You won't find most of the year's important or just plain entertaining hip-hop releases in any store. You'll find them right here (in alphabetical — not ranked! — order).
More From SPIN's December 2011 Issue:
• Live from the New Underground: SPIN Celebrates Hip-Hop's DIY Moment
• Photos: A Close-Up Look at Rap's New Underground
• G-Side Launch a Hardscrabble, Regular-Dude Revolution
• An Insanely Obsessive Infographic Tries (in Vain) to Diagram the Hip-Hop Galaxy
- 01. 2 Chainz
- Codeine Cowboy
Member of the Ludacris-backed Playaz Circle (remember "Duffle Bag Boy"?), formerly known as, um, Tity Boi, crafts a more-diverse-than-it-needs-to-be collection of syrupy swagger.
- 02. Ab-Soul
- Longterm Mentality
Stepping out from the Black Hippy crew (Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, ScHoolboy Q), Ab offers stream-of-consciousness raps, switching up styles as quickly as he seems to be rolling blunts.
- 03. Action Bronson
- Dr. Lecter
An actual trained chef, the Queens-based Bronson transforms into a ferocious, Ghostface-like rapper on the Internet and streets of New York.
- 04. Alley Boy
In and out of prison for years, this doleful refugee from T.I.'s Grand Hustle label gets a DJ Drama assist on one of the year's most consistent mixtapes.
- 05. AraabMuzik
- Electronic Dream
Best known for his trance-meets-Merzbow live performances, the Dipset producer rips up Kaskade and DJ Nosferatu into little pieces on his solo debut.