So about this time of year, every blog/blogger is scrambling to throw together a year-end wrap up list. Not being a blog, or a blogger i really try to abstain from participating in this tradition. However if you’ve been checking the site for awhile you’ve (hopefully) noticed that we always try to push the limits of being a “photoblog”. This year, one of my favorite additions to the site was our daily (but short-lived) run of the series, The 10s - which was probably more fun for us putting it together, than it was for you guys. Now as we all know the site is very much nostalgia-based and centered around great (forgotten) Hip Hop Memories but we do make our best effort to try to mesh that with what’s new and fresh. Which brings us to what we have here. Now we didn’t want to throw together a “top ten albums of 2011” or a “best 100 songs of 2011”, and I should preface this by saying that this list has been sitting in my drafts since mid-November (I was holding tight hoping that Iwould rope in a DJ to put it all into a mix, which never happened). So in true UNT fashion its my pleasure to present to you our version of a year-end list, A-Z in 2011 Hip Hop Joints.
ADHD (Kendrick Lamar)
It’s only right to set off this list with one of the most regarded new cats to come up in ‘11. Both loved by the critics, and respected by his peers Kendrick definitely put together one of the dopest projects of the year with Section.80. I recently rediscovered it on my ipod and it really still has the same effect that it did when i heard it the first time.
Honorable Mentions: Assassins (Pharoahe Monche ft. Jean Grae & Royce da 59) / American Nightmare (Kool G. Rap ft. Havoc) / Alone In Vegas (Pusha T)
Barry Horowitz (Action Bronson)
Bronson is one of the bright spots to come out of the new crop of emcees from New York (that don’t sound like they’re from Atlanta or Houston). Not one of my favorite Bronson cuts, however this one defintely personafies him— his love for food, gear, and wrestling ring true in all of his music and this is definitely a great place to start if you are just checking him out.
Honorable Mentions: Blue Sky (Common) / Born In The Trap (Game) / Battlecry (Joell Ortiz) / Bonfire (Childish Gambino)
CDC (Dom Kennedy ft. Casey Veggies & cARter)
No this isn’t the Hit Boy record that appeared on THAT album, its not the record that’s performed 8-9 times at the concerts - however it is almost that good. Part of Surf Club collective linked up with some of the rising stars from the left coast to put together this joint that appeared on Dom’s first of two mixtapes that he released this year. A video also kind of came and went on this, but the record stands alone—video or not.
Honorable Mentions: Call Of Duty (Jay Electronica) / Chewbacca (Random Axe ft. Roc Marciano) / Code Red (Jay Rock ft. Kendrick Lamar)
Dirty Martini (Troy Ave ft. Prodigy)
This joint has one of the grimiest samples, and amplifies that 90s New York Sound thats been missing for some time. Featuring one of P’s first post-incarcerated verses, this appeared on Troy Ave’s, Bricks In My Backpack 2: Powder To The People!.
Honorable Mentions: Decepts On The L Train (Maffew Ragazino) / Dog Shit (Mobb Deep ft. Prodigy) / Drones over Brooklyn (El-P)
Everything That Glitters (DJ Drama ft. Pusha T & French Montana)
Dropping on Drama’s third studio album, Third Power, this collabo pairs two of this years most talked-about, most hyped artists. Montana’s enharmonic hook contrasts well with Pusha’s monotone flow, over the synth-laced production. This marked Drama’s first album not to be released in the Gangsta Grillz series [Gangsta Grillz: The Album (2007) and Gangsta Grillz: The Album (Vol. 2) (2009)]
Honorable Mentions: Enemies (Saigon) / Emeralds (Roc Marciano)
Fame (Evidence ft. Roc Marciano & Prodigy)
Its tough to put together a trio of reality rappers that are better than these dudes. It’s tough to even pick which one murked the Alchemist-laced production better than the other. I rarely plug shit, however if you haven’t peeped Ev’s Cats & Dogs, you seriously fucked up. Easily in my top ten albums that dropped this year.
