The Year In Hip Hop: 2011

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-As we've discussed in the past, hip hop in the 2010s has been quite strange to say the least. While most of the years have been lackluster, there are highlights to each year in general. This is where mixtapes became better than the actual albums released. One year that fits that description would be 2011. While the albums weren't all bad, they paled in comparison to the mixtapes released that year. For every Carter 4, there was a Return Of 4Eva. For every Take Care, there was a Live.Love.ASAP. There was balance at least, and while I still say the album of the year goes to KRIT, for Return of 4Eva, there were a few contenders on the underground, such as Pharoahe Monch, with his W.A.R. album and Phonte with his great Charity Starts At Home album. If being technical, KRIT had my favorite mixtape and Phonte had my favorite album of the year, with Kendrick Lamar coming close with his classic Section.80 as well. This was a great introduction for me to Kendrick, as I had skipped out on listening to Overly Dedicated.

Make no mistake, the high profile releases received their usual fanfare, as Jay-Z and Kanye put out Watch the Throne, which should have been a classic, but was truthfully middle of the road and disappointing. I didn't necessarily hate the album, but expected much more from it. Tha Carter 4 was disappointing, and though many people love Drake and his Take Care album, I wasn't the biggest fan of it when it released. Same could be said for the Eminem and Royce Da 5'9 project Bad Meets Evil's Hell: The Sequel, which didn't live up to the hype to me personally. The Roots managed to put out a dope album in Undun, and Elzhi hit hard with Elmatic, while Common closed out the year with The Dreamer, The Believer. Overall, though 2011 wasn't the greatest, it had its moments. The team has their own thoughts on this year, so let's get into it.

I remember 2011 being a big year in hip-hop. Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch The Throne dominated the airwaves with tracks like Niggas in Paris and Otis, while Young Money caused a huge splash that year with Lil Wayne's Carter IV and Drake's Take Care both being released this year. My favorite track that year was Wale's Ambition, off the album Ambition. Along with Meek Mill's breakout mixtape Dreamchasers and the smash hit I'ma Boss, 2011, in my opinion, was the beginning of a incredible run for Maybach Music Group. Big selling (but slightly disappointing) projects like Lupe Fiasco's Lasers, J. Cole's The Sideline Story and Wiz Khalifa's Rolling Papers were doing well in numbers. It definitely wasn't all bad though.

Kendrick Lamar released his first album Section.80 in July 2011, and it is one of my favorite albums ever and the first in a long line of what looks like will end up as one of the best discographies in hip-hop. Speaking of best discographies, The Roots released Undun in 2011, another amazing project from the Philadelphia group and the Metacritics highest rated hip-hop album that year. 2011 was also the year I really began exploring the mixtape industry. So much good music and all for free? Definitely a crazy discovery. That year saw many quality free releases, but some of my favorites were Freddie Gibbs' Cold Day in Hell, Curren$y's Covert Coup, Big K.R.I.T's Return of 4eva and A$AP Rocky's Live.Love.A$AP. I have to say that the mixtapes I heard that year were far better than most of the albums that I heard.

2011 was not exactly a great year overall. I personally didn’t like some of the work there. I didn’t like Tha Carter IV that much. A decent album, but it didn’t have enough replay value to me. Take Care by Drake was a great album and was a hit commercially. It’s not his best work in my opinion, but he did break the radio with hits like Headlines, Take Care, and The Motto, which by the way, is my least favorite song from Drake period.

Lasers by Lupe Fiasco was solid, but it had the potential to be his best work and fell short. After building us up through two albums, you’d think Lasers would be spectacular. “The Show Goes On” is a great single by itself, but makes it the only highlight as the rest of the album lacks flavor. Wiz had a decent release in Rolling Papers. Bad Meets Evil’s album Hell: The Sequel was terrible overall. Cole also made a hit in the radio with his song “Work Out”. It was anticipated as his popularity rose to drop this work of his, which would be his debut album. It was a decent starting point to where he has gone now.

“Watch The Throne” also was the Jay-Z & Kanye West duo album. Altogether, it’s a messy album. There were catchy singles, but as an album, it was a cohesive mess. Ironic isn’t it… Kendrick stole this year by the throat with Section.80. It’s a unique piece of work and is replayable from top to bottom. I don’t always give my credit to him, but at this point in his life, he had a bright future ahead of him with this work.

2011 was easily a forgettable year. A lot of disappointing projects released by big names that year. It really wasn't a great year in my eyes or ears. Carter IV was probably the most anticipated album of the year, literally selling almost a million copies in the first week. It just wasn't good. At all. After 3 great Carter albums, he released that garbage. Next, we have Watch The Throne. This album was also very disappointing, as I was expecting fire after the most beautiful album I ever heard with MBDTF in 2010. Nope. It sucked. Great commercially, but disappointed a lot of fans, including myself. Then we have that overrated album Take Care. I really despise that album because there's better work by Drake, yet that's his most praised. Shoutout to the track "Headlines" though. Then we have Lasers. EVERYBODY, including Lupe stans, hates that album, and I don't blame them. It was absolutely TERRIBLE. Then The Sideline Story by J Cole was another disappointing project. I hated every second of that album. We did have some positives though, like every year. Section.80, Finally Famous, Blood Sweat & Tears, Return Of Mr. Zone 6, Goblin, Dreamchasers, Cabin Fever, and Fear Of God were all great projects.

2011 was an awesome year in hip hop to me. We got albums from Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, Bad Meets Evil, Childish Gambino, Drake, Kanye and Jay Z, Jeezy, Mac Miller, Game, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Ab-Soul, and many more. Big year for a lot of these rappers who dropped their "first" album. And I'm saying that as in the first album they are known for or got real popular with. Anyways Goblin, Tyler's album, is amazing! Awesome features, dope beats, and the iconic "Yonkers" is on this album. Fun fact, Tyler absolutely hates that song. Another awesome song from there is "She" with Frank Ocean, and some of the lyrics are a little weird, but the song is beautiful. Carter 4 I enjoyed, as Weezy dropped another awesome album for us, and I feel this was his last great project up until FWA. Em and Royce or Bad Meets Evil had to do it to them and drop Hell: The Sequel. Only thing I can say about this is Em kills Royce on every song. But it's Eminem, and you can't expect any less than that. K. Dot released greatness, as Section.80 is fucking amazing. HiiiPower is still the jam to this day. This year was Gambino's first real big album as well. He had great music on that album, and it's different, but amazing, so I recommend it. This whole year saw a big impact and had one of the best XXL Freshman lists I've seen. Easily one of my favorite years in hip hop.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-This was a good year I'd say in retrospect, but the big time players disappointed. The indie guys and the lesser known artists worked hard, as evidenced by Killer Mike and his project, DJ Quik and his project, Blu and his truly underrated Jesus project, and the list goes on. Will 2011 go down as one of the best years in hip hop? Not at all. Will it go down as one of the worst? I don't think so. It's a middle of the road year with highs and lows, which seems to be the norm in hip hop in the 2010s.



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