Rap hits in 2012 were marked by a diversity of styles and artists. Both mainstream and underground acts made significant contributions to the genre. Furthermore, rap continued its dominance of the commercial music scene, and saw several new and emerging rap artists gain prominence. Notable among them was Kendrick Lamar, whose album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City received widespread acclaim. Others included A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, and Big K.R.I.T., who brought fresh sounds to the genre. 2012 was a triumphant year for Hip Hop. It was a year in which rap pushed the genre further. As a result, several quality rap hits were released throughout 2012.
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Drake - “Make Me Proud” Ft. Nicki Minaj
“Make Me Proud," the third single from Drake's sophomore album, Take Care, took over the mantle of the top spot on the Hot Rap Songs chart from Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “N***as in Paris.” Its reign was brief, however, as it only stayed atop the chart for one week. Nonetheless, it was the first of eight rap hits to top the chart in 2012. Although released in 2011, the song did not attain the top spot on the rap chart until February 11, 2012. It also peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and performed well internationally.
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Ca$h Out - “Cashin’ Out”
The infectious hook of “Cashin’ Out” turned it into one of the most notable rap hits in 2012. In addition to this, its laid-back production, and themes of wealth and success scored well among fans. The song was released as Cash Out’s debut single on April 25, 2012. “Cashin’ Out” peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also topped the Hot Rap Songs chart for two weeks as well. While Ca$h Out might be considered a one-hit wonder, the song remains a definitive track from 2012.
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Flo Rida - “I Cry”
“I Cry” was released in 2012 as the fourth single from Flo Rida’s fourth studio album, Wild Ones. The song is notable for its uplifting message and emotional tone that contrasts with its uptempo and party-oriented production. “I Cry” prominently features a sample of Brenda Russell’s 1988 hit, “Piano In The Dark.” Upon release, it achieved commercial success, peaking at number six on the Hot 100 chart. It also topped the Hot Rap Songs chart for three weeks.
2 Chainz - “No Lie” Ft. Drake
“No Lie” is a notable Hip Hop track that highlights trap music's evolution at the turn of the 2010s. The song served as the lead single from 2 Chainz's debut studio album, Based on a T.R.U. Story. After teaming up with Nicki Minaj on "Beez In The Trap," “No Lie” further propelled 2 Chainz's dominance as a solo artist. The single achieved critical acclaim, and was a commercial success, peaking at number 24 on the Hot 100 chart. It also topped the Hot Rap Songs chart for six weeks.
“Mercy” was released as the lead single from the compilation album, Cruel Summer, which showcases artists from West’s label, G.O.O.D Music. Upon release, the song received critical acclaim for its production, verses, and catchy hook. All four featured artists delivered standout verses that remain celebrated to this day. The dark, minimalistic production and the prominent bass, paired with an eerie flip of the dancehall song, “Dust a Sound Boy” by Super Beagle, added to its memorability. The song was a commercial success, reaching the top of the Hot Rap Songs chart. It also made it into the top 15 of the Hot 100, peaking at number thirteen.
Psy - “Gangnam Style”
Upon its release, “Gangnam Style” became a massive cultural phenomenon. While technically a K-pop anthem, "Gangnam Style" left a mark on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs list. One of the biggest rap hits of 2012, the song unexpectedly took the world by storm after its music video went viral in August. It spawned a viral dance challenge and subsequently achieved overwhelming commercial success. Although Psy has since released other successful tracks, “Gangnam Style” remains the artist’s most well-known song worldwide. It set multiple Guinness World Records, becoming the first video to hit one billion YouTube views. The song peaked at number two on the Hot 100 chart and topped the rap chart for eight weeks.
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“The Motto” - Drake ft. Lil Wayne
“The Motto" ft. Lil Wayne dropped as a single from Drake’s second studio album, and quickly became one of its standout tracks. The positive reviews from critics and fans resulted in its incredible commercial and chart success, topping the Hot Rap Songs chart for an astounding 14 weeks. This makes it the longest-running of all the rap hits of 2012. It also peaked at number 14 on the Hot 100 chart. The song is widely known for its catchy hook which popularized the acronym “YOLO” (You Only Live Once). Remarkably, “The Motto” impact on pop culture and the music industry is still felt today. Furthermore, the song is a significant part of both artists’ discographies.