As another year comes to an end I look back at the albums I bought and take notice to the ones that touched me the most and that I bumped on a regular. This year has had a lot of great music but my top 10 will only focus on the Hip Hop albums I’ve bought this year. 2011 has introduced me to a lot of new great artists and also reintroduced me to a lot of veterans releasing great music. The list spans across the country and across the whole scope of Hip Hop, from new comers to legends, from underground or independent to mainstream, from revolutionary to scientific, and from swagged out to street. I will do this list in reverse leaving my number one pick as the last album. I will also only point out what I believe are the positives for each album, there is no point in focusing on the negatives in a ‘best of’ list, plus it seems all to often do we focus on everything but the music so I will not comment on any artist’s personal life or events that may have happened in 2011 outside of their music. Celebrating the good is the best way to move forward into the next year.
- Canibus- Lyrical Law
- Lil B- I’m Gay
- Pete Rock & Smif-n-Wessun- Monumental
- Blu- Open
- 9th Wonder- The Wonder Years
10. Common- The Dreamer/The Believer
This album seems to have Common ‘returning to form’. Common seems very hungry on many tracks and makes it a point to attack every track with lyrical precision. Fitting that when returning to form Common linked up with No I.D. for the whole album, as No I.D. was the sole producer for Common’s first 3 albums. The flame is rekindled, the stand out tracks rival those of classic Common albums like “resurrection” the track ‘The Dreamer”, “Ghetto Dreams” feat. Nas “Sweet” and “Raw (How You Like It)” all stand out to me and definitely deserve a listen.
9. Styles P- Master Of Ceremonies
I’ve always been a fan of the Lox and Styles P but this is the first album of his that I have ever purchased. I was draw to it actually, contrary to what I wrote in the intro, through Styles P. behind the music contributions, from becoming an Author to opening up a Juice Bar Styles is doing what I wish a lot of artist would do, and that is give back to the cause and not just in donations but in a hands-on approach and in turn helping our people out more directly and quicker. This brings me to the Pete Rock produced track “Children” feat Pharoahe Monch, Styles is introspective of this track and obviously accepts his, and others, responsibility for the ‘Children’. He does all this while remaining true to his street roots on this album, this is definitely a must buy for anyone a fan of Hip Hop. The stand out tracks to me are “How I Fly”, “Children” , “Harsh” feat. Rick Ross & Busta Rhymes”, and “It’s OK” feat. Jadakiss.
8.J.Cole- Cole World:The Sideline Story
This is the debut by Roc Nation rookie J.Cole and he makes an undeniable impact with this album critically and commercially. Known mostly for his MCing Cole’s production on this album is really tight, and with the solid production and minimal guest appearances Cole holds his own and captivates the listener. The much anticipated “Mr. Nice Watch” features a much sought after Jay-z guest verse for Cole, and Jay-z does not hold back, being someone who is not really a Jay-z fan he caught me with that verse lol. Stand out tracks for me include: “Dollar & a Dream III”, “Sideline Story”, “Lost Ones”, and “Rise and Shine”
7.Canibus & Keith Murray- Undergods: In Gods We Trust Crush Microphones to Dust
A collaborative effort between these two artists is a sure bet. Their styles although closely similar, are also vastly different. Canibus’ head strong attack style is complimented nicely by Murray’s amped up but still charismatic and laid back approach. The flow of this album is very well and no song feels out of place, the album is executive produced by Eric Sermon and also features some of his production. The topics, as expected with these two, are uncommon and out the ordinary with a lot of ancient terms and spirituality being referenced without the whole album. Stand out tracks are: “No Brainer”, “Freestyle a Chorus”, “Show Em’ What Crazy Is” feat. Tech9 and “Secret Weapons”
6.Phonte- Charity Starts At Home
The much anticipated solo album from Little Brother and Foreign Exchange member Phonte does not let down. Right off the bat Phonte makes it his mission to remind people he is “the incarnation of verbal murder”. This album also marks the return of 9th wonder and Phonte collaborating again. The album is not all raw Hip Hop as the album features Phonte singing only on one track and a few others with a heavy R&B twist but do not fear the album never loses its pace. Stand out tracks are: “Dance in the Reign”, “Not Here Anymore” feat, Elzhi, and “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” feat. Carlitta Durand.
