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I could not cut this list down to 50 songs. All 65 songs are more than worthy of recognition. I’m sure I may need to add/eliminate songs from this list as the year continues, but for right now, here it is. Also, these are the songs that are, in my opinion, the best released this year. 2011 has been a GREAT year for Hip Hop and I’m sure I could arrange this list in hundreds of different variations. This was the arrangement I came up with on my first try. ENJOY!

65. Pete Rock and Smif-N-Wessun- Monumental feat. Tyler Woods

Classic Hip Hop! The legend Pete Rock  is on the boards and Smif-N-Wessun handles the lyrical side of this great track. The whole album is terrific but this is definitely the stand-out.

64. Ridla- Sleep No More

Ridla is completely unknown, completely unique, and completely incredible. He dropped DEstruction and I could not get enough of it. I can only pray the Delaware native can formulate a large enough fan base to continuously put out amazing music.

63. Wale- Chain Music

Though I haven’t felt everything the new MMG Wale has come up with this year, this track gives me immense hope. It’s catchy as hell, the production is tight and he handles the braggadocio with every ounce of swag he can muster.

62. Kanye West & Jay-Z- New Day

One of the definite standouts from the Ye & Jigga collab. The RZA production is great and Kanye and Jay fill the song with future tales of their un-born sons. Relating their struggles to the strifes that will face their families.

61. Raekwon ft. Nas- Rich and Black

Two legends come together to speak on their sociopolitical status in America. Exactly what you would expect from these two.

60. Blu- Seasons

Blu is a poet first, rapper second. Seasons showcases this fact. His lyrics are beautiful, and Exile’s production is perfect. The only thing holding this song back is the low quality. Hopefully they remaster this gem for their rumored upcoming album.

59. Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown- Volume 

These two came together this year to make an INCREDIBLE album. Brown is the best producer around right now and Mackey delivers with a raw flow and gritty lyrics.

58. Reks- This or That

Reks is simply one of the best doing it right now. His 2011 release is definitely a candidate for album of the year and has too many excellent tracks to choose from. Reks comments on the horrible state of mainstream rap and takes no prisoners over a hard-hitting Statik Selektah beat.

57. XV- Textbook Stuff feat. Kendrick Lamar

I just don’t get how XV hasn’t blown up yet. The Zero Heroes tape was amazing yet majorly slept-on. On this track the Kansas native tells tales of his chidlhood while Kendrick absolutely murders it. The sample is perfect as well.

56. Game- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I was not expecting much from Game’s 2011 effort, but was pleasantly surprised when it provided me with great tracks like this one. Game’s storytelling ability is showcased throughout this track and it has that classic Biggie “Warning” feel to it.

55. Asher Roth ft. Nottz- Break Bread

The Joanna Newsome sample is simply breathtaking. Asher and Nottz do complete justice to the wonderful beat.

54. Coss- Pot Ash

Coss NEEDS more recognition. He is one of the most unique artists out right now. This introspective piece delivers with both great lyrics and an Exile masterpiece, like always.

53. Curren$y ft. Freddie Gibbs- Scottie Pippen

The Hot Spitta is pretty hit or miss with me, but on this track I can’t deny his greatness. Curren$y’s unparalled flow matched with Gangsta Gibbs, plus the Alchemist at his best = perfection.

52. Has-Lo- Fiber Optics

Has-Lo is a beast. His 2011 debut is another candidate for AOTY and this standout track focusing on the slanted politics of society and life as a whole is astounding.

51. Tyler the Creator ft. Frank Ocean- She

Say what you want about Tyler, the kid comes through with some true, unique Hip Hop. TC’s fucked storytelling ability is the highlight of this stalker saga. Frank Ocean on the hook puts the song over-the-top. Awesome track!

