TWON JOHNSON'S TOP 20 HIP HOP/R&B ALBUM LIST OF 2011
20. Tech N9ne - All 6's and 7's
I can't say that I'm a fan of Tech, and as good as this album is, I still don't know that I ever will be. With that said, there's no denying that he finally put together a VERY solid LP. I had been hearing about Tech since way back in high school, but even the music I heard back then was weird as shit. I Couldn't get down with it. I allowed the weird shit to overshadow the fact this man can rap his ass off. 27 tracks, and more than half of them are hot. I respect this dude because he stays true to his "Technicians," but this is probably the first and only album I will ever recommend from the guy. He got just enough quality features on here for me to pay more attention to his own lyrics. Still kinda crazy, but he's definitely a beast on the mic.
19. Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne
Never thought I'd see the day where I'd have these people near the bottom of any list. Truth is, I hated this album the first couple times I listened to it. But one thing I've noticed with music from Jay and Ye these days, you HAVE to let their shit grow on you. The days of them catching you right off the bat with a classic album are over. With that said, this is still a very solid project if you really pay attention to the standout tracks. The problem is (and maybe this is my fault), I expected this album to be full of soulful YE beats, and I keep wishing Jay would go back to the flow that made him famous. While their content might have graduated beyond anything they've done in the past, their flows have taken a huge step back in my opinion. After spending weeks hating, I finally grew to love the majority of this album. I understand they are trying to expand hip-hop in a new direction, but I just hope at some point they go back to the type of music their fans fell in love with, at least one more time.
18. Drake - Take Care
The dude other dudes all love to hate, yet are ashamed to admit they actually listen to. I can tell I'm gonna struggle wit this one...I can already feel my hands gettin soft as I type. But fuck it, Drake is a talented dude. I wasn't feelin his last album too much, and really haven't been into a full project of his since COMEBACK SEASON back in 2006, but Take Care is a huge step forward. The problem is, this fool is not making it any easier to defend him as a RAPPER. Lotta rap-ballads, but they are full of so many clever punchlines it's hard to hate on. Marvin's Room is still the player-hater anthem of the year, but the rest of this album is on an "808s & Heartbreak" type vibe. Still surprised he got Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 features though.
17. Eminem & Royce Da 5'9 - Bad Meets Evil (Hell: The Sequel)
Why so low on the list? It's been a great year for music! NOBODY is fuckin wit the squad Eminem has put together the past couple years. Em and Royce are arguably two of the STRONGEST lyricists in ANY era of hip-hop, and I say that with confidence. Even before this album I felt that way, but after hearing these fools run off at the mouth with some of the most complex verses to ever bless my ears, it's hard not to put both of them at the top of any list. EXCEPT...great lyrics don't always make a great album. This is a pretty good album with amazing display of lyricism (ESPECIALLY "Loud Noises" where the rest of Slaughterhouse shows up and wrecks shit). If you're a local artist and you feel like challenging yourself to come up with something better than the basic bullshit you currently spit, run through this album a couple times, lol. It's just great for hip-hop to see Em and Royce bury the bullshit beef and give the fans what they've been waiting for for like 10+yrs.
16. Goapele - Break of Dawn
Damn I love this woman. She snuck this gem in on us not too long ago and it is definitely a breath of fresh air. One of many underground queens of soul from the past decade, she already had my respect for not ho-ing herself out to the game (from a business aspect, and musically). I think that many of her fans share this sentiment, and now was the perfect time for her to put her sexuality on display. This is a very, very sexy yet classy neo-soul album and she sets the tone right off the bat with the opening track "Play." Any fan of Goapele that missed out on this album, cop it ASAP...and make sure you name your kids after me ;)
15. Pharoae Monch - W.A.R.
Another lyrical monster right here. Monch hit us with a near-classic with this one. It's full of underground features, which is nice because he chose mostly juggernauts like Phonte, Jean Grae, and Royce. "Assassins," with Jean Grae and Royce is still one of the illest tracks I've heard all year.
