Best Hip-Hop Album (Mainstream) of 2011

Reader's Pick

J. Cole “Cole World: The Sideline Story” Artwork

J. Cole “Cole World: The Sideline Story”

Over the course of 2011, the buzz surrounding J. Cole turned from upbeat to deeply ambivalent, with heads hotly debating whether the Roc Nation standard-bearer could really deliver on his early hype. That all stopped in September, when debut set Cole World: The Sideline Story was unleashed upon the record-buying populace. Hailed as one of the most impressive rap debuts in recent memory, the set did numbers to match its critical plaudits, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 and achieving Gold certification before the year was out.

Staff Pick

The Throne “Watch the Throne” Artwork

The Throne “Watch the Throne”

Watch the Throne was not a perfect album, but Kanye and Jay-Z' historic collaborative project made a crater size impact on hip-hop culture this year. This was the one album you were legally obligated to have an opinion about if you claimed to care about hip-hop. From its style to its slang to a #1 debut, this is the album that came to define the year. When crowds are lining up to hear you play a song like Ni**as In Paris fourteen times in a row, you know you've made an album that matters.

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