HipHopDX's Top 25 Albums of 2011

posted Monday December 26 ,2011 at 10:22AM CST | 536 comments

HipHopDX's Top 25 Albums of 2011

From Saigon to J. Cole, Cunninlynguists to Raekwon, and Joell Ortiz to Jay-Z, DX presents our annual list of must-haves from the past year.

With over 200 albums reviewed on HipHopDX in 2011, this is our annual list of the 25 best Hip Hop albums of the last 12 months, as voted by our Editorial staff. With two dozen impressive releases from the mainstream and underground, respected veterans and long-awaited solo debuts, these are our best (or "favorite") albums.

Captions written by Edwin Ortiz for HipHopDX.

Editor's Note: This list is presented chronologically, in the order albums were released. This is not a ranked list.

 

The Greatest Story Never Told by Saigon
Released: February 15, 2011
Label: Suburban Noize Records
Highest Charting Position: #61
Producers: Just Blaze, Lamar Edwards, DJ Corbett, D. Allen, Kanye West, SC, Red Spyda, Buckwild, James Poyser, Spanky, Adam Blackstone
Guests: Fatman Scoop, Q-Tip, Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz, Faith Evans, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Marsha Ambrosious, Raheem Devaughn, Devin The Dude, Layzie Bone, Bun B

Even if it took nearly half a decade to see the light of day, Saigon’s debut album proved to be an exceptional release that has established him as a voice of wisdom within the streets. From the relevant material to producer Just Blaze’s crafted direction, The Greatest Story Never Told is indicative of what can be accomplished when an artist is focused on pursuing greatness without the filler.

What We Said Then:

“Whether you’ve been patiently waiting for five years or just recently got into Saigon’s music, The Greatest Story Never Told delivers a stimulating message that is as cautionary as it is entertaining. Likewise, the album’s quality has stood the test of time, no small feat for an industry that changes eras every three to four years.” 


Free Agent by Joell Ortiz
Released: February 22, 2011
Label: eOne Entertainment
Highest Charting Position: #173
Producers: Frank Dukes, Sean C & LV, Knobody, DJ Premier, Kenny Dope, Just Blaze, Audible Doctor, Nottz, Novel, Frequency, Anna Yvette, Large Professor, Broadway, DJ Khalil
Guests: The L.O.X., Fat JoeRoyce Da 5’9, Just Blaze, Novel, Anna Yvette, Sebastian Rios, Barrington Levy

With Slaughterhouse catapulting into the public eye over the last year, it’s easy to forget that each individual within the group carried a blazing torch for their respective city. Topically wholesome and lyrically sharp, New York takes center stage on Free Agent. Joell Ortiz assuredly maneuvers throughout the album, revealing small anecdotes of his past while raw East Coast backdrops set the appropriate tone. No doubt the Shady signing will pay dividends, but Ortiz should have no trouble if he decides to hit the open market again.  

What We Said Then:

“For the second time in as many albums, Joell Ortiz did everything skeptics claim that New York emcees no longer do. Free Agent celebrates the finer moments of an urban childhood, as well as the constant threat of danger.”


Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang by Raekwon
Released: March 8, 2011
Label: IceH20/EMI Records
Highest Charting Position: #12
Producers: Scram Jones, Oh No, Cilvaringz, Blue Rocks, Bronze Nazareth, Selasi, DJ Khalil, Sean C & LV, Kenny Dope, The Alchemist, Mathematics, Xtreme, Evidence, Tommy Nova
Guests: Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Estelle, Busta Rhymes, Jim Jones, Kobe, Nas, Raheem Devaughn, Lloyd Banks, Rick Ross, Black Thought

Raekwon has been on an artistic tear since 2009, and this active streak can only come as a welcoming sight to his purple tape devotees. This year’s Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang bolsters his musical regiment with production tailor-made for the Chef’s recipe of bruising lyricism and braggadocio. As usual, he opens the door to a variety of guests who in turn follow his eminence into the fray. The end results may not match OBFCL2, but Raekwon still succeeds with a solid effort that keeps his name at the forefront of the Wu-Tang’s legacy.

What We Said Then:

“The work competes against itself – taking the old school lessons learned from the first encounter with Shaolin and teaming them with the new school version of Wu-Tang (the fame, the films, the Justin Bieber collaborations). In all, it works, but in a way that only the Chef could pull off.”


Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme by R.E.K.S.
Released: March 8, 2011
Label: Showoff/Brick Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: DJ PremierPete Rock, Nottz, Sean C & LV, Statik Selektah, The Alchemist, Sha Money XL, Hi-Tek, Mike Frey, Blaze P, Fizzy Womack
Guests: Styles P, TermanologyLil Fame, Freeway

It’s one thing to be underrated; it’s another to be underappreciated. The latter issue is one R.E.K.S. can only shrug off, yet Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme is a 15-track pledge to the Hip Hop nation for his acceptance. From personal tribulations to gripping rhymes built on a fiery delivery, R.E.K.S. leaves it all on the table. Regardless of your familiarity for emcees underground and mainstream, that’s something we all should be able to appreciate. 

What We Said Then:

“Front to back, [Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme] provides the listener with meticulous memoirs from a man that arguably has yet to reach his artistic plateau. Couple that with a solid cast of guest features and producers, and it’s clear to see why R.E.K.S. deserves mention alongside his mainstream counterparts.”


Dr. Lecter by Action Bronson
Released: March 15, 2011
Label: Fine Fabric Delegates
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Tommy Mas
Guests: Mayhem Lauren, Maffew Ragazino, Shaz IllYork, A.G. da Coroner, Fonda, Machine

Each year a handful of emcees emerge as distinguishable voices for the future, with Action Bronson turning out to be one of the biggest (no pun intended) in 2011. From Tommy Mas’ throwback production to Bronson’s colorful lyricism, Dr. Lecter exemplified a rapper who can pull his own weight (ok, pun intended) without the major co-signs. Now that he has them, Action Bronsonelli can have his cake and eat it too. 

Review coming this week.

Oneirology by Cunninlyguists
Released: March 15, 2011
Label: APOS Music
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Kno
Guests: Anna Wise, Freddie Gibbs, Big K.R.I.T.,Tonedeff, BJ The Chicago Kid, Bianca Spriggs

You’d be hard pressed to find an instance within Cunninlyguists’ career that didn’t display their unyielding chemistry as a group. Taking the dreamscape route, Oneirology highlights this strength well as listeners are greeted with cerebral content backed by Kno’s cryptic, yet inviting production. Oneirology approvingly holds up to their past releases, and likewise opens a new window into their creative consciousness. 

What We Said Then:

“In the end, Oneirology is an album that may serve as an alarm to those still unaware of [Cunninlyguists’] talent. This project combines creative sounds with inventive rhymes and stands as an example of how a great group can come together to craft a well-made album worthy of praise.”


 

W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) by Pharoahe Monch
Released: March 22, 2011
Label: W.A.R. Media/Duck Down Music
Highest Charting Position: #54
Producers: Pharaohe Monch, Lion’s Share Music Group, Exile, Marco Polo, M-Phazes, Mike Loe, 10, Diamond D, Samiyam, Fyre Dept.
Guests: Idris Elba, Vernon Reid, Immortal Technique, Showtyme, DJ Boogie, Styles P, Phonte, Mela Machinko, Mr. Porter, Jean GraeRoyce Da 5’9, Citizen Cope, Jill Scott

In a musical climate that’s littered with throwaway material and artistic bewilderment, Pharoahe Monch’s album W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) strikes with a forceful purpose. None of today’s socio-political issues go unscathed as Monch tosses a boulder into the glass house of America, leaving his fans more enlightened by the album’s closing. As such, W.A.R. should not be looked at as an enjoyable, fleeting moment in between Monch’s sparse catalog, but rather a precedent for artists who seek positive change through music. 

What We Said Then:

Full of political and social commentary, Pharoahe’s W.A.R.-time performance will leave fans hoping he continues his trend of cutting the wait time between albums in half.”


Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by The Beastie Boys
Released: April 27, 2011
Label: Capitol Records
Highest Charting Position: #2
Producers: The Beastie Boys
Guests: Nas, Santigold

The Beastie Boys may be pushing 50, yet Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 plays like a conceptually vibrant release that has the youth and old school crowd alike in mind. Aside from a few features, the album gives you the trio in rare form, kickin’ rhymes over synth-sampled beats that’ll have you in your b-boy stance. With their unrestrained positive energy permeating throughout Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, It’s evident the Boys haven’t lost their license to be ill. 

