MUSIC OF 2011 (Part 4): Albums of 2011

The final installment is here…


59.  White Jesus– Rittz

58.  Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang– Raekwon

57.  With and Without– Washed Out

56.  Eye Contact- Gang Gang Dance

55.  Monkeytown– Modeselektor

54.  Black Sun- Kode9 and Spaceape

53.  Undun- The Roots

52.  Street Halo– Burial

51.  Cold Day in Hell– Freddie Gibbs

50.  Peanut Butter Blues- Ghostpoet

49.  Past Life Martyed Saints- EMA

48.  1977– Terrious Nash

47.  Badlands– Dirty Beaches

46.  Biophilia– Bjork

45.  Looping State of Mind– The Field

44.  Severant– Kuedo

43.  Tomboy– Panda Bear

42.  The Ninth Inning– Gonjasufi

41.  Fatty Folders- Roman Flügel

40.  4– Beyonce

39.  Tragedy– Julia Holter

38.  Smother– Wild Beasts

37.  Dr. Lecter- Action Bronson

36.  Ravedeath, 1972- Tim Hecker

35.  SetBacks– Schoolboy Q

34.  Means and Ways- Afrikan Sciences

33.  Nostalgia, Ultra– Frank Ocean

32.  WIT’S END– Cass McCombs

31.   Smoke Ring for my Halo- Kurt Vile

30.  On a Mission– Katy B

29.  King of Limbs- Radiohead

28.  Wordplay for Working Bees- Lucy

27.  Instrumental Mixtape– Clams Casino

26.  Space Is Only Noise- Nicolas Jaar

25.  93 Million Miles- Africa Hitech

24.  Satin Panthers- Hudson Mohawke

23.  Dedication- Zomby

22.  Covert Coup– Curren$y & Alchemist

21.  The Magic Place- Juliana Barwick

20.  Let England Shake- PJ Harvey

19.  808 & Darkgrapes II– Main Attrakionz

18.  We’re New Here- Gil Scott-Heron And Jamie XX

17.  XXX– Danny Brown

16.  Sepalcure- Sepalcure

15.  Passed Me By/We Stay Together- Andy Stott

14.  Kaputt- Destroyer

13.  New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges– Colin Stetson

12.  Section .80- Kendrick Lamar

11. Replica- Oneohtrix Point Never

10.  Room(s)- Machinedrum

Mutant Footwork=(-Travis Stewart±√(〖Footwork〗^2-Drum’n’Bass))/(Oversused Vocal Samples)

9.  LiveloveA$AP- A$AP Rocky

Of all the New York boroughs, it seems like Harlem niggas are the most accepting of regional scenes foreign to their coast. The Bronx is still hanging on its golden age coattails; Queens Rap scene is a regional sound in itself. Brooklyn is up its own ass; and as for Staten Island… Staten Island only has Wu-Tang.

The A$AP crew is the epitome of Harlem’s approach to Hip-Hop- Appropriation of regional music.  This is why A$AP Rocky, although not the sharpest rapper out there, channels charisma oozing out of Robitussin bottles.  LiveloveA$AP pays homage to the bygone eras of Southern and Midwest Rap; A love letter to Screwed up phonics and double time sing-songy rap tunes. Hanging with a bunch of hood niggas decked in Rick Owens and Raf Simons. It’s like the kids on 125th and Lennox Ave. were paying more attention to Screw tapes than DJ Kay Slay’s “DAMN” adlibs.

8.  Take Care- Drake

Kanye West might have to unwillingly pass the ultimate tastemaker torch to Wheelchair Jimmy soon if he keeps moving at this pace.

Although So Far Gone revealed a rapper that seemed to grasp what was going on outside the borders of basic Hip-Hop; Drake’s major label debut Thank Me Later seemed to throw a wrench in that process. It masqueraded his entire penchant for hipness with underwhelming pop songs. All of a sudden the dude who was dedicating songs to DJ Screw and rapping over Lykke Li began to follow the rules.

“Thank Me Later was a rushed album, I didn’t get to take the time that I wanted to on that record, I rushed a lot of the songs and sonically, I didn’t get to sit with the record, it was like once it was done, it was like it’s done… That’s why my album is called Take Care, because I get to take my time this go around,”

–          Drake in an interview with BBC 1Xtra’s DJ Semtex earlier this year.


What Take Care does is reestablishes that connection. It gives us the Drake that knows how to adapt sounds from different underground bearings (The Weeknd, Jamie XX, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, ESG) to a mainstream audience without losing them. It’s the same thing Kanye was able to accomplish on Late Registration (Jon Brion, Portishead, Paul Wall, Gil Scott-Heren, Lupe before he became a fiasco) but without all the annoying skits.

Ye… you have been warned.

7.  House of Balloons- The Weeknd

You might wanna get high for this. It’s the only way we can catch up to Abel Tisfaye. He’s been on those drugs for a minute now. That’s why House of Balloons sounds so accomplished on first listen. David Bowie had to binge on Heroin a decade after his debut to make his best work. Abel has done it in one shot.

We Have to get high for this.

