What is an album anymore? As more artists begin to take their careers independent, the idea of a glitzy, major label LP begins to lose its luster. Mixtapes and self-releases have become the new barometer of an artist’s likeability, while the archaic model of signing with a major label then releasing a hyped, polished collection of songs and expecting to move 500,000 physical units has been relegated to history.
This is 2011 and times are a-changin’. Yet, just because we now exist in the Internet age doesn’t mean the Hip-Hop “album” is completely irrelevant. Let members of the first week numbers fan club tell it, major acts still consider albums to be their litmus test to producing quality. And, of course, there were the phenomenal overlooked efforts, too. And there were some not-so-stellar offerings, but we’ll sweep those under the rug.
Albums — in some form or another — are here to stay. Here’s the best of the best that this past year had to offer, whether major or indie. Like all of our lists, the order is irrelevant. Support and pay attention to good music.