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With so many great albums on the indie circuit, it was hard to narrow it down to just 10 releases. But in retrospect, these were the releases that got repeated plays from us in the world of indie hip-hop in 2012. Note: Free albums were not included on this list, but will be included on the mixtape list.

10. Roc Marciano – Reloaded – Roc Marciano’s music is not for everyone; he’s like the Taster’s Choice of this rap shit. Reloaded began as a remix project for Marcburg, and then was scrapped for an entirely original album. Better that way, as Roc’s equally understated production and flow made this one of the most original sounding LP’s of the year.

9. Masta Ace + MF Doom – MA_Doom: Son Of Yvonne – First we heard that Masta Ace was recording an album with MF Doom (excitement!). Then we heard it was over the old Special Herbs instrumentals (disappointment!). But then we heard the single (excitement!). And then we saw the album cover (disappointment!). Then we heard the album… satisfaction.

Although Ace used a series of older Doom beats for this album, he executed it perfectly, taking us back to his early Crooklyn childhood, with a heartfelt LP dedicated to his recently passed mother. This was so well done, we wouldn’t mind seeing him do another album with Doom from the Special Herbs archives.

8. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure – This probably would have rated even higher on our list if we weren’t first spoiled by Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, also produced by El. Interestingly, El’s album had an almost entirely different sound – although still cut from the same cloth – suggesting he hasn’t missed a step, despite playing a more reclusive role in the post-Def Jux era.

7. Ab-Soul – Control System – Kendrick Lamar wasn’t the only one out of the Black Hippy camp to release an incredible album in 2012. Schoolboy Q’s Habits and Contridictions also satisfied, and Ab-Soul’s Control System delivered far beyond expectations. While rated @@@@1/2 here – the same rating given to Kendrick – this album still holds strong, despite now living in Kendrick’s shadow by comparison.

6. Oh No – Ohnomite – Concept albums are usually better in theory than in execution, but Oh No defeated that notion with OhNoMite, which found him with the full sampling rights to the catalog of Rudy Ray Moore. OhNoMite is an incredibly produced album with an amazing guest list, that keeps hitting you over and over again until you can’t help but succumb to it’s level of freshness.

5. O.C. & Apollo Brown – Trophies – Sometimes it just takes the right producer to bring out the fire of your favorite older rapper. Case in point is Trophies, the Apollo Brown produced O.C. album. It not only redefined O.C. for a new generation, as arguably his best LP since his classic debut, Word…Life, but also rose Apollo Brown’s name to fame in the underground.

4. Gangrene (Alchemist + Oh No) – Vodka and Ayahuaska – Like OhNoMite and Al’s mixtape with Action Bronson, Rare Chandeliers, we saw incredible consistency on just about every track on Gangrene’s sophomore release. Disturbing, psychedelic beats from both producers made this one of the most unique, enjoyable underground hip-hop LP’s of the year, hoping that they will next follow-up with a Greneburg LP, with Roc Marciano to complete the trio.

3. Brother Ali – Mourning In America, Dreaming In Color – Both Brother Ali and Jake One are in top form here, and arguably created the best work of their respective careers with Mourning In America, Dreaming In Color. The seamless combination of substance heavy lyrics and sonically pleasing production makes this one of the most important hip-hop albums of the year.

2. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “The Heist” – The runaway smash of the year, Macklemore reeled in radio with his catchy “Thrift Shop” tune, only to deliver a heavy, musical album that dealt with hot-button topics like gay marriage, alcoholism, addiction, religion, and the major label system. Mack is easily hip-hop’s breakout star of 2012, and the wall-to-wall production from Ryan Lewis didn’t hurt either.

1. Killer Mike – R.A.P. (Rebellious African People’s) Music – How good was this album? Mike showed signs of greatness throughout his Pledge mixtape series, but crafted easily the best indie album of the year after teaming with El-P on R.A.P. Music. It’s been said ad naseum, but this is the millennial Ice Cube + Bomb Squad.

Stay tuned for our 2012′s Best Major Label albums and Best Mixtapes lists coming up soon…..

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19 Responses to "HHS 2012 Year-In-Review: The 10 Best Indie Hip-Hop LP’s"
  • adam says:

    Great list…it was hard to make it to just 10 album this yr for me. I would of had Ab-Soul higher and included Oddisee and the “Dice Game album from GS/AB. In the end, still pretty good (although I never heard the Macklemore album).

  • A-Ray says:

    Great list….there were so many great indie albums you could do a legit second top ten…Skyzoo, Bumpy and Premo, 2 albums from Reks, Dice Game to name a few but i couldn’t really drop any of these out of a top ten list either.

  • Chad says:

    Trophies and killer mike should’ve tied for #1, mackelmore is good, but not top 5. Didn’t vodka and ayahuasca come out last year? It was also good, but bottom 5, even on this list.

  • JustMarv says:

    Along with multiple titles on this list, Blu & exile’s-flowers, schoolboy Q, & alchemist’s Russian roulette made my list. Still have to buy that oh no & oddisee, which I’m surprised didn’t make the list. Disappointed that murs & Dashawn, murs & 9th wonder, & the 9th wonder & buckshot weren’t reviewed on this site.

  • galvatronus says:

    really? no People Under The Stairs? Highlighter was a great album. Skelethon maybe should’ve been in here too but not mad it’s omitted, maybe even the Substantial lp near the back end.

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