The Top on this list was rotated a lot before I reached a definite conclusion. There are even some which I had to leave out cause I doubt that anyone wanted to read about 20 albums. So yeah here are my favorite albums this year.
2011 Top Ten Albums of the Year:
10. Frank Ocean- nostaliga/ultra
Odd Future was the talk of the town already when this dropped, and at that point I was trying to take in all 12 albums of whatever else the group had previously released. Yet, this kept appearing in my Tweet stream, so I felt forced to check it out. I knew nothing about it besides the fact that the cover is something that I would for sure see on Pitchfork, PMA, or some other hipster music sort. When hit my ears, there was a feeling that feeling that this was going to be something different from the get go.
It’s the same ole’ stories(heartbreak, self-reflection, falling in love) but from a truly different voice. I can mess with this for the fact that it’s not dumbed down. Take for example Songs For Women, instead of just saying that a girl who played him, he makes a about why he is singing about the heartbreak now, and does she like him like Drake or Trey Songz? That’s called irony, unlike the song by Alanis Morrisete which had little to do with being ironic itself. It’s just one of the many examples of the genius of his pen. Definitely a strong early showing from the Odd Furture representative.
9. Phonte-Charity Starts At Home
From beginning to end of this album I often find myself pressing that infamous back button upon every listen. As a fan of Little Brother, and now a fan of The Foreign Exchange, and cameos here and there, I really didn’t feel like there wasn’t anything I wasn’t getting from Phonte as an artist already. Though satisfied with his past and present output, this album only adds further more to the quality that Phonte has been involved with throughout his career. Every verse, guest, beat, and word recorded on here means something. Not a second of space is wasted over 12 tracks that touch on everyman tales, dope emceeing, and a bit of fun. Everything you come to love about this artist is on full display at his best.
8. Tanya Morgan- You & What Army EP
I will continue to make a case for these guys as one of the best groups out period. With this latest release only further enforces that thought all the more. This is not just your average backpack rap, these guys are masters of their craft at this point.I have been a lifelong St Louis Rams fan, and I remember this game during the 1999 Super Bowl winning season where they were up by 3 I think against the 49’ers. They had the ball and pretty much had to run out the next 3 minutes of clock and the game was theirs to win. What did they do? They gave it to Marshall Faulk(who was the best player in the league this year by far) every down, and first down after first down, he kept going forward. Everybody on the opposing side knew it was going to him, but there was nothing they could do. This is how I see this EP. The duo have the ball right now and are about to secure a win. No matter the what the defense throws their way they keep coming at you with another 1st down. Track after track they deliver with this one, with one of the best titles ever as well that says it all. These guys aren’t playing.
7.Tiron & Ayomari- A Sucker For Pumps
As I’ve grown older I find myself at times seeing how male-dominated hip-hop is. Besides the typical “ladies-jam” which usually paints pictures of male conquest, their is little for the female audience to gravitate to material wise for the opposite sex. This album right here though does a lot to bring more balance to the scale (though we do need more female voices in the music). What has consistently been a recommendation to women, isn’t just your typical palate of love songs with R&B songs, it’s an acknowledgment of the beauty, the recognition of the work that goes into their preparation everyday (for us), and what we as men don’t understand about them as well. Yes, there is rapping on here, and the musical backings are almost as beautiful as the subject behind the inspiration,as well as a spoken word moment from one hip-hop’s most acclaimed journalist Dream Hampton, it’s a good look for the genre and overall a step forward in the right direction.
6. tUnE-yArDs-W H O K I L L
When I look back in life, and think about how there was a period where a former SNL member who I never thought was all that funny to begin with in the entertainment industry got a show and his house band happened to be one of my favorite bands all time. The band leader and drummer of this band is a self—proclaimed music snob and as a result help book performances from a lot of lesser known indie acts that beyond the“hipster blogs”. I end up liking a lot of the performances as a result, and from time-to-time I tune in to catch in on the show when I can, or just watch clips online of the performances.
The tune-yards were one of the said acts, who I caught on the show this year. The performance for Gangsta was incredible. I am a sucker for drums(as that is the instrument that I first learned), as much as the horns. Plus they had this primal aspect to their music, with the lead singers voice that caught my attention right away. Come to find out they are based out of Oakland, California(I was born in the bay so that's automatic love). The album W H O K I L L(the spaces between the letters make me wonder if she chats online w/ Blu ever?) is a mixture of a lot of African styles of music, and as well as the African-American styles as well. It's no where near light, it's actually pretty in your face, and violent, but lo-fi enough that the cool kids could dig it as well.
I never thought there would be a day when I would be glad that Jimmy Fallon hosted a late night show, but because of music like this, I must say thank you.