10. J. Cole – Return Of Simba (Prod. by Elite)

Cole released the third part of the simba series (Simba & Grown Simba). Cole starts it off with the perfect sample from Lion King which sets up the anticipation this song is built on. His overall message follows the simba story line because Cole debut has been two years in the making and simba is finally returning to his rightful place on top of rap.

Favorite Bars:

“It’s like I’m fuckin’ Oprah, well worth the wait
Maybe over your head, I’m ahead of my time
Niggas scared of my future, I know they dreadin’ my prime
‘Cause I only made classics, now what that take? Timing
Cole under pressure, what that make? Diamonds”

9.  Richie Cunnings – Pure Imagination

Richie flipped this same-titled classic song from WIlly Wonka in this inspirational track. He flips between explaining the harsh realities of working shitty jobs to just get by and his fantasy of a perfect life & his aspirations for his musical carrer. Starting every versus with his miserable days of working part time jobs than he leads us to the chorus of him walking us through his daydreams and fantasies. phenomenal track.

Favorite Bars:
“Woke up, couldnt remember what my dream was,
but it was probably the same one,
where im sittin at an easel in the rain,
with the masterpiece, tryin not to let the paint run”

8.Big K.R.I.T. – The Vent

Off the Mixtape Return of 4Eva K.R.I.T. expresses his struggles of dealing with the loss of his grandmother, he starts the track with K.R.I.T. himself comforting a women for lost her child yet K.R.I.T. help is useless. throughout the song he finds himself doubting himself and God because of neither stopped these people close to him from leaving.  When his grandmother left he lost the one person he could vent to.

Favorite Bars:
“I put my problems in a box beside my tightest rhymes, under lock & key buried deep off in my mind
& when it gets too full and I can’t close the lid I spaz on my family and my closest friends”

7. ElZhi – Memory Lane (Prod. Will Sessions)

Elzhi walks us through his trip down memory lane in this vivid story on his “train of thought”. His storytelling is evidence in this straightforward story when Elzhi describes his childhood by taking us from his family reunions to friends lost along the way. What propels this song into the top ten is how perfectly Elzhi’s flow fits the beat perfectly, but what keeps it this low on the list is its unoriginality.

Favorite Bars:
“I threw the deuces up to Dilla, dapped up, ‘Tin, than i hugged my momma slow”

6. Common ft. Nas – Ghetto Dreams (Prod. by No I.D.)

Common and Nas’ flows are on point with this smooth track produced by No I.D. Common starts it off describing his dream women and the life they would live than it switches off to Nas explaining his dream ghetto life with him rapping and “African Queen”

Favorite Bars:
“the type of bitch that big said he would die for
is the type that i would rather stay alive for”

5. Nas – Nasty

Straight fire from Nas. No need to explain.

Favorite Bars:
” I’m skinny, but still I’m too big for a Bentley
You are your car, what could represent me?
Too Godly to be a Bugatti, you honestly
Must design me somethin’ Tommy Mottonic from Queens had before the ’90s”

4. Kendrick Lamar – F*ck Your Ethnicity

Kendrick starts off his first album Section.80 by staight up saying f*ck your ethnicity. This song fits the model for this album by saying that everyone has to get rid of a all prejudices & racial thoughts and search for that higher power that we are capable of reaching as a group. Kendrick is showing that he sees things as they are and doesn’t care what color your skin is.

Favorite Bars:
“I recognize all of you
Every creed and color
With that being said
FUCK your ethnicity “

3. Pharoahe Monch – Evolve (Prod. by Exile)

Amazing flow, lyricism, and wordplays mixed with exiles dark production team up to make this perfect song.

Favorite Bars:

“So phenomenal with mics I don’t like myself
Sadomasochist MC, I bite myself”

2. J. Cole – Lost Ones

What separates this song from other storytelling storys is that Cole came up with the idea to rap from a new perspective, the perspective of a women. Jermaine takes us through the discusses between him and a girl he impregnated, J wants to discuss their options including apportion. What makes this song even better is the fact that he recorded this in his dorm room back in college.