Honorable Mentions: F.A.M.E (T.I & Young Jeezy) / Fix Up (Black Star)
Ghetto Dreams (Common ft. Nas)
According to my 17 year old-self, this is a dream collabo. Although 15 years or so too late, it still lives up to it’s billing. DJ cuts, no chorus, straight bars—that’s what i envisioned. Both Com and Nas seemed to notch up (or return to) times of yester-years, and i’m not mad. Maybe they’re as bored with Hip Hop as i am.
Honorable Mentions: Gotta Have It (Jay-Z & Kanye West) / Get It Forever (Mobb Deep ft. Nas)
Huzzah! [Remix] (Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire ft. Despot, Danny Brown, El-P, Das Racist)
Easily one of the best posse cuts (and video) of 2011. I’m definitely pushing for a sort of compilation album here. (Is anyone listening?!)
Honorable Mentions: Houston Old Head (A$AP Rocky) / Harsh (Styles P. ft. Rick Ross & Busta Rhymes)
Interlude (Lil Wayne ft. Tech N9ne & Andre 3000)
One of the better tracks off of Weezy’s album, and thats probably because Wayne isn’t even on the record. Both Tech and Three Stacks exhibit more style on these verses than i’ve heard on countless (and nameless) mixtapes this year.
Honorable Mentions: Ivory Coast Crime Scene (The Kid Daytona ft. Action Bronson) / The Interview (STS) / It’s a Tower Heist (Nas & Rick Ross)
Just Chill (Travis Barker ft. Beanie Sigel, Bun B, Kobe)
Not the hard-hitting record i expected from Travis Barker - it’s actually pretty soft sounding, but any excuse to get Beanie and Bun on a record together and in a video that is straight out of the State Property editing room floor, works for me.
Honorable Mentions: Jet Luggage (Gangrene ft. Roc Marciano) / Jordan vs Bird (Maffew Ragazino ft. Action Bronson)
King’s Blues (Big K.R.I.T)
This is definitely one of my favorite joints off of K.R.I.T’s ReturnOf4eva, i think it’s the Erykah Badu cuts that did it for me. Peace to Wally Sparks.
Honorable Mentions: ????
Laced Cheeba (Ghostface ft. Sean Price & Trife Diesel)
Remember when there was beef between Boot Camp Click and Wu? Oh right, me neither. I guess im showing my age here.
Honorable Mentions: Life’s Instructions (Curren$y ft. Smoke DZA) / Let’s Roll (Yelawolf ft. Kid Rock) / Lou Ferigno’s Mad (Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire)
My Persona (Roc Marciano)
Marci picks up right off where he left us off with his 2010 release, Marcberg. Not sure where to expect this will appear, but this is truly that smash-and-grab rap. Or as i have self-proclaimed, Speeding Ticket Music.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Jackson (Das Racist) / Monumental (Smif n Wessun & Pete Rock)
So Nas resurfaced and popped up just to let us know that there is still some life left in those old bones (yes, THAT Nas). I mean how can you go wrong with Nas, a breakbeat loop, and cuts? Assuming that this will appear on his next album, i can’t lie, im definitely hyped to see what’s in store.
Honorable Mentions: Not Here Anymore (Phonte ft. eLZhi) / Not Enough Words (Statik Selektah & Action Bronson) / New Day (Jay-Z & Kanye West)
One Love (eLZhi)
Yes, there have been Nas tribute sons, but none like what eLZhi put together this year. Incorporating the live instrumentation of Detroit’s Will Sessions, they completely revamped and enhanced Nas’ 1994 release into a modern day version. eLmatic is another one of those releases that i will go on record to say that i would’ve included in a year-end rap up list.
Honorable Mentions: On The Corner (Smoke DZA ft. Bun B & Big K.R.I.T) / Oh! (Joell Ortiz ft. Iffy!)
Peso (A$AP Rocky)
Of course i couldn’t miss out on including a contribution from Harlem’s collective outbreak, A$APMOB. This record, but more so the visuals for the song, definitley put A$AP on the map across the boards.
Honorable Mentions: Penny Hardaway (Cool Kids ft. Ghostface) / Priceless (Timeless Truth ft. Sean Price)
Quik’s Groove (DJ Quick)
Do you know how hard it is to find a record from 2011 that begins with Q?!?!?
