Sketches from Elemental Electronic Music Festival at Alliance Francaise Yangon 2011

Yep, another year gone. Jeez, I’m officially two years away from 30….

Anyway, I can honestly say that this has been an incredible year in Hip-Hop music. A lot of great artists have continued to be great (Drake), some have decided to drop the ball for sales (‘Lasers‘) and a lot of lesser known artists have continued to put out great projects (that often fell on deaf ears). So I decided to put out my personal top ten projects of this year….projects that I’m very surprised I haven’t worn out from extreme listening. Basically, these projects will probably be deemed as classics as they continue to hold weight over the next several years in the midst of the typical bubblegum shit we hear over the radio everyday. So, without further ado (and in no particular order):

Check out the full list after the jump.

Kendrick Lamar – Section 80

Those who know me should already have guessed that this would be the first thing that comes to my mind as far as a favorite. This guy is nuts, with an ever-changing lyrical wordplay that rivals [insert your competing rapper here]. I was an admitted late-bloomer with this artist; I listened to and enjoyed a lot of his music as it passed through my email, though I didn’t cry tears of Hip-Hop joy until I pressed play on Overly Dedicated.
Then, he drops Section 80.
I was in London when this record dropped….and those earphones stayed in my ears damn near permanently. The stories that he told on this record (‘Keisha’s Song”) and the lyrics that he intertwined around each beat (“Rigamortis”) completely blew me away. I expect him to be one of the top artists — PERIOD — in 2012.
ScHoolboy Q – Setbacks

Look, I might as well tell you now: every member of Black Hippy is going to make this list. Every single member is…..just…..dumb ridiculous with these projects. This project in question dropped at the very beginning of the year, with songs that run across the board emotionally (Ex: ‘What’s The Word’ & ‘I’m Good’) to the point where you can actually picture yourself in his shoes as he tells his story. On top of that, his unique flow is flat out retarded.
Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows

Talib Kweli decided that he was tired of the record label woes and went independent for this project. Would that mean that it would sound any less of a great Kweli effort? Absolutely not, in fact, I feel as if he came off with a more powerful and aggressive tone than Eardrum (which was in fact a very good project), not counting Reflection Eternal’s Revolutions Per Minute. Anyways, this project goes in from beginning to end, with slight standouts like ‘Palookas’, ‘I’m On One’ & ‘How You Love Me’.

This project caught me off-guard for what is probably the same reasons a lot of my peers listened to it: this is a kid from Harlem who raps like a hybrid Paul Wall/Koopsta Knicca mix. The music is dope, and smooth to the point that you find yourself pouring your Benadryl in your soda in an effort to try to level yourself with the project. From literally beginning to end, he (and his A$AP crew) literally take turns morphing into just about every major city’s sound that you can think of. I can’t wait to see what comes of his major label effort.
Ab-Soul – Long-Term Mentality

Remember when I said that you’re going to see every Black Hippy member on this list? Well, this might arguably be the most underrated member in the group, if not in all of Hip-Hop. I’m not sure if Ab-Soul will ever touch the commercial masses with his borderline preachy subject matter, but if you’re looking for an artist (of ANY genre) with substance, this guy hits the nail on the head every time (pause).
Drake – Take Care

What can we say about Drake….the guy has managed to be the most loved and most hated figure in hip-hop (and R&B) since So Far Gone. We all know what he did last year, and we thanked him for it. But would he be able to produce an equally amazing (or revolting, however you look at it….I’m talking to you Charlamagne) project in 2011?


Even though Take Care hasn’t been out very long, you’d be crazy to disagree when I say that he pretty much applied the “if it aint broke” philosophy and it worked. Not sure if he can pull off a future album in the same manner, but I’m certainly not betting against him.

Big K.R.I.T. – Returnof4eva

Forget R4: The Prequel (or whatever that was called), the full project that was Returnof4eva showed a continuing progress in the soulful-and-still-pimpin sound of the King Remembered In Time. The debate was that this project was arguably not as good as K.R.I.T. Wuz Here…..I say the project still makes my top list of 2011. Too many dope songs to name here, but I’m still “rotating my tires” as we speak.
Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R.

