10. E.B.A.H. - Tech N9ne
Anyone that's ever talked music with me knows Tech N9ne is my favorite MC. So naturally I have enormous expectations for him to live up to every time he drops a project. And this just didn't cut it. Tech dropped three EPs this year, and only one (Boiling Point) was musically and lyrically what I look for from the Kansas City King. Klusterfuk was a decent piece but had a blah moment or two, and when it's a 6-song project, there's no room for blah moments. Meanwhile, E.B.A.H. basically WAS one long blah moment. The title track was actually pretty good, as well as the "middle finger to the haters" track "A Real 1". Even the bizarre, otherworldly sound of "Earregular" was a solid track. But against those you have the awful single "Don't Tweet This", the mundane sex romp "KJOMD", the cookie-cutter club banger "Rock Yo Head", the abysmal "Boy Toy", and 3 unnecessary and irritating skits (I've mentioned before that Tech N9ne routinely includes redundant and uncreative skits on his projects). Grab the three tracks I mentioned on iTunes and pass on this otherwise.
9. Broken Promise Projects
This is an issue pretty much every year, but there were quite a few projects mentioned that were predicted to be released this year that never saw the light of day. I'm not talking the stuff of myth like Fugees reunions, D'Angelo comebacks, Andre 3000 solo debuts, or Detox. I'm talking artists that reliably release new music and for whatever reason just didn't this year. Brotha Lynch Hung was supposed to release his long-awaited third Strange Music album, Mannibalector, and although the project finally got a release date for February of '13, that's nearly 2 years since the second installment, without so much as a peep from Lynch or Strange this entire year. Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko looked to release their long-awaited rock album Amafrican Psycho before again missing expected deadlines (though we did get a single). Jay Electronica went to all the trouble to tweet a track-listing for his long-awaited debut album, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn) only to almost predictably sit on whatever material he claims to have. Ludacris (perhaps wisely) continues to withhold Ludaversal, which at this point will be a comeback album. Ghostface Killah and Doom teased us with their "DoomStarks" collab, but no new information surfaced. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hey, artists? Keep promises you can't keep to yourselves please.
8. Welcome To: Our House - Slaughterhouse
To tell the truth, I didn't have the loftiest expectations for this to begin with. I like the rappers involved individually, but together I always felt like it was just forced. However, they can all rap well, and because I think highly of them individually, I figured it could at least be a decent album. Boy, was I wrong. This album has Eminem's fingerprints all over it, and these days that doesn't bode as well as it used to (more on this later). Overrapping, mediocre, poppy production, mostly terrible songwriting, and cheesy, overdone hooks abound on this turd of an album. I would try to point out the songs I liked, and there were a couple good moments, but honestly I haven't touched this since it dropped.
7. Kiss the Ring - DJ Khaled
I had my DJ Khaled phase. When he first came onto the scene he often had a knack for bringing 14 artists together and putting them on a Runners beat with an interchangeable Akon or T-Pain hook and yet making it still sound fun and listenable. I don't know if it's just me or if Khaled is losing his touch, but the magic wasn't happening on this album. Maybe it's because he keeps using the same tired, mundane, dime a dozen pop rappers on every track. Maybe it's because he's still so fixated on making Ace Hood happen. Maybe it's because of his obnoxious Mickey Mouse voice adlibs and his annoying tendency to decide to drop a struggle rap at the worst possible time. I don't know. What I do know is that, barring a few key moments of quality ("Hip Hop" with Nas and Scarface, "They Ready" with Big K.R.I.T., J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar) this thing came and went with minimal fanfare--and rightfully so.
6. Country, God or the Girl - K'naan
I actually didn't even notice this album dropped till just the other day, and while I've enjoyed K'naan's music in the past (especially his 2009 album Troubadour) this one wasn't enjoyable when I finally listened to it. K'naan has started to sound to me like he's trying too hard, and this album is a blend of the worst parts of the music of Wyclef Jean, the Black Eyed Peas, and Andre 3000. It sounds a bit pretentious and more than a little out of his element, as some tracks barely retain any hip hop influence at all--not that I necessarily have a problem with that but it just sounds forced and alien to me coming from him.
