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TBT: Best Album of 2011?
Sam and Christian are back for the second installment of the battle of the best.
May 14, 2017
Move Aside Adele, Drake Takes 2011
Since 2011 was largely dominated by Adele’s 21, it’s easy to forget the other important releases of the year, including the debuts of Childish Gambino (Camp), Kendrick Lamar (Section.80), and The Weeknd (House of Balloons), and Britney Spears’ tie for most number one albums for a female with Femme Fatale. While Adele’s sophomore album was an impressive and successful breakthrough for her, winning Grammy Album of the Year among many other accolades, singles, and records, another sophomore album just had a more cohesive sound and story that makes it my pick for the best album of 2011, and that is Drake’s Take Care.
The Canadian Degrassi star-turned rapper’s debut in 2010, Thank Me Later, was a startling success, featuring surprisingly notable features and collaborators such as Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and Jay Z. This added the hype for Take Care, and Drake lived up to all of it. The mood and style modeled after Kanye West’s pop-rap album, 808s & Heartbreak (2008), Take Care is the thoughtful and emotional sound and lyrics of the Drake we know best. With a theme of “I’m rich and famous now, what do I do with all this?’, the album is an emotional rollercoaster of Drake’s newfound fame, including the angry and forlorn “Marvin’s Room”, fake celebrity relationships and drama on “Cameras/Good Ones Go Interlude”, his strategy in the land of fame in “HYFR (feat. Lil Wayne)”, and getting used to this exciting, new crazy life in “Crew Love (feat. The Weeknd)”. Instead of feeling like a thrown-together rap album with all the faces and publicity you can get, each feature on Take Care serves purpose, as can be heard in tracks with the helping voices of The Weeknd, Birdman, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, André 3000 and future frequent collaborator and flame, Rihanna. With eight released singles, a Grammy Award Best Rap Album, and being certified Platinum by the RIAA, Take Care was a critical and commercial success, and rightfully so, as it officially brought a new face and new life to the front of the rap scene.
While Drake’s glory days may be over in the eyes of his fans since 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape, fans of Drake and rap/pop in general can always go back to this stellar album. While critics call him “too emotional”, “not black enough because he’s mixed”, “a privileged actor from Degrassi”, or “a fraud for having ghostwriters”, I’m calling him the guy who had the best album of 2011.
Watch the Throne Wins 2011
2011 was an okay year in music. Most albums ranged from subpar to average. When I was tasked with coming up with a definitive decision to rival my opponent’s choice, my mind went blank until I was reminded of the collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West on their hit album, Watch the Throne.
With such iconic names in the music industry, anyone would go into this album expecting to hear some of the most impressive lyrics and well-produced beats that have become synonymous with their names, and this album delivers in both regards. Watch the Throne doesn’t have some deep narrative behind it like my choice for 2012, instead this album essentially boils down to Jay-Z and Kanye West reminiscing on how great they are for forty-six minutes but with their respective pedigrees, there’s no one in the world that can deny their claims. West and Jay-Z have proved in the past to have great chemistry in features and that definitely shows with most of the tracks on this album. Watch the Throne also contains a stellar list of features from the likes of Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Otis Redding, and Mr. Hudson. When I first listened to this album, my eleven year-old mind was blown away by how genius it was and revisiting it brought back those same memories and proved to me that I wasn’t just attached to this album due to nostalgia, as it has aged perfectly. My personal favorite tracks include the always catchy “Otis”, the more serious-toned Frank Ocean feature, “No Church in the Wild”, and the most electrifying song on the whole album, “H.A.M.”. Although Jay-Z delivered some solid rhymes and never had a single dud on this album, West undoubtedly steals this show with genius lyrics and contributing to the production of every single song.
Altogether, Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne allowed both superstars to play to their strengths and as a result, created a very solid hip-hop album. When discussing both rappers’ respective best works this album is criminally overlooked even though it includes some of their best tracks to date. While I’m a huge fan of West’s work, I am not the biggest fan of Jay-Z and personally believe him to be the most overrated rapper of all time (alongside Eminem). However, I found his work on this album to be consistently great and reminiscent of his early years as a lyricist. Watch the Throne is not some thought-provoking journey that will make you question your morals or a gripping tale of the struggle of survival in the “hood”, but instead this album is basically just a fun listen that will stay stuck in your head all day and that’s perfectly fine. Not every album needs to have some convoluted premise in order to be a contender for the best of the year, as long as it retains brilliance and consistency. Watch the Throne proved my theory back in 2011.