Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Year In Review: Top Hip Hop Records 2011

There were so many great hip-hop records released in 2011 that if I just made one list I would have to leave off some records that deserve to be mentioned off of it. So ladies and gentlemen I present to you a genre-specific end of the year list. First up it's my Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2011, stay tuned for my Top 25 Rock/Other Albums of 2011 soon. If you like what you hear please subscribe to the blog, and buy these records. There were a couple I'd like to mention that barely missed the cut, Beastie Boys- Hot Sauce Comittee Part II, E-40 - Revenue Retrievin' : Graveyard Shift, Lil' B - I'm Gay (Happy). These records are worth checking out as well.

1) Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne
If there isn’t a Nike commercial made with “Niggas In Paris” playing in the background someone in their advertising department needs to lose their jobs. When Jay-Z and Kanye announced they were going to be collaborating on an entire album together it immediately became the most hyped album of the year. I’ll admit I was initially hesitant to give The Throne a spin, I hated Jay’s Blueprint III, and I was afraid I’d become an even bigger Kanye West fan after his brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I did not expect Watch The Throne to become easily my most listened to record of 2011. Hova and Kanye have created here an album of material that is larger than life and so grandiose it clearly shows why they deserve the title of being the two kings of hip-hop. Jay-Z is in especially rare form here showing some of his best flow since The Blueprint. Not only are most of the tracks especially Niggas In Paris so unbelievably baller, the two aren’t afraid to show their soft side too with “New Day” an honest account by the both of them pledging to be good fathers to their unborn children. Watch The Throne isn’t just a record, it’s an event, a new peak that future generations of hip-hop artists will hope to climb. 
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2) Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
Back in the day there was a tremendous indie hip-hop group called Digable Planets, which prided themselves in sampling Jazz and keeping their beats as minimalist as possible. They were one of the most intelligent hip-hop acts around. Well, Ishmael Butler who was then called Butterfly is back with a new group called Shabazz Palaces and they released a record this year that is truly some next level shit. Black Up is one of the most challenging, forward thinking and frankly poetic hip-hop records of recent years. Whereas Jay & Kanye sampled Otis Redding and Nina Simone, Shabazz Palaces sample distorted electronic sounds and children crying (seriously). Yet it all comes together and works perfectly. This is certainly the most unique hip-hop record of the year. Black Up is challenging and is certainly not club material, it is very introspective, it’s a feeling, it’s a feeling, it’s a feeling.
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Are You Can You Were You (Felt)
 3) The Roots - Undun
If you were to tell me that there was going to be a hip-hop concept album wrapped around a Sufjan Stevens song I’d call you crazy. Yet for The Roots it’s exactly the kind of difficult challenge one would expect them to tackle. The Roots have been steadily releasing one solid album after another that they have nothing left to prove. Undun is based around an instrumental Sufjan Stevens song “Redford” and follows the fictional character Redford Stevens through the decisions he makes until the record ends with the flatline of his death. It’s the darkest and bleakest thing The Roots have ever done, but it’s also one of their most emotional records too. Being able to bare your soul is something that great artists do, and The Roots are no exception.
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4) Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4Eva
Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. isn’t that great of a rapper. If we were to judge him on his flow he wouldn’t be on this list. However, as a producer he’s nothing short of phenomenal. His newest free mixtape that he self-released Return of 4Eva is one of the most polished hip-hop records of the year. He reworked his 2010 hit “Country Shit” and gave it a sharper set of teeth along with a solid guest spot by Ludacris. This is the record you throw on when you have a great subwoofer in your trunk. 
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5) Drake - Take Care
Another super hyped artist that delivered in 2011 was Canada’s Drake with his intimate Take Care. The thing I like about Drake is that he’s honest. Drake doesn’t try to build his ego up to some gigantic size, in fact most of his songs are about missed connections, failed romances and self-pity. This kind of honesty is rare in today’s world and deserves recognition.
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6) Frank Ocean - Nostalgia/Ultra
2011 was the year of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. While I can’t say I’m a fan (especially of Tyler, The Creator) I do enjoy Frank Ocean who seems to have departed from his Wolf brethren and made a name for himself in 2011 by landing a number of sweet guest spots on big name albums, but his own record stands on its own as well. Ocean isn’t a rapper he’s more of an R&B singer that resides in the world of hip-hop. So while there are rap elements to his music, what really draws people in is his pristine voice. 
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7) Spank Rock - Everything Is Boring & Everyone Is A Fucking Liar
 I first heard “Car Song” while I was driving on the freeway, and it is a very aptly named song as I quickly found the music causing me to drive well over the speed limit. This is a club hip hop album to the max, one that will keep the party going till the break of dawn.
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Car Song (feat. Santigold)
8)A$AP Rock - LiveLoveA$AP
Another critically acclaimed free mixtape that was released this year was New York’s A$AP Rocky who has recently signed a multi-million dollar record deal with a major label as a result of this. It’s easy to see why, this is a very well put together mixtape and “Peso” is catchy as all hell.
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9) DJ Quik - The Book of David
  Quik returned in 2011 with The Book of David, which was warmly received by critics. It’s puzzling to me why this guy isn’t more of a household name. It’s an expertly crafted release filled with great club bangers as well as some more experimental sounds. 
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10) Das Racist - Relax
I think I love the idea of Das Racist more than I actually love their music. Here’s a group that is borderline Dada, they have no regard for any of the standards in hip-hop and they seem to not take their music seriously yet still make it work. Along with Lil B, Das Racist are creating a brand new sub-culture in hip-hop of this ironic rap about everything and nothing at the same time.
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Michael Jackson

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