What is an album anymore? As more artists begin to take their careers independent, the idea of a glitzy, major label LP begins to lose its luster. Mixtapes and self-releases have become the new barometer of an artist’s likeability, while the archaic model of signing with a major label then releasing a hyped, polished collection of songs and expecting to move 500,000 physical units has been relegated to history.
This is 2011 and times are a-changin’. Yet, just because we now exist in the Internet age doesn’t mean the Hip-Hop “album” is completely irrelevant. Let members of the first week numbers fan club tell it, major acts still consider albums to be their litmus test to producing quality. And, of course, there were the phenomenal overlooked efforts, too. And there were some not-so-stellar offerings, but we’ll sweep those under the rug.
Albums — in some form or another — are here to stay. Here’s the best of the best that this past year had to offer, whether major or indie. Like all of our lists, the order is irrelevant. Support and pay attention to good music.
Remember 2011’s mixtapes for several reasons: Houston invaded Harlem, a Detroit MC remade a Hip-Hop Holy Grail and a vaunted Ohio duo vowed to “elevate the game.” But remember it foremost as the year that 30 tapes dared to be different, expanding the possibilities of what a “Hip-Hop mixtape” could (and should) be.
Sure, MCs have recently been giving their tapes the same fastidious attention as major-label LPs; however, it takes more than just hustle and grind to make one’s voice heard. Rappers need to be special and stand out from the mudslide of projects that overflow the Internet on a weekly basis. Here are those individualized, precise and, often times, ground-breaking efforts that defined the year.
As for ranking them, don’t worry about it. Enjoy each and every one of them, as we did.
They say if you snooze, you lose, and that couldn’t be more true for good albums overlooked for numerous reasons. Whether it’s falling victim to a popularity contest, lack of a big name co-sign or having substandard promotion, sometimes deserving projects don’t get the accolades that’s owed to them.
But never fret, loyal Hip-Hop enthusiast. This may be the least popular tidbit of the year end coverage but it may prove to be the most useful if your musical landscape was a little lacking this year. There’s no doubt in our minds that your preferences would openly welcome the quiet return of legends once past, a fresh take on the passé gangsta rap movement and plenty of beefed-up lyrical preservatives that most rap junkies crave.
As for ranking them: don’t worry about it. Enjoy each and every one of them, as we did.
Last day of the year and everything’s in the books. The best and worst projects, the mixtapes, the “Notable Quotables” and even a full list of slept-on releases*. With the formalities out of the way, we offer our bi-annual**round-up of the 100 songs we played ad nauseam***. Click through, enjoy…and we’ll see you on the other side.
* - All of which can be read by clicking here.
** – Did you forget July’s 75-song “Intermission”?
*** – In totally random order because we believe in organized confusion.
So we find ourselves at the end of another year, left to sort through and make sense of 365 days worth of music, and when doing so to look back on the year itself, to remember the things and times those sounds are attached to. 2010 was a year of stratification, of artists running as hard as they could in opposite directions, with genres, themes, styles, and even methods of release becoming as overwhelming as they were varied.