14. Pac Div - The Div
"Who the hell is/are Pac Div?" Gotta be honest, before this year I had never heard of these dudes either. Glad I ran across this shit though. There's been so much talent comin out the west coast recently it's been hard to keep up with all of them (BLU, OFWGKTA, Dom Kennedy, Kendrick) but you can definitely add these kids near the top of the list of dudes with quality hip-hop floating around the underground. Three dudes based out in Los Angeles kill fifteen tracks full of rewind-worthy material. If you're unfamiliar, go hunt this shit down.
13. Rapsody - Thank H.E.R. Now
9th Wonder has one of the strongest ears for talent, and it looks like he found another diamond in the rough. To top it all off, it's a SISTER! Women are becoming an endangered species in urban music, especially underground hip-hop. Minaj is by herself in the mainstream, and for years Jean Grae has really been the only female truly holding it down for the ladies in the underground. In comes the 26yo RAPSODY out of North Carolina. This album is more of an homage to those who paved the way for her and rappers who built the game. This chick is gifted, and old school.
12. Pete Rock & Smif N Wessun - Monumental
STELLAR production, and even stronger lyricism, great features (Sean P, The Chef, Black Rob, Bun-B). STRICTLY for true hip-hop heads. This album sounds like some '94 Golden Era of Hip-Hop type shit, especially the track with RaeKwon.
11. J. Cole - Cole World: The Sideline Story
First time I heard Cole kill that verse off BP3, I had to go back and check dudes catalog. Not many dudes in the game can put words together like he can. With his strong resume of mixtapes, my expectations for Cole's debut album were sky high. I wondered if his music would become watered down mainstream bullshit, or would he be able to stay hot without selling his soul. I feel like he has found a perfect balance somewhere in between, and has kinda taken over where Jay-Z left off after "The Black Album."
I'm sure J. Cole is top 5 on most people's lists, but...nah... don't get me wrong, it's great, but like I said this has been an amazing year for music. The past ten albums I reviewed were all nice, but now I'm about to get into the TRUE CLASSICS of the past year.
10. Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told
It's been a long time, but Saigon finally dropped this oft-delayed banger. Usually when an album has been delayed as much as this one has, the buzz dies, the game changes, and it's hard to appreciate what probably would have been hot had it came out on time. That's not the case with this classic. Almost every single track is fire. I highly doubt Saigon will ever be able to top this though. [Standout Tracks: Come On Baby, Clap, Believe It, Better Way]
9. Reks - R.E.K.S. (Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme)
Another "who the fck is that" underground artist. I honestly only heard this album recently, but it's just too strong of an album to leave it out of the top ten. All A-list producers, underneath a top-notch flow...this dude is NIIICCE. Mad I'm just now hearing about him. He got the type of flow that make your face scrunch up while u nod your head to some of the illest shit you've ever heard. [Standout Tracks: Kill Em, 25th Hour, The Wonders Years]
8. Phonte - Charity Starts At Home
Been waitin for this for the longest. Phonte is one of my favorite artists doin it right now and I've always felt like he was the stronger out of the LB duo, but I was worried that him and 9th would never dead their beef. Not that 'Te NEEDS 9th, (or vice versa) but somethin special happens when they get together. Hip-hop truly needed this classic, and if you haven't heard it yet, you need it too. [Standout Tracks: Everything Is Falling Down, Not Here Anymore, Sendin My Love]
7. Robin Thicke - Love After War
This whiteboy literally makes better R&B music than any so-called R&B artist in the game today. It's authentic, he explores all aspects of love and relationships, and he's relevent in the eyes of grown folks and youngins. His albums have been pretty consistent throughout his career, but I think this is the first time he's dropped a classic. Not very many songs get skipped on this, and it's 20 tracks long which is surprising. Fantastic album, and the 2nd best R&B album of the year. [Standout Tracks: Pretty Lil Heart, Mission, Tears On My Tuxedo, Boring]
6. 9th Wonder - The Wonder Years
This album is literally a "Who's Who" for the underground hip-hop scene, with the mighty 9th Wonder killin every single beat. It's the ultimate gift to fans of H.E.R. and an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. Also, if you don't know what "H.E.R." means yet, you aren't a fan of hip-hop far as I'm concerned. LoL.[Standout Tracks: Band Practice, One Night, 20 Feet Tall]
