16. Chief Keef, Bang 2
Release Date: TBA
Singles: "Macaroni Time"
Last year's pugnacious rookie quieted down this year, only really popping up in headlines when speeding and getting busted for weed. But those are fairly common teenage behaviors, drawing ire and tongue-clucking but not really much in the way of mainstream attention, at least compared to his role as a symbolic scapegoat in 2012. Keef has pulled back from the mainstream glare, quietly slotting in with other rising rookies/Gucci Mane album guest artists in his lane like Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug. He's left his label's dreams of a new 50 Cent by the wayside in exchange for a True Religion suit he seems much more comfortable wearing.
In fitting with this more low-profile approach, "Macaroni Time" isn't the crossover smash that "Love Sosa" was. But the song is a grower, catchy and distinctive, even if it does double down on the mush-mouth that so enraged traditionalist listeners. Sosa is nothing if not unpredictable, so hearing what the rapper has in store for 2013, whether it's Bang 2, the long-awaited follow-up to his debut, or Almight So, his recently-promised new tape, it'll be worth hearing where he's leaning. —David Drake