THE TOP TEN RAP SONGS OF 2011 (C.A.T.T.L.E.)

2011: The year we lost Heavy D.

Oh rap music, is there anything you can’t do? As always, Chaz’s Arbitrary Top Ten List Extravaganza begins with my look back at the year in rap. Last year I called 2010 the best year for hip-hop in quite some time, and 2011 kept the hits coming, making the year’s soundscape of prominent up-and-comers just about as diverse as rap’s ever been. With bandcamp and soundcloud making quality music easier to get ahold of than ever, it’s time we hit the seventeen corners of the map for the ten best rap songs 2011 produced!

10 ) 151 Feva Gang – “Kush Groove”

“Roll another up and get groovy baby” with the song of the summer: a stoner anthem so effortlessly cool that even straight edge kids can take a shower and get down with it. Full of the top-down party sunshine vibe without transparently trying to be the soundtrack to a car commercial, “Kush Groove” is the rap music that Saturday evenings in June were made for.

9 ) A.Dd+ – “Under f/ Dustin Cavasos”

Hip-Hop’s biggest current tragedy is that not only are Outkast not making music, but B.O.B. isn’t making the music Outkast should be making. While we all anticipate new Andre verses and wish Bobby Ray would get back to actually rapping, their are artists who are making music worthy of being the next heirs to the Outkast throne. Dallas duo A.Dd+ unleashed one of the year’s most creatively inspired releases with When Pigs Fly, the centerpiece of which was “Under,” a great slice of struggle music with the intangible warmth that keeps listeners coming back for more.

8 ) Roc Marciano – “My Persona”

While 2011 saw its share of blizzards hit New York, the cold winter made the perfect setting for Long Island’s Roc Marciano. Possessing all of 90s NYC’s ruggedness with none of the jorts, Marciano spent the year following up his critically acclaimed Marcberg album with a series of guest appearances and stray tracks that kept our attention, the best of which was “My Persona.” Brooding, cunning and always engaging, “My Persona” got more individual play that most artist’s entire albums, promising even more from Marciano in the coming year.

7 ) Hail Mary Mallon – “Breakdance Beach”

The trio of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Whiz doesn’t necessarily call to mind some happy-go-lucky fun in the sun, but on “Breakdance Beach” the three go for the gusto, taking a rhyme pattern to its absolute limit and each showing a tongue-in-cheek cheerfulness we’ve never seen before.

6 ) Prof – “Gampo”

Prof, the 2011 must-see live act of indieground hip-hop, has successfully captured the magic of his concerts on record. While his latest King Gampo got as much attention for its Gummo-tribute cover as it did for its music, the opening track “Gampo” quickly dismisses any thought that Prof’s just all image. As fun as it is unpredictable, Prof flexes styles showing why he’s the talk of the Twin Cities.

5 ) Watch The Throne – “N*ggas in Paris”

While Watch The Throne was something of a mixed bag, the strengths were incredibly high. Between the masturbatory celebrity santorum of “Lift Off” and an uninspired Kanye attempting M.B.D.T.F.-lite, we had Jay-Z’s best rapping in eight years and some of the most daring production choices in the genre. Originally a b-side, the audience spoke and made “N*ggas in Paris” a smash when many thought the collaboration would be dead in the water. Between a dexterous Jigga vocal performance and Kanye giving us the best elements of his tweets in rap form, it’s the type of monster mainstream hip-hop in 2011 should be regularly generating.

4 ) Mr. Muthaf*ckin’ eXquire – “Huzzah”

I’ve been writing for six months now about how “Huzzah” rechristens a sound within underground hip-hop of intelligently ig’nant hood music not heard since the days of Fondle ‘Em Records, so just listen already.

3 ) Action Bronson – “Mr. Songwriter”

Between two of the best rap albums this year and a stellar EP, I had a hard time choosing just one Action Bronson song to include. I decided to go with the one that I played the most, “Mr. Songwriter,” as it condenses everything I enjoy about Bronson into three minutes. Charismatic non sequitur storytelling peppered with references to food and 80s professional wrestling and production rooted in the construction of classic New York hip-hop, “Mr. Songwriter” is a great starting place for those new to Bronson and an amuse bouche of what he’s capable of.

2 ) Danny Brown – “Pac Blood”

The second verse of Brown’s “Pac Blood” is my choice for the single best verse on a rap song this year. The most straight-forward song on his largely experimental mixtape XXX, Brown proves he’s one of the best in the genre today with an unrelenting onslaught of blisteringly visceral punchlines. It’s a masterful manifesto and cements Brown as one of the best in the world at what he does.

1 ) Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”

Who would have thought Odd Future would have dominated 2011. Well, mastermind Tyler, the Creator probably did, especially when he unleashed “Yonkers.” The must-see video that shot the collective into superstardom, hob-nobbing with everyone from Kanye to Justin Bieber and even landing a VMA nomination, it wouldn’t have been such a monumental achievement had the song not been an absolute banger. With Tyler being among the first faces of the post-Napster generation to show what an unlimited access to influences is capable of, “Yonkers” weaves in warm vulnerable moments amongst an unstable wasteland of angst and absurdity. Along with Tyler making himself laugh and his legions of fans rap along with each listen, the production was infectious enough to make even the group’s detractors record their disses over it. In terms of popularity and influence, “Yonkers” defined 2011. As a song by itself, it’s the best rap song of 2011.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

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