Honorable Mentions: Questions (Trouble)
Rock-n-Roll (Raekwon ft. Ghostface, Jim Jones & Kobe)
Rae’s fifth album dropped in March and includes this banger. The whole album is peppered with hot collabos that range from Nas to Rick Ross, but nothing sounds iller than R.A.G.U (Rae and Ghost United), plus what’s better than hearing Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jaegger name dropped in the same song?
Honorable Mentions: Ricky (Game) / Rich & Black (Raekwon ft. Nas) / RUN DMC (Young Jeezy ft. Freddie Gibbs) / Rob Me A Nigga (Freddie Gibbs ft. Alley Boy)
Summer Madness (Cocaine 80s)
Premiering as the first release from the collective, Cocaine 80s (which includes Common, Producer No ID, and vocalist James Fauntleroy, this was and still is one of my favorite joints to drop this year, reuniting No ID and Common has been long overdue.
Honorable Mentions: Shotcaller (French Montana) / Second Place (Royce da 59) / Sweet (Common) / Show & A (Showbiz & AG)
The Life of Kings (Phonte ft. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T)
Three emcees who quietly had great come ups this year. Each releasing a strong project, this one appeared of Tiggalo’s debut solo effort, Charity Starts At Home. The 9th Wonder-produced banger went under the radar for the most part, but has definitely stood the test of (internet) time, and still sounds fresh.
Honorable Mentions: Tupac Back (Rick Ross & Meek Mills) / That’s Hard (Smif N Wessun & Pete Rock ft. Styles P & Sean Price) / Terror Death Camp (Action Bronson ft.Meyhem Lauren, Maffew Ragazino & A.G. da Coroner) / The Illest (Slaughterhouse)
Uh-Oh (Styles P. ft. Sheek Louch)
Two-thirds of D-Block combine forces for Styles’ album, Masters Of Ceremonies on this joint. Both rappers unleased a fury of stand out freestyles over both the new and the old this year, but this album joint is a cut above the rest. Will we see a Lox album in 2012? (Does anyone want to see a Lox album in 2012?)
Honorable Mentions: Under The Cajun Moon (Fiend)
Victory Laps [MadVillianz Remix] (DOOM/Starks)
A quick taste from the long-awaited collaborative album between MF Doom and Ghostface finally surfaced, released by Nature Sounds (whom i might add are putting some of the most creative rollouts for music i’ve seen in awhile).
Honorable Mentions: VI (Professional Style) (Cormega ft. AZ & Nature)
Warning (Uncle Murda)
This one may be a head scratcher to some of the more faithful hip hop heads, but there is no denying the beat on this joint. The remix to this joint (no, not the one with Mariah) featured everyone and their mama and is (oooh) even hotter.
Honorable Mentions: Womyn (Heems of Das Racist) / Who The Neighbors (Juicy J) / We Keep It Rockin (Maino ft. Swizz Beatz, Jadakiss, Jim Jones, Joell Ortiz)
XXX (Danny Brown)
Easily one of my personal biggest surprises this year was Danny Brown. He released album and an EP (see below) this year and both have stayed in rotation since their releases. I had the opportunity to see Danny rock live at this summer’s BYOBBQ, and his live show packs as much energy as he does on record.
Honorable Mentions: ???
Ev has popped up a couple of time’s on this list, and that’s because his album was just that hot. This record pairs the Dilated MC with Primo and the outcome sounds effortless. If i did a feature on the best skits/interludes for 2011 i would have easily mentioned another Evidence joint, God Bless That Man.
Honorable Mentions: Yonkers (Tyler The Creator)
Zap! (Danny Brown)
Detroit really showed up this year. This record which was really un-hyped and unspoken about came out and really surprised me. One of the few pieces of music that in totality, i can play from top to bottom. The days of those types of records are few and far in between. Needless to say 2011 was a year which really saw the re-emergence of the EP.
Honorable Mentions: Zan With That Lean Pt 2 (Soulja Boy)