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12-29-2011, 04:50 PM

#40 The Cool Kids – When Fish Ride Bicycles
2011 saw the duo of Sir Michael Rocks and Chuck Inglish finally deliver their long in-the-making, and overdue, debut album to positive acclaim. A concern of most fans who had been riding with the Kids since the beginning was how much their sound would change over the years it took to create When Fish Ride Bicycles. In July, all doubts were smashed as the album delivered what fans had been anxiously waiting for.

#39 Pac Div – The Div
The Palmdale, California, trio show once again why they are a breath of fresh air in the rap industry. Pulling influences from the past like the West Coast’s eclectic Pharcyde, the MCs represent the new hipster moving that has invaded Cali and beyond. On The Div, the group displays great chemistry, rhyme skills and a knack for dope beats. What more can you really ask for?

#38 Childish Gambino – Camp
When he’s not making cameo appearances in Muppet movies or co-starring on popular TV shows, Childish Gambino is a rapper, and a good one at that. Throughout CAMP, Gambino addresses criticism from his haters on topics ranging from not being “Black” enough or “’hood” enough to being called “gay” and “soft,” stemming from his career as an actor and comedian. He wins by going from topic to topic in a versatile lyrical manner, and he demonstrates his ability to come hard on a track with clever wordplay and punchlines. Check “You See Me” and “Hold You Down” if you need more convincing.

#37 Statik Selektah – Population Control
Statik Selektah has built his name over time with two main things – dope DJ’ing skills and sought-after production. These two forces combine on his near-epic Population Control, which, hands down, wins the award for the album assisted by some of the best MCs of the day. Seriously, it has tracks from Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs, Christian newcomer LeCrae, Bun B, Action Bronson, Saigon, Styles P, Termanology, and the list goes on.

#36 Curren$y and Alchemist – Covert Coup
When the Jet Life rapper meets the genius of Alchemist, it’s a strong showing on Covert Coup, a continuation of Curren$y’s good collaborations from 2011. He teams up with Mobb Deep’s Prodigy on “The Time,” and though most of the other tracks are fast and furious in run time, Curren$y Spitta is up to the task. Songs like “Double 07” show off his metaphorical skills when laced by Alchemist’s beats.

#35 Snoop Dogg – Doggumentary
West Coast veteran Snoop Dogg keeps pressing on in the rap game as he released his 11th album this past spring. Doggumentary saw a reunion between The Doggfather and longtime producing pals Battlecat, Fredwreck, and Meech Wells – and it’s no surprise that those collaborations produced the album’s highlights. On “Wonder What It Do,” Battlecat resurrects the smooth soulful Boz Scaggs song, “Low Down,” and gives it a slight funky twist. Longtime fans desire more of that kind of music from Snoop.

#34 DJ Khaled – We the Best Forever
DJ Khaled’s We the Best Forever produced some of the best rap collaborations of the year. Pairing up Rick Ross, Drake, and Lil’ Wayne for “ I’m On One” proved to be radio gold, while “Welcome to My Hood” dominated the club scene and featured a bevy of some of the hottest artists around, including Ludacris, Birdman, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, T-Pain, Twista, and Mavado. Though some of the tracks slowed the monster momentum, Khaled proved on this album that he just might be the best at assembling awesome collabos.

#33 Trae Tha Truth – Street King
Houston’s Trae Tha Truth is surrounded by friends on his 2011 offering, Street King. Heavy with featured guests, it may be the way he’s choosing to show off his industry muscle – by pulling in some major names, including Outkast vet Big Boi, Lil Wayne (on a dope track called “That’s Not Luv”), Wiz Khalifa, and Wale, literally just to name a few. With all of the talent, and some great production, Trae bullied his way onto our streets looking as if his kingdom is here to stay.

