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While we at the Weekly are certain that you're making the most of this first week of January, every new calendar comes with a reminder of what a cultural dead zone this month truly is. Often the time where major studios and record labels release the media they have little faith in as an early tax write-off, there's usually not a whole lot of good to go around. Fortunately, this offers some time to catch-up on the best bits of the previous year that you may have missed. While we're sure you've had your fill of "Best of 2012" lists, it was such a bountiful year of music that a lot of great songs fell under the radar, especially those released in December after the wave of year-end retrospectives were already posted. That in mind, here's our picks for the Five Best Rap Songs of 2012 You May Have Missed!
5. First Serve (De La Soul) – "Pushin Aside, Pushin' Along"
De La Soul's Plug 1 and Plug 2 spent 2012 dropping a satirical concept album on Duck Down called First Serve which, despite the group being a favorite of critics and one of the most consistent outfits of their era, had the misfortune to get somewhat lost in the shuffle in a year full of huge releases. While there were a few changes in the samples between the album's promo release and when it hit store shelves, Pos and Trugoy's writing remains as thought-provoking as ever. The record's finest moment, "Pushin' Aside, Pushin' Along," captures the tension and stress of calling oneself a hip-hop artist as only De La can. While they're currently working with missing member Maceo on a new official De La record, "Pushin' Aside, Pushin' Along" is more than enough to hold us over.
4. Future – "You Deserve It"
Much has been written and contested about what exactly rapper Future means in the context of rap and popular music today. Whether you think he's a genius, a pop artist under a hip-hop guise, or just a catchy hook-writer, his presence has made for some of the most potent debates of the year. While "Turn On the Lights" and "Same Damn Time" have been the two singles at the center of the Future debate, his album Pluto's closer, "You Deserve It," is worthy of a discussion all its own. While the "It feels so good to say I made it!"-type track has been a standard victory lap at the end of recent rap albums to the point of almost being a cliche, Future's approach to the topic is a much humbler one. Rather than spending three minutes throwing his success in the face of his "haters," Future opts to instead humbly express how thankful he is for his blessings, going as far to describe being brought to tears when hearing his music on the radio.
3. Devin the Dude – "You'll Be Satisfied"
With 2012 being the rare year that the list of great albums was somehow longer than the number of great singles, the artists who released outstanding EPs became largely under-discussed. The greatest casualty of these was Devin the Dude's Seriously Trippin' EP. Returning to Houston's Rap-A-Lot Records, his original label, Devin recaptured what made him a favorite among hip-hop listeners. The EP's single "You'll Be Satisfied" captured the melodic delivery and laid back humor that made his best work so accessible. Hopefully, it's a glimpse at what Devin has in store for us in the new year.
2. Aesop Rock – "Zero Dark Thirty (Blockhead Remix)"
As well-received as Aesop Rock's rightfully heralded entirely self-produced Rhymesayers album Skelethon was last year, longtime fans were still delighted to hear Rock's longtime collaborator, producer Blockhead, take a crack at a remix of the album's "Zero Dark Thirty." Like all great remixes, Blockhead pulled a certain playfulness out of Rock's lyrics not easily detected in the original, giving Rock's performance a new degree of appreciation and the track itself an entirely new life in the process.
1. Mystikal – "Hit Me"
While 2012 was home to The One, perhaps the greatest James Brown biography ever written, it was also the year veteran rapper Mystikal offered up the most inspired James Brown tribute in recent memory, "Hit Me." Produced by longtime collaborator KLC, "Hit Me" features the MC as energized as ever, mixing his trademark chaotic unpredictability with his razor sharp wit and still somehow sliding in a positive message to two without lessening the track's overall fun.