For The Record(s): Best Hip Hop Albums of 2011
TYLER, THE CREATOR
With apologies to Tegan & Sara, DJ Bunga and everyone else who’s annoyed by the Odd Future hype, Tyler and the rest of his crew are the most exciting thing to have come out of hip hop, a genre that’s grown too complacent by its creative bankruptcy. Excuse the lyrical content (just as you have excused films, books, comics, and every other art form for having less than savoury subject matter) and you’d realise that Goblin features some of the most distinctive voices and beats in hip hop today. First single ‘Yonkers’ alone is already a modern classic, as proven by the amount of lesser MCs rapping over the beat.
Did we say OFWGKTA was the most exciting crew to have come out of hip hop? Our bad, that was early 2011. Perhaps an indicator of how temperamental music journalism has become when it comes to championing a new act, the ASAP crew is now every critic’s hip hop du jour. This would have been a slight to the crew had they sucked, but ringleader A$AP Rocky’s free release Live.Love.A$AP is anything but that. The fast-becoming tired slang ‘swag’ has never sounded more convincing and fresher than on ‘Purple Swag’.
RETURN OF 4EVA
A socially conscious rapper from the Dirty South is not as rare of a sight as stereotype would lead you to believe. Big K.R.I.T’s free release Return of 4eva reinvigorates the ridiculously named subgenre that is conscious rap by imbuing the South’s innate bounceability and cool accent to otherwise Talib Kweli-exhausted subject matters.
Kindred spirit to Big K.R.I.T, Cunninlynguists are the veterans of alt-Southern hip hop. Oneirology repeats the success of their seminal concept album A Piece of Strange to great effect, something their previous two releases failed to do so. Sounding like early OutKast production-wise, Kno’s beats have never sounded more textured and moody than on this record, Oneirology further cements him as one of the great hip hop producers of his era. The Sonnymoon collaboration on ‘Darkness’ proves hip hop can be as gloomy as any other genre.
FLASH BANG GRENADA
2011 had people waxing praises for a certain collaborative effort between two big rap acts, unbeknownst to most there was a better synergetic release this year. Los Angeles’ Busdriver and Nocando had collaborated twice before on their own respective albums, displaying actual chemistry (as opposed to Watch the Throne, which was really ‘Ye’s album). 10 Haters are those 2 tracks extended to a full LP – smart and fun swag-rap that doesn’t rely on the word swag itself to prove themselves.
We don’t care how much rap is actually featured on this (hip hop has become post-genre as of late anyway), Drake’s Take Care is rap/r’n’b at its most vulnerable and intimate. There are not a lot of mainstream rappers that can overshare their neuroses with the audience quite like Dreezy. ‘Marvin’s Room’ is destined to be a classic F-you anthem to women everywhere without being consciously misogynistic. Lush production and believable emotions, Take Care is Drake finally fulfilling the hype that’s been with him since his first mixtape came out.