What We Said Then:

“In today’s age of dragging, dropping and Fruitylooping - where the posse cuts require reading the written order of the features to figure out who is rapping - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 feels more vital than ever.”


PL3DGE by Killer Mike
Released: May 17, 2011
Label: Grind Time Official/SMC Recordings/Tree Leaf/Grand Hustle Records
Highest Charting Position: #105
Producers: Smiff & Cash, Sweatbox Prodictions, No I.D., Raz, The Beat Bullies, Tha Bizness, Zone Beatz, DJ Speedy, Flying Lotus
Guests: T.I., Funkadelic, Young Jeezy, Roc D The Legend, Twista, Gucci Mane, Big Boi

Killer Mike’s explosive commentary on PL3DGE is nothing new to his fan base, yet it certainly is something they’ve come to appreciate from the Atlanta rapper. From social issues to media hypocrisy, Mike can be found reasoning for wisdom over gripping, inspiring production. Aside from that, the album also includes a handful of records for the club or car, but either way the party will be in full effect. PL3DGE bangs from front to back, and Killer Mike once again proves you can’t pigeonhole a rapper based on their location. 

What We Said Then:

“Like most great artists, his messages often conflict, but it just adds to his complexity. While artists these days attempt to align with the right or the left or this label or that label, Killer Mike stands amongst the people.”


All 6’s & 7’s by Tech N9ne
Released: June 7, 2011
Label: Strange Music
Highest Charting Position: #4
Producers: Ben Cybulsky, Seven, B.o.B., Soleternity, EmayDee, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, WillPower, Wyshmaster, David Sanders II
Guests: B.o.B., Hopsin, Busta Rhymes, Ceza, D-Loc, JL, Twisted Insane, Twista, U$O, Yelawolf, Kendrick Lamar, Oobergeek, First Degree The D.E., Stokely Williams, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Krizz Kaliko, Stevie Stone, E-40, Snoop Dogg, Jay Rock, Kutt Calhoun, Nikkiya Brooks, Blind Fury, Mackenzie O’Guin, Chino Moreno, Stephen Carpenter, Big Scoob

Tech N9ne pulled out all the stops for All 6’s & 7’s, recruiting an assortment of features and producers alike that hadn’t visited Strangeland before. And yet, he made it all work, as if there was any doubt his plan would fail. In the process, he also expanded his brand of rapid-fire lyricism and compelling content, a customary style that “Technicians” have lauded for over a decade. At 40 years old, Tech N9ne is arguably at the pinnacle of his career, and All 6’s & 7’s is a good indicator of why.  

What We Said Then:

“Tech N9ne balances established veterans with newcomers, high-energy rhymes with substance filled bars and heavy beats with softer melodies. Keeping the listener intrigued, All 6’s and 7’s doesn’t disappoint as a well-balanced offering.” 


Random Axe by Random Axe
Released: June 14, 2011
Label: Duck Down Music
Highest Charting Position: #73
Producers: Black Milk
Guests: Roc Marciano, Trick-Trick, Melanie Rutherford, Danny Brown, Fat Ray, Fatt Father, Rockness Monstah

On paper, the Random Axe crew –Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price– looks like a homerun. The results on their first collaborative project Random Axe likewise do not disappoint, as the trio wax poetics over Milk’s progressively bouncy production. At times it’s almost as if they started this group a decade ago, with each rapper feeding off each other and keeping the energy brewing without long form hooks. The content variety is a bit sparse, but no matter, Random Axe still holds up despite this minor setback.

What We Said Then:

Random Axe keeps it simple, and as a result, is simply fantastic. Despite its free-wheeling feel, efficient sequencing and a lack of filler show that it's not as random as its title implies.” 


Weekend At Burnie’s by Curren$y
Released: June 28, 2011
Label: Jet Life Recordings/Warner Brothers Records
Highest Charting Position: #22
Producers: Rahki, Monsta Beatz
Guests: Trademark Da Skydiver, Young Roddy, Fiend

With the amount of material that Curren$y puts out on a yearly basis, you typically have to pick and choose between releases to compile a dope project on your iPod. With it’s polished production courtesy of Monsta Beatz, Weekend At Burnie’s was an exception to the norm. Curren$y likewise keeps the features to a Jet Life minimum, and in the process highlights the crews’ strengths while downplaying their lack of subject diversity. Spitta’s relevance certainly doesn’t rest in the hands of critical success, but it’s nice to know he’s got it in him. 

