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In the major label world, sometimes it’s hard to find even 10 releases to make this list these days, but 2012 had a handful of solid releases deserving of placement; and a few future classics.

10. Curren$y – The Stoned Immaculate – Curren$y’s first foray into the major label world didn’t bother trying to make a “hit single”; he just carried on and did him. Definitely an album for the stoners, The Stoned Immaculate album was more for those late nights at the smoke filled crib, than for bumping down the strip. Slow burner.

9. Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground – Big K.R.I.T. was another artist that went from mixtape champion to full-fledged major label artist on his Def Jam debut, Live From The Underground. While he had to transition from the sample-based production that helped popularize him in the mixtape scene, he rose to the challenge and delivered a solid LP that some say is his strongest release to date.

8. Tyga – Careless World: Rise Of The Last King – If there was one album that ruled the clubs in 2012, it was Tyga’s Careless World, which spawned a number of smash singles like “Rack City”, “Faded”, “Make It Nasty”, and “Muthafucka Up”. Not only that, unlike 2 Chainz’s Based On A T.R.U. Story, the rest of the album held up surprisingly well, serving as more than just club tracks. Tyga has helped revolutionize the sound of the west coast, with many artists following suit, tapping him or producer DJ Mustard for their singles.

7. Big Boi – Viscous Lies And Dangerous Rumors – It’s pretty clear that we’re not going to see an Outkast reunion anytime soon, but that hasn’t stopped Big Boi from releasing a series of solid solo albums (which let’s admit, began with Speakerboxxx). Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors carried on that trend with another strong addition to the overall Outkast catalog, even if Andre is off doing other things.

6. Game – Jesus Piece – While R.E.D. was somewhat of a letdown, we didn’t expect Game to return this quickly, nor did we expect this album to be strong. Game defied expectations on both counts, with a solid concept album, told from the perspective of the killers and thieves that legend says Jesus hung out with.

5. T.I. – Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head – Another album that threw us for a curveball, Tip hasn’t been the same in recent years, with his numerous legal troubles effecting the quality of output on his albums. Finally absolved of these issues, T.I. saw a return to form with Trouble Man, perhaps his strongest LP since King.

4. Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t – While we didn’t take Rick Ross seriously in his early career, over the course of his last few records, he’s ultimately matured into rap’s equivalent of a big budget movie. Ross is easily this generation’s rapper you love to hate, but on his fourth album, it seems he’s finally found his groove. His lyrics are sharper, his track selection is greater, and his guests are A-list.

3. RZA Presents The Man With The Iron Fists Soundtrack – Soundtracks and compilations usually are hit-or-miss, but in the case of RZA’s directorial debut, they nailed it. While the film left something to be desired, the soundtrack delivered on all fronts, sounding like a cinematic quasi-Wu-Tang album, with many of the original members and a strong guest list helping out. If RZA’s movies produce soundtracks this good, may he stay firmly seated in the director’s chair.

2. Nas – Life Is Good – They say that artists create their best music when faced with strife. Illmatic found Nas as a hungry, unknown QB teenager, while Life Is Good sees him as grown man, divorced with a grip of financial problems. Nas has always been consistant, with each of his last few records scoring highly here at HipHopSite, but Life Is Good is one of the first in recent memory that saw universal acclaim, industry-wide.

1. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City – Is anybody arguing against this record? Kendrick’s unorthodox style, understated-yet-brilliant production, and most of all, bold approach to making an album for the biggest, most respected label in the business, without an anthemic single propelling it, is testament that his art comes first. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City captures a snapshot of what many inner-city youths struggle with, without attempting to glamorize it or gloss over it’s unfortunate, tragic significance. We can only imagine what Detox sounds like.

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16 Responses to "HHS 2012 Year-In-Review: The 10 Best Major Label Albums"
  • Shaun says:

    with dayz on this one. nas should have been 1, just cause his my favorite mc and this album was very good. everyone on this list is weak. what about great albums like Trophies by Apollo Brown/OC, R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike, Cancer for Cure by El-P, Libretto by The Black Opera, A Dream Deferred by Skyzoo, Reloaded by Roc Marciano, Mourning in America by Brother Ali, It All Adds Up by LMNO/Solution. guess i could go on. support the real. everyday, all day, the Cali way.

  • Dayz says:

    @Shaun most of those LPs got props on the Indie top 10 LPs of 2012, peep that list. This was just major label releases.

  • Chad says:

    @dayz, I agree with ya on most of it except kendrick. I think he is a hard pill to digest for some people, and that’s ok. Not everybody has to like the same thing. He reminds me of early snoop, mixed wiith an understated too short, and given an experimental twist. That’s my take. He’s an acquired taste. Then again, so is that whole Black Hippy group, they’re just offbeat. If don’t get it, it’s not the end of the world. Give it a few months, years to marinate. A.lot of people thought Doggystyle was dumb as hell upon first listen, now it’s an undisputed classic. I don’t like drake, but poetic justice was a great song. To me, gkmaac is an instant classic. But, I also thought lupe’s joint was top 5 in the majors, just my opinion. Peace!

  • da commanda says:

    I just don’t get the fervor over this Kendrick Lamar dude…he’s damn sure not better than Nas…

  • Shaun says:

    @dayz, why separate the two. hip hop is hip hop. if ur gonna separate the two than just make it hip hops 10 best albums of the year and a top ten list of garbage.

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