I’m an authority on rap, because I am a rapper. That’s really all it takes, and since I have my credentials in check it’s time to unveil my top rap albums of the year, in kind of a particular but whatever-it’s-not-that-big-a-deal order. FINALLY, you can all put 2011 to rest now that this list is public.
Before we get started: No, I did not listen to every rap album released last year. Yes, I did hear The Roots’ Undun. Good stuff; not my favorite, though. Other honorable mentions will be listed below the main course.
The Cool Kids – When Fish Ride Bicycles
A lot of my criteria for top rap albums has to do with how many times I just put it on to put it on. The Cool Kids’ 2011 album was on play more than most in my room, no matter what I was doing. It may not have a killer a capella beat like 2008’s The Bake Sale, but it’s one of the most replayable albums of the year, for sure.
Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
Maybe this should be higher, but who cares. Tyler, The Creator and the whole of OFWGKTA made themselves critic-proof by doing whatever they want and calling people losers and homos when they disagree with it. Or even when they support it. Goblin is WAY too stacked in a “here are literally all the songs I came up with since Bastard” kind of way, but there’s a lot of honesty mixed in with the stupid shit, which is fun, too. If you take it too seriously, you’re already dead.
Phonte – Charity Starts at Home
This is actually probably the best rap album of the year. But I’m into too much dumb stuff to let it slide too high up, so here it sits, nonetheless respected. Slick, thoughtful raps mix with ace production and a dude who can actually both rap and sing without sounding like a huge pussy.
Mouse on tha Track – Swagga Fresh Freddie
You’re listenin’ to the Swagga Fresh Freddie mixtape the OFFICIAL Swagga Fresh Freddie Mixtape! OK! I’M RELOADING! DAT’S ME! In a year loaded with mixtapes, Mouse on tha Track AKA Swagga Fresh Freddie dropped one of the most stupidly infectious, from the opening track which I challenge everyone not to sing along with every single time, to songs like “Cartoon,” which were clearly written at the apex of a mind-shredding high.
Das Racist – Relax
Oh look, one of the funniest albums of the year is also one of the best. It may not be the overt joke-a-second album that The Lonely Island’s Turtleneck & Chain was, but Relax is sharp enough to cut. Rarely does an album actually make you feel cooler while listening to it, but that’s just the power of Das Racist’s first official release. Don’t worry, though, they’re still making fun of you and you still look ridiculous.
DJ Quik – The Book of David
This is the one album I scanned every Best of the Year list for, just to see whether or not I should instantly write off their choices. DJ Quik released hands-down the most west coast album of the year, and one of the best overall. He even made Ice Cube sound hard again in a post-Are We There Yet? climate. He also released the JAM of the summer:
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Lost in Translation
Holy shit, where did Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire come from? This release actually made me feel bad for missing out on it for a few months. Right from the incendiary blast that is “Fire Marshall Bill,” I knew this would be a hot contender for my favorite rap album of the year, and not a bit of it disappoints. Don’t buy it? Um, you don’t have to, DUDE, it’s free on Bandcamp.
Danny Brown – XXX
Oh wow, a 30-year-old rapper who’s really weird and likes to party too much; no clue why I identify with Danny Brown. If I hadn’t recorded and released a groundbreaking album, this would no doubt be #1. This one is technically another mixtape, I guess, and you can get the whole thing for free below.
Moldilox – Ghetto Expense Report
What kind of self-respecting rapper wouldn’t list his own album as the best of the year. If you ever meet a humble lyricist be sure to turn them around and kick their ass down a deep ravine. Ghetto Expense Report has been shaping the future ever since its mind-altering July 31 release party at Northern Soul in Hoboken, NJ, and it single-handedly propelled flowgram’s DJ career. You can get it below, even if you’ll never get it.
Honorable mentions: DaVinci – Feast or Famine, Don Trip & Star Lito – Step Brothers, Action Bronson – Dr. Lecter, Pharaohe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)