What We Said Then:

“With Weekend at Burnie’s, Spitta continues to give his supporters what they enjoy most about him, but also shows why some still think he’s a new artist.”


Section.80 by Kendrick Lamar
Released: July 2, 2011
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Highest Charting Position: #104
Producers: Soundwave, THC, J. Cole, Tommy Black, Tae Beast, Terrace Martin, Dave Free, Wyldfyer, Iman Omari, Willie B
Guests: Colin Munroe, RZA, GLC, Schoolboy Q, Ashro Bot, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ab-Soul

Prior to Section.80 being released, Kendrick Lamar was an emcee on the stoic rise, though it was unclear where his ceiling topped off at. That all changed swiftly with a project that displayed his immense lyrical capacity and a laser focus that far outweighed many of his Hip Hop counterparts. The album was as much a testament to his Compton roots as it was his vision to magnify the Black Hippy-HiiiPower movement, and it’s one that surely looks ripe for future. All it took was three fingers in the air. 

What We Said Then:

“The Compton, California native delivers one of the year’s sharpest, smoothest albums - a testament to a well-crafted rhyme style, solid production and inspired lyrical swords.” 


Greneberg by Roc Marciano + Gangrene
Released: July 19, 2011
Label: Decon
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Oh No, The Alchemist, Roc Marciano
Guests: N/A

Half Marcberg and half Gutter Water, Greneberg features three individuals –Oh No, The Alchemist and Roc Marciano– who not only rap, but produce as well. This makes for a medley of sample-based beats that leave a nostalgic taste in your mouth. On the lyrical tip, the trio sticks to a gritty script of corner raps and boastful stances, a formula carried out well considering the limited breadth of time allotted to the 7-track project. 

What We Said Then:

“They don't need pseudo R&B crooners. They don't need to pander to an industry of cool. Greneberg stands triumphantly on a plateau away from the plastic.”


Watch The Throne by Jay-Z & Kanye West
Released: August 8, 2011
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Roc Nation/Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #1
Producers: Kanye West, 88-Keys, Mike Dean, Jeff Bhasker, Q-Tip, Don Jazzy, Pharrell, Hit-Boy, Anthony Kilhoffer, The NeptunesRZA, Ken Lewis, Swizz Beatz, Sak Passe, S1
Guests: Frank Ocean, Beyonce, Otis Redding, Mr. Hudson

We’d all like to think that in some way we’re a part of the music that our favorite artists create, that somehow it was made specifically for us. Watch The Throne was not that. It was egotistical, unapologetic and brash. It was overtly pervasive without being too revealing. It was captivating, to the point that we found ourselves begging them to recite a song that described African-Americans in a foreign country. Watch The Throne was an emphatic statement being made by Jay-Z and Kanye West to the world. Simply put; we’re not worthy.

What We Said Then:

“Truth be told, each emcee has produced better solo material, but that doesn’t take away from the quality found on Watch The Throne, nor does it change the fact that crowns rest assuredly on their heads.”


L.A. Riot by Thurz
Released: August 9, 2011
Label: London Live
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: DJ Khalil, Aaron Harris, Ro Blvd, THX
Guests: Jazzy, Black Thought, Strong Arm Steady, BJ The Chicago Kid, Kobe, Cheryl Johnson

Fueled by events from the past, Thurz chambers lyrical activism into his debut release L.A Riots. The West Coast-centric project delves into matters of race, community and municipal issues, and his stark execution in conveying these messages is something that can’t be denied. Serious in tone yet informative and accessible, L.A. Riots secures his prominence within Hip Hop. 

What We Said Then:

“Thurz connects the messages of Cube, Ice-T, Rage Against The Machine and others with today's youth and their issues. Better than just saying their names, the album pulls news reports, facts and first-person accounts to make it more than just an acknowledgement. This is one of the most direct and informed accounts from a Los Angelino emcee of the last decade.”


