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Top 50 Rap Songs of 2012

Counting down 2012's best hip-hop songs


30. Freddie Gibbs - "Bout It, Bout It" (Ft. Kirko Bangz)

Freddie's thug-rap steez meets Kirko's syrupy Houston flow.

29. All Day - "Medication"

Vintage rap with a modern freshness. The thumping drums, the Cannonball Adderley hat tip, and the slick quotables make this one of the year's best rap songs.

28. Brother Ali - "Letter to My Countrymen" (Ft. Cornel West)

Brother Ali's Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color is, at its core, about making our world a better place and doing so in an inclusive manner. No song sums up that concept better than the introductory "Letter to My Countrymen," which includes the line: "This is a letter to my countrymen/Not from a Democrat or a Republican/But from one among ya, that's why you call me 'Brother'/Ain't scared to tell you we're in trouble 'cause I love ya."

27. Killer Mike - "Big Beast" (Ft. T.I., Bun B, and Trouble)

The three rappers you least expect on an El-P beat team up to salute the Old School and, ultimately, set the tone for one of the year's best albums. You should watch the video. It's awesome.

26. Schoolboy Q - "Hands on the Wheel" Feat. A$AP Rocky

In which Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky prove that their "Brand New Guy" magic wasn't a fluke.

25. Aesop Rock – "Zero Dark Thirty"

I concede, I have no clue what it's about (enzymes and Big Foot breakdancing with Led Zeppelin in West Virginia...whaaa?), but that hasn't stopped me from bobbing my head and rhyming along. It's classic Aesop Rock: throbbing bassline, unshakably esoteric lyrics, asphyxiating rhyme structures. Anything less would be re-god-damn-diculous.

24. T.I. - "Sorry" (Ft. Andre 3000)

As soon as I got my hands on Trouble Man, I skipped "Trap Back Jumpin'," jumped right past "Ball" and dove straight to "Sorry." I was glad I made this decision because it didn't disappoint. The main attraction is, of course, Andre 3000, who dedicates his verse complaining that he's lost his mojo and whatnot and then proceeds to make a liar out of himself.

23. Schoolboy Q - "There He Go"

Fact: I'll listen to anything with Sounwave in the production seat. His contribution to Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city were standouts. He's also starting to carve out a brand of production that varies slightly from his work the Digi+Phonics crew, as evidenced on "There He Go" — a thick, viscous mass that gradually evolves into an irresistibly cool palette.

22. Freddie Gibbs - "The Hard" (Ft. Dana Williams)

Gibbs' strength has always been his ability to take rap tropes and imbue them with his rasp, while hinting at depths beyond his years. That secret weapon is deployed to great effect in this grim, steady-rolling track from Baby Face Killa, whose lilting hook is primed for repeat listens.

21. Kendrick Lamar - "Swimming Pools (Drank)"

© TDE/Aftermath
One of my initial gripes was that "Swimming Pools" ended too abruptly to be thoroughly enjoyable. So, imagine my delight when a new version popped up on good kid, m.A.A.d city bearing an extra verse. It sounds even better within the ebb and flow of the album.
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