tupac hollogram

2012: The Year in Rap

Hip-hop in 2012 was defined by a series of ups and downs, but for the most part it was pretty… weird. For one, what the hell is the definition of hip-hop these days anyway? Is it singing, is it rapping, is it that sing-songy rap shit that Drake does when he’s crying on his bed with a velvet comforter? Who really knows? Gone are the days of sticking to the four elements as an indicator of what’s hip-hop, and 2012 is proof of that. So, here are a few moments in hip-hop from 2012 to remind you that your life isn’t nearly as interesting as that of a sing-songy rapper.

Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: The Rise of Black Hippy

Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. While this quartet of badassness revealed that there probably wouldn’t be a Black Hippy album (despite being collectively signed to Top Dawg Entertainment), individually Black Hippy ran the Rap game. ScHoolboy Q dropped Habits & Contradictions in January and fucked our heads up by sampling guitar-toting Lissie’s cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” on his cut “Hands on the Wheel” with A$AP Rocky. Then In May, Ab-Soul did his crew proud with #controlsystem, where the family showed up on the “Black Lip Bastard” remix. Finally, after Section.80 made us cry real tears in 2011, Kendrick Lamar dropped good kid, m.A.A.d. city, in October, proving that we really don’t need Dr. Dre’s Detoxafter all.

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Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: The Tupac Hologram

This is what happens when you invite rappers to headline Coachella: They start resurrecting legends. So Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg reached a part of Cali they probably never frequent for the Coachella Music Festival in April, and they brought ‘Pac with them. He emerged on stage to perform “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” with Snoop followed by a riveting rendition of “Hail Mary.” This was just strange. The “Tupac’s Alive” yahoos returned to say it really was Pac up there, and then T-Boz and Chilli were like, “Hey let’s get a Left Eye hologram and get that TLC tour going.” This can’t be a thing that shows up in 2013. Let’s kill the holograms, please.

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Cool Moment in Hip-Hop: A$AP Rocky Proves He’s Still Awesome

In 2011, A$AP Rocky offered up LiveLoveA$AP to the weird rap gods, and they named him one of their leaders. He brought A$AP Mob with him, but 2012 was more about A$AP’s awesomeness and less about the music. We were teased for months that LongLiveA$AP would arrive before Halloween, and that never happened. A$AP played bizarro JFK in Lana Del Rey’s video for “Ridin’” which was cool, but then he goes and takes over again with “Fuckin Problem.” The 40-produced song had 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar, muddling over nymphomania and bringing enough girls back to the crib. It was another high point for A$AP Rocky, but it only made us ask, “OK, where the hell is your album though?” That Lords Never Worry mixtape was not enough.

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Weird Moment in Hip-Hop: We Lost Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys

Why is this a weird moment? Because we always assumed certain architects of hip-hop would live forever. When hip-hop lost Yauch in May, it was a shock, despite knowing his battle with cancer. In 2009, cancer was found in his parotid gland that spread to a nearby lymph node. While it caused the Beasties’ Hot Sauce Committee to never release, 2011 saw Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, and that was the last project from the Beastie Boys. This year, Yauch was too ill to attend the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame awards, before passing weeks later. A part of hip-hop died on May 4, when Adam Yauch passed away at the age of 47. Fuck cancer.

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2012 ain’t nothin bust a gangsta paarty.

Tupac/Tupac’s Ghost/Tupac’s image appeared as a hologram at this year’s Coachella. This is SUPER RAD for those of us that never had the chance to see him perform live. It’s a beautiful combo of nostalgia and new: technology can truly take audiences to new realms! I love watching how the hologrammed emcee moves on stage, and love even more how the audience reacts.

The danger here lies in the future of how we remember legends and icons. While it cost over $100K to produce, the concept behind it calls into question memorial traditions of yore. Tupac’s technologically-induced resurrection undeniably connects him to other ‘prophets’ who’ve passed, who to this day only exist in literary – better yet, imagined – reference.  

Who’s next? MJ? And then what inner heart-wrenching turmoil will his fans endure? I suppose this kind of entertainment can only be enjoyed by suspending our disbelief…

And there we are. Yet again, allowing ourselves to believe it’s real for just a moment. Is it right?