Best Albums of 2011

I'm an album guy.

I never really bought singles unless there was a B-side or a remix that was dope. And while I'm aware now that Michael Jackson's single + filler archetype is the dominant approach to album making for most black music, I still hold out hope that artists will give me 10, 12 or 14 songs that fit together in a way that makes for a complete listening experience.

In 2011, that happened far more infrequently for me than I would have liked. Last year, I did a list of 30. This year, I only got 10.  

NOTE: I should also say that I haven't really had time to digest new material by Anthony Hamilton, Common, Meshell N'degeocello, Trey Songz, and The Roots (tho my initial reaction here was that it's the best album of the year) so I just couldn't justify ranking them at all.

Before we get to the top 10 after the jump, here are albums I liked, but didn't love:

  • Anwar Robinson, Everything (pleasant, but unremarkable except for "Come Over," which is sublime)
  • Johnny Gill, Still Winning (pleasant but unremarkable)
  • Idle Warship, Habits of the Heart (feels undercooked in places)
  • Frank Ocean, nostalgia/ultra (definitely feels undercooked)
  • The Paxtons, Avenue: A (a shade too in love with Kanye and Jay Electronica, but tight rhymes)
  • Cali Swag District, Kickback (far too long, far too short on the verve that makes their singles so hot)

 And albums that disappointed me:

  • Ledisi, Pieces of Me (too adult contemporary for my tastes. much of this material is just not worthy of Ledisi's voice)
  • Jill Scott, The Light of the Sun (unfinished and undisciplined is the last thing Jill Scott needs. Tried to be like Worldwide Underground and failed miserably).
  • Beyonce, 4 (didn't go far enough toward real tried-and-true R&B or soul. full of messy lead vocals)
  • Kelly Rowland, Here I Am (the definition of derivative. three strikes and you're out, Kelly!)
  • Kelly Price, Kelly (zzzzzz)
  • Tyrese, Open Invitation ("Stay" should have been an indication of what this album would be, but unfortunately it's just a weird outlier on a standard bad male R&B album)
  • Ginuwine, Elgin (why Ginuwine thinks "maturity" equals "boring" is beyond me. someone get him his groove back, please.)
  • Pharoahe Monche, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (some mediocre production ruins this one for me)
  • Talib Kweli, Gutter Rainbows (too long, too much bad production. feels like an afterthought)
  • Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin' (i am over this retro Ray Ray. time to step into the new millennium, homie)

 

Continue reading

Best Songs of 2011

Most people who read me or know me know that I was pretty underwhelmed by most black music released this year.  I do think this was a stronger year for individual songs than it was for albums, but even so I could literally only come up with 10 songs that I really love, that I played a lot, that I repped for hard this year.  

Before we get to those though, here are a few runners-up. These are songs I like, that are good in their own way, but didn't quite bowl me over the way the top 10 did for one reason or another.

  • Anwar Robinson, “Come Over”
  • EPMD, “Don’t Get Clapped”
  • Frank Ocean, “Back”
  • Ginuwine, “Frozen”
  • JLS, “Shy of the Cool”
  • Johnny Gill, “In the Mood”
  • LastO ft. Stern Savage ,“The City”
  • Van Hunt ,“What Were You Hoping For”
  • Teedra Moses, “To Hell Wit It’
  • Nas, "Nasty"
  • Mobb Deep ft. Nas, "Dog Shit"
  • Jazmine Sullivan, “Fly & Sexy”
  • Lalah Hathaway, “Small of My Back”
  • Common ft. Nas, "Ghetto Dreams"

 

After the jump, get into the 10 songs that I adored this year.

Continue reading

Bei Maejor – ‘Trouble’

This song has grown on me.

I don't like it – mostly because wishing the vocals weren't run through Pro Tools prevents me from thinking much of anything else – but I don't hate it like so much music made by millennial black artists. Which is truly an accomplishment.

 

Continue reading

Trey Songz: Versatility Is the Name of the Game

Trey Songz deepened his image and his work beautifully with his latest album. This brilliant unreleased track produced by the great Salaam Remi – who is basically the best producer making black pop right now that no one is really paying attention to – from those sessions probably wouldn’t have really fit on the album, sonically or lyrically. It, in the lyrics, returns Songz to a more juvenile and disturbing view of a woman’s sexual pleasure that is deeply problematic and totally at odds with the more restrained and thoughtful work on Passion Pain & Pleasure.

But beyond that it is definitely in the spirit of what has been most interesting about Trey Songz – his increasing willingness to experiment with different sounds without coming across schizophrenic or like he’s a cynical “throw everything at the wall and see if it sticks” kind of artist.

Continue reading