10) Santigold – ‘Master of My Make Believe’
Years after her acclaimed debut, this MIA protégé re-emerged with a slightly tweaked name and more otherworldly beats to perfectly complement her unique singing voice.
9) Gary Clark Jr – ‘Blak and Blu’
Who said the blues is dead? A superior guitarist with a classic soul voice, Clark Jr exploded onto the scene this year with his official album debut. At just 28 years old he has a real bright future ahead of him.
8) Elle Varner – ‘Perfectly Imperfect’
This gorgeous R&B songstress had the most impressive soul debut of the year. And she counts the inhabitants of the White House among her fans.
7) Rick Ross – ‘God Forgives, I Don’t’
Ross maintained his status as hip-hop’s ‘Boss’ with this acclaimed blockbuster. His haters won’t be silenced, but neither will he.
6) Miguel – ‘Kaleidoscope Dream’
Miguel scored the best reviews of his career, and rightfully so, for this sexy album which channeled Prince at his peak. “Adorn” may just be the R&B single of the year.
5) T.I. – ‘Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head’
After the disappointment of ‘No Mercy’, the ‘King of the South’ has come back big time with a cast full of incredible guest stars and a sound that pays homage to the classic soul of the 1970s.
4) Big Boi – ‘Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors’
Big Boi once again emerges from the shadow of his Outkast partner Andre3000 with a second classic solo album, which indulges his eccentricities in the best way.
3) Nas – ‘Life Is Good’
Every time we think we’re ready to write off Nas he drops a strong album that reasserts his relevance. This album, full of personal heartbreak and angst (mostly over his failed marriage to singer Kelis) was one of his most powerful in years.
2) Frank Ocean – ‘Channel Orange’
The Odd Future member may have gotten more headlines for his very brave admission about his romantic relationships with men, but the bigger story should have been his phenomenal first official album which used his beautiful voice to great effect.
1) Kendrick Lamar – ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D. City’ – Every few years or so, a new young rapper emerges to grab the mantle of ‘it rapper’ of the moment. Step aside Kanye, the West Coast’s Kendrick Lamar is here, with dope rhymes, beats and atmosphere to spare.
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2012 was an exceptional year in the world of black music. Hip-hop boasted strong work from veterans like Nas, hitmakers like Rick Ross and rising stars like Kendrick Lamar.
Meanwhile, Elle Varner, Frank Ocean and Miguel provided hope that R&B music was far from moribund.
As the year comes to a close and the industry gears up for the upcoming Grammy Awards, take a trip down memory lane with us as we countdown the 10 best albums of the year.
Click through the slideshow above to see our picks and if your favorite music from 2012 made the cut.