5. Diamond In the Ruff - Freeway
Look, anyone that's still checking for Freeway in 2012 is there for two things: rugged bars and hard beats. We don't ask you for much, Leslie. You nailed it with The Stimulus Package, bring us more of that. But no. Freeway drops Diamond this year and I swear it sounded like a Murder Inc. album in 2002. Take Free off the beats and replace him with Ja Rule and you have Pain Is Love. Sappy, sugary R&B hooks and glossy, overdone beats abound here, and while that sound works for some rappers (I'm no elitist) it doesn't for Free. Pass on this altogether.
4. God Forgives, I Don't - Rick Ross
Say what you want to say. Lacking in lyrical depth, doesn't just lie but does it with the most extravagant, over-the-top and unbelievable exaggerations ever put to wax, was a C.O. at one point. Whatever you want to say, I've heard it all and you're not going to convince me to hate Rick Ross's music...well, until this album. Even though it still had a few excellent tracks ("Sixteen", "Ten Jesus Pieces", "So Sophisticated") this album was mostly oversweetened pop basura. Bring back the lying wannabe drug lord, bring back the guy that doesn't think it's trickin' even when you DON'T got it; bring back the reckless talking, lyrically shallow fat guy. I don't need wannabe-ladies' man Rozay. Also, tell me this album cover didn't kinda bite the 2 Chainz album with the black backgrounds and focus on the chains.
3. Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 - Lupe Fiasco
First off, props on what was probably the most pretentious album title of the year in hip hop. Could have just gone with Food & Liquor II or The Great American Rap Album, but nah, let's do all of the above PLUS add a "Part 1" to it, thus assuring that it has otherworldly expectations heaped on it to live up to his classic debut's standards, to actually BE a "great" rap album, and to warrant a sequel. Cool. Then let's tell everyone it's our best work yet to add onto the pressure and a return to form from the dud Lasers. And then after all that, let's drop an incredibly lukewarm, actually-still-quite-a-bit-like-Lasers album with preachy, redundant and often overcomplicated messages. Yeah, that'll please the fanbase.
2. Cruel Summer
The G.O.O.D. Music compilation album should've been incredible. I mean, Kanye never fails on his own albums. Even the somewhat underwhelming Watch the Throne had moments of genius, and to be sure this does too. But with the roster he has, that now includes the likes of Q-Tip, Pusha T, Common, and Mos Def, and Kanye at the helm, this should have been epic. Instead, what did we get? A hodge podge of posse cuts involving rappers and artists nobody asked to hear from (Travis Scott, Mase, R. Kelly), a mixed bag of beats, and a remix of a CHIEF KEEF song for crying out loud--and not so much as one solitary verse from Tip or Mos. To be fair, Kanye and Pusha run rampant all over this album on their appearances, and we get standout contributions from the likes of Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah and an absolute R&B gem in "Bliss", but overall this fell well short of the mark we all had set for it.
1. Eminem's Life
Who doesn't at least respect Eminem's lyrical prowess? We may not all like him musically, and sure, he's had a rollercoaster of a career this last decade, including some extremely low lows. But we still just expect more from Eminem than we've gotten lately. He's off drugs. He takes fan criticisms to heart, if his lyrics are to be believed, so we kinda expect his manic, almost comically exaggerated delivery to be calming down some. He's had time to work on his craft, having been 2 years since his last real album. So why, pray tell, do we still get the angry, SCREEEEAMING, ADHD Eminem with the contrived, overdone punchlines and poppy, overproduced hooks? Was anyone out there crying out for Em to work with tough-girl poser Pink, overexposed and overrated-in-every-department hoodrat Rihanna, or "never-gonna-blow-up" Skylar Grey? And seriously, that Skylar Gray track is an abomination. Freddie Mercury is spinning like a top in his grave to hear "Bicycle Race" brutally desecrated by these two. And finally there's the aforementioned Slaughterhouse album. Did you really think Slaughterhouse's fanbase was clamoring for such a blatant Top 40 reach, Marshall? Come on. Do better next year when you drop your next solo because I'm starting to get tired of it.