Noteworthy Artists of 2011

This list of noteworthy artists of 2011 has been compiled well after the fact, much like its 2010 predecessor. But unlike that year, which saw clear “winners” like Eminem, Nicki Minaj and Drake, 2011 was fragmented, with lots of players but few big, dominating names. I suppose that Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross are perennials. But what to make of those artists who had chart success, like Ace Hood and Young Jeezy, but didn’t generate any real excitement? Then there were artists that moved us for various reasons, such as the Game’s batshit interviews to various websites, the Beastie Boys’ late MCA’s public battle with cancer, and regional rap heroes E-40, Trae and DJ Quik. There were various Internet fancies: Main Attrakionz, Mr MFN Exquire, Roach Gigz, G-Side, and Death Grips. And there were a surprising number of one-hit wonders, like YC, Tinie Tempah and, most notoriously, Kreayshawn.

With so many candidates, this year’s list could have been easily expanded, but I think keeping it at 25 names leads to a more rigorous process. As before, they were chosen from using an abstract yet informed opinion on industry impact and commercial success. It is not a “best of 2011” list.

Honorable mentions include Stalley, Shabazz Palaces, Common, Snoop Dogg, New Boyz, Gym Class Heroes, Action Bronson, Flo Rida, Pusha T, Meek Mill, Childish Gambino, Sole, Dev, Blu, and Serengeti, in addition to the ones cited above.

  1. Araabmuzik
    (Electronic Dream, Camron & Vado’s Gunz N’ Butta)
  2. A$AP Rocky
    (LiveLoveA$AP, “Pretty Flacko,” “Peso,” “Purple Swag”)
  3. Big K.R.I.T.
    (Return of 4eva, “Money on the Floor,” Freddie Gibbs’ “Rob Me A Nigga”)
  4. Big Sean
    (Finally Famous, “My Last,” “Marvin & Chardonnay,” “Dance (A$$) (Remix),” Kelly Rowland’s “Lay It On Me”)
  5. Clams Casino
    (Instrumentals, Lil B’s “Unchain Me,” A$AP Rocky’s “Bass” and “Wassup,” Mac Miller’s “My Team” and “One Last Thing”)
  6. Danny Brown
    (XXX, Main Attrakionz’ “Cloud Skatin’,” Black & Brown!)
  7. Das Racist
    (Sit Down, Man, Relax, “Michael Jackson”)
  8. Drake
    (Take Care, “Marvin’s Room,” “Headlines,” “The Motto,” DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One,” Lil Wayne’s “She Will”)
  9. J. Cole
    (Cole World: The Sideline Story, “Work Out,” “Can’t Get Enough,” Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPower,” Elle Varner’s “Only Wanna Give It To You,” Bei Maejor’s “Trouble”)
  10. Jay-Z
    (Watch The Throne, “Otis,” “Niggas In Paris,” “Who Gon Stop Me”)
  11. Kendrick Lamar
    (Section.80, “HiiiPower,” Drake’s “Buried Alive,” Schoolboy Q’s “Birds & The Beez,” Jay Rock’s “Hood Gone Love It,” the Game’s “The City”)
  12. DJ Khaled
    (We The Best Forever, “I’m On One,” “Welcome To My Hood”)
  13. Lil Wayne
    (The Carter IV, Sorry 4 The Wait,”She Will,” “John,” Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now,” DJ Khaled’s “Welcome To My Hood” and “I’m On One,” Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation,” Robin Thicke’s “Pretty Little Heart”)
  14. LMFAO
    (Sorry For Party Rocking, “Party Rock Anthem,” “Sexy & I Know It”)
  15. Lupe Fiasco
    (Lasers, “Out Of My Head,” Trae’s “I’m On”)
  16. Mac Miller
    (Blue Slide Park, On And On And Beyond, “Donald Trump,” “Party On 5th Ave”)
  17. Nicki Minaj
    (“Moment 4 Life,” “Super Bass,” “Fly,” David Guetta’s “Turn Me On,” Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$) (Remix)”)
  18. Pitbull
    (Planet Pit, “Give Me Everything,” “Rain Over Me,” “International Love,” Jennifer Lopez’ “On The Floor”)
  19. Rick Ross
    (“You The Boss,” “9 Piece,” Maybach Music Group’s Self Made, Meek Mill’s “Tupac Back,” Wale’s “That Way,” Lil Wayne’s “John,” DJ Khaled’s “Welcome To My Hood” and “I’m On One”)
  20. Royce da 5’9″
    (Bad Meets Evil’s Hell: The Sequel, Success Is Certain, Slaughterhouse’s Slaughterhouse EP)
  21. Tech N9ne
    (All 6s and 7s, “Worldwide Choppers,” Lil Wayne’s “Interlude”)
  22. Tyler, The Creator
    (Goblin, “Sandwitches,” “Yonkers,” “She,” the Game’s “Martians vs. Goblins”)
  23. Wale
    (Maybach Music Group’s Self MadeAmbition, “That Way,” “Lotus Flower Bomb”)
  24. Kayne West
    (Watch The Throne, “All of the Lights,” “Otis,” “Niggas In Paris,” “Who Gon Stop Me,” Pusha T’s “Amen,” Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” Big Sean’s “Marvin & Chardonnay”)
  25. Wiz Khalifa
    (Rolling Papers, Mac & Devin Go To High School, “No Sleep,” “Roll Up,” “Young, Wild & Free,” T-Pain’s “5 O’Clock,” Trae’s “I’m On”)

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