The 10 Best Bay Area Hip-Hop Records of 2012

E-40 and Too $hort
History: Mob Music and Function Music (Deluxe Version)
[Heavy on Grind Ent.]

Longtime friends E-40 (Earl Stevens) and Too $hort (Todd Shaw) were discouraged to collaborate by their former shared record label, so this first joint album has been years in the making. While not all 34 of the cuts are killers, and Too $hort has admitted that E-40 took the lead and built up the majority of the tracks, the collective effort has impressive moments and captures the essence of each MC. E-40 changes up the tempo of his rhyming throughout. He offers his practically imperceptible fast flow as well as the slow spit, touching on mass culture references as far-flung as the honey badger and website Christian Mingle. Too $hort doesn't offer any surprises with his subject matter, instead going extra hard with the explicit bars for which he's loved by wannabe macks everywhere. -- Tamara Palmer

Aesop Rock

Aesop Rock's sixth solo album was promoted with a series of YouTube shorts co-starring a cat, hinting that the sometimes intense and introverted rapper has lightened up and relaxed a little since fleeing New York City and settling in San Francisco. Skelethon reflects this change, with a vibe and lyrics that are easier to digest than his previous full-length forays. To wit: Highlight "Racing Stripes" is a song about copping a bad haircut, but quickly became an opportunity for fans to volunteer for awful trims onstage at shows. -- Phillip Mlynar

Shady Blaze
The Anomaly Of Hip-Hop

Shady Blaze has longtime ties to the Main Attrakionz-headed Green Ova camp, but 2012 was the year when he thrust himself forward as a startling solo talent. Capable of ratting off syllables at warp speed, he flows fierce and focused. Released in November, The Anomaly of Hip-Hop also includes a couple of tracks that showcase his burgeoning relationship with North Carolina cult-rapper-in-the-making Deniro Farrar. -- Phillip Mlynar


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"throaty vocal cadence". ORLY?


@HOPIEspitshard glad someone else said it.


@DaVinci415 Congrats my nigg

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