The R.E.D. Album by Game
Released: August 23, 2011
Label: DGC/Interscope
Highest Charting Position: #1
Producers: Cool & DreDJ Khalil, 1500 Or Nothin’, Hit-Boy, Streetrunner, I.L.O., Marz Lovejoy, Brody, Larrance Dopson, The Futuristics, DJ Premier, Boi-1da, Pebrocks, Big Kast, Pharrell
Guests: Dr. Dre, Kendrick LamarSnoop Dogg, Sly, Lil Wayne, Tyler The Creator, Drake, Rick Ross, Beanie Sigel, Young Jeezy, Big Boi, E-40, Lloyd, MarioWale, Chris Brown, Nelly Furtado

It seems as though with every Game album the guest list gets longer, the stage gets bigger and the stakes are inevitably raised. The Compton rapper doesn’t bow dow though, as The R.E.D.  Album proves his hungry demeanor is more ravenous than ever. R.E.D. also sees his realignment with Dr. Dre, which figuratively reignites chemistry between the two even without a production placement. Forget all the setbacks and controversies surrounding his releases; Game delivers when it counts.

What We Said Then:

“Considering The R.E.D. Album is close to three years in the making, it should be the tight work that it is. Despite its delay, it’s by no means a swan song, contractually and musicallyR.E.D. is a lot of many things, only adding to the anticipation already for Game’s final offering to Interscope.”


Charity Starts At Home by Phonte
Released: September 27, 2011
Label: Foreign Exchange Music
Highest Charting Position: #56
Producers: Phonte, 9th Wonder, Zo!, S1, Swiff D, Khrysis, Stro Elliot, 10, E. Jones
Guests: Sy Smith, Jeanne Jolly, Elzhi, Median, Carlitta Durand, Pharoahe Monch, Evidence, Big K.R.I.T., Eric Roberson

With his personal gusto on display, Charity Starts At Home fully encapsulates Phonte’s past collaborations (Little Brother, Foreign Exchange, Zo! & Tigallo), as well as his quick-witted sense of humor, animated personality and passionate sincerity. It’s this varietal palate and artistic authenticity that makes his debut such a stunning effort. His lyricism and singing are distinctive, yet both styles play perfectly off each other. Suffice to say, other artists can croon and rap, but they’ll never be on Phonte’s level. 

What We Said Then:

With its substantial subject matter, solid production and tightly-woven sequencing, Charity Starts At Home does exactly what a solo debut should: showcases the artist’s skill set and personality all at once.”


Cole World: A Sideline Story by J. Cole
Released: September 27, 2011
Label: Roc Nation/Sony Records
Highest Charting Position: #1
Producers: J. Cole, No I.D., The University, Canei Finch, Ron Gilmore, L&X Music
Guests: Trey Songz, Jay-Z, Drake, Missy Elliott

As one of 2011’s most anticipated debut albums, it seemed as though J. Cole wouldn’t be able to match the hype accumulated since he aligned his career with Jay-Z. The results bent in Cole’s favor though, with Cole World: A Sideline Story thrusting his brimming lyrical prowess into the mainstream. The Fayetteville-native sounded polished on his first project outside of the mixtape circuit, and his topical subject matter along with his own thematic production demonstrated his versatility as a five-tool Hip Hop artist. 

What We Said Then:

J. Cole’s debut album has flaws just as others’ rookie seasons did, but Cole World: Sideline Story definitely proves that he deserves a prominent spot on the team. With the skill to match his heart, he’ll be dominating games in no time.”


Cats & Dogs by Evidence
Released: September 27, 2011
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Highest Charting Position: #59
Producers: EvidenceThe Alchemist, Twiz The Beat Pro, Rahki, Danny Keyz, Khrysis, DJ Premier, Charli Brown, Sid Roams, Ethan Browne, Statik Selektah, DJ Babu
Guests: Aloe BlaccRaekwonProdigy, Ras Kass, Roc MarcianoThe Alchemist, Aesop Rock, Slug, Rakaa Iriscience, Lil Fame, Krondon, Fashawn

Much like the rock solid foundation that was created as part of Dilated Peoples, Evidence has gotten off to a commendable solo career with 2007’s The Weatherman LP and now Cats & Dogs. A cross between rugged, eerie and soulful, the production allows Evidence ample space to shift between themes as his crawling delivery digs into your headphones. As a host of familiar faces give the project a nice contrast, Evidence still is able to maintain direction throughout. The album’s title may give way to a rainfall metaphor, but Ev’s musical results here are all blue skies.

What We Said Then:

Cats & Dogs is a moody, well-produced album that, at times, is brimming with meaning—something not entirely common these days.”


