We listened to tons of albums in 2011. We loved some, loathed some. Praised the good, dissed the bad. But there are only so many days in a year, so we also missed a few quality ones. We’re guessing some of them slipped under your radar, as well. Let’s make things right before bidding 2011 a cheery “adieu.” Below you’ll find a clutch of albums you might have missed this year. There’s stuff for every taste bud here, including sweet, sour and pipe down bitter. Dig in.
11. Monumental, Pete Rock N Smif-N-Wessun
One of the annoying things about the music industry is watching mediocre MCs snag quality beats and then treat them like something my cat brought home once but couldn’t be bothered to kill. So yes, I got on all four and thanked every god in the universe when Duck Down announced that Superproducer Pete Rock was teaming up with Smif-N-Wessun (aka Tek-N-Steele) for a collaborative album. Despite an 8-month delay, Monumental delivered that down and grimy, sewage New York rap.
Why you missed it: It got lost in the summer shuffle.
10. Middlefinger and Handshakes, Classified
Worth attending because this Juno-nominated, platinum-selling MC (in Canadian metrics, at least) is hands-on–not only is he a sharp-shooting lyricist, he laced the slick beats on Handshakes & Middlefingers and holds his own alongside Brother Ali, Kayo, Mic Boyd and Joe Budden on the surprise collaboration aptly titled “Unusual.”
You missed it because: He’s a Canadian MC not named Aubrey
9. Daily Bread, Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown
It’s their chemistry that makes this a success. Apollo Brown’s production is: soul-drenched, stripped-down, steeped-in, boom-bap, and drum-driven with little to no room for shiny ornaments. It’s this precise recipe from Brown that Mackey needs to make the execution duck soup, a huge part of what makes Daily Bread a winner.
Why you missed it: You can’t stand boom bap
8. For The Record, Torae
“Flame spitter, nigga. Only time you ever was hot was when you pops shot you outta his cock” is the type of dart battle rappers have been shooting since the early 90s, an era Torae fixates on while riding killer beats courtesy of the soundsmiths who shaped that era: Large Professor, Pete Rock, Diamond D, DJ Premier, et al; new generation producers like Nottz and 9th are also invited to Torae’s 90s-themed block party.
Why you missed it: No big enchiladas on the guest list
7. Cats & Dogs, Evidence
Evi’s second solo album comes at you like a quiet storm, so what you get is reels of heavy topics that aren’t treacly enough to pass for emo but direct enough to pull you into a sinkhole of flow–a snowfall of personal tales and quiet confidence that comprised The Weatherman LP serve as the bull’s eye for Cats & Dogs but the production is stronger and more diverse with Preemo, Alchemist, and others giving Ev a break from the boards.
Why you missed it: It dropped on September 27 aka J. Cole Day
6. NOIR, Blue Sky Black Death
Unlike the Clams Casino instrumental set which turned out to be 100% larynx-proof (just ask SL Jones), Blue Sky Black Death’s Noir is rappable (as long as the emcee is dexterous and slightly deranged), thanks to the hypnotic strings, the pulsing piano licks, the patient snares, all of which combine to create a sneaky reverie (something you only half-notice until the rude exit of “In the Quiet Presence of God” suddenly pulls the chair) not heard on any other beat tape this year.
Why you missed it: It’s an album dubbed Noir, by a group called Blue Sky Black Death.
5. Are You Gonna Eat That, Hail Mary Mailon
The name is a nod to an 18th century chef, Mary Mailon, the first known healthy carrier of typhoid bacteria. Typhoid Mary was blamed for 51 cases of the disease, including three deaths. The only thing Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz are infecting with their stellar blend of seasoned rhymes and hypnotic head nodders is minds. Best served cold.
Why you missed it: Needs more cowbell
4. Oneirology, Cunninglynguists
Solid though the dream concept (and thorough, too–everything, from the Lois van Baarle artwork to song titles to rhymes to production, everything adheres to the theme with admirable discipline), it’s the music that keeps Oneirology interesting: Kno is a mad scientist, white robe and all, concocting elements from allover. Watch him dust off the cobwebs from Marianne Faithfull’s soliloquoy on “Murder (Act Two) and insert Big K.R.I.T. in the box for what turns out to be one of the Meridian MC’s best guest turns (he raps from the perspective of a dirty president for chrissakes) on yet another concept album. Still, 90% of runtime goes to woozy soundscapes that swiftly set the bed for Deacon and Natti to wax poetic about their dreams, both personal and American.
Why you missed it: It was marketed as a concept album
3. Native Sun, Blitz The Ambassador
Blitz has a lot going for him: culture, adventure, spirit, very very rich live instrumentation, majestic horns, beautiful strings, Afrobeat, a mingling of sounds (modern and contemporary; African and western). The only thing holding steady is his voice. Native Sun is an album in the traditional sense of the term. You can’t skim it for standalones; you need the full experience.
Why you missed it: You’ve never heard of Blitz
2. L.A. Riot, Thurz
Concept album done right. The year is ’91. The post-Pat Riley Lakers are in the playoffs. Rodney King and friends catch a basketball game and later catch a beatdown from brutal LAPD officers. The riot was yet to come. King Thurz (formerly of U-N-I) shines light on these events and more with keen observation and deft storytelling, while riding beats that burst with life. History class is now in session.
Why you missed it: You’re from New York
1. Street King, Trae tha Truth
You haven’t read the news lately if you’re still wondering why he stays “Strapped Up.” It’s not “Hood Shit.” It’s “Life” shit. Adversity or not, he’ll “Keep on Rollin’,” because you never let your enemies win by walking away. Besides, he has mouths to feed. So yes, he’s “Getting Paid” in the process. Street King won’t answer every question you have about Trae tha Man, but it will pull you further into the world of Trae tha Truth.
Why you missed it: Apes still run radio