5. Shabazz Palaces-Black Up
“Trouble is, Black Up sounds nothing like any other hip-hop record around, and often borrows from ambient music, electronica, jazz, drone, and so on.”-Charlotte Richardson Andrews The Guardian June 24, 2011
This quote above captures the trouble I have describing this album. It’s a mixture of a lot of things, and has a dope artist at the helm of the project(Ishmal Butler formerly a member of Digable Planets & Cherrywine) and yet it’s hard to categorize the sound. Entire songs switch up at a whim, musical elements from random genres pop in and out, and somehow this all can coexist for a little over thirty minutes. How this is all managed while sounding so dope will continue leave you scratching your head. This is music built to reward the listener if the listener pays attention.
4. Rapheal Saadiq-Stone Rollin
Some how Saadiq seems to consistently get overlooked in today's music world. Not saying that he isn’t playing sold out shows around the world, but when the conversations begin about who are some of the best artist in music today, you seldom hear his name mentioned. I sadly, even as a long time fan, fell victim to this virus and upon hearing of the release of this album, didn’t rush out to listen to it(maybe that has more to do with my changing consumer habits), nor did I sing praises after listening to it. Which was strange, cause I remember the really liking it, just never replayed it really. Even when bringing this up LP up to Bobojojo had forgotten about this(even though he was the first one to tell me about the release), during the one of our discussions about this years in music. Yes the forgot about Rapheal Saadiq syndrome.
Well luckily, I found a cure, scrolling through my iPod wheel when I began writing this I saw the LP again and said to myself: why haven’t I listened to this more? It picks up where The Way I See left off, except this time it’s a little more cohesive, and is leans more towards the sounds of early blues rock, and rock n’ roll(Remember Chuck Berry, and Little Richard influenced The Beatles not the other way around), rather than the Motown-influenced sound of the last. Where last album was good, it seemed like it there were slight hiccups(and a weird Jay-Z remix) that made it more like a compilation rather than album at some points. Learning from the (very)few mistakes of the last project, Stone Rollin' cruises along a lot more smoothly, not allowing you any reason to even consider pressing that skip button(unless of case it’s that time of night and everyone wants to play drunk DJ music player). One of the most brilliant musicians/artist over the last three decades seems to have found his own groove with the genre, and instead of trying to cater to audience who wants Ke$ha hits, he caters to the music that inspires him and quietly continues to do justice to one of America’s greatest contributions to society(rock n’ roll).
3. The Roots- Undun
I'm not even going to front, I was waiting to hear this before I finished this list. I owed it to the group to at least give them a listen after delivering one of my top three favorite records from last year last year(as well as just being one of the dopest bands in music). You want to know how good this album is, when I first listened to it after the last track, I sat in silence for 15 minutes with the only thought on my mind being “wow!”(true story). So your asking how is this not the number one album of the year. Well as I mentioned in the beginning, the top 5 of this list could be interchangeable easily, and the lack of time I have to listen to the album and let it sit in my mind for a few weeks doesn't lend me to making that overall claim.
Never the less this is a great album. Especially for a concept album in a genre, where I can't name think of any besides those by Prince Paul's Prince Among Thieves(classic), Master Ace Disposable Arts(classic), and Sticky Fingers The Diary of Kirk Jones(gasp!!!). The last of which was something I don't like to publicly acknowledge I ever owned, but the rest were solid entry's which this one leans more towards. After 13 albums, you would think at some point you got to reach the coast mode. Where your not making bad music, but not experimenting as much, and just catering to the fan base. The Roots seem to be no where near this, as they continue to push the envelope.
2. DJ Quik-The Book Of David
I wrote a full review of this one for the Hip-Hop Isn’t Dead blog(A blog started that host huge collection of hip-hop album review ) earlier this year. One of he best releases this year is still a going strong on my iPod with the replays. A magnificently constructed masterpiece, this is no question his best album to date.
1. Blu- NoYork!
I’m very skeptical that No York! will ever be seeing a proper physical release. The same company that Prince was at war with for years, seems to have a made it a tradition to sign talent and keep it as bottled up as possible. Which is a damn shame, because NoYork! is one of this years best records. Leaked online mysteriously(some say Blu himself) in August, the record makes a great case on why Blu is one of this decades best artist.
Though it’s 1 of 5 releases (Her Favorite Color, Amnesia, J E S U S, & Open all being put out this year as well)this year, this by far exemplifies where not only the music can go, but where he is trying to take it. Yes, there is electro influence throughout, but it's not the type that you most likely are familiar with(little in common with the Pitbull, and Gaga glam you hear on the radio). Yes, there is also some of that classic boom-bap influence,some soul, funk, and jazz as well too, yet it doesn't sound like anything i've heard before. Somehow he is able to bring all this together as and mix it with his new love of lo-fi mixing and create one of this new decades best listens.
Warner Bros, might of dropped the ball on this one, They potentially had A Love Supreme, or Illmatic on their hands, and you instead want to treat it like an Murphy Lee(remember him?bActually do you still remember any of the St Lunatics and their ringleader Nelly at this point?) release. At the time of this writing have yet to have announced a solid release date*, but lets hope it does, it’s something that deserves to be discovered in the physical realm of music, and get a proper introduction to the public.
*But I am sure with some help from Google, you can still find the leaked version somewhere online.