STAFF 2012 WRAP UPS: BEN
Posted by Ben Friedlander
TRIPPY TAKE OVER
Brandon Soderberg recently wrote an article for SPIN Magazine claiming that the trend of the year in music was "Alt R&B", and while I agree with almost everything he says in the article, I would really point to 2011 being that year. A year ago, artists such as Kingdom, The Weeknd, Jacques Greene, Frank Ocean and others took traditional R&B sounds and repurposing them into new territory. While 2012 was a great year for R&B (honestly, who made a better LP than Frank did this year?), for me 2012 represents hip-hop's most prolific year to date. From Lil B releasing more mixtapes than ever before and speaking at NYU, to the emergence of openly gay MCs such as LE1F and Mykki Blanco, to Future scoring a pop chart hit with the outerspace "Turn Out The Lights," to Kendrick Lamar scoring a gold album with the freshest take on conscious hip-hop since the 90s, to the reemergence of boombap rap with Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew, to a 16-year-old Chief Keef under house arrest at his grandmother's place in Chicago becoming a household name with auto-tuned flows, to A$AP Rocky rocking leather tee shirts and gold grills while rapping about Raf Simons and Rick Owens, to trap becoming a mainstream sound within the EDM scene, to whatever the fuck Riff Raff does, and more. It seemed like hip-hop really came to the forefront of popular culture in 2012 by truly blurring the lines between the Internet and real life and somehow getting away with it. While genre's such as indie rock seemed more stagnant than ever before (re: Hipster Runoff's hilariously on point Death of Indie article), rap continues to push the boundaries of it's own parameters from a sonic standpoint. Take "Mercy" for example, what was arguably the biggest hip-hop hit of the summer saw Kanye West repurposing a devilish dancehall vocal sample into one of the year's catchiest tunes. At times the song sounds more like a battle cry akin to something from a Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones battle scene than a conventional top 10 hit. And that was only the tip of the iceberg for hip-hop in 2012. One can only imagine how much weirder hip-hop will get next year.
As for what I was listening to in 2012, dance music was again (like in 2011) always at the top of my "Recently Played" section on iTunes. While this year's 90s garage house revival was very exciting and I couldn't get enough of the broodingly evil industrial-esque UK techno being pushed by the likes of Blawan and Pariah, the dance sounds that resonated with me the most this year came from the Hypercolour camp. Beyond the fact that Huxley's "Let It Go" was my favorite track of the year, releases on the label and its sub-imprints from the likes of Mosca, Maxxi Soundsystem, J. Alvarez, Tom Demac and George FitzGerald will have me dancing into 2013 and beyond. The label's penchant for deep sub-bass lines and 90s house rhythms alongside drugged out vocal samples really struck a chord with me. Not to mention that the consistence in the quality of their releases was really second to none this year (although Hotflush Recordings did come close). Hats off to Alex Jones, Jamie Russell and crew for defining a UK house sound in 2012 that sat on the fence between the underground and the mainstream, while still remaining interesting.