Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2011

I had originally thought about doing a Top 25 regardless of style, but since we're sticking with this Top 10 thing, and because Kyle already did a really great run down of the 50 Best on his sick blog, I thought I'd narrow down my favorite music of the year to a single category that I believe was especially excellent this year.

Hip-hop has gone through a great many changes over the years, and the democratization of music with online platforms seems to be embraced by rap artists more than any other genre of musician.  And in that manner, a good number of albums on this list are avaible as a free download. I'm by no means and expert, but I hopefully you'll enjoy the recommendations.

We'll go from:

To:

And finally reach:

 

Ready? Set. Go!

 

10. Immortal Technique – The Martyr

Inspired by the Occupy movement, Immortal Technique released the powerful, free download The Martyr, encouraging everyone to share the release and to rise up against the powers that be; aka Old White Men, who, let's face it, ruin everything. Click here to download the .zip file before the new authority under NDAA and SOPA get you labeled a domestic terrorist. 

 

9. Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire – Lost In Translation

Here's another free download and it's from Mishka, who we wish we were more like. But we're not, because we're not awesome Jews. They're Jewish, right? New York City? Whatever. This is some dirty shit. You'll love it, hipsters. Get it for free.

 

8. Pusha-T – Fear of God

One half of Clipse, Pusha-T teamed-up with Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator for one of the best single's of the year, and released this great mixtape that's about being rich as hell and not giving a single fuck. Of course all of us can relate. It's also free and available from DatPiff.com after having to click on a bunch of bullshit.

 

7. ASAP Rocky – LiveLoveA$AP

I know a lot of people were creaming their jeans over this release like it was Whiz Kalifia's Kush & OJ all over again, but I consider the album to be unoriginal in many ways. Still, it's the craftmanship in which the songs are so wondefully stolen that makes the mixtape so solid. Grab it up for free.

 

6. G-Side – Island and The ONE . . . COHESIVE

G-Side probably should have been my radar sooner, but it was their Daytrotter session that first introduced me to the group. Both of their studio albums released this year are worth paying for due to their supreme quality production. And if you want to be a cheap bastard, you can stream them for free. The fact that a group this great is at number six on this list should tell you how phenomenal of a year it's been for rap music.

 

5. Jean Grae – Cookies or Coma

Jean Grae is smarter than you are, and she can probably beat you up. Even Talib Kweli is a fan. Download her mixtape now and start crushing super hard. Just don't start crying once you get your heart broken and ass kicked. Moar Jean Graw, plzkthx.

 

4. B – Jesus

B aka Blu should be as big as MF Doom, who should be as big as Kayne West. Such is the music business. So it goes. Jesus is an instant classic that is addictive as it relaxing. You can't get this one for free, at least not legally, but it's definitely worth buying. Click here to get a free track from the album.

 

3. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All – Goblin, BlackendWhite, Under The Influence, and Purple Naked Ladies

It's been OFWGKTA's year, thanks to Tyler, The Creator's “Yonkers” success and his stellar full-length Goblin, an album that's equally as bold as it is adolecent. Domo Genesis' Under The Influece is my favorite of the collective, even though it takes the least risks. It's also free to download, so maybe I'm biased. BlackenedWhite by Mellowhype (Hodgy Beats and Left Brain) used to be free, until the group got big and took it off their Tumblr, and features the killer track “F666 The Police,” but is also hit or miss overall. Syd aka The Internet released her Purple Naked Ladies album late in the year, which may have caused it be overlooked, coupled with its relatively low-key feeling, but it's great. Together, the group is fucking-up in the best of ways and making the kids go wild. Who would have thought that that hip-hop would be the most punk-rock thing of 2011? Most people under 30, apparently.

 

2. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

Shabazz Places is so incredible and ahead of their time that I don't even know where to start. There's a reason the group is the first hip-hop act ever signed to SubPop. Way to jump on the bandwagon, guys. At least you picked a good front-runner. I can't wait to see where the duo goes next, and seeing them open for Blackstar this year in Portland was a dream come true, as was seeing Madlib last year.

 

1. Danny Brown – XXX

Detriot's Danny Brown was already a top-notch rapper with a catalog of great albums before he released XXX this year. Now he's on a different fucking planet than the rest of us. XXX is complicated, not always easy to digest, and the last album since RZA's Bobby Digital in Stereo that has made me readjust my eardrums to comprehend what's happening. The best art is often challenging; that's about the highest recommendation I can give. Oh and it's free, FTW.

 

BONUS ROUND!

Cool Nutz – The Cook Up

Seeing as how we're based out of Portland and everything, I'd be remiss to not mention this great album, and like most of the others, it too is available for a free download. Songs like “Gas Team,” “Kangol,” and “Tax Brackets” are more than enough reason to put this album on any top list anywhere for best hip-hop of the year. Cool Nutz is a top MC in this city, and The Cook Up features another – Immaculate. While Immaculate released a pair of excellent free albums this year, The Skrill Walton EP and The Green Tape tribute to Al Green, The Cook Up shows an attention to production at the highest level, edging it out to be the best of 2011. If you haven't been proud of Portland hip-hop before, it's time to start.

 

Thanks for reading. The Banana Stand hasn't recorded much live hip-hop, but we hope to in the future. Check out “Right To Be Free” by Hungry Mob featuring Mic Crenshaw for the best we've ever released. Photo above of OFWGKTA in Portland, Oregon at the Roseland Theater by Aaron Colter.