything I rock, I designed it/realer n***a, won’t find it/ OK, I be stackin’ that cheddar, bet that s**t won’t expire/Got me ballin’ so hard, I need me Jerry Maguire,” Sean raps.
The boisterousness in tracks like “RWT,” “Mula,” featuring French Montana, and “Higher,” wasn’t the only method heard on Detroit. Big Sean balanced the audacity with more poignant moments – such as “100,” featuring Royce Da 5’9” and Kendrick Lamar, “24K of Gold,” featuring J. Cole, and interludes by rappers Common, Young Jeezy and Snoop Dogg, who each recanted their experiences in Big Sean’s hometown.
Detroit is a major stepping stone for Big Sean. His raps no longer sound like they are mimicking his mentors or peers, and his content strays from strictly materialistic to relatable. Big Sean’s sophomore album, Hall of Fame, is slated to drop in Feb. 2013.
Childish Gambino – Royalty
There are no more jokes and the regular harping on being different is now near non-existent. Donald Glover’s identity as Childish Gambino has come into full fruition in his breakthrough mixtape, Royalty.
It was clear that Gambino had talent, but it was also obvious he was still figuring himself out. It took him two play-play mixtapes, a semi-serious project in Culdesac and an album in Camp for him to figure his identity out. Everyone knew Royalty was going to be real when “Eat Your Vegetables” and the first version of “Unnecessary” – which demonstrated his word play and how well he can work with popular features like ScHoolboy Q – were released.
After a Blake Griffin introduction, Gambino jumps in with “We Ain’t Them” and talks about what he’s begun to experience and what he’s gone through to get where he is today. It plays on his constant theme of how he separates himself from everyone else, but instead of outright saying “I’m different” a la 2 Chainz, he puts it in as many words a three-minute track can hold.
There are many hits on this mixtape that rely on great lyricism. “One Up” (feat. Steve G Lover) signifies when Gambino really starts spitting over a bass heavy beat with no rest:
“These other n***as lame/These n***as used to hate me/I guess ain’t nothing change/Shotgun in the Porsche/She don’t know where we going/American royalty on that Yolo Ralph Lauren,” Gambino raps.
There aren’t a lot of features in Gambino’s previous projects, but they’re in full force in this effort. They weren’t needed, but the partnership of respectable artists such as Nipsey Hussle, Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper, ScHoolboy Q and RZA shows Gambino’s level of respect in the game has increased.
One line shows how lyrical Gambino can be while simultaneously letting other artists know he’s better. On the Danny Brown featured track “Toxic,” Gambino raps: “Midas is your highness and you horrible (Haribo) like gummy bears.”
This one line informs his audience that he is royalty and no one else is close. The pun on the word “horrible” is excellent and most likely went over the head of many. Haribo just happens to be a brand that manufactures gummy bears.
Gambino also made artists like Gonage, or “Cody Beanz,” relevant. “The Arrangement” is a favorite and there’s a little taste of Donald the comedian included:
“If you ain’t talking cash/Don’t say s**t/Bank account looking like when little kids break s**t/‘oooooohhhhhhh,’” Gambino raps.
Royalty is Gambino’s best music to date. Maturity is prevalent and Gambino’s newfound ability to harness his raw talent will be a problem for anyone trying to step to him.
Joey Badass – 1999
Bada$$’ debut mixtape, 1999, was easily ranked as one of the top bodies of work for 2012 and still remains in heavy rotation in the winter even though it was released in June. What stands out about Bada$$ is his extensive vocabulary, real life awareness and his ’90s flow. He commands the respect that comes his way because he displays the world through his eyes instead of a fabricated illusion.
Bada$$ garnered attention when the track “Hardknock” (feat. CJ Fly) started buzzing through blogs and music stations. “Hardknock” was featured on MTV Jams and fulfilled its potential of being a million-hit song on YouTube after being posted as “Jam of the Week.” The song is clearly one of the best on the mixtape:
“This is for my n***as, killers/$100 billers/On the block/On they rock spot glock cocked watching out for cops/All about they cheddar/Young guns know nothing that’s better/Like f**k a prison letter/Those berettas led us to the lettuce,” Bada$$ raps.
The thing about Bada$$ is his appeal to those who grew up in the ’80s while representing the wood-pushing youth from Brooklyn. The structure of the lyrical lines from “Hardknock” looks like something that was produced in 1994 instead of 2012.
He also represents the Brooklyn-based PRO ERA collective, artists who appear individually throughout the mixtape and as a collective on the last track “Suspect.” The guest appearances have increased the group’s popularity, which is evident in fame on Twitter.