Editor’s Pick for Top 11 Hip Hop Albums of 2011

This year is quickly coming to a close, but before it does, I had to give my opinion on the best albums of the year. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Pharoahe Monch, W.A.R (We Are Renegades): W.A.R is an intimate look into the mind of Pharoahe Monch and his feelings on police brutality. Part autobiographical (see “Still Standing”), part social commentary this album is not only enlightening, but quite entertaining. W.A.R. is classic in terms of expectations for Pharoahe. Guest appearances are made by Immortal Technique, Royce Da 5’9, Jean Grae, Jill Scott and others. My personal favorites are “Still Standing” , “Clap” and “Shine”.http://store.duckdown.com/index.php?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&sort_by=item_descr&sort_direction=ASC&limit_by=48&limit_offset=0&item_cat_id=5997&item_id=
  2. Elzhi, Elmatic: I have to admit, I was skeptical when I started hearing the buzz about Elzhi’s new mixtape “Elmatic”.  It was exactly what Elzhi set out for it to be, a tribute to Illmatic. We are blessed with jazzy outro’s on some of the tracks. Elzhi put some “Detroit” on it, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. There is no comparison of the two albums in my mind. Illmatic is a classic, the one that drew me to Nas in the first place. Elmatic is a phenomenal tribute with Elzhi’s personal touch. My favorites “One Love”, “Detroit State of Mind” and “Represent”. http://elzhi.com/
  3. Doom x Ghostface Killah “Doomstarks”: I will probably catch some flack for including this one but I’m the editor so I think I can get away with it! The reason I say this is that this album hasn’t technically been released. Only the single “Victory Laps” has been released and remixed. However, being a fan of fellow Long Islander, Doom (formerly known as MF Doom) and Shaolin’s own Ghostface Killah, I know I will not be disappointed. Look for the release of the album in its entirety soon. I know I am! http://www.stonesthrow.com/store/single/doomstarks/victory-laps-serato-12
  4. Madlib “Medicine Show #11, Low Budget, High Fi Music”: If you are a Madlib fan, you are accustomed to his enigmatic beats. He then gets emcees like Guilty Simpson, Roc C, MED, Strong Arm Steady and others to rhyme over sounds reminiscent of a 70’s television show theme but with smooth basslines. My top tracks on this album are “Stageridin” and “Thoughts of an old Flame” http://www.stonesthrow.com/store/album/madlib/madlib-medicine-show-no-11
  5. Wu Tang vs. Shaolin Masters: This is every Wu fan’s dream. It hosts quite a few members of the Wu-tang clan’s extensive roster including a special new addition, “Young Dirty Bastard” who is the son of the late, legendary Old Dirty Bastard. Appearances are made by Kool G Rap, Cocoa Brovaz, Bounty Killer, and many more. My choice tracks on this album are “Fast Shadows” and “Semi-Automatic: Full Rap Metal Jacket” http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wu-tang-vs.-shaolin-masters/id436625047
  6. Dela, “Translation Lost”: I first heard of Dela when the song “The Bullshit” popped up on one of my Pandora stations. Translation lost is a head nodder with Dela’s flair. Heavy on the piano, with appearances by Blu, Reach, Aliya and others. This Parisian emcee teeters on the border of jazz and hip hop and playfully balances both on this album. Favorites include “Lucy’s & Looseleafs”, “Whatuwanna” and “I Will” http://dela.bandcamp.com/album/translation-lost
  7. Danny Brown “XXX”: This album is a translucent view into the mind of skillful rapper Danny Brown. Heavy basslines under lyrics you wouldn’t want your mama to hear make for a real audible treat. A symphony of sexual prowess, biochemical exploration and political commentary, Danny engages the listener with outrageous, hilarious and sobering content. Some of my favorites are “I Will”, “Fields” and “Outer Space”. http://store.foolsgoldrecs.com/products/danny-brown-xxx
  8. Random Axe (Self Titled): Random Axe, consists of Black Milk, fellow Detroiter Guilty Simpson, and Brooklyn’s own Sean Price. Produced by Black Milk,with bars from all three emcees this album is heavy on drums in a good way. A foreseeable issue with an album like this is generally the regional stylings of the emcees. Its 2 to 1, Detroit to Brooklyn, but the combination is well balanced. Every emcee compliments the other.  My favorites “Understand This”, “Never Back Down”, and “Monster Babies”. http://store.duckdown.com/index.php?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&sort_by=item_descr&sort_direction=ASC&limit_by=48&limit_offset=0&item_cat_id=6427&item_id=
  9. MF Doom “Operation Doomsday”: Yes, I may be a Doom fan. This particular collection is special. It features 42 tracks, yes 42! This is a real treat for any Doom enthusiasts. You can pick up the entire set at a store, but with all the extra goodies, it weighs a whopping 3.5 lbs. Doom has sampled Sade, Jeffrey Ingram, The Beatles, Isaac Hayes, Atlantic Starr and others. My favorites include “Who you think I am”, “Rhymes and Dimes” and “Go with the Flow” http://stonesthrow.com/news/2011/01/mf-doom-operation-doomsday-complete-deluxe-reissue-spring-2011
  10. The Away Team “Scars & Stripes”: I was already familiar with Khrysis, but didn’t know much about Sean Boog until I heard this album. Collectively they are “The Away Team”. Sean Boog’s raspy voice plays superbly over Khrysis’ beats. Appearances are made by Talib Kweli, King Mez, Blue Raspberry and others.  Some of my personal favorites from this album include “Drift”, “Road to Redemption” which samples Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and “Get Down”. http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/scars-stripes/id458689403
  11. 9th Wonder “The Wonder Year”: This album is a veritable who’s who of hip hop & neo-soul. In addition to an all-star roster, you are given a caliber of music that has become synonymous with 9th Wonder. His is the standard to be met. Appearances are made by Talib Kweli, Phonte, Mela Machinko, Marsha Ambrosius, Rapsody and many others. My personal favorites include a superbly done remake of Erykah Badu’s “20 Feet Tall” featuring Rapsody, “One Night”, and “Never Stop Loving You”. http://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Years-9th/dp/B005FHIGU4

Honorable Mentions: Pete Rock/Smif n Wessun “Monumental”, Jean Grae “Cookies or Comas”, Rapsody “Thank H.E.R Now”,  J-Live “S.P.T.A”, Immortal Technique “Martyr”, Talib Kweli “Gutter Rainbows”, Black Milk “Popular Demand”, Murs “Love & Rockets”, Skyzoo “The Great Debater”, Theophilus London “I Want You”, Hasaan Mackey & Apollo Brown “Daily Bread”, Styles P “Master of Ceremonies”,  and Phonte “Charity Starts at Home”

One thought on “Editor’s Pick for Top 11 Hip Hop Albums of 2011

  1. Pingback: No One Listens to the Sh!t I listen to… « Carbon Rose Magazine

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