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Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums Of 2012

From the inescapable "Call Me Maybe" to Fiona Apple's intricate word puzzles to the strikingly gorgeous return of Iris DeMent, the Fresh Air critic counts down hiss favorite albums and musical moments of the year.


Big K.R.I.T.: Music Straight 'From The Underground'

A Southern hip-hop artist, Big K.R.I.T. recently released his major-label debut, titled Live From the Underground. Rock critic Ken Tucker says the album takes the audience through K.R.I.T.'s own version of Southern history.


The Beastie Boys: Hip-Hop With A Dash Of 'Hot Sauce'

Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is the first Beastie Boys album since the all-instrumental 2007 collection The Mix-Up. Rock critic Ken Tucker says the new record is fresh and vital because it sounds so old-fashioned and defiant.


Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums Of 2010

Fresh Air's pop music critic, Ken Tucker, picks the best music of 2010, including albums by Tracey Thorn, Kanye West and Arcade Fire. He also pays tribute to Kate McGarrigle, the Canadian singer who died of cancer last January.


Kanye West: 'Beautiful' Soul Or Raging Egomaniac?

West's new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, both chastises and praises the hip-hop singer for being an arrogant perfectionist. Rock critic Ken Tucker says it may be an example of "egregious self-aggrandizement," but it's also "superb music-making."


Jay-Z: The Fresh Air Interview

Jay-Z is one of the most successful hip-hop artists of all time. On Fresh Air, he discusses growing up in Brooklyn surrounded by drugs and violence, and the stories behind many of his famous songs.

Rapper Jay-Z holding a mic and performing on stage in a white suit

In 'Still Here,' A Fully Committed Joaquin Phoenix

A couple of years back, the two-time Oscar nominee announced he was giving up acting to become a rapper. David Edelstein reviews Casey Affleck's film I'm Still Here, which tracks Phoenix's transformation -- and says there may be a real madness in Phoenix's method performance.


Katy Perry: A 'Teenage Dream,' An Artistic Musician

Perry has released what is commonly considered the pop hit of the summer, a song called "California Gurls." Perry has a new album, Teenage Dream, which rock critic Ken Tucker says is just one part of what he calls "the Katy Perry art project."


Jason Moran: 'Ten' Years Later.

Moran's new album, Ten, is like a stack of progress reports -- on his personal growth as pianist and as a composer, on the development of a trio with stable personnel for a decade, and on how jazz itself has progressed over the last 10 years.


Galactic: The Funk Is Always Pushing Forward.

Blending funk, hip-hop, and jazz sounds, the New Orleans-based band Galactic combines musical genres to create a new sound that they make their own. Critic Ken Tucker says heir newest album Ya-Ka-May is a true rhythmic pleasure.


Puffy? Diddy? 'It's Not a Serious Thing'

Rapper, producer, fashion designer, restaurateur, grass-roots organizer and Broadway actor? Sean "Diddy" Combs might be the hardest-working man in hip-hop. He talks to Terry Gross about his career — and the "characters" behind his ever-changing names.

Rapper and music producer Diddy on-stage with a mic in his hand

Gnarls Barkley Crafts an 'Odd' Hit

Gnarls Barkley is best known for its massive summer hit "Crazy," from 2006's St. Elsewhere. The duo's follow-up, The Odd Couple, meshes classic R&B with infectious hip-hop grooves and cinematic production. Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse speak with Fresh Air's Terry Gross about crafting their new album.


From New York, Israeli Duo Serves Up Balkan Beats

The cross-cultural crew that is the New York band Balkan Beat Box came together around two Israeli musicians, Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan.

Their latest album is called Nu Med; world music critic Milo Miles has a review


'Hyphy Hitz': Bouncy Hip-Hop from the Bay Area

About 10 years ago, a new variation on hip-hop became popular in San Francisco's Bay Area. It's called "hyphy" (pronounced "hi-fee"), slang for hyper-active, and it's gaining in national popularity. Hyphy Hitz, a new anthology of tracks from Bay Area acts, suggests that's partly because hyphy presents a more playful, energetic attitude than most contemporary hip-hop.


Rapper Andre 3000's New Project

Rapper and producer Andre Benjamin's new project is an animated series for the Cartoon Network called Class of 3000. Benjamin (Andre 3000) is half of the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo Outkast. The group is best known for the single "Hey Ya!" from the double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Benjamin also appears in the films Idlewild, Four Brothers, and Be Cool.

Entertainer André 3000

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