PRINT December 2012

Music: Best of 2012


RiFF RaFF and TrapZillas’ 2012 video Midnight Sprite, directed by Jason Ano.

1 Cyberspace and reality converge RiFF RaFF appears to be a creation of the metaverse, a hyperbolic hip-hop avatar with reality-show origins, covered in tattoos of media-outlet logos. The absurdist rapper, however, is entirely human, the simulated persona having replaced whoever RiFF RaFF used to be. He’s an embodiment of the increasing convergence of cyberspace and reality, an avatar able to exist seamlessly in both worlds at once.

2 Styled by Tumblr The microblogging platform Tumblr has spawned its own aesthetic, with memes and music replicating and cross-influencing users, rapidly enabling such niche cultures as seapunk to emerge. The party #Top8 in Brooklyn, Cult in Chicago, and the store/event space Freak City in LA capture Tumblr culture in its wetware form. Check out Grimes and Brooke Candy for the look.

Zebra Katz Ft. Njena Reddd Foxxx’s 2012 video IMA READ, directed by Ruben Sznajderman.

3 Paris is Still Burning New York’s incredibly vibrant, not-so-secret vogue subculture is back in the pages of magazines and blogs. DJ Mike Q gained the attention of the music press with his hypnotic vogue-house remixes, and Zebra Katz’s haunting track “Ima Read” became a Paris Fashion Week anthem, picked up as the sound track to Rick Owens’s fall 2012 runway show.

4 Trap’s Rapid Rise After existing unnamed for years, “trap” became an entire subculture seemingly overnight, merging raucous Southern hip-hop and electronic music. A YouTube documentary called Certified Trap was released before the genre was even generally accepted as being a genre at all, thereby retroactively making it exist. Pretty interesting evolution.

Unicorn Kid’s 2012 video Feel So Real.

5 Rave 3.0 With EDM festivals attracting thousands in neon and electronic music influences dominating radio, artists such as Elite Gymnastics and Unicorn Kid are keeping the PLUR alive with their heartfelt capturing of rave’s original idealistic vibes. Their releases over the past year offer something missing all too often from dance records—real, visceral emotion.

6 Chicago’s culture of violence With the highest murder rate in the USA, Chicago is facing a crisis. Extremely discomfiting, too, is the new generation of rappers this environment is producing. Interscope-signed seventeen-year-old Chief Keef is most notable, going viral with a music video shot while under house arrest for a weapons charge. But thirteen-year-old Lil Mouse is even more harrowing to watch, rapping about taking MDMA, having sex, gunplay, and committing homicides with no profanity spared. Support by established rappers and major record labels seems extremely irresponsible. These are children essentially glorifying the daily bloodshed of their peers.

G-Dragon’s Crayon (2012), directed by Seo Hyun-seung.

7 K-Pop South Korea’s spectacle-saturated bubblegum brand of pop is getting noticed in the West, most infamously with Psy’s viral hit, “Gangnam Style.” G-Dragon’s “Crayon,” however, is my favorite example of Western hip-hop and pop reimagined through the hyperbolic Korean pop machine. The androgynous, hyperstyled rapper flips hip-hop’s conventions on their head with a mind-blowing display of swag.

8 Nightslugs Never Die UK label Nightslugs and its American sister label Fade to Mind released some of the best dance-floor records this year. Timeless and restrained without shying away from being dance-floor forward, cuts from artists like Kingdom, L-Vis 1990, Girl Unit, and Rizzla are difficult to classify, a blessing at a time when genres rise and fall in a matter of months.

9 Crass’s Last Supper Late last year, Steve Ignorant, Penny Rimbaud, and Eve Libertine performed together for the final time as members of Crass. This legendary anarchist art-punk band had utilized, since they started playing in the ’70s, every medium possible with impressive aptitude, like an ad agency with subversion as its only client. Incredible propagandists.

Le1f’s 2012 video Soda, directed by Sam Jones.

10 Homosexuality Confronts Hip-Hop In a move that shocked many, Kanye collaborator Frank Ocean came out publicly this year, but it’s been the loud and proud shamelessness of the openly gay underground rappers that’s shaken up the dialogue the most—artists such as Le1f, Mykki Blanco, and Nicky Da B have had the Internet going nuts. The walls protecting hip-hop’s historical homophobia and perplexingly arbitrary code of masculinity are finally getting wavvy.

@ LIL INTERNET has made music, videos, and music videos since he was twelve. earlier this year, he directed the video for Diplo and Nicky Da B’s “Express Yourself” and, for the magazine Dazed & Confused, made a mixtape of DMX praying over ambient music. Creative director of the online video channel and production house Karmaloop TV, he unwittingly birthed #seapunk in his sleep.