It’s been an interesting 52 weeks. As we wind down towards the end of the world, we’ve seen the music industry evolve at a faster rate than ever. Collaborations coming from every which direction, electronic music infiltrating every aspect of our lives, and artists giving away music for free like they’re on the Venice boardwalk. The best part of all the competition and lack of record label influence on releases is the amount of shit that’s coming out now. You can’t go more than a week without grabbing a mixtape/EP/album that you’ve been waiting to listen to. I love it. Since we’re not doing “Worst of” lists, I’m just gonna throw it out there that Tha Carter IV was the worst album of the year. I’m not a big numbers guy, so here are the best albums/EPs/mixtapes I think 2011 produced. If you don’t agree with my opinion tell me why! I wanna hear what I should’ve been listening to this past year.
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Not much needs to be said about this album that hasn’t already been said. Kendrick’s the leader of the young class of hip-hop, garnering respect from the vets as well as his peers. Section.80’s the unanimous best album of the year and you’ll hear that from anyone — a focused young MC reflecting on our generation. Only big things coming from here on out for k Dot.
Pac Div – Mania!
Pac Div gets a good amount of love but I still for some reason think they’re underrated. Mania! turned out to be my favorite tape of the year; everything you’d want from a mixtape: a lot of fun, thoughtful reflection, witty flows, a Chief Rocka remix, and some titties on the cover. Doesn’t get much better, and I enjoyed it more than their debut album The Div
Kids These Days – Hard Times EP
The refreshing nature of the Chicago octet lands ’em high on my list of releases this year. Short but sweet, Hard Times packs together jazz, soul, hip-hop in a manner no one is fuckin with right now. Originality points.
Mac Miller – Best Day Ever
Best Day Ever was Mac’s graduation from weed raps, elevating him to the next level of entertainment. He jumped onto everyone’s radar with this release — “Donald Trump” alone would land this tape on a Best Of list, one of the addicting anthems of ’11.
ASAP Rocky – LiveLoveA$AP
It took me a little while to come around on ASAP but since that moment I haven’t been able to stop listening. At the surface ASAP Rocky seems simple but he combines different styles and doesn’t come with what you’d expect from a NY rapper. More intelligent flow than it sounds. Raw production on the tape assists his delivery so well. One of the surprises of ’11.
The Jealous Guys – Audiobook EP
One of the breakouts of the year, The Jealous Guys pack their verses deep with lyrical content to get your mind going. They have a knack for finding the right producers for the themes they go for so don’t expect them to let up anytime soon. Audiobook EP’s production came courtesy of House of Balloon’s Jeremy “Zodiac” Rose and couldn’t have worked better on this 4 track EP. Life Insomniac!
Pusha T – Fear of God
Pusha’s first solo mixture and first G.O.O.D. Music release was a resounding success. We’re still looking forward to the recently announced upcoming Clipse album, but Pusha’s doing fine by himself.
Gramatik – Beatz & Pieces Vol. 1
Not technically hip hop, but if you wanna cry I got Kleenex. Gramatik’s first album is so easy to listen to regardless of situation. The Pretty Lights Music artist added vocal samples and live instruments to keep listeners more interested and I couldn’t agree more with the decision. I’ve spent too many hours groovin’ to this.
The Throne – Watch the Throne
It wasn’t what we hoped, but it still was fucking unbelievable that these two got together to do an album. Unprecedented, and came with plenty of tracks that deserved to be on repeat. ‘Niggas in Paris’ might be the track of the year, but ‘Gotta Have it’ still gets me every time. I won’t get into the dubstep one.
J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story
Although it wasn’t Friday Night Lights, J. Cole’s debut album made a statement that he wasn’t going to flop once he hit the big stage. A solid album from start to finish. Still room for improvement from Young Simba, but expect him to fill it.
Dom Kennedy – From the Westside, with Love II
Fashawn – Higher Learning 2
XV – Zero Heroes
And here’s a playlist I threw together of some of the top tracks of the year in case you’ve been snoozin:
Best of Hip Hop ’11 | DOWNLOAD (Mediafire)
get those resolutions ready