#32 Random Axe – Random Axe
Random Axe marks the first release from the group of the same name. The single, “The Hex,” paid homage to the album’s executive producer, artist manager, and contributor, Hexmurda, who suffered a massive stroke in 2009 and is still recovering. URB Magazine commented that Guilty Simpson and Sean Price are “blessed with two of the best voices in Hip-Hop.” All tracks on the album were produced by Black Milk.

#31 Mac Miller – Blue Slide Park
The debut album from Mac Miller sold an impressive 145,000 copies in its opening week, but even more impressive was the fact that it was done independently. This also set a record for the highest selling release for an indie artist. While the production is a bit lacking at times, the wide-eyed, young Mac does a good enough job on the mic to make it one of the more interesting, worth-listening-to albums of the year.

#30 Curren$y – Weekend at Burnies
Curren$y delivered a solid Warner Bros. debut with Weekend at Burnies by sticking with the formula that helped him rise from independent artist to major label darling. Weekend at Burnies features Curren$y’s descriptive word play, comical one liners, and visually-stimulating storytelling – and, although the album only clocks in at just a little over 40 minutes, Curren$y makes the most of his time by rhyming effortlessly over Monsta Beatz.

#29 Freddie Gibbs – Cold Day in Hell
Now one of CTE’s finest, Freddie Gibbs is bringing gangsta music back to Hip-Hop. Despite the Internet, backpack, snapback rapper trends going on in the genre today, Freddie keeps it G on this project and speaks exactly how he feels. Taking you on a trip through the rough Gary, Indiana, streets, this seems to be Freddie’s most significant and well put together project to date.

#28 Yelawolf – Radioactive
Shady signee and Alabama’s self proclaimed, trailer-park raised “slumerican,” Yelawolf dropped a bomb this past year on the rap game, emerging as one of the more interesting characters on the scene. With his skateboard influenced style and Southern twang, Yela has become a staple for Internet blogs and websites. Featuring a host of artists, including Eminem, Kid Rock, Lil Jon, Killer Mike, and Mystikal, this debut effort by Yelawolf sold 41,826 copies in its first week, debuting at a respectable #25 on the Billboard Charts.

#27 Pharoahe Monch – We.Are.Renegades. (W.A.R.)
You just may need a gas mask to breathe through the lyrical assault that longtime rapper Pharoahe Monch brought this year on the album, We.Are.Renegades (W.A.R.). Always known for his intelligence and propensity for hanging out with other smartypants (think Jean Grae and Talib Kweli), Monch didn’t disappoint on his third solo album in 10 years. He brings the words again on songs like “Calculated Amalgamation” and “Assassins” featuring Grae and Royce Da 5’9”, then trips fantastically into Jill Scott on “Still Standing.”

#26 Murs x Ski Beatz – Love & Rockets Vol. 1: The Transformation
Murs had a good year, combining his talents with people like Ski Beatz and D.C.’s Tabi Bonney, and finding himself on’s “Top 25 Underground Artists of 2011” list. Still, he didn’t spend much of the year underground with Love & Rockets Vol. 1: The Transformation, an album chock full of Ski Beatz goodness. “Trevor An Them” is a storyteller’s dream, if Murs’ title doesn’t already get you, and “Hip Hop and Love” and “Eazy E” pay respects to the game.

#25 Tyler the Creator – Goblin
Cast aside all of Odd Future’s headline-stealing antics and tabloid tantrums, and Tyler the Creator has a definite something on his solo effort, Goblin. From videos that visually push the limits of our imaginations, to lyrics that make us gasp, Tyler’s Goblin was one of the year’s best – even if we don’t all know what he’s really about. He couples up with Frank Ocean on “She,” a strange love ballad of sorts, and then lets us really know he’s some sort of genius on tracks like “Tron Cat.”

#24 Pusha T – Fear of God
In what many are regarding as a contender for “mixtape of the year,” G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T elevates his game as a solo artist and spits crack. Literally. You know how the Clipse, VA’s finest, does it. Weighing it up and shipping out the “EGHCK” on new and classic instrumentals, Pusha T uses his words to cut through the tracks with an uncanny vigilance that screams a new level of status and elevation.

