Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Urbanite End of Year Awards (The Countdown) - Hip Hop Album of the Year

The other week, we gave you The Urbanite's definitive list of the best music and artists of 2011.  With only days away until the end of the year, and after much deliberation and last minute changes, the list has finally been made.  We'll be revealing the winners on the 31st, but here is a look at the acts that just missed the cut and why - starting with the Hip Hop Album of the Year Award.

5. Wale - Ambition

Nearly two years after releasing his forgettable debut album, and after creating quite a buzz last year with some sick features (see Waka Flocka 'No Hands'), Wale dropped an album this year that took many of us by surprise.  It goes without saying that having Rick Ross and Maybach Music Group behind you helps just a little, but he put a lot of work in a project that contains quite a few, varied gems.

The title track, Ambition, is a smooth track that is enhanced by guest appearances from Meek Millz and Ross himself.  With Chain Music we get the Wale that made him a much loved feature on the MMG mixtapes and on Lotus Flower Bomb the rapper has the female box firmly ticked.  An all-round consistent album that plants the Washington born star as one to watch for next year.

Choons to download: Chain Music, Lotus Flower Bomb, Focused, Ambition

4. The Game - The R.E.D Album

You never really know what you get when The Game releases an album.  Those of us who were raised on The Documentary remember the westside swag that he brought to the table, but after label troubles and beefs with G-Unit the rapper has struggled recently.

Which all makes his fourth studio album more of a pleasure to listen to. It has Dr Dre's hands all over it and from the first track, The City, we are taken back to the streets of L.A as Game spits candidly about his label troubles and past problems.   Everything really kicks in with Drug Test, feat Dre and Snoop and Game also has Lil Wayne lending his hook creating magic to two stand out tracks, Martians vs Goblins and Red Nation.  Heavy Artillery, feat Rick Ross, is also a banger that gets the head bopping from the start.

Despite Game's skills, the stand out verse on The R.E.D Album goes to Tyler the Creator who manages to diss Game, Dre, Bruno Mars, Tyler Perry and, best of all, Chris Brown ("Now my future's brighter than Christopher's new haircut") all in one verse.

Game proves once again that he is a talented artist and, judging by his energetic performance in London last month, he is here to stay for a few more years at least.

Choons to download: Drug Test, Red Nation, Martians vs Goblins, Heavy Artillery, 

3. Drake - Take Care

Life just keeps getting better and better for Aubrey Drake Graham.  Not content with being the biggest rapper of 2010 and bagging four grammy nominations in 2011, Drake released his eagerly anticipated sophomore record with the swagger of a man at the top of his game.

It was always going to be difficult to top Thank Me Later but as an artist Drake has matured and, with every new listen, Take Care keeps getting better and better.  Although we expected more of The Weeknd on the album, considering the tight connections the two artists have developed over the year, when the two do hook up we have a marvel of a track on Lovin The Crew.  The obvious singles (Take Care feat Rihanna, Make Me Proud feat Nicki Minaj and Headlines) are all brilliant club bangers.

But it is when Drake mellows out and gets his sensitive side out that we really see where he is heading as an artist.  Lord Knows, featuring (AGAIN) Rick Ross, sees him at his introspective best and on Look What You've Done, the Canadian superstar delivers an ode to his mum that will have every rudeboy running to his mama with a bouquet of flowers.

Another brilliant album from Drake that cements his status amongst hip hop royalty.

Choons to download: Lovin the Crew, Take Care, Marvins Room, Cameras/Good Ones Go

2. Jay Z and Kanye West - Watch The Throne

Admit it.  When you heard that it was not just a rumour and that the powerhouses of hip hop, Jigga and Kanye, were actually releasing a joint album, you smiled like a kid that had just been given the keys to a theme park.  When the artwork for Watch The Throne came out we got even more excited, and by the time H.A.M dropped we were ready to go mad for an album that promised to expand musical boundaries and go down as a classic.

But Watch The Throne did not just promise, it delivered.  In gigantic proportions.  As soon as the drums kick in on the first track 'No Church in the Wild', and Frank Ocean sings "What's a God to a non-believeeeer", we know we are in for an epic ride.  To be honest, second track Lift Off, featuring Jay's baby mama, fails to impress, but the album picks up with the tune of the album, Niggas in Paris, and never looks back.  This track, in particular, is one of the songs of the year and has probably caused mass chaos in clubs from Miami to Manchester quicker than you can shout "BALL SO HARD".    

The album's production is, unsurprisingly, amazing.  One wonders where Kanye will go next with his beats, as his sampling of dubstep, blues and old soul (nod to Curtis Mayfield) continues to reinvent the wheel in terms of hip hop production.  

Where the album really impresses is in it's lyrical content.  On face value, this seems like another album by two of rap's biggest egos bragging about how much money they have and the watches they own.  Scratch beneath the surface, however, and what we have is a celebration of street culture and the power that young black men like Jay and Kanye have achieved over the years.  Murder to Excellence is an excellent critique of black on black violence and reasserts Yeezy and Jay Z as the heirs to the throne of past black leaders ("It's time for us to stop and redefine black power, 41 souls murdered in 50 hours" + "They said 21 I'm supposed to die, so I'm out here celebrating my post-demise").  And on Made in America we have a tribute to the only nation in the world that could see a former hustler build a billion dollar brand and become one of the most powerful figures in the music industry.  

Chuck in Jay Z's slightly patronising love song to his wife, That's My Bitch, and the fantastic message to their unborn children, New Day, and what you have is a classic album that will be on people's playlists for years to come.  Perhaps the only reason why this was not the album of the year was due to the fact that it was expected: a joint album between these two was always going to be epic.  But they did not disappoint. Not at all.  And it will be a long time before either is moved from their position on the throne.

Choons to download: Niggas in Paris, No Church in the Wild, Otis, Made in America  

See all nominations here.  Winners will be revealed on the 31st December.

No comments:

Post a Comment