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In 2011, the full monster that would become Drake was in full bloom. After lukewarm reception to his debut album, Thank Me Later, the Toronto rapper got back into the lab to work on his sophomore.

By the middle of the year, it was clear that Drizzy was out to stake his claim to the throne. With singles like “Marvins Room” and “Headlines” that demonstrated his artistic versatility, and features like “I’m on One” which hinted at him going at The Throne, the pressure was on for everyone in the rap game.

This was especially for Kanye, who had enjoyed the past few years reigning over hip hop, so he linked up with Jay-Z for Watch the Throne. Lil Wayne was also out of prison and readying the release of Tha Carter IV, which also included some disses at Hov. The Roc-A-Fella vs. Young Money war was on.

While all this was happening, a young Harlem rapper and his crew going by the name of A$AP made an impressive debut with his LIVE.LOVE.A$AP mixtape; as did Tyler, the Creator, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. 2011 was the year where all the young bucks would plant their flag and start their run into the 2010s.

From Common’s The Dreamer/The Believer to Danny Brown’s XXX and DJ Quik’s The Book of David, here are the top 25 best hip hop albums of 2011.

25. Royce da 5’9″ – Success Is Certain

Released: August 9, 2011

Label: Gracie Productions Orchard

Singles: “Writer’s Block”, “Second Place”, “Legendary”

Features: Eminem, Joe Budden, Kid Vishis and Travis Barker

24. Talib Kweli – Gutter Rainbows

Released: January 25, 2011

Label: Blacksmith Music, Javotti Media, 3D

Singles: “Cold Rain”

Features: Sean Price, Nigel Hall, Kendra Ross, Outasight, Jean Gras, Chace Infinite, Blaq Toven

23. Gucci Mane – The Return of Mr. Zone 6

Released: March 22, 2011

Label: 1017 Brick Squad, Asylum, Warner Bros.

Singles: N/A

Features: Birdman, Waka Flocka Flame, Master P, Rocko, OJ da Juiceman, 8Ball, Wale, Wood da Kid

22. Maybach Music Group – Self Made Vol. 1

Released: May 24, 2011

Label: MMG, Warner Bros.

Singles: “Tupac Back”, “Pacman”, “By Any Means”, “Fitted Cap”, “Ima Boss”, “600 Benz”, “That Way”

Features: Curren$y, Jadakiss, Jeremih, J. Cole, CyHi the Prynce and French Montana

21. Young Jeezy – TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition

Released: December 20, 2011

Label: CTE, Def Jam

Singles: “Lose My Mind”, “Ballin'”, “F.A.M.E.”, “I Do”, “Leave You Alone”

Features: Fabolous, Jadakiss, Future, 2 Chainz, Ne-Yo, Jill Scott, T.I., Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Snoop Dogg, Devin the Dude, Trick Daddy

20. Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel

Released: June 14, 2011

Label: Shady, Interscope

Singles: “Fast Lane”, “Lighters”

Features: Bruno Mars, Slaughterhouse

19. Tech N9ne – All 6’s and 7’s

Released: June 7, 2011

Label: Strange Music

Singles: “He’s a Mental Giant”, “Mama Nem”, “Worldwide Choppers”, “Love Me Tomorrow”, “Am I a Psycho?”

Features: B.o.B, Hopsin, Yelawolf, Snoop Dogg, Jay Rock, Twista, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, E-40, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar, Ceza, JL B.Hood, USO, Stevie Stone Krizz Kaliko

18. J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story

Released: September 27, 2011

Label: Roc Nation, Columbia, Sony

Singles: “Work Out”, “Can’t Get Enough”, “Mr. Nice Watch”, “Nobody’s Perfect”

Features: Trey Songz, Drake, Jay-Z and Missy Elliott

17. Curren$y – Weekend at Burnie’s

Released: June 28, 2011

Label: Jet Life, Warner Bros.

Singles: N/A

Features: Young Roddy, Trademark da Skydiver, Fiend

16. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV

Released: August 29, 2011

Label: Young Money, Cash Money, Universal Republic

Singles: “6 Foot 7 Foot”, “John”, “How to Love”, “She Will”, “It’s Good”, “Mirror”

Features: Cory Gunz, Drake, T-Pain, Tech N9ne, Andre 3000, Rick Ross, John Legend, Bruno Mars, Birdman, Kevin Rudolf, Jadakiss, Bun B, Nas, Shyne, and Busta Rhymes.