Pharoake Monch will always remain one of my favorite lyricists of all time, but I’ll be honest, here….I feel like Desire was a step backwards. Not that it sucked, but the overall cohesiveness didn’t hit as well with me in the same manner as Internal Affairs. 
With W.A.R. Monch made his return in 2011….I can only hope for more this year…..
Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers

Yes I did. Probably a lot of disagreements with this choice, as a lot of folks (who weren’t true Wiz Khalifa fans in the first place) felt that this project was simply an MTV pop record at best. On the contrary, Wiz has been doing music of this manner; a little less gangsta shit (there’s still ‘On My Level’), but still very much Wiz Khalifa (‘Star Of The Show’).
At the end of the day, the dude knows how to make good music to get high to enjoy.
Tyler, The Creator – Goblin

Building off of Wiz Khalifa: I knoooooow a bunch of y’all are gonna disagree with me on this one. For those who want to argue on their religion or faith, please sit y’all asses down. For those who came here to discuss Hip-Hop, this is my opinion:
The kid can rap.
I don’t care what anybody says….his machine-gun-lyrical wordplay (‘Yonkers’ and ‘Tron Cat’ are excellent examples) is reminiscent of Marshall Mathers himself (I am NOT saying he is as good lyrically….but he’s definitely in the vicinity of that style). Production-wise, the project is definitely an acquired taste, but you can certainly hear The Neptunes’ influences.
Wale – Ambition

Wale is yet another polarizing figure in Hip-Hop. This addition to my list isn’t a bias because he’s from DC; it’s pretty documented that his brand of rap is either loved or hated….
and I love it.
Ambition shows that Wale can rap on just about any track you can throw at him, and he’ll show and prove with a unique style that obliterates the production. See ‘Legendary’ & ‘No Days Off’ for two examples.
Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel

Make no mistake: I was wishing for a Bad Meets Evil project since ‘Scary Movies’, ‘Nuttin’ To Do’, and…..well….’Bad Meets Evil’ (Slim Shady LP). So when I finally heard about the EP, I already knew what time it was. The return of destructive lyricism.
Now, obviously the project had to cater to Eminem’s newer pop fans with tracks like ‘Lighters’ featuring Bruno Mars (what I mean by that is, he was pop music during his Marshall Mathers and The Eminem Show days for being against what was considered pop. Hell, he even dissed pop artists – like Britney Spears & *NSYNC. Now, he’s known for tracks like ‘Space Bound’ & ‘Love The Way You Lie’…..while still being able to spit better bars than anybody). But even with the more pop-oriented records, the lyrical powerhouse that makes Bad Meets Evil still show-off in ways that tell other emcees to give up a life of rapping (see ‘Welcome To Hell’, ‘Fast Lane’ & ‘Loud Noises’ with Slaughterhouse).
Dom Kennedy – From The Westside With Love 2

While repping for pioneer Ice Cube, Dom Kennedy manages to approach the Hip-Hop scene from a more laid-back manner while still letting his fans know how real he is beyond emceeing. No, I don’t feel like this project was better than From The Westside With Love (though I feel differently about the more aggressive The Original Dom Kennedy, which also dropped this year), but I do believe it was better than most of the other projects that dropped this year. See “When I Come Around” for classic Dom.
Jay Rock – Follow Me Home

The final member of Black Hippy has arrived (in reference to this list, since he’s been doing his thing in relation to the other Black Hippy members). Quite frankly, Follow Me Home is definitely one of the cream-of-the-crop projects on this list….with street bangers that actually teach the negative side of gang life (like ‘M.O.N.E.Y’, ‘Life’s A Gamble’ and the ridiculously powerful ‘Just Like Me’), this is a gangster rap album that I would let my kids listen to.
Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

Obviously, I’d be crazy not to add this project, which really goes without saying: the two hottest Hip-Hop acts in the present day (not counting the aformentioned Drake) converge on a project to create what one would define as ‘luxury rap’. The thing is, I was skeptical about whether or not I would enjoy this album off of that premise alone, and truthfully, I was happily mistaken. The album is crazy dope lyrically, sonically (production-wise), and even on the basis of subject matter.
But I didn’t have to tell you that. The album topped the charts. I’m sure you’ve heard of these two.
Also, check out a couple of bonus projects that did get a lot of listens from me, but I really didn’t feel like doing anymore write-ups. Trust me when I say that you’ll enjoy these as well:
Phonte – Charity Starts At Home: I swear this guy is so underrated it pisses me off.
J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story: Jay-Z’s prodigy gives you more of what made his mixtapes as dope as they were

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