Top 10 Underground Albums Of 2011

Note: No order/LPs Only

Action Bronson – Dr. Lecter

BOTTOM LINE: The Queens native Action Bronson gave up being a professional chef to pursue a rap career. His voice is similar to Ghostface Killah, but his lyrical content is completely different. Action rhymes about gourmet dishes, his beliefs, and inspirational figures from early blues music to wrestling. What makes this album unique is the production from Tommy Mas. Most of the beats were made from breakbeat samples, something Hip-Hop has gone away from since the 90’s. He also has a great album with Statik Selektah under his belt, and working with The Alchemist for a 2012 release. Give Action Bronson my vote for rookie of the year.

Top 5: “The Madness”, “Larry Csonka”, “Shiraz”, “Buddy Guy”, “Beautiful Music”

Standout: “Beautiful Music”

CunninLynguists – Oneirology

BOTTOM LINE: Everyone from the staff has that one album we should’ve reviewed last year and Oneirology is mine. The CunninLynguists has been one of the most consistent groups since they debuted ten years ago. On Oneirology, they focus on the study of dreams. Each song acts as a dream itself as Kno provides the perfect production for the group to fill in their dark versatile lyricism. Another standout about the record is the guest appearances by Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs, and Tonedeff. They drop some of the 2011’s best verses without taking anything away from the concept. This is an album that may take a few listens before realizing the brilliance behind it.

Top 5: “Hard As They Come”, “Murder”, “My Habit”, “Stars Shine Brightest”, “Dreams”

Standout: “Hard As They Come (Act I)” feat. Freddie Gibbs

Evidence – Cats & Dogs

BOTTOM LINE: Evidence displays that his skills behind the microphone are improving with each album. Lyrically alone, this is a top five record of the 2011. Evidence brings so much pain behind his lyrics that it’s hard to deny his ability as an emcee. Production is also top notch. [Read the rest of my review here]

Top 5: “The Red Carpet”, “I Don’t Love”, “You”, “Late For the Sky”, “Well Runs Dry”

Standout: “The Red Carpet” feat. Raekwon & Rass Kass

Album Review Score: 4.5/5

Kendrick Lamar – Section 80

BOTTOM LINE: I probably played this more than any other album last year. It’s been in the whip since it first dropped. Kendrick Lamar states that Section 80 is for the new generation as the concept deals with drug and alcohol problems facing today’s youth. [Read B-Easy’s review here]

Top 5: “Fuck Your Ethnicity”, “A.D.H.D.”, “Poe Man’s Dream”, “Rigamourtus”, “HiiiPoWer”

Standout: “HiiiPoWer”

Album Review Score: 4/5

Kool G Rap – Riches, Royalty, Respect

BOTTOM LINE: I don’t understand how this album was so slept on last year. Kool G Rap has been around since the late 80’s and has been dropping gems ever since. He is often cited as one of the most influential and skilled emcees of all time. This album is no different. G Rap brings us back to the golden era of Hip-Hop with his street mentality lyrics and gritty beats. Perhaps, the most slept on album of 2011. This year, he’s dropping an album with The Alchemist, in my opinion, the best producer of last year. He also has The Godfathers project with Necro in the works.

Top 5: “Ya Chic Chose Me”, “Pillow Talk”, “The Meaning To Your Love”, “Sad”, “Maggie”

Standout: “Sad”

One Be Lo – L.A.B.O.R. (Language Arts Based On Reality)

BOTTOM LINE: One Be Lo is half of the group Binary Star. If you’ve never heard of them, I suggest copping Masters of the Universe because it’s one of the best albums released since the new millennium. Now that One Be Lo has toured around the world, his insight through different mindsets and communities has made an impact on him. He’s been a star athlete, convicted felon, Christian, Muslim and all of those things are reflected in his music and this is the soundtrack.

Top 5: “Snake Charmer”, “MEGAchile Pluto”, “BEEF”, “Tails from the Hood R.a.t.s.”, “WILdeBEEST”

Standout: “Tails from the Hood R.a.t.s.”

Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)

BOTTOM LINE: Pharoahe Monch said this album is a “throwback to 1993, ’94 Hip-Hop”. That’s about the same time Organized Konfusion was dropping some of the best Hip-Hop records of all time. In other words, you should give this one a listen. [Read Saule Wright’s review here]

Top 5: “W.A.R.”, “Clap”, “Assassins”, “The Grand Illusion”, “Still Standing”

Standout: “Clap (One Day)” feat. Showtyme & DJ Boogie Blind

Album Review Score: 4/5

Phonte – Charity Starts At Home

BOTTOM LINE: nappyafro’s Album of the Year (…or at least top 2). Need I say more? [Read DuB’s review here]

Top 5: “The Good Fight”, “Not Here Anymore”, “We Go Off”, “The Life of Kings”, “Who Loves You More”

Standout: “The Life of Kings” feat. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T.

Album Review Score: 4/5

Reks – R.E.K.S. (Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme)

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re into Hip-Hop then this is a must have album. Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme features stellar production with the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, The Alchemist, Nottz, Statik Selektah, and more. Matter of fact, it probably has the deepest production list for any album released last year. The Boston native displays his talents as an emcee as he rhymes in battle form throughout the album. Reks is another highly recommended Hip-Hop artist that is improving with each album.

Top 5: “25th Hour”, “Thin Line”, “This or That”, “Like a Star”, “Self Titled”

Standout: “Self Titled”

Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told

BOTTOM LINE: This was one of the most delayed albums since Detox. Saigon gives us an album filled with deep personal stories, intellectual lyrics, and soulful production. The Greatest Story Never Told was definitely worth the wait. [Read SBK’s review here]

Top 5: “Come On Baby”, “The Greatest Story Never Told”, “Preacher”, “Oh Yeah”, “Too Long”

Standout: “Oh Yeah (Our Babies)”

Album Review Score: 4/5

Honorable Mentions (LP’s Only):

Action Bronson & Statik Selektah – Well-Done
Apathy – Honkey Kong
Bronze Nazareth – School for the Blindman
Bumpy Knuckles & Statik Selektah – Lyrical Workout
Cappadonna – The Pilgrimage
DJ JS-1 – Ground Original 3: No One Cares
Eligh & Amp Live – Therapy At 3
Has- Lo – In Case I Don’t Make It
Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown – Daily Bread
Joell Ortiz – Free Agent
Killer Mike – Pl3dge
KRS-One & Bumpy Knuckles – Royalty Check
Lowkey – Soundtrack to the Struggle
M.O.P. & Snowgoons – Sparta
MarQ Spekt & Kno – Machete Vision
Murs – Love & Rockets Vol 1: The Transformation
Pete Rock & Smif-N-Wessun – Monumental
Random Axe – Random Axe
Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows
Tech N9ne – All 6’s and 7’s
Timbo King – From Babylon to Timbuk2
Vakill – Armor of God
Vast Aire – OX 2010: A Street Odyssey