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"Life is Good from Nas.

Hip-hop had the strongest year, of any musical genre, in 2012. So many great albums came out. Here are five that fans surely will enjoy unwrapping this holiday season:

  • "Life is Good," Nas (Def Jam): The rapper is in absolute top form on this 14-song disc, which ranks among the best efforts in his legendary catalog. He's slinging rhymes with such precision and power, while reminding hip-hop fans why they cared about him in the first place. This is a strong contender for album of the year -- and we're not just talking hip-hop. ($11.99, www.amazon.com).

  • "Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear on No Stamp," Public Enemy (Slam Jamz): So, you haven't checked in with these all-time greats in years -- probably (judging by the charts) close to decades. Now's the time to reacquaint yourself with the immortal Chuck D, who might well be the finest rapper to ever spit into a microphone. If nothing else, it will help you remember that Flava Flav once had a thriving career before reality TV. ($12.99, www.amazon.com)

  • "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1," Lupe Fiasco (Atlantic): There is definite truth in advertising -- Fiasco's latest is indeed a "Great American Rap Album." We expect nothing less from this Chicago rapper, who has delivered the goods on each of his four records. A second part is in the works. ($12.99, http://store.warnermusic.com/lupe-fiasco).

  • "R.A.P. Music," Killer Mike (Williams Street): Killer Mike is killer on the mic -- and people are finally taking notice. This studio album, the rapper's sixth overall, is drawing rave reviews and showing up on numerous "best of the year" lists. It's politically charged, powerful and potent -- and truly deserving of every hip-hop fan's time. ($9.99, www.amazon.com).

  • "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," Nicki Minaj (Young Money): Are you sick of her yet? She seems to be everywhere at once, which is a neat trick, but it also leads to overexposure. Still, this woman can rap -- and her second album is another worthy outing. ($15.98, http://nickiminaj.shop.bravadousa.com).