5.Rasheed Chappell- Future Before Nostalgia
I first heard of Rasheed from Kevinnottingham.com and the homie Ohini Jonez. This album is Classic! And after the numerous solid reviews on blogs and hip hop sites I decided to purchase the album. This album is Hip Hop from the dusty obscure samples drum breaks to the raw but informative lyrics. Rasheed drops knowledge most notably on “Theology of War” and transports the listener back to the golden age with “Break Loose”. Not many features on the album but DJ titan DJ Scratch (only reason why I listen to WBLS and radio at all for that matter) makes multiple appearances and lends his talents. Almost forgot to mention that the whole album is produced by the legendary Kenny Dope! This album is definitely a must cop for any Hip Hop fan, Jersey stand up! Stand out tracks are: “Shut Em Down” feat. Sugahill “Portrait of the Ghetto” “1,2,3,” feat DJ Scratch and “Theology of War” feat Mishal Moore.
4. Killer Mike- Pl3dge
Outkast was my first favorite group ever, and Stankonia was the first album I ever got so I was introduced to Killer Mike early. I have not kept up with his career as I should have but I know he is known for quality work and Pl3dge demonstrates this very well. I loved the first single off this project but the second single is what sealed the deal for me. “Burn” a revolutionary anthem pressed a lot of peoples buttons, so many it was banned from BET for awhile till the people spoke up and got it some air play, a song like this is needed in these unstable times we are living in. Killer Mike also was an advocate in the Troy Davis protests and was one of the few rappers to be out there with the people. Salute to that brotha. But back to the music because I said I wouldn’t discuss the behind the scenes things. This album connects with a lot of people and shows the dichotomy of Killer Mike, how a song like “Go Out On The Town” feat. Young Jeezy can be followed by “God In The Building II” both come out as true to self though. The subject matter on the album is very dense, he touches on subjects taboo to mainstream rap, speaking on corporate corruption, the misguided church, following your dreams, and swimming in women. I have officially been converted into a full fledge Killer Mike fan now with this album and from now on I will check anything he will drop and I will also go back and check what I missed since ‘Monster’, this album is that good! Stand Out tracks are: “Rick Flair” “Ready Set Go” feat. T.I.” “American Dream” “Burn” and “Swimming”
3.Pharoahe Monch- W.A.R.
Keeping with the revolutionary theme up next we have W.A.R. Pharoahe Monch’s third solo album. This whole album is a lyrical boot camp, every track has lyrics so precisely put together you would think Monch was going for some sort of record. In actuality that is just instinctual with Monch, what may be hard, or even impossible, for other MCs just comes natural for Pharoahe. This album also sports one of this years best videos for the short film ‘Clap’ as with the previously mentioned song all the subject matter on this album is heavy, from police brutality, liberation, social relations, secret societies control, to music industry infiltration and corruption. There is a slight running theme throughout the album, as in the intro you, the resistance, receive a message from the future alerting us and informing us of our possible future. Stand out tracks are: “Clap”, “Haile Selassie Karate” feat. Mr. Porter, and “Assassins” feat. Jean Grae and Royce Da 5’9.
2.The Roots- undun
The first concept album by the Roots is arguably their best album. An album fitting for a short film, something I believe they have recently finished actually. The album tells a story in reverse of the ills of street life following one character. Truly I haven’t full digested this project yet, each time I listen I unearth another jewel or piece of the puzzle. The concept is pulled off effortlessly and makes the listener think “why aren’t all albums concept albums?” it fits perfectly with all the ‘trap’ songs and hood stories that are flooding rap now but only showing one dimension of it. Though the album has a lot of features they are mostly members of the Roots camp, Phonte and Big K.R.I.T. make an appearance though all the while still unraveling the story. The production, obviously with the Roots, is top notch and probably the pinnacle of what hip hop production can be. The stand out tracks are..All Of Them! This album actually needs to be listened to from start to finish.
1.Kendrick Lamar- Section 80
The hype alone is what brought me to this album, I had zero knowledge of Kendrick Lamar prior to this album. This is one of the rare occasions where I say “Thank God for the hype!” Truthfully when I first heard this album I knew it would be the best of this year, its that good! I downloaded the album listened to it and immediately deleted it and went to ITunes and bought it just to support. Everything on this album is classic, the lyrics, delivery, subject matter, production, sequencing; everything works, and works very well. Each track has a great feel; a lot are on spacious laid back pallets that allow your mind to wondering while still locking on and staying focused to the lyrics. As for the lyrics, if you’re like I was before listening to this CD you may have doubts about Mr. Lamar and think he is all hype, if you are like this just play Rigamortus. Even though I advise you to play this album start to finish. I actually don’t want to write anymore because I don’t want to spoil it for those listening for the first time, all I can say is CHECK THIS ALBUM OUT! Stand out tracks are ALL OF THEM!