Despite what people say about hip hop music dying, the mainstream taking over, etc., etc., I actually think 2011 was a good year for Hip Hop. But there are three albums for me, specifically that stay in my headphones from the past year.
Nas’ Illmatic is, and will always be, one of my favorite albums of all time. There’s no question to that. I used to listen to New York State of Mind just to get my day started. So when Elzhi dropped Elmatic, I was skeptical because Illmatic has a special place in my heart. I was so wrong. Elzhi not only paid homage to Nas’ classic, but he did it justice and took it to another level musically. His renditions of songs like Memory Lane, Represent, and The World Is Yours really made me think back to the first time I heard Illmatic and made me fall in love with it all over again. Like I said, Illmatic will always be in my top, but Elmatic earned a special spot in my hip-hop loving heart too.
Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R.
Pharoahe Monch’s W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) combines two of my favorite things – hip-hop and revolutionary lyrics. Some people might not like his style of spitting behind the beat, but his lyrics are undeniable. W.A.R. just so happens to be my favorite song off the album, but Evolve and Assassins are a close second, if for no reason than it features one of my other favorites, Jean Grey. W.A.R. also has one other thing that I think most albums are missing nowadays – a complete concept. From beginning to end, the entire album fits into the overall theme of revolution.
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Even though Kendrick Lamar had been on the underground scene for a minute, he recently started getting more recognition in the mainstream. People have been wondering when Hip-Hop is going to get back to raw lyrics, and I think Kendrick Lamar is evidence of the second coming of that lyrical era. I know HiiiPower is the song off Section.80 that everyone talks about (well, those who have heard it), but there’s good reason. Kendrick Lamar doesn’t spit about the usual, and when you listen to this song, you’ll know that this guy understands the power behind his words. Not many artists approach their music today as a craft, but Kendrick Lamar is one of the few who I think actually studies the art of rhyming. Anyway, dope album, dope artist. Go listen.