Friday, 30 December 2011

The Urbanite End of Year Awards (The Countdown) - Hip Hop Artist 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 which rappers made the cut and why in the Hip Hop Artist of the Year category.

 5. Tinie Tempah 

If 2010 was the year that Tinie Tempah conquered the UK urban scene and became the most successful British rapper around, 2011 was the year that he built on this success with an invasion of the US market. Thus even though he technically did not bring out a studio album this year, Tinie was busy releasing his Disc-Overy debut to the Americans whilst simultaneously bringing out two mega mixtapes.  

And one cannot argue that the south Londoner has not been a success.  His debut single, Written in the Stars, sold over a million copies in the States and he finished the year with an explosive performance on US X-Factor to an audience of over 10 million people.  He has also performed on Letterman and has won many plaudits in America for his radio-friendly version of British rap.  Such was the growing stature of the artist that he was able to turn down a deal with Jay Z earlier on in the year and attempt to break America solo.  

On top of that, he managed to release two mixtapes to critical acclaim, bag an Ivor Novello award and a few Brit awards on the way.  His status is getting bigger by the minute and, due to the fact that 2011 was bigger than 2010 for Tinie, it is slightly scary thinking about what he will next achieve.

4. Drake

After the release of Thank Me Later and the subsequent pandemonium that followed Drake everywhere he went it was only natural that the artist would have a big year this year.  The only danger that really lay in the Toronto rapper's way was that he would fade out quickly through over exposure.  That all his moaning and whining would get boring and fans would quickly move on to a more optimistic rapper like J. Cole or Wiz Khalifah.

None of this really happened.  Throughout 2011 we had a steady stream of hits from the rapper, some great guest features and, thankfully, an album at the end of the year that experimented musically and could, in a year's time, go down as a better album than his first.

Before Take Care dropped, Drake had spent most of the year gracing other people's choruses.  And doing a fine job at that.  I'm On One is one of the best club songs of the year and would not be without his opening verse and hook.  Neither would the best song on Lil Wayne's Carter IV, She Will, be so infectious.

He was also responsible for Marvin's Room which, in turn, spawned The Weeknd's Trust Issues, both of which are moments of genius, as is Lovin The Crew.  It will be interesting to see how his relationship with The Weeknd develops,but if these two songs are anything to go by we will be in for a treat in 2012 if they team up more.  Let's just pray that Drake brings The Weeknd with him on the Club Paradise tour. 

3. Rick Ross

Again, it seems slightly weird to credit a rapper as being one of the artists of 2011 when they have not released a studio album.  But if you think really carefully about all of your favourite songs of the year, The Urbanite will bet that Rick Ross features on at least half of them.  Plus the heavyweight rapper, in more ways than one, deserves some credit at least for suffering two seizures in a day and still attempting to go ahead and perform to a sell out crowd.  

With show stealing verses on I'm On One, John and Lord Knows, Rozay was the man to go to in 2011 for a big feature.  His verses on Estelle's Dont Break My Heart open and end one of the stand out tracks of the year.  And on the Hustle Hard remix he overshadows Lil Wayne once again as he informs the world that he has been laughing all the way to the bank this year ("last night I counted one mil, this morning, one fifty").

It's the simple ways in which he drops these lyrics that is so formidable ("I'm burning people flowers, they burning my chest") - said with the swagger of a rapper that is comfortable with not being the best lyricist around.  He does not have to be when he knows how to craft epic verses with such ease.  

The fact that MMG have also started to make their own in-roads on to the market is a sign that he is not resting on his laurels, with the signing of Wale being one of his wisest choices.  Expect a big album from the 'Bawse' next year.  One that will be highly anticipated.  

See all nominations here.  Results will be announced on the 31st December.  

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