What to Expect from Rap Albums in 2012: The RapGenius Guide to Listening Safely in a Hype-Cycled Universe

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2011 was a strange year for hip hop; up was down and Down was an animated film by Pixar. We were surprised by newcomers A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar. We were surprised, in a bad way, by established rappers—by a show of hands, who’s still listening to Lupe’s Lasers or Wayne’s Tha Carter IV?

Expectations are everything. For my part, I was expecting J.Cole to drop a Reasonable Doubt level album and was disappointed when it was only a good album. I was underwhelmed with Thank Me Later which made Drake Care an even better listen. With this in mind, RapGenius provides the following guide for keeping your expectations exactly where they should be in the new year:

Group H: Well, it can’t get any worse than the last record, so it’s worth a listen

Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: The first Pink Friday album wasn’t really a rap album and wasn’t that great of a pop album either. I thought the same thing about a Young Money affiliate last year and then Take Care was released and all was good, so who knows.

50 Cent, I’m On It: I actually liked a song by 50 Cent this year. No, really, we’ve got it on file at RG, it’s pretty good. After Before I Self Destruct the only way to go is up.

Asher Roth, Is This Too Orange?: “Lark on My Go-Cart” and “I Love College” were standouts from his OK first album. He can rap and he’s still young, let’s see if he can put it all together here.

Joe Budden, The Great Escape: There was talk at RapGenius about explaining all of the MoodMuzik series… then MoodMuzik 4 dropped. Hopefully we escape relationship drama on this one.

Group G: Trained professionals at work, rest assured

Nas, Life is Good: You guys voted “Nasty” as the best song of 2011 and there’s no reason why this record shouldn’t be good. Enough said.

Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… III: Any questions? No? Alright, moving on.

Curren$y, The Stoned Immaculate: Released Pilot Talk I and Pilot Talk II in the same year and last year’s Weekend At Burnie’s was right on par. It looks like he knows what he’s doing.

Rick Ross God Forgives, I Don’t: Teflon Don and Deeper Than Rap were, for me, surprisingly good. Now we all know what to expect… Speaking of which:

Group E: Expect the unexpected

Kreayshawn, [Untitled]: Your guess is as good this Genius. Given her buzz I’d imagine she’ll drop something in 2012, but I don’t know what’ll sound like or if you’ll care.

Tyler, The Creator, Wolf: Apparently this one will have less rapping and that it’ll will cover different terrain, lyrically, than Goblin. RG recommends you be careful in your expectations with this one. Use self-restraint. Or you could just fuck everything kill em' all. It’s up to you.

Cyhi The Prynce, The Hard Way Musical: Kanye signed this guy so I guess he’s good. He showed some promise on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy with his “So Appalled” verse. Had I gone into last year’s Big Sean (another G.O.O.D Music guy) album with no expectations I would’ve liked it more.

Kid Cudi/WZRD, WZRD: Kid Cudi has good taste in music—c.f. “Mojo So Dope” sampling Choir of Young Believers or the St. Vincent feature on “Maniac”—but I thought his rock single, “No One Believes Me” was plodding. Cudi fans should be ready for anything and, since this drops in January, expect more music from him throughout the year that could be a return to form.

Kanye West/G.O.O.D Music: G.O.O.D Music: The Album: Easy to get excited about this one after Watch the Throne but remind yourself that it will not be Watch the Throne and that’s fine.

Group D: Proceed as if these albums are not going to be released and, if they are, consider it a pleasant surprise

Dr. Dre, Detox: Fingers crossed!

MF DOOM & Ghostface Killah, Swift and Changeable: DOOM just tweeted about this collaboration so it’s not yet forgotten.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlibs, MadGibbs: As Kanye said, “Maybe too much of good thing, huh!?”

The Diplomats, Diplomatic Immunity 3: Just keep listening to “I Really Mean It” and don’t give this album too much thought.

Jay-z, [Untitled Solo and Watch The Throne albums]: If we get either of these records that shit cray that shit cray that shit cray. If not, that’s ok.

Group C: Overly excited about a comeback album? Don’t call it a comeback!

T.I., Trouble Man: Being a trouble man has kept T.I. from making his All Eyez on Me-style-post-jail-classic-album. Consider Paper Trail and No Mercy as one hodgepodge comeback album and let Trouble Man exists as its own thing. If it’s his best album since King that’d be great but expecting that, especially after the last two albums, is not advised.

Juvenile, Rejuvenation: Ok, what’s this album called? Rejuvenation? Fuck, I guess this is a comeback album… “All my girls from the 504 need to drop it right now!”

Ja Rule, Pain is Love 2: You weren’t anticipating a Ja Rule album, were you? Good. Just be, glad? I guess, that this is happening. The first Ja album in eight years, this was close to being in Group H but I couldn’t remember if his last album was good or not.

Group B: Remember your love for them doesn’t mean they’re not releasing their debut albums

Chiddy Bang, Breakfast: The Chiddy Bang fans I know seem pretty content with this album. You guys have the right attitude!

Big K.R.I.T, Live from the Underground: I just try to take deep breaths and say, “it doesn’t have to be a classic” but if you’ve got a better method for deterring your excitement for this record let us know.

XV, The Kid with the Green Backpack: We really like this guy at RapGenius so if this is bad expect some crying in the corner of RG headquarters.

Machine Gun Kelly, Half Naked & Almost Famous: Expect this album to be swagged out. Greatness is overrated.

Group A: If this isn’t great we’re all fucked

Jay Electronica, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn): Yes, yes, yes, I know this entire list is dedicated to keeping your expectations in check, please allow me to explain. This album is in a group of its own because it embodies yet contradicts Groups G-B: yes, it’s a debut album but Electronica is a good 14 years older than Machine Gun Kelly, it’s a comeback album since we’ve heard so little from him in 2011 but a debut album can’t really be a comeback album, it fits in Group D because it doesn’t have a release date or single, which is why we can expect the unexpected (Group E).

Not that you need to be convinced, you guys comment on “Exhibit C” everyday! Safely set the bar for your expectations high and let’s hope that they’ll be raised when this drops. Do you believe?