Rap Rehab’s Top Ten Rap Albums of 2011

by: Ural Garrett      @UralG


10. J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story: The North Carolina rapper/producer’s debut would’ve been an amazing piece of work if it didn’t feel so vanilla. At least it doesn’t sound plain enough to make it boring because there’s a level of polish in Cole’s rhyme and production ability. Outside of a surprising feature from Missy Elliot in “Nobody’s Perfect”, Cole gets personal in one of this year’s most intelligent sexually charged tracks in “Never Told.” It’ll be interesting to see what he does on his follow-up now that it’s clear the Roc Nation signee can put together an above average release.

9. Jay-Z / Kanye West – Watch The Throne: Simply put, Watch The Throne is an epic album from two of the biggest artists in hip-hop(and music). Yes it’s full of typical materialistic and misogynistic lyricism but, it’s mostly in a thought provoking way that only Kanye and Jigga can pull off. One can look at “N**gas in Paris” for example. Oddly yet effectively enough the duo even manages to get a little patriotic with the assistance from Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean on the inspiring “Made It in America” or odd to African American women on “That’s My B**ch.” Watch The Throne could have been “The Jay-Z and Kanye West Album” but the two reached out past their artistic bound and create an album where it’s pros on a whole, outweighs the cons.

8. Drake – Take Care: Young Money Cash Money’s Drake lends a much needed aggression that was sorely lacking from his debut Thank Me Later. Even during those “softer” moments, there’s an undeniable soul to tracks like “Look What You’ve Done” to his young playboy attitude displayed on “We’ll Be Fine.” With Take Care, Drake has seemingly almost not only found his artistic footing but a perfect balance of the new sound rap/r&b hybrid he brought back to prominance.

7. Dom Kennedy – From Westside with Love II : Many were extremely in love with crowning Kendrick Lamar as the king of the new west coast while calling Section 80 a classic though it never really impressed me as mush as Dom Kennedy’s From Westside with Love II. Dom made a risky move by not making the sequel to his breakout mixtape a free download but it pays off by being the perfect soundtrack to a LA summer. From his introspective “Dom’s Prayer,” the work then play anthem “Grindin” to the backyard bbq inspired “Ice Cream Truck,” there hasn’t been a fun album that gets the spirit of Los Angeles in years.

6. Yelawolf – Radioactive: Radioactive is the most explosive debut album from any artist this year. Don’t believe it? Try listening to the morbidly creative “Throw It Up” featuring Shady Records head honcho Eminem and former Three Six Mafia first lady Gangsta Boo or Lil Jon’s greatest feature in years on “Hard White (Up In The Club). There isn’t a rookie rapper out that rhymes with such comfortability with themselves along with understanding and unapologetically embracing every inch southern rap.

5. Wale – Ambition: The DC native’s debut, Attention Deficit flopped horribly(at least not on a critical level) yet Wale’s ambition wouldn’t let him through in the towel. No pun intended. After managing to land a few key feature spots(including last year’s Waka Flocka hit “No Hands” featuring Roscoe Dash), the big break came in being signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music group. His first release with his new label situation is the incredible Ambition which proves that the Wale could move past his “Go-Go” upbringing and deliver some captivating radio hits including the Miguel assisted “Lotus Flower Bomb” and the club hit “Slight Work” featuring Big Sean.

4. The Roots – Undun: The fact that The Roots managed to make a follow-up to the incredible How I Got Over in around a years time along with being Late Night Jimmy Fallon’s in-house band is nothing short of phenomenal. Let’s not forget the experimental/concept nature of Undun which ends in hip-hop’s first four part musical movement.

3. Common – The Dreamer The Believer: If Chicago’s own Common needed Electric Circus to get to Be, then he needed the horrible Universal Mind Control to get the intoxicatingly great The Dreamer The Believer. In something of a nod to fans of his work pre-Kanye, production of The Dreamer The Believer was handled solely by No ID. Common seems to perfectly embrace his past as social conscious MC with meager ambitions to current status of rap legend/ mega movie star.

2. Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4eva: Many thought last year’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here was Mississippi native Big K.R.I.T.’s breakout mixtape. No one was prepared for the southern rap renaissance of Return of 4eva which proves why K.R.I.T. has a total package to himself that hasn’t been seen since the early years of Kanye West. He’s rhyming spreads the range of everything from the club, the block,social ills, pimping, economy, and even illiteracy. His production is as lush yet crunk as ever; shocking since it was released in less of a year after K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Crazy seeing that K.R.I.T. shockingly showed more growth in a year than what most established artists show their entire career.

1. Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades): There isn’t a release that displays such an epic-ness(even on an independent level) like W.A.R. It’s totally cinematic in nature in every way and that’s just scratching the surface. Anyone who has followed Monch knows that his surgical multi-syllabic delivery is what led him to being one of the game’s greatest MCs and this album far from disappoints. Monch aims his targets at many issues including the industry (“The Hitman”), police brutality (“Clap” (One Day)”), black pride (“Black Hand Side”), hope (“Still Standing” featuring Jill Scott), and the stupendously bloody lyrical sparing of “Assassins” featuring Jean Grea and Royce Da 5’9. It’s not only the most perfect release this year but also adds to the argument of Duck Down Records being this generation’s Rawkus Records due to the essentially phenomenal projects that the label has put out the last couple of years.