Favorite Bars:
“but what about your seed nigga?”

1. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Wings

Macklemore goes through his childhood explaining the way he let nike’s consume his thoughts. Ryan Lewis’ production really takes the song to the next level with it’s captivating chorus. Unbelievable song.

Favorite Bars:
“So much more than just a pair of shoes
Nah, this is what I am
What I wore, this is the source of my youth
This dream that they sold to you
For a hundred dollars and some change
Consumption is in the veins
And now I see it’s just another pair of shoes”

Before I begin this list I would like to clarify what defines a debut album to me. The debut must be available for purchase on itunes or any other music distributor and it must be the artists first time releasing an album on a label. In other words, artists who were part of a collective or group such as Phonte, Evidence, and Big Boi, who all dropped terrific solo debuts, will not be included on this list. Also, free albums such as Big Krit’s Return of 4eva will not be included because it was first released for free. Enjoy…


Co$$ Before I Awoke (2011)

Wale Attention Deficit (2009)

10. Kid Cudi Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009)

The immense mind of Scott Mescudi is one cluttered with depression, hope, and terrific music as displayed in his 2009 debut. The album was recorded during the height of Cudi’s drug use and that struggle is displayed in many of the songs. Cudi has the ability to create the perfect mood for every song. Though his lyrics are not spectacular they allow the listener to relate and sympathize with his struggle. Cudi’s melodic voice helps carry the album through even its weakest points. The album was a success among critics and listeners alike, elevating Kid Cudi into super-stardom.

9. Skyzoo The Salvation (2009)

The Brooklyn MC’s debut was a much-needed return to the foundation of east coast rap. The album features raw production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Illmind, Just Blaze, and Nottz. Skyzoo’s lyricism is vicious and introspective throughout the album. The one possible downside to this album is how criminally slept on it is. Skyzoo deserves recognition, get this album if you don’t already!

8. Earl Sweatshirt EARL (2010)

Where to start with this one….. Earl is one fucked up 17-year-old. At the time of the recording Thebe Kgositsile was 16 and rapping way ahead of his age. By that I mean subject matter of murder, rape, and drugs seems a  little mature for a pubescent kid. His unorthodox style is some strange mix of MF Doom and Wu-Tang. But for all his murderous lyrics the album is equally balanced with incredible stream of consciousness rhymes and relatable teenage stories of life and love (see Luper). This incredible mix leads to an unprecedented and completely original album. Earl seems to reach the violent, rage-filled subconscious we love to hide. Luckily, this album has pretty much remained hidden from those “new” OFWGKTA fans. Earl is the best member of Odd Future and after listening to this album you will be anxious for his future work. Oh yeah, one last thing. FREE EARL!!!!!!

7. Has-Lo In Case I Don’t Make It (2011)

An album as brilliant as it is criminally slept on. Has-Lo proved to be an underground phenom with the release of his great debut this year. With subject matter ranging from women, to government conspiracy, to the downfall of the rap game and a cold flow laced with poetic lyrics Has-Lo brings the full package to this release. Cop this album if you have yet to. You will not be disappointed.

6. Elzhi The Preface (2008)

Many listeners are just now catching up with the lyrical virtuoso that is Elzhi. Most recently, he reworked Hip Hop’s nonpareil Illmatic into his amazing mixtape ELmatic. However, overlooked still is his 2008 debut. The album is equally astonishing behind both the mic and the boards, as fellow Detroit native Black Milk handled the majority of the hard-hitting beats. Elzhi reminisces, educates, and simply amazes throughout the album.

5. Kendrick Lamar Section.80 (2011)

Kendrick Lamar is a conceptual genius and in is 2011 debut his brilliance shines immensely bright. Kendrick chronicles the struggles of the young adults and adolescence of America. Throughout the album Lamar seems to have complete control over everything he utters and tempts the listener to look around and see what he sees. His lyrics and flow are ridiculous and the production fits every track perfectly. His concept of Hii Power, though very mysterious and hard to recognize at first, is ultimately what completely bonds the album.

