So, here's a dumb idea I had. I like rap music and I like Giant Bomb's GOTY awards. So, what if I combined the two and created a bunch of arbitrary categories to talk about my favorite rap music of the year? Dumb, right? Well, let's do it.
BEST NEW CHARACTER
The future Jody Highroller got his start back in 2009 on MTV's From G's to Gents as "MTV Riff Raff." Not only did he have the television channel in his name but he also had it on his neck in form of a tattoo. He also has a BET logo on his chest, so maybe his allegiances are a little fishy. You know, he also has Bart Simpson and the NBA logo permanently etched on his body as well so maybe he's just fucking insane. I could sit here for hours and tell you all the insane things about RiFF RAFF from his amazing Twitter account to his constant referring to himself as "RAP GAME (INSERT CELEBRITY/HISTORICAL FIGURE NAME)" to his rap group Three Loco, in which he's joined by Andy Milonakis and Dirt Nasty AKA Simon Rex from the early 2000s sitcom "What I Like About You." But none of that would do any good. You may look at him and on first thought think he's a ridiculous idiot. And hey, maybe you're right. I mean, how could anyone look like that? However, the truth is that, whether you like it or not, RiFF RAFF is a genius. He's just signed a deal with Diplo's label Mad Decent, he has collaborated with real, honest to god rappers like Action Bronson and Harmony Korine is making a movie about him starring James Franco so he must be doing something right. If his persona is genuine and he really thinks that his Bart Simpson chest tattoo is rad then he's the most absurd man that ever lived and he deserves all of our money. If it's all an act, he's the greatest real life troll in mankind's history and he deserves all of our money. I don't know if the facade (if there is one) will ever be broken but I sure hope not. RAP GAME ANDY KAUFFMAN.
Runner-ups: Chief Keef, Lil B
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
There aren't many people in rap who had a better 2012 than El-P. Pushing 40, he not only released his own fantastic solo album, Cancer 4 Cure but he also collaborated with long-time friend Killer Mike entirely handling the production duties for his newest album, R.A.P. Music. On his own album, he paints a dystopian future straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel. Think Blade Runner, starring Chuck D. While on Mike's side of things, he takes a more "N.W.A. from the future" approach. The running theme across both works is this feeling of cynicism. Don't trust the government. Don't trust your neighbor. Don't trust yourself. And when you've seen the shit that El-P has seen, you'd be cynical too. P's been around the game for a long time now but at age 37, he seems like he's still got plenty to say and plenty of hits to make.
Runner-ups: Hit Boy, TNGHT
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Killer Mike - Big Beast (feat. Bun B, T.I. & Trouble)
Big Beast features almost zero of what makes Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music so great. It has none of the poignant social commentary of "Reagan" and none of the religious undertones of the album's title track. It's a straight up hoodrat track and it opens the album like a Tec-9 fired out of a moving vehicle. And while great on its own as just a banging track, the music video is what sells the song as the ultimate gangsta fantasy. Full disclosure, Drive is one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years so if you tell me something is even slightly related to it, I'm probably going to like it. The fact that Killer Mike pretty much created a 10 minute hip-hop version of Drive felt like he inceptioned the idea straight from my wildest dreams.
GROUP OF THE YEAR
Here are four guys who couldn't be more different. You got Kendrick Lamar, he doesn't drink or smoke, had a chart topping single this year about the dangers of alcoholism. You got Schoolboy Q, all he does is drink and smoke, had a single in which he declares on the hook that life to him is just weed and brews. Then you got Jay Rock, who just wants to tell you about his struggles in the hood and Ab-Soul, who just wants to tell you about his Sega Saturn. And yet these four not only get along but have flourished. Three of the four released solo albums this year, all of which can be found on top album lists across the internet. While Tech N9ne's declaration of Black Hippy as "the new N.W.A." may be a bit pre-mature, there's zero doubt that you're going to be seeing all of their faces in the hip hop scene for a long time to come.
Runner-ups: Progressive Era, Odd Future
MIXTAPE OF THE YEAR
Action Bronson - Blue Chips
Like Giant Bomb's Best Download Game category, this is one that seems to be losing its meaning. Some of the best hip hop is now being released for free on websites like Dat Piff, meaning that any of these downloads could easily be the best album of the year. I mean, when Rick Ross is releasing mixtapes better than his certified gold albums, what the hell does the word mixtape even mean? Either way, the best mixtape of the year belongs to the pro wrestling loving, Albanian food connoisseur, Action Bronson. Bronson is probably most well-known for sounding like a white Ghostface Killah, a comparison that he's tired of over the years. As he should because he's much more than a Ghostface knock-off. He's the kind of rapper who isn't afraid to "pat himself on the back like Barry Horowitz" or sample Ron Simmons' "DAMN" catchphrase in a song. Anyone who's spent anytime on these forums can figure out why I can appreciate that. But it's more than the wrestling references that attracts me to Bronson. It's the dirty, gritty feeling to all of his music. Bronson fancies himself a mafioso and his tracks feel like they were scavenged from the seedy underbelly of his native NYC. There are multiple instances on Blue Chips where Bronson blatantly fucks up a line and has to repeat himself but he doesn't cut it because he wants you to know that he's real. And in a scene that is now dominated by Gucci and expensive watches, it's nice to find a rapper who's actually willing to admit that he's human.
Runner-ups: Rick Ross - Rich Forever, Joey Bada$$ - 1999
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
West coast hip hop hasn't exactly been dominating the scene for a while now. The void left by artists like N.W.A. and Tupac were never really filled. The Game seemed like he was primed to conquer Cali for a little while but those hopes quickly evaporated and are now more of a punchline than a rallying cry. But Dr. Dre has a new protege and his name is Kendrick Lamar. good kidd, m.A.A.d city has that Compton feel that has been desperately missed in hip hop. Lamar reps Compton hard but he also wants you to know that, at the same time, he's left it behind. Kendrick made it out but he's here to tell you the story of those who didn't. Compton is the mad city that turned a good kid like Kendrick and many others into drug dealers and gang bangers. On "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst", Kendrick raps from the perspective of multiple individuals from his past but the trait they share is that they were lost to the system, whether it be gang violence or simply becoming another Compton hoodrat. It's not until he sees one of his friends die in front of him that he realizes he's worth more than this life. Along this journey into adulthood for Kendrick, he introduces a cast of memorable characters, who all have their own role in his transformation. It all ends with a victory lap alongside his mentor Dr. Dre, putting an exclamation mark on the resurrection of west coast hip hop and putting his stamp on the scene forever. good kid, m.A.A.d city is nothing short of a masterpiece, both a celebration and damning of the most famous city in hip hop, Compton, California and one of that will be remembered forever.
Runner-ups: Death Grips - The Money Store, Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music