7. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure
Of all the notable qualities that make El-P‘s Cancer 4 Cure a 2012 stand-out–articulate anger, unrelentingly original beats, post-apocalyptic anxieties–impeccable timing has to be counted near the top of the list. In the wake of his last LP–2007’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead–a verse or loose beat from the self-appointed El Producto might be considered more or less in the same light as a reunion show of his old outfit Company Flow. Which is to say, a blast to the backpack past, a guilty throwback pleasure best appreciated by those really in the know, connoisseurs of indie rap’s golden era, and NYC’s underground scene in particular (hello there okayplayers). But in 2012 it seemed that not only music (ie the rise of the soundcloud electronic beat scene as a measurable force in pop culture) but even reality itself (the increasingly normal paranoia of the war on terror, the daily headlines of flying killer robots over middle eastern skies) conspired to make his shit mainstream. El-P himself didn’t change much. Certainly he focused and refined his already considerable skills both as a beatmaker and rhymer, as well his generally uncompromising worldview, refusing to “give a fragment of a fuck” about what was trendy. Guest appearances from allies hitting a similar peak in stride like Danny Brown, Mr MFN eXquire and of course Killer Mike didn’t hurt. But mostly the year itself revealed that the things that had always made El-P uniquely El-P–a classic b-boy aesthetic filtered through a very offbeat sense of rhythm and the mind of someone who’s played one too many first-person shooter games–were not so much obscure or underground as simply ahead of their time. Welcome to the new normal.