15. Pete Rock & Smif-N-Wessun – Monumental 

Released: June 28, 2011

Label: Duck Down

Singles: “Prevail”, “That’s Hard”, “Monumental”

Features: Black Rob, Buckshot, Bun B, Freeway, Heltah Skeltah, Hurricane G, Jahdan Blakkamoore, Memphis Bleek, Raekwon, Styles P, Top Dog and Tyler Woods

14. Killer Mike – Pledge

Released: May 17, 2011

Label: Grind Time, SMC, Tree Leaf, Grand Hustle, Fontana

Singles: “Ready Set Go”

Features: Roc D the Legend, Twista, T.I., Young Jeezy, Funkadelic, Gucci Mane, Big Boi

13. Kendrick Lamar – Section.80

Released: July 2, 2011

Label: TDE

Singles: “HiiiPoWeR”

Features: GLC, Colin Munroe, Ashtrobot, BJ the Chicago Kid, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Alori Joh

12. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two

Released: May 3, 2011

Label: Capitol

Singles: “Lee Majors Come Again”, “Too Many Rappers”, “Make Some Noise”, “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”

Features: Nas, Santigold

11. Wale – Ambition 

Released: November 1, 2011

Label: MMG, Allido, Warner Bros.

Singles: “Chain Music”, “Bait”, “Lotus Flower Bomb”, “Focused”, “Sabotage”

Features: Rick Ross, Lloyd, Ne-Yo, Big Sean, Miguel, Meek Mill, Kid Cudi, and Jeremih

10. Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

Released: May 10, 2011

Label: XL

Singles: “Sandwitches”, “Yonkers”, “She”

Features: Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats, Jasper Dolphin, Taco, Domo Genesis, Mike G and Syd

9. Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told

Released: February 15, 2011

Label: Suburban Noize

Singles: “Come on Baby”, “Gotta Believe It”, “Bring Me Down”, “The Greatest Story Never Told”

Features: Black Thought, Bun B, Faith Evans, Jay-Z, Q-Tip, Swizz Beatz, Fatman Scoop, Devin the Dude, Layzie Bone

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

Released: March 22, 2011

Label: W.A.R. Media, Duck Down Music

Singles: “Shine”, “Clap (One Day)”, “Black Hand Side”, “Assassins”

Features: Idris Elba, Immortal Technique, Vernon Reid of Living Colour, Showtyme, Styles P, Phonte, Mela Machinko, Mr. Porter, Jean Grae, Royce da 5’9″, Citizen Cope and Jill Scott

7. DJ Quik – The Book of David

Released: April 19, 2011

Label: Mad Science, Fontana

Singles: “Luv of My Life”, “Real Women”, “Nobody”

Features: BlaKKazz K.K., Bizzy Bone, Bun B, Suga Free, Ice Cube, Dwele

6. The Roots – Undun

Released: December 6, 2011

Label: Def Jam

Singles: “Make My”

Features: Bilal, Big K.R.I.T., Dice Raw, and Phonte

5. Danny Brown – XXX

Released: August 15, 2011

Label: Fool’s Gold

Singles: N/A

Features: Dopehead, Chips

4. Common – The Dreamer/The Believer

Released: December 19, 2011

Label: Think Common, Warner Bros.

Singles: “Ghetto Dreams”, “Blue Sky”, “Sweet”, “Celebrate”, “Raw (How You Like It)”

Features: Makeba Riddick, Nas, John Legend, Maya Angelou

3. A$AP Rocky – LIVE.LOVE.A$AP

Released: October 31, 2011

Label: Polo Grounds, RCA

Singles: “Peso”, “Purple Swag”

Features: Schoolboy Q, Fat Tony, SpaceGhostPurrp, ASAP Nast, ASAP Twelvyy, ASAP Ferg, Chace Infinite, Main Attrakionz

2. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

Released: August 8, 2011

Label: Def Jam, Roc Nation, Roc-A-Fella

Singles: “H•A•M”, “Otis”, “Lift Off”, “Niggas in Paris”, “Why I Love You”, “Gotta Have It”, “No Church in the Wild”

Features: Frank Ocean, The-Dream, Beyoncé, Mr Hudson, Kid Cudi, Seal, Justin Vernon, Elly Jackson, Connie Mitchell, Charlie Wilson and Pete Rock

1. Drake – Take Care

Released: November 15, 2011

Label: Young Money, Cash Money, Republic

Singles: “Marvins Room”, “Headlines”, “Make Me Proud”, “The Motto”, “Take Care”, “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)”, “Crew Love”

Features: The Weeknd, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Birdman, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and André 3000

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