I’ve been reading RapReviews since I was old enough to operate the mouse and I’ve always looked forward to the writer’s end of year reviews. They have always been my favourite pieces, to read through and come away from the article with another album or artist to check for. As I only joined the RapReviews team this year, this is my first chance to come up with one of these wrap-ups. So with a small dose of pre-game nerves, let me crack on and tell you which ten albums have been filling my speakers in 2011. If you wish to share any feedback/praise/criticism/abuse/death threats then just find me under the contacts header…

Action Bronson & Statik Selektah – Well Done

With help from one of the most consistently dope beatmakers in hip-hop, Action Bronson released one of the year’s strongest albums. Statik Selektah’s trademark combination of boom-bap and soul samples gave Bronson the ideal platform to show why he is one of the buzz names in modern hip-hop.

Standout tracks: “Keep off the Grass”, “Central Bookings”, “Cliff Notes”.

Apathy – Honkey Kong

Apathy somehow gets better and better with every release and this well-rounded album continued the trend. Ap recruited DJ Premier, Xzibit, DJ Muggs and the whole Army of the Pharaohs clique for this LP and was responsible for my favourite track of the year, the Evidence produced “Check to Check”.

Standout tracks: “Check to Check”, “Stop what ya Doin'”, “Albino Gorillas”.

D-Tension – Wack Music for Dope People

After a career of laying down tracks for underground favourites such as Vinnie Paz, Akrobatik and Thirstin Howl III, D-Tension decided to step from behind the boards and pick up the microphone for this self-produced LP resulting in one of the most entertaining listens of 2011.

Standout tracks: “I’m so Old”, “Teacher’s Pet”, “Destiny”.

The Doppelgangaz – Lone Sharks

2011 was a big year for the duo from New York who have quickly become one of the underground’s hottest acts. With gritty nineties style production and creative rhyme structures, this album has barely left my headphones.

Standout tracks: “Doppel Gospel”, “Wench Rench”, “At Night”.

Evidence – Cats & Dogs

Evidence’s second full-length LP cemented his position as a genuine solo star in his own right. Handing the bulk of the production duties to The Alchemist, Sid Roams and DJ Premier freed Evidence to concentrate on his microphone work and the result is an hour of genuinely solid yet smooth hip-hop.

Standout tracks: “The Red Carpet”, “You”, “Late for the Sky”.

Mister Jason Presents – Frankensteez

The ex-Porn Theatre Ushers producer made a long awaited return to the LP scene this year and it was definitely worth the wait. Jason’s beats and guest list brought back memories of the post-Rawkus independent rap boom but with a very funky twist.

Standout tracks: “Lose your Mind”, “Black Angel”, “Mister Jason’s got a Posse”.

Random Axe – Random Axe

This was the year that Sean P, Guilty Simpson and Black Milk joined forces to finally bring us the Random Axe collaboration. It may not have provided many surprises but it did give many hip-hop heads exactly what they wanted from it; grimy yet witty lyrics over Black Milk’s notoriously banging production. Seriously, how can anybody dislike Sean P?

Standout tracks: “Random Call”, “Black Ops”, “Another One”.

Swollen Members – Dagger Mouth

After a couple of extremely mediocre releases, Swollen Members returned with an album much more like we used to expect from these Canadian heavyweights. The beats were suitably dark and brooding again and the chemistry between Madchild and Prevail was as strong as ever. I really wasn’t expecting much going into this album but it is pure dope from start to finish.

Standout tracks: “Night Vision”, “House of Sin”, “War Money”.

Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

Tyler is not saying anything new. His beats are decent but not usually what I choose to listen to. Some of the guest features on this album are beyond terrible. I can’t stop listening to this album and I can’t put my finger on why. There is just something about Tyler that is unique, I can’t figure out what it is but I’ll let you know when I do.

Standout tracks: “She”, “Tron Cat”, “Burger”.

Willie Evans Jr. – Introducin’

If you are not familiar with Willie Evans Jr. then my one suggestion for the New Year is that you get familiar. Entirely self-produced, Evans’ chopped-up, sample heavy, soulful beats are almost perfect as he covers a few personal subjects in truly laconic style delivered via his rich vocal tones. Beautifully awkward.

Standout tracks: “Take 2”, “Fisbawdup”, “Mega”.

Honourable Mentions

The following albums also got a hell of a lot of play this year and were close to making my list. Ten is such a small number…

Brotha Lynch Hung – Coathanga Strangla
Esoteric – Boston Pharoah
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Meyhem Lauren – Self Induced Illness
Raekwon – Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang
Slaine – A World with no Skies 2.0
Snowgoons & Reef the Lost Cauze – Your Favourite MC
Tech N9ne – All 6’s & 7’s

I just want to wish all of the readers and staff of RapReviews a very merry Christmas and I hope that 2012 is kind to you all.

R.I.P. Nate Dogg
R.I.P. Heavy D