#2 'good kid, m.A.A.d city'
In 2012, these artists did not put out solo albums: Drake, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Young Jeezy, Eminem. Thank goodness we had Kendrick Lamar to eliminate that mega-star vacuum and deliver the most breathtaking hip-hop debut since "The College Dropout." Dismissing luxurious rap tropes in favor of gritty storytelling, Lamar's unhinged flow and brilliant turns of phrases worked on the purposefully ignorant "Backseat Freestyle" and the death meditation "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst." Executive producer Dr. Dre shows up on the closing track "Compton" to pass the blunt, then pass the torch, but even the West Coast legend can't overshadow an MC who will stop at nothing to make his unique voice ring out.