Ambition by Wale
Released: November 1, 2011
Label: Maybach Music Group/Warner Brothers
Highest Charting Position: #2
Producers: Tone P, Chris Barz, Mark Henry, EnDuhStreatZ, Dre King, DJ Toomp, Lil Lody, Jerrin Howard, Kore, Cloudeater, Deputy, Diplo, T-Minus, Tha BiznessLex Luger
Guests: Miguel, Kid Cudi, Lloyd, Ne-Yo, Big Sean, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Sam Dew, Jeremih

Wale changed the course of his career by signing with Rick Ross, and then he changed people’s doubtful minds with Ambition. The album not only captured the right balance of pre-Interscope Wale and his present day Maybach Music Group version, but it also revealed his devotion to the rap game despite past hardships that would have turned other artists sour. Cruising into 2012 triumphantly, Wale has more than ambition on his side now. 

What We Said Then:

Ambition is Wale’s most cohesive and likewise enthralling project thus far in his brisk career. As such, the magnitude of this album rests in the hook of the title-track. Wale doesn’t expect every fan to symbolize their appreciation with a SoundScan; just don’t hold your applause.”


Black & Brown by Black Milk and Danny Brown
Released: November 1, 2011
Label: Fat Beats Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Black Milk
Guests: N/A

In under 25 minutes, Black & Brown bluntly delivers what could only be described as downright Detroit Hip Hop shit. Black Milk and Danny Brown pull tenacious off robustly, and while the message of the album may come out as unclear, you get the feeling they’re not going back in the studio for modifications.

Reviewing coming this week.


The Div by Pac Div
Released: November 8, 2011
Label: RBC Records
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: Like, Dahi, No I.D., Cool Classics, Swiff D, Blended Babies, Mickey Park
Guests: Asher Roth, TiRon, Casey Veggies, Skeme, Bleu Collar

The cover of Pac Div’s debut release is quite symbolic of their current position. Once clients of major label Universal Motown, the trio has now set sail for independence, with The Div proving to be a commendable effort void of any politics. This creative freedom rarely misses a step as Pac Div showcase their always-reliable lyrical aptitude, and it’s fair to say that each member has recognized how to distinguish themselves from one another, a sign of individuality that will bode well for future releases. Major label or not, Pac Div is on the path to greatness. 

What We Said Then:

The Div proves that no matter the circumstance, Pac Div is dedicated to making music too dope to be held back by industry fuckery.”


undun by The Roots
Released: December 6, 2011
Label: Def Jam Records
Highest Charting Position: #16
Producers: ?uestlove, Ray Angry, Hot Sugar, Khari Mateen, Brent Reynolds, James Poyser, Richard Nichols, Sean C & LV, Richard Friedrich, Sufjan Stevens, D.D. Jackson

Guests: Big K.R.I.T., Dice Raw, Phonte, Greg Porn, Truck North, Bilal

As lamenting the story of Redford Stephens is on undun, it’s also a beautiful tragedy that in turn exposes the plight of human nature. The Roots do a tremendous job of painting a vivid picture of an honest and flawed character, and as the narrative unfolds backward, The Roots channel raw emotion without jeopardizing his relevance to the story. undun is the group at their finest.  

What We Said Then:

undun is not an album for the faint of heart, nor is it an album for the one-dimensional Hip Hop aficionado. Like The Roots accomplished with Phrenology, this is a work to prove that they could do it, and they’ve done it tenfold. Many assumed mainstream success and a house band gig with Jimmy Fallon would evolve into an inevitable stasis for new Roots music. They couldn’t be more wrong.” 


The Dreamer / The Believer by Common

Released: December 20, 2011
Label: Think Common Music Inc./Warner Brothers
Highest Charting Position: N/A
Producers: No I.D.
Guests: Maya Angelou, Nas, Makeba Riddick, John Legend

With the stellar release of The Dreamer/The Believer, Common got his groove back over production fully helmed by long-time partner/friend No I.D. From introspective rhymes to laid back good times, Common reawakened the emcee that put Westside Connection on blast while still preserving a Soulquarian-esque allure in his delivery. With such exemplary results, we can almost forgive him for the half-hearted Universal Mind Control (almost). Nonetheless, Common has made us believers once more.

What We Said Then:

“As far as musical aesthetics, The Dreamer/The Believer falls somewhere between the ambitious topical themes of One Day It’ll All Make Sense and bumping beat orgy that is Be. That said, it’s best to never snooze on the talents of Lonnie Rashid Lynn.”

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