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The 50 Best Albums of 2012

7. Ka, Grief Pedigree

Label: Iron Works
Released: February 13

Grown man rap. It might've sounded like a backhanded compliment a few years ago, but 2012 is a different landscape. Four years into a recession that hasn't receded for a lot of people, plus the usual compliment of people killing and people dying, maybe it's time for some grown folks rap. If it is—and here's saying it is—then Grief Pedigree is what it sounds like.

Originally a member of the beloved (albeit by few) late '90s backpacker group Natural Elements, Ka laid low for much of the blinged-out first decade of the 21st Century before re-emerging in 2008 with his debut solo album, Iron Works. Four years in the making, Grief Pedigree has the feel of a hood classic in the truest sense of the word—if such a thing even exists in 2012.

The album is a one-man show, nearly from beginning to end. Ka produced every track and the LP features exactly one guest appearance, from Roc Marciano (Ka even directed self-produced videos for each of GP's 11 tracks). The sound is familiar: chilled out sample-heavy beats that recall the mid-'90s heyday of NYC rap.

Perhaps the raps are, too: down and dirty understated intellectual chronicles of real life in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the lands that Michael Bloomberg's New York renaissance forgot. But the overall aspect—a real man, talking about real things that can't be summed up in a hashtag—is fresh for 2012. -JE

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