6.  Return of 4eva- Big K.R.I.T.

All hail the new King of the South. Big Krizzle; King K.R.I.T.; Mr. Do-It-All; The new people’s champ. How can you not like Big K.R.I.T.? All he wants to do is make it in the Rap game with his Pimp C flow and Outkast music sensibilities. Each statement he makes seems to be bigger than the last. He loves his slabs, but is also aware of the negro’s plight in America. His subs gets him amped, but so does social injustice. He is exactly what the South needed. T.I. can keep getting arrested, he has been dethroned.

5.  NoYork!– Blu

NoYork! is Blu’s love letter to the future; a declaration that deactivates our notions and conceptions of what Hip-Hop can and should be. Its manifesto unhinged in electronics and Bass that obviously borrow nothing from Hip-Hop’s past. He, and a handful of likeminded underground rappers are abandoning the Boom-Bap theory that once plagued the genre a decade before. Just check out his previous work with Exile and you can clearly see the progression… and his intention. Hip-Hop shouldn’t be satisfied with just creating thoughtful trunk rattlers. Like Radiohead before him, he is looking for sonic challenges. And for that he might have just delivered Hip-Hop’s version of Kid-A.

4.  James Blake– James Blake

He is a singer songwriter.

He makes cover songs.

He plays the piano.

His music makes people cry.

The wagwans make fun of you for having his music in your playlist.

What separates him for the rest of these soft singing douches is that he was once a Dubstep artist…

Or still is…

Or is now a Post-Dubstep artist…

whatever the case, he can still make shit like this whenever he wants to.

I remember playing “The Wilhelm Scream” to a very close friend the first time it leaked. His response:

“You are a pussy.”

I didn’t understand his reaction.

Another one of my friend’s responses:

“What’s all this whispering and whimpering on Bass Music?”

The third person I played it to

“omigosh this is so cool, his voice is so beautiful… I wonder if he is as cute as he swoons”

It was then I realized that James Blake’s album was going to be a lightning rod. His less wobble more humming approach split the Bass community in half. One side was all up in arms at the fact that it didn’t sound like his first three EPs; the other side (mostly made up of women) applauded him for giving the genre a softer edge.  You don’t need to ask me where I stand… just look at its placement on this list. I do, however, have three words for you chastising bass heads:

Don’t Judge Me Kiss My Ass.

3.  w h o k i l l– tUnE-yArDs

Gentrification- A Catch 22

Rich white kids invade destitute neighborhoods; build cute little boutiques and coffee shops. In the process they spruce up the community while hiking up prices and rent, forcing former inhabitants out of their homes. And John keeps wondering why the Black kids throw rocks and insults at him when he approaches the Bedford station on the L Train.

Hello White Guilt.

Merril Garbus knows the feeling too well. Moving to Oakland, California was a revelation that not any Liberal Arts college education could prepare her for.  Capturing the feeling of that moment, Merrill has managed to make a slyly political masterpiece. She bares her shame in an age where apathy reigns supreme in the circles of the hip and converts it into something genuine, and heartfelt. Through her powerlessness, she is able to build enough anger to generate a “call-and-response” action; muscling her way through social injustice with howls, horns and drums.

Reducing w h o k i l l to merely a work on race baiting and social inequality would be selling the album short. It ultimately deals with man’s paradoxical relationship with violence (Riots resulting from unfair Police brutality, Arab Spring, etc). At the same time, it attempts to bridge cultures with guns and roses, preaching for both diplomacy and revolution.

2.  Strange Mercy– St. Vincent

Annie Clark stopped giving us cute songs a long time ago. She would rather sing about dirty cops, depression and the annoying pressures of monogamous relationships. Throwing all kinds of jangled angst accompanied with a middle finger at lovers, loved ones and even loving fans. She has found a way to expand her moments of experimentation from her last album Actress and balance them with her moments of vulnerability. What results is a work so personal that it is as emotionally gut-wrenching as it is sonically amazing. Keep baring your soul Annie Clark.

1.  Black Up– Shabazz Palaces

Oh Palaceer Lazaro… what a cheeky revolutionary you are. You might put up a front like you couldn’t be too bothered by your own genius, but we all know; your moves are heavily calculated. You already earned your legendary stripes as 1/3 of one of the most underappreciated groups (in any genre) of all time. Yes, your approach then was within the realm of the free spirits; yet you were still able to create magic. Now you attack mics with such cosmic cadence… and with so much BASS (The Bomb Squad salutes you). But somehow… your nonchalance seems to prevail over all forced militant notions. This is how you differ from the others:

Chuck D wasn’t witty.

Gil Scott-Heren failed to lambaste poseurs in the smoothest of ways.

Common is a corny nigga that at times cares too much for “The People.”

But in one song you were able to overcome their shortcomings.

“(I ain’t showed off, I just showed up
Greet my peoples, fill they cup
Transmit heat on pillows plush)
<—– For Chuck D
I mean it though, I lean and flow
I gleam and glow, I’m clean
And oh you bet ya that I get it bro
<—– For Gill Scot-Heren
Inside the glow just not for show
Green beans, purples, indigo
Catchy yes but trendy no
<—– For Common
Never finished scheming though
That’s beneath Barbara Jean’s offspring
With po, I never seem to know”

I believe Jay-Z was referring to you when he uttered these lines

“I’m Che Guevara with bling on/I’m complex”

May your 2nd stab at Hip-Hop immortality find solace for you in the top 10.


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