To be honest, we’re not really fans of the “Top Ten Albums of 2011″ type posts that you see everywhere at the moment. Everybody has a different taste in music so who are we to say that certain albums are better than others? A lot of good albums and EP’s came out in 2011 and they were all good for different reasons. Having said that, we’ve come up with a list of releases from this year that we really enjoyed and we want to share it with you so you can check out anything that you may have missed during the year. They are in no particular order and I’m sure we’ve left some other good releases out so feel free to add to the list in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Elzhi – Elmatic
Remaking one of the most classic hip hop albums of all time is a big task but if anyone was up for the challenge it was Elzhi and he definitely didn’t disappoint. I never doubted that he would do it well but I could never have imagined that it would be as good as it is. I already thought of Elzhi as one of the best emcees around but he took it to another level with this, delivering some of the best verses he’s ever delivered. And having a live band in the form of Will Sessions produce the album really made Elmatic something special.
Apollo Brown – Clouds
After a busy 2010 producing the likes of The Left’s Gas Mask and Brown Study (a collaboration with Boog Brown) Apollo Brown started 2011 with something different; a 28 track instrumental album. The overall vibe of Clouds is definitely a laid-back and ambient one but it will still have your head nodding and fingers snapping throughout. This one has been on steady rotation all year.
Fatima & Floating Points – Follow You
With only four tracks, this release was short but sweet. What made this release for me though was the standout song Mind. I’m looking forward to hearing more from both of these artists in 2012.
Benny Tones – Chrysalis
Although it was released last year in New Zealand, the rest of the world wasn’t blessed with this little gem from Benny Tones until this year so I’ve included it on the list. Until Chrysalis was released Benny Tones was best known as the sound engineer for fellow New Zealand band Electric Wire Hustle but this release showed that he is a talented producer in his own right.
Money Making Jam Boys – The Prestige: Jam Boy Magic
This mixtape was all about lyricism with Black Thought, Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Truck North and STS launching a lyrical assault over a collection of raw beats including some oldies from the likes of Public Enemy and Nice ‘N Smooth. I haven’t heard five emcees this good going this hard for a long time.
Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R.
His 2007 release Desire was a hard act to follow (as was Internal Affairs) but this album definitely lived up to expectations. Some songs stood out more than others but good production combined with Pharoahe’s distinctive rhyming style and some good guest features throughout made this another solid album from Pharoahe Monch.
Random Axe – Random Axe
We waited a while for this one but it was worth the wait. It was pretty much what we expected would happen when Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price came together; banging beats and clever wordplay making for a dope hip hop album.
iSHE & Hezekiah Project
Singer iSHE teamed up with producer/emcee Hezekiah for this project and the result was a truly soulful and refreshing album. Hezekiah’s hypnotic production was perfect for iSHE’s mellifluous voice and it was clear that the pair had really worked together to produce something special. Hopefully it was the first of many projects from the two.
MED – Classic
This album was a mixture of some instantly likable songs and some that took a while to grow on me. And while I didn’t like it quite as much as his 2005 release Push Comes To Shove, an MED album with the bulk of the production handled by Madlib and one track each from Georgia Anne Muldrow, Oh No, The Alchemist and Karriem Riggins, is always going to be worth listening to.
Phonte – Charity Starts At Home
On this first solo offering from Phonte he reminded us that he’s still one of the most talented emcees around. A lot of fans have been wanting him to release more hip hop after the last two R&B influenced albums from The Foreign Exchange and I’m sure that they got what they wanted here. The singing Phonte took a back seat to the rapping Phonte on most songs with him spitting effortlessly over production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis, E. Jones and others.
I, Ced – All in My Mind
Producer I Ced, put together an impressive modern soul album in All in My Mind. A good mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals with dope beats and melodies the whole way through.
Miles Bonny – Lumberjack Soul
I think I’ve listened to this album more than any other album that came out this year, probably because it’s perfect for just about any situation. It’s undeniably soul music but there are definitely elements of hip hop and jazz in the chilled yet funky beats which go together perfectly with Miles’ soulful voice.
DTMD – Makin’ Dollas
This young duo obviously had a simple plan to just make a good hip hop album here. Dunc proved that you don’t have to do too much to make dope beats and Toine did his part on the mic making for a good album from start to finish with a sound reminiscent of those smooth laid-back hip hop albums of the ’90′s that we love so much.
Oddisee – Rock Creek Park
Once again Oddisee came up with something special here. Rock Creek Park saw Oddisee take a slight detour from his past work, experimenting with live instrumentation to create an exceptionally good instrumental album (except for one track featuring yU) full of jazzy, soulful grooves perfect for listening to on a carefree summer’s day.
Thundercat – The Golden Age of Apocalypse
This one definitely gets the Super Superb award for the best jazz fusion release of 2011. With a little help from Flying Lotus, bassist Thundercat crafted a charming album that should be listened to, uninterrupted from beginning to end to be fully appreciated.
Median – The Sender
Median was assisted on this one by some tight production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis and Kev Brown. The talented emcee definitely did his part too and came up with a refreshing hip hop album that’s solid from start to finish.
Black Spade – The Sweetest Revenge
I really like Black Spade and while I didn’t enjoy this album as much as his debut To Serve With Love, I think the main reason for that is that it had less Black Spade on it with Crucial handling most of the production and a host of guests throughout the album. Don’t get me wrong though, it was still a good release and well worth checking out.
Mecca:83 – Life Sketches Vols. 1&2
This album is simply a good collection of chilled hip hop beats with a bit of an electronic vibe. It plays well from start to finish and has me eager to hear what he’s going to release next.
Moka Only & Chief – Crickets
With the amount of music that Moka Only puts out, it’s hard to keep up. This is one that you should definitely check for though. He was at his best on this release over some of the best production I’ve heard from talented Swiss producer Chief.
Georgia Anne Muldrow – Owed To Mama Rickie
All of Georgia’s talents are on display on this album. Great production and song writing along with her unique vocals make this another beautiful project from Ms Muldrow.
14KT – A Friendly Game of KT
This is another great instrumental release from one of the best producers around right now. 14KT picked up from where he left off with The Golden Hour and put together another collection of head-nod-inducing beats.
yU – The Earn
yU obviously worked hard on this one and crafted a truly good hip hop album. The production is solid throughout the album and yU’s poignant rhymes come from the heart and offer a perfect alternative to the bullshit coming out of a lot of emcee’s mouths these days.
The Roots – Undun
The Roots never release anything that isn’t good and I doubt they ever will. Every album they release offers something different to the last and is usually just as good. Undun is yet another great album from this legendary band and is a must-hear.
Gas Lab – Teoría Instrumental Vol.2
I had never even heard of Gas Lab until a couple of weeks ago but I’ll definitely be checking for any future releases from this Argintinean musician. Teoría Instrumental Vol.2 is a melting pot of hip hop, jazz and soul with a mix of sampling and live instrumentation making for a stunning instrumental album.
So there it is. Hopefully you found something in there that you haven’t heard. Again, feel free to add some extra releases in the comments section and let us know what you think about the list. Let’s hope that 2012 brings us a lot more quality music!