Best R&B/Pop Record (Unsigned/Independent) of 2011

Reader's Pick

The Weeknd ft. Drake - The Zone Artwork

The Weeknd ft. Drake - The Zone

Having made a name for himself for himself as the darker, more dangerous protégé of hip-pop heavyweight (and T-Dot neighbor) Drake, it was only a matter of time before Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye enlisted his mentor for a blockbuster collaborative cut. On Thursday EP standout “The Zone,” XO and OVO finally joined forces, and the impact was predictably earth-shaking. What's more, the record was damn good—far from skating by on name appeal, the codeine-soaked, Doc McKinney and Illangelo-produced banger was a fresh, haunting synthesis of the two artists' styles.

Staff Pick

Nikkiya - Titanic Artwork

Nikkiya - Titanic

We didn't just pick Nikkiya to be our Breaking Through in 2012 artist for nothing. The fearlessly creative singer had one hell of an album in SPEAKHER, and the album had one hell of a single in Titanic. Produced by frequent collaborator and label boss SupaHotBeats, who combines buzzing synths and syncopated rhythm section into a simmering concoction, Nikkiya vows that those who stand in her way are as doomed as the passengers aboard that tragic voyage. Frankly, we're inclined to agree.

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