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Year in Review: Best albums of 2012

12. Kendrick Lamar, "good kid, m.A.A.d city"

He may be a proud native of Compton, Calif., but despite Dr. Dre's imprimatur, this 25-year-old hip-hop stylist scored points with MSN's music team for a conceptually linked set that turns gangsta rap braggadocio inside out. It's a street-level chronicle of growing up absurd and endangered in Compton, explicitly cinematic in its goals and stitched with skits amid the beats. Preceded by two singles, including the potent "Swimming Pools (Drank)," Lamar's freshman full-length debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and deservedly inspired rave reviews.

 
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