Given that the modern Rap game tends to overlook those that put real effort into their wordplay and lyrical content in favor of those that make “hot” music, a list like this is a must. I looked back at the year 2012 and I selected 10 emcees (rappers need not apply) that made the pen game their focus and keep the tradition of excellent delivery, effortless flows, lyrical content and clever wordplay alive. Don’t forget that lyricism isn’t all about punchlines, metaphors and similes. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (but I’m pretty sure all of them are illegal), in no particular order (other than alphabetical) here are the 10 Most Gifted Lyricists Of 2012:
Brother Ali (“Mourning In America” And “Dreaming In Color”)
Brother Ali’s album was loaded to the gills with straight-forward talk and incredibly inventive song concepts. Tracks like “Only Life I Know”, “Mourning In America” and “Fajr” paint vivid pictures and exemplify incredible lyricism without one punchline or any spiritual lyrical miracle spitting taking place. Brother Ali’s flow and delivery is so ridiculous on tracks like “Namesake” that he had to make this list.
Chino XL (“RICANstruction: The Black Rosary”)
The opening song on Chino XL’s new album is one of the best songs of 2012 hands down, “Father’s Day”. Chino tells the story of him learning his baby daughter had a cancerous tumor. The story telling in that track alone was insane but it was just the tip of iceberg that was 35 tracks high and over 2 hours long. Chino addresses his upbringing on songs like “Silent Art Child” just spits sick bars on jawns like “Anything”, “Buried In Vocabulary”, “Take It Back” & “Kings.” In any event, Chino earned his spot easily.
Homeboy Sandman (“Chimera EP” & “First Of A Living Breed”)
Homeboy Sandman is easily one of the nicest emcees to appear on the scene in the past 5 years. Songs like “Cops Get Scared Of Me” and “Watchu Want From Me?” are definitely up for Song Of The Year consideration. Homeboy Sandman has ill songs concepts, amazing breath control, an incredible flow and his pen game is sickening. If you’re unfamiliar then smack yourself.
KA (“Grief Pedigree”)
KA’s deliberate flow and conversational approach to emceeing combined with clever wordplay and inventive song construction resulted in what is a contender for Album Of The Year. Tracks like “Summer”, “Cold Facts”, “Decisions” and “No Downtime” showcase the effortless brilliance of his lyricism. If for some reason you haven’t copped this album yet please rectify that as soon as humanly possible.
Killer Mike (“R.A.P. Music”)
Killer Mike’s collaborative album with El-P “R.A.P. Music” contained some of the slickest tracks of 2012. Killer Mike’s verse on “Big Beast” was a monster on he had heavyweights like T.I. and Bun B on there with him. Selections like “Reagan” and “Ghetto Gospel” are indicative of the versatility necessary to be considered a true emcee. Salute.
Roc Marciano (“Reloaded”)
Do I really need to explain this one? All you need to do is listen to “Reloaded” from top to bottom in order to understand that this is the aesthetic that emcees aspire to. Bars upon bars and it sounds like it comes so easily. Listen to Roc Marciano’s bars on “Pistolier”, “76”, “Thread Count”, “Nine Spray” or “Emeralds” and tell me that even Rakim Allah himself wouldn’t raise an eyebrow and say he’s nice with it.
Sean Born (“Behind The Scale”)
Low Budget Crew’s Sean Born made an album in the vein of Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” except it wasn’t a fictionalized account of drug dealing formatted like a major studio film. His is a much more grounded in reality, rawer version that came off more like an independent documentary. In either case, Sean Born’s lyrics transport you to Maryland’s back roads in the late 90’s. If you slept on “Behind The Scale” then you need to wake up and apologize.
Sean Price (“Mic Tyson”)
Here’s yet another selection that’s a no brainer. Sean Price can do in a 2 minute song what 85% of rappers couldn’t do with 5 minutes of nonstop spitting. He has attained the level of master with his bars. He can infuse humor in hardcore verses and pepper you with expertly constructed rhyme patterns. “Mic Tyson” is one of the best albums of 2012. Shawn Carter is nice but Sean Price is the best. P!
Skyzoo (“Theo vs. JJ” & “A Dream Deferred”)
If you previously didn’t consider Skyzoo to be an elite lyricist before 2012 than there’s no way you didn’t change your mind after Skyzoo beat you into submission between an incredible mixtape (“Theo vs. JJ”) and an almost flawless album in “A Dream Deferred.” Skyzoo’s deft lyricism and ridiculous bars are evident on songs like “Glass Ceilings”, “The Rage Of Roemello” & “Spike Lee Was My Hero.”Easy choice.
Torae (“Off The Record EP”)
Torae’s “Off The Record EP” consists of tracks that couldn’t be included on his incredible 2011 album “For The Record.” Just the fact that an 8 song EP of material that couldn’t be included on an already insane project landed Torae on this list should give you an idea of how he must’ve bodied these tracks. Torae is another one of those cats I consider the best young emcees to enter the game over the past 5 years.
Didn’t see your favorite emcee listed in these 10? Here are the next 10 emcees that just missed the list.
Honorable Mentions: Action Bronson (“Blue Chips” & “Rare Chandeliers”), Clear Soul Forces (“Detroit Revolution(s)”), Craig G (“Ramblings Of An Angry Old Man”), Guilty Simpson (“Dice Game”), Honors English (“State Of The Art”). OC (“Trophies”), Oddisee (“People Hear What They See”), Rapsody (“The Idea Of Beautiful”), REKS (“Straight No Chaser” & “REBELutionary”) & Termanology (“2012” & “Fizzyology”)
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