5. The Roots - Undun
A band that can do no wrong. The consistency these dudes have maintained over their nearly 25 year run has been unmatched by any artist in the history of hip-hop. I look forward to a classic from them year in and year out. Black Thought is sorely underrated and underappreciated as a true master of his craft. He has maintained his integrity over the years, while becoming even more of a beast lyrically. It's just hard to put into words how dope this band is. An amazing album overall. [Standout Tracks: One Time, Kool On, Tip The Scale]
4. Common - The Dreamer, The Believer
Common's albums where Kanye handled most of the production were aight, but it's when he links back up with No I.D. that his art truly shines. I've always felt like Common was one of the best in the game, but it's been awhile since he's had an entire album that was this great. I think I've had "Blue Sky" on repeat all week. [Standout Tracks: Ghetto Dreams, Blue Sky, Cloth, Gold]
3. Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra
I understand people have issues with the whole Odd Future movement with Tyler's demonic ass, but the weird shit is for shock value more than anything. If you dig deep, those are some talented young dudes who really have something to say. A lot of their music completely goes over people's heads, Frank Ocean included, which is unfortunate because this album is incredible. "We All Try" and "Lovecrimes" are the strongest songs on this album, but to be honest there's nothing wack to be heard here. This dude is gonna be around for awhile. Best R&B album of the year. [Standout Tracks: Swim Good, Lovecrimes, We All Try]
2. Elzhi - Elmatic
Let me start off by saying Elzhi is my DUDE. I don't think people appreciated his talent when he was with Slum Village, and I doubt many people are even aware that he has solo albums, but hip-hop heads who follow him know this dude is a BEAST. I can't think of anyone else who has the ability to take Nas' Illmatic (best hip-hop album of all time?) re-write every track, stamp his name on it, and have it be [almost] as hot as the original. I'm struggling even as I write this to say anything is on-par with Illmatic, but it is DAMN CLOSE to it. I think this album got more plays on my ipod than any other LP this year. The ONLY reason why this album is not #1 on this list is because it is a re-imagining of a classic, and not a truly original album. The thing is, even though it's a remake, I still have it as the second best LP of 2011. I'm sure I beat ya'll over the head on facebook about how good this album is, duno how many of ya'll listened but hey that's your loss. Elzhi is a monster, and his LIVE BAND, "Will Sessions" re-creates every beat off Illmatic and makes them hotter than the original beats. When I first got this album, I knew it would be good, but I had no idea just how good. It exceeded all my expectations by leaps and bounds. [Standout Tracks: The World Is Yours, Represent, Life's A Bitch]
1. Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
I'm crowning this young cat the future King of Hip-Hop right damn now. Another reason the West Coast is on fire right now is because of Kendrick Lamar. This album is a soulful run through of being an 80s baby being born during the height of the crack era. The intro track might weird you out at first, but after that, you will not want to skip another track. If for some reason you DO skip a track, eventually you will come back to it like "Why the fuck did I skip this?" Albums like this only come around every so often, and it's great to see a young dude in the game taking his craft so seriously. Kendrick has been putting in serious work, and has received critical acclaim all across the internet (because the album is an itunes exclusive). Like Elmatic, I probably went overboard on facebook tryna get people to listen to his music, but for some reason people are still sleeping. I can't understand why. I like to think my word on hip-hop is golden. You should do yourself a favor and find this album. Thank your boy later. [Standout Tracks: Hol Up, A.D.H.D., Rigamortus]
Bow! There it is, y'all! Yes, this is a progressive list, which means some of y'all won't agree with what my boy said (hell, personally I would have put Tech n9ne in MY top ten and Common a little lower on the list), but that's the beauty of opinions, right? What are your thoughts on the list? Do *you* have a list? Leave us some comments! And regardless of *what* you think, if you don't have any of the above mentioned albums, YOU ARE WRONG! Sheeeiiiiit, I'm gonna check out my girl Goapele again; it's been a while.
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