#23 A$AP Rocky – Live.Love.A$AP
Harlem’s boisterous boy, A$AP Rocky, leader of the growing A$AP movement, seemed to bust out of nowhere in 2011. The New York resident is oddly Southern in both his look and delivery, but it works for him on tracks like “Trilla” and the popular “Purple Swag.” Living and Loving A$AP Rocky is a hard thing to do – he seems to want nothing more than for us to like his music and then leave him alone. But we won’t go, Rocky, and songs like “Pesos” is one of the reasons why.

#22 Tabi Bonney – The Summer Years
Believe it or not, the “Chocolate City” has another strong rap talent by the name of Tabi Bonney, who has recently been associated with Roc-A-Fella’s Dame Dash. Another African import, Bonney displays a smoother more musical side of his city than Wale, leaving behind the negative themes and rising on just good beats and lyrics. “Hip Hop and Love” finds its way over from Murs’ album, and gems like “On Jupiter” sample his famous musician father to add a special touch.

#21 9th Wonder - The Wonder Years
Producer extraordinaire 9th Wonder should make amateurs want to pack up their studio equipment and go home. On The Wonder Years, he displays his gift again and again. Wu-Tang vets make an appearance, along with rapper Phonte from his Little Brother past. Then he gets all orchestral on “Enjoy,” an enjoyable mixture of his beats holding up heavyweights Kendrick Lamar, Murs, and the O.G., Warren G. In our book, and probably yours, too, 9th Wonder can do no wrong.

#20 Drake – Take Care
The first buzz single from Take Care was “Marvin’s Room,” a melo-dramatic ode to ex-girlfriends that Drake has become synonymous with. Following was “Headlines,” a braggadocio favorite that has been certified Gold, and pretty much let us all know what the album had in store – a lot of Drake’s singing voice. Take Care features production by 40, Boi-1da, Just Blaze and Toronto crooner, The Weeknd, and entered the charts at a boss #1 and was recently certified Platinum.

#19 Raekwon – Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang
Raekwon served up a perfect slice of Wu-Tang pie with Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang. Sticking with Kung Fu inspired tracks and cinematic samples, the Chef worked with longtime Wu affiliates, Bronze Nazareth, Cilvaringz, and Wu-Tang bat logo designer Mathematics, as well as a bevy of unknown producers, to perfect this masterpiece from the Staten Island great.

#18 Tech N9ne - Welcome To Strangeland
Tech N9ne continued to dominate the underground with the fourth release of his Collabos series, Welcome To Strangeland. With perfectly-placed guest spots from Jay Rock, Krizz Kalliko, and Brotha Lynch Hung to name a few, Welcome to Strangeland oozes raw emotion, soul, lyrical dexterity, and spirituality, making it a standout from everything else that was released this year.

#17 Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers
Rolling Papers debuted at unbelievable #2 on the Billboard 200 chart – unbelievable if you’re a tattoed kid named Wiz Khalifa from the Steel City. The album kicked off with the monster hit single, “Black and Yellow,” a tribute to Khalifa’s native Pittsburgh, which spawned countless remixes, remakes, and spoofs. Rolling Papers followed up with pop and herb-infused tracks like “Roll Up,” and the super slow and G’d up “On My Level,” featuring West Coast legend Too Short.

#16 Wale – Ambition
He may have switched up the sound from his go-go infused past just a bit, but from all indications, D.C. rapper Wale’s star is on the rise. “Lotus Flower Bomb” with Miguel’s beautiful begging on the hook is still dominating radio, and “Legendary” proves that he’s just as braggy as ever on Ambition, his first album on the MMG imprint. “Double M Genius” and “Don’t Hold Your Applause” follow suit, and of course, there are a ton on MMG features here. Wale may come slightly new with this one, but his appeal comes from a familiar place that feels good and possibly, “Legendary.”

(View full article @ BX below)’s Top 40 Albums of 2011 (