4. J. Cole Cole World: The Sideline Story (2011)

In an era where mainstream rap is horribly trite and predictable, and subject matter is restricted to weed, cash, and women, there is finally a savior. J. Cole’s highly anticipated  debut album surprised many by selling over 200k and shooting to first on the billboard. Because of the financial success of the album real rap enthusiasts finally have a weapon in the mainstream. The album itself is simply terrific. Having already dropped three classic mixtapes, fans of Cole and hip hop alike set unreachable expectations for this album. Although it is not the instant classic that many have lauded it as, it is still a fierce work of artistry. The production throughout the project, which Cole handled 95% himself, is impressive and diverse. His lyrics are ferocious at times while also being heart-wrenching at other points during the listening experience. J. Cole has brought the true message of the Hip Hop culture back to the mainstream and I believe in a few years listeners will look back at this album as a monumental moment for modern, new-age Hip Hop.

3. Fashawn Boy Meets World (2009)

Fashawn’s Boy Meets World is an album far too many listeners are unfamiliar with. The project is one of the truest chronicles of a young man attempting to define and reach his dreams in an unforgiving, damning, ironic world. Fashawn’s relatable tales bring out several emotions in the listener, spanning from sadness, laughter, hope, and faith. Exile handles the production on the entire album and every beat laces the imaginative lyrics to perfection. The future looks infinitely bright for the young MC out of Fresno, CA.

2. Lupe Fiasco Food & Liquor (2007)

In 2007 the world was introduced to the Hip Hop oracle that is Lupe Fiasco. His debut album is the definition of original and unprecedented. It is a work of genius where almost every song is some sort of metaphor all working under the authority of an even larger allegory, confusing huh? Fiasco comes with concepts on the project that marvel even the most knowledgable of Hip Hop heads and when he feels the need to be straightforward with his listeners he does that just as profieciently. Though recently Lupe disappointed fans with Lasers, it is hard to believe that he will not return to his unique and groundbreaking style that he employed in his first two albums. It could just be the dreamer in me, but I believe we have only been introduced to the sagacity of Lupe Fiasco.

1. Blu Below The Heavens (2007)

Not just a classic, a landmark. This album is a landmark for the Hip Hop genre. Blu, already known as an underground legend, comes through with some of the most poetic lyrics ever delivered on the mic. The struggle Blu defines is the struggle of not just every man, but every human being. The trials and tribulations of finding a partner, making a living, having a family, keeping faith, and simply surviving are all expressed in the project. And to top it all off every track is accompanied by the flawless production of Exile. Mixing the old school sound of Hip Hop with modern, universal problems and triumphs Blu created one of the best albums to ever be released. Every track is immaculate. As a listener, when the last track passes its final seconds you become a slightly different individual. You take in the experience of Blu mesh it with your own and look at life from a somewhat renewed perspective. This album is my generation’s Illmatic and will forever be the standard for which I compare future projects too.

-Ron Miller

With his album “Lasers” released earlier this year Lupe has come out and said he is working on a “DJ album” and a mixtape. Him and his partner Scott are planning a collective album under the name “Soundclash” to be released shortly after Halloween,“Me and my partner Scott started a dj collective called Soundclash so we’re working on that album right now and hopefully we’ll have a single out by Halloween and will try and push an album out around that and tour and all that,” he said. “There’s a Lupe Fiasco mixtape that’s coming which hopefully we’ll have out before the end of the year and that will hopefully lead up to the next Lupe Fiasco album. And that’s really it, just more touring, touring, touring and music, music, music, music.” Lupe looks to have a busy couple of months ahead of him with this DJ ablum, a mixtape, and his album “Food & Liquor II” We’ll keep you updated with more details as soon as they become available.

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