Label: Def Jam
Released: April 3

While Chief Keef dominated headlines and King Louie became known as one of the city's pre-eminent lyricists, Lil Durk quietly made the most consistent drill record of 2012. It had a cohesive sound, but wasn't afraid to mix things up, from LoKey's gritty "Jack Boy" to Fya Starta's refreshing injection of juke rhythms.

But it was producer Paris Beuller who had the most impact on the record's sonic bed; his "L's Anthem," in particular, had the ambience of a triumphant battle scene and created one of the year's most singular anthems.

Durk's rapping cuts through because it's so direct, finding truths in desperation and motivation, and locating his creativity in a unique blend of melodic Auto-Tune and rapid-fire street stories. -David Drake