2011, where has the time gone? I’m not sure, but it seems like it was just February and now we’re here at the year’s end reflecting on the year that it was in hip-hop. 2011 was a trying year for me, especially the latter half as marked by a decrease in my contribution of both reviews and newsfeed items. Nevertheless, I still managed to pull it together enough to complete the weekly (W)rap Up that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years.

So what all happened this year? I’m a little bit out of the loop, but I do recall a few events from the past three hundred and sixty five days in the world of hip-hop. Well, for one, I was nominated for an Ohio Hip Hop Award for my photography work. What else? Tity Boi changed his name and became hot. Jay-Z and Kanye became The Throne, Wayne almost sold “A Milli” in a week again and Atlantic Records finally allowed Lupe’s “Lasers” to see a retail shelf. J. Cole proved the naysayers wrong when his album “Cole World” dropped and exceeded the expectations of many. T.I. and DMX were released from prison, Ja Rule went in and Officer Ricky had a couple seizures on a plane. Speaking of health, two of the biggest bombs dropped on hip-hop this year were the deaths of Nate Dogg in March and the more recent passing of Heavy D in November. Rest in peace to both legendary artists.

I read a couple good hip-hop books this year. One of them was “The Message: 100 Life Lessons From Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs” by Felecia Pride and the other was the excellent “Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit, And A Celebration of Failure” by J-Zone. I really suggest you pick up “Root For The Villain” as it is fucking hilarious and insightful at the same time. There’s been so much new music and so many new artists that I’m often copping a late pass to check out a lot of the newest shit. I’ve been catching up on tons of stuff by way of Spotify. If you fuck with it and for some strange reason want to check out my playlists, my username is Checkwriter. Also, if you aren’t already connected to RapReviews via Facebook and Twitter, please “like” and “follow” us on those respective platforms.

Now, similar to what I did last year, here are the top five albums of the year that I actually reviewed. So there won’t be any Kendrick Lamar or Theophilus London, although I did enjoy their releases. There were a few albums that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least give them an honorable mention on this list, including Baron Von Alias & Arhat’s “Out-of-Body Experience,” Maggz’ “Maggnetic Opposites,” Rock Most’s “Rise & Shine” and Blood Type’s “Two Week Notice.”

5. Johnny Polygon – A Wolf In Cheap Clothing
Tulsa, Oklahoma’s native son returned early this year with another collection of songs showcasing his versatile styles. Sometimes he sings and sometimes he raps, but it’s always in true Johnny Polygon fashion. So whether he’s feeling “Invincible” or trying to figure out how to handle his definition of wasted, nine times out of ten the result is going to be “Fucking Awesome.”

4. David Banner & 9th Wonder – Death of a Pop Star
The heavily [self] promoted “Death of a Pop Star,” the collaborative album between southern gentlemen David Banner and 9th Wonder was powered by the singles “Slow Down” and “Be With You.”The latter featured appearances from Ludacris and Marsha Ambrosius, making a dent on urban radio. The recording was brief but focused and the end result was a pleasant listening experience courtesy of two hip-hop heavyweights.

3. Passalacqua – Passalacqua
Last year, Cold Men Young’s “Champagne Nights/Red Stripe Budget” was one of the best releases I reviewed. This year, CMY’s Blaksmith and Mister joined forces to create Passalacqua and have released two projects. I’ve only gotten around to covering the first one, which did an excellent job of focusing on the finer things in life: Tom Waits, Bootsy Collins, Hot-n-Ready pizzas, women and Pineapple Faygo. I plan to review “Zebehazy Summer” very soon.

2. Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4Eva
How could Krizzle possibly follow up last year’s YIR champ, “K.R.I.T. Wuz Here?” Thankfully, K.R.I.T. wasn’t just a flash in the pan and hit us with what is affectionately known as “R4.” Even though his Def Jam debut was pushed back until next year, his fans have plenty of material to hold them over, including his guest appearances and the chopped & screwed version of “R4.” As many of my contemporaries have pointed out, the Meridian native seems to have all the tools in place to be a big star and it’s easy to get excited about his potential with releases like this one.

1. Killer Mike – Pl3dge
Mike Bigga is one of those artists who can gracefully walk the line between being a street dude and a social commentator, thus almost making him a hood philosopher of sorts. While not as preachy as KRS-ONE or as deep into the trap as Jeezy, Mike seems to hold his own in the middle of the two. It is for this reason that he’s able to drop an album with scathing socioeconomic songs like “That’s Life II” and follow them up with joints like “Ric Flair” without losing an ounce of his credibility in the process. He does it again with the contrasting-but-never-contradictory “God In The Building II” and “Player’s Lullaby” and once more with “Animal” and “American Dream.” Honestly, “Burn” alone would put it in the top five for me, but the album as a whole was enough to give the third installment of the “Pledge” series the top spot this year.