In 2011, a number of good hip-hop albums were released from a multitude of different artist & platforms. A constant in this top 10 list is that lyricism has made its way back to the forefront of rap. This list includes a number of indie rap artist and mainstream stars.
10: Camp- Childish Gambino: This album shows that Gambino is no actor trying to rap, but an actor who can rap and is damn good at it. With not a single guest feature on the album, he proves that he is all the album needs. Camp is full of themes of racial expectations but doesn’t get worn out. “Outside” and “Backpackers” are the gems of the album.
9: Hell: The Sequel- Bad Meets Evil: After almost a decade of not recording together Detroit emcees Eminem and Royce Da 5’9” reunited in 2011 as Bad Meets Evil. Even with years apart, Nickel 9 & Shady’s chemistry is unscathed. Hell: The Sequel is a “lyrical tornado” of flows and punchlines. The album switches tones from making you laugh to making put a lighter in the air. The second single “Lighters,” was a huge hit and featured Bruno Mars. Other features come from Slaughterhouse and Mike Epps.
8: Radioactive- Yelawolf: The debut album of Gadsen, Alabama’s Yelawolf was better than expected. An album that is diverse and could be used in different situations. It features everything from party songs “Hard White (Up in the Club)” and “Let’s Roll” to more relaxing mellow songs “Radio,” “Everything I Love the Most,” “The Last Song” and “The Hardest Love Song in the World.” Yela’s mind blowing delivery is a highlight of the album and refreshing. Radioactive contains a huge amount of features from Eminem, Killer Mike, Kid Rock, Gangsta Boo and others, but shines throughout.
7: Watch the Throne- Jay-Z & Kanye West: This is the second album from a duo on the list. This time Jay-Z and Kanye West step up with “Watch the Throne.” The album is a great mix of Yeezy’s liveliness and Hov’s more laid back delivery. “Otis” and “N***as in Paris” were two huge hits to arise from the album. “Watch the Throne” had great guest appearances from Frank Ocean, Beyonce, Otis Redding and Mr. Hudson. “No Church in the Wild” was a quiet treasure on the album.
6: Ambition- Wale: With Wale dropping the “Eleven One Eleven Theory” mixtape, in reference to “Ambition’s” release date he created a lot of buzz for the album. “Ambition” is crafted well and fits Wale perfectly, with jazzy and melodic instrumentals. Even under his new MMG record label, Wale stays in his lane and doesn’t become a street oriented rapper. “Ambition” spawned hits in “That Way” and “Lotus Flower Bomb.” Big Sean drops an amazing guest verse on “Slight Work,” other features come from Kid Cudi, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Miguel and others.
5: The Dreamer/The Believer- Common: It’s been over three years since we’ve heard from Common and in the last month of the year he releases one hell of an album in “The Dreamer/The Believer.” He reunites with long time friend/producer No I.D. who produced the whole album in its entirety. This is also the first Common album since “Electric Circus” to not have Kanye West working on the album. Common kicks fresh and flawless rhymes throughout the album and takes shot at some of today’s artist in “Sweet.” Very few features on this album, but the ones that are on make a huge difference, from Nas to John Legend to Maya Angelou, they add to this masterpiece of an album.
4: Dr. Lecter- Action Bronson: A hidden gem of rap during 2011Action Bronson’s “Dr. Lecter” is a very throwback album. An album that is “mafioso rap” sounding, you would think it was released in the 90’s. Bronson creates a very smooth album with the help of producer Tommy Mas. “Dr. Lecter” contains few features and the ones on here help but aren’t needed. The tracks that stand out are “Beautiful Music,” “Barry Horowitz” and “Larry Csonka.”
3: All 6’s & 7’s- Tech N9ne: If rap had an MVP it would have definitely went to Kansas City chopper Tech N9ne. With 11 prior albums with no type of mainstream buzz Tech Nina’s “All 6’s & 7’s.” As quoted in the song “Love Me Tomorrow” Tech said “Tech will never go mainstream, mainstream will go Tech” and he was completely right. With features from huge mainstream names such as Lil Wayne, T-Pain, B.o.B, Snoop Dogg he was able to bring them into the strangeland world and create music that would not push Tech to mainstream radio. His chopping style of rap is on display throughout most of the album but especially on “Worldwide Choppers,” “He’s A Mental Giant” and “Technicians.” Tech mellows out on songs “Mama Nem,” “So Lonely” and “Love Me Tomorrow.”
2: The Greatest Story Never Told- Saigon: After being delayed four years Saigon finally released his debut album. With Just Blaze producing a majority of the album with the exception of one track (“It’s Alright”). Saigon talks about his past label situation on songs “Bring Me Down (Part 2)” and “Believe It.” He also raps about bleak times growing up on “Friends,” “Enemies” and “Oh Yeah (Our Babies).” Features come from Bun B, Jay-Z, Faith Evans, Devin The Dude and plenty more. Saigon’s story was finally told in 2011.
1: Section.80- Kendrick Lamar: Section.80 is an album that is timeless. The “Illmatic” of our millennium (so far). From beginning to end the tracks are impeccable, high quality production and lyricism that is unmatched by anyone in hip-hop that’s out now. K. Dot talks bout high drug & medication dependency on the song “A.D.H.D.” Features come from his “Black Hippy” group mates Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q also GLC and BJ the Chicago Kid makes appearances on “Section.80.” HiiPoWeR is the shining star of Kendrick Lamar’s debut album.