It’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through 2011. Even harder for some to believe that there have been so many good releases in music already. That being said I’ve cooked up my Top 25 releases of the year so far. Rather than try to breakup mixtapes and official releases (which have become pretty much one in the same lately), I decided to lump them all together and give you my take on the twenty-five best releases at the midway point of 2011. Hit the jump for the countdown and if your favorite release isn’t there, let me know in the c-section!

25: Frank Ocean – nostalgia, ULTRA
Released: March 24th
Features: None
Standouts: Strawberry Swing, Novacane, We All Try, American Wedding
OFWGKTA member Frank Ocean rose to fame seemingly overnight with the release of nostalgia, ULTRA. The unepected Odd Future member’s mixtape featured him showcasing his singing ability over new and old beats. He has definitely established himself as one of the leading voices for the new R&B generation.

24: Maybach Music Group – Self Made Vol. 1
Released: May 23rd
Features: J. Cole, CyHi Da Prynce, Curren$y, Chester French, French Montana, Jeremih, Stalley, Jadakiss
Standouts: Fitted Cap, Rise, That Way
The group consisting of Rick Ross, Wale, Meek Mill, Pill, Triple C’s and Teedra Moses released a compilation to mixed reviews and yes, the albums had its low points (many of them), but it also showed the potential that they consist of as a group. While they might never get as big as G.O.O.D. Music, Roc Nation or Young Money, it still has huge name artists from front to back.
Rise (feat. Cyi Da Prynce & Curren$y)

23: Laws – Yesterday’s Future
Released: June 7th
Features: Paul McCartney
Standouts: Dear Boy, Not Coming Down, Knocking At the Door
Florida rapper, Laws mixtape featured vocals from The Beetles member Paul McCartney on each and every track, which in itself was interesting enough to get a listen. But the production on the album is outstanding and with Laws dropping killer lines left and right, it’s sure to appeal to everyone.
Dear Boy

22: Slaughterhouse – Slaughterhouse EP
Released: February 8th
Features: The L.O.X., Dres
Standouts: Back On the Scene, Everybody Down, Move On
The rap super group made up of Crooked I, Royce da 5’9″, Joe Budden and Joell Ortiz only release of the year was a six song EP, but boy did it show how damn good they are. Back On the Scene is one of favorite songs of the year. Crooked I kills it as he raps “the only time your music is fly is when I use your compact disc as a frisbee to fling”. Nuff said.
Back On the Scene (feat. Dres)

21: eLZHi – Elmatic
Released: May 10th
Features: Royce da 5’9″, Stokely
Standouts: Halftime, Life’s a Bitch, It Ain’t Hard to Tell
Legendary Detroit lyricist, eLZHi’s attempt to remakes Nas’ classic was a huge success. A bit of tweaking to the beats, amazing lyricism, some serious storytelling, and a couple of killer verses later eLZHi created a remake even Nas would be proud of.
Life’s a Bitch (feat. Royce da 5’9″ & Stokely)

20: Dom Kennedy – The Original Dom Kennedy
Released: March 10th
Features: Casey Veggies, cARTer
Standouts: Goodbye, Can’t Let Go, CDC
Without any promotion, the west cost up and comer dropped a new mixtape right out of the blue to great acclaim. With little guest appearances, it is all Dom for a whole tape which is a great thing.

19: Random Axe – Random Axe
Released: June 14th
Features: Roc Marciano, Danny Brown, Melanie Rutherford, Fatt Father, Trick Trick, Fat Ray, Rock
Standouts: The Hex, Everybody Nobody Somebody, Another One
The rap trio consisting of Sean Price, Black Milk and Guilty Simpson brings some straight, true gully music. With guest appearances from up and comers Roc Marciano and Danny Brown, this albums bleeds real rap music.
Everybody, Nobody, Somebody

18: Childish Gambino – EP
Released: March 10th
Features: None
Standouts: Be Alone, Freaks & Geeks, Lights Turned On, Not Going Back
Yes I realize I put four of the five songs on the EP in the standouts section, but that’s because they are all great songs. The rapper/actor/producer/writer’s EP really showcases his ability to produce and rap, which is better than 90% of other artists. Hopefully he releases a full length LP later this year, but this will be enough to hold me over for now.
Freaks & Geeks

17: M.i – Prep Time
Released: April 7th
Features: Mikkey Halsted, Laws
Standouts: If I Could, After I’m Gone, My Fault, Hold On, Until I Get On
Little is know about the emcee from Austin, Texas other than the fact that he can rap his ass off. Prep Time features everything from bangers to slow jams to lyrically stories, showcasing M.i’s killer instinct as an artist.
After I’m Gone

16: Curren$y & The Alchemist – Covert Coup
Released: April 20th
Features: Prodigy, Fiend, Freddie Gibbs, Smoke DZA
Standouts: Scottie Pippin, Ventilation, Full Metal, The Type
Appropriately released on 4/20, Curren$y teamed up with The Alchemist for a tape that features all beats from the chemist himself. With Freddie Gibbs and Mobb Deep member, Prodigy dropping bars alongside Curren$y, Covert Coup is still on rotation. Jets life to the next life!
Scottie Pippen (feat. Freddie Gibbs)

15: Ab-Soul – Longterm: Mentality
Released: April 5th
Features: Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Jhene Aiko, BJ The Chicago Kid, Black Hippy, Murs, Javonte
Standouts: Real Thinkers, Gone Insane, Moscato, Loosen My Tie, Top Dawg Under Dawg
Top Dawg Entertainment and Black Hippy member Ab-Soul released the third album in the Longterm series and it is the best by far. It also rivals other releases from Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. With tracks that slow it down to cuts with hard hitting bars, Longterm: Mentality has it all.
Moscato (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

14: H.O.P.E. – Believe In HOPE Wright
Released: March 31st
Features: Pac Div, Kevin Cossom, U-N-I, Jhene Aiko
Standouts: Piano Cover, I Do It, Say So, Stand Up, Remember the Days
If I told you Compton had more to it than violence and Kendrick Lamar, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Well Hub City rapper H.O.P.E. dropped Believe In HOPE Wright to great success and has even rivaled other left coast rappers as he can do everything from bangers to lyrical masterpieces in the matter of one song.
I Do It

13: Pusha T – Fear of God
Released: March 21st
Features: Rick Ross, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Pharrell, Kevin Cossom, Ab-Liva
Standouts: My God, Open Your Eyes, Can I Live, Alone In Vegas
Perhaps the most anticipated release of the first quarter lived up to its expectations and even more. Newly appointed G.O.O.D. Music member, Pusha T’s mixtapes is a lyrical rap heads heaven. As each and every bar he drops dope lines over new and old beats and with some help from rap heavyweights such as 50 Cent, Kanye West and Rick Ross, Fear of God solidified Pusha T as one of the top emcees in the game.
Can I Live

12: The Weeknd- House of Balloons
Released: March 20th
Features: None
Standouts: High for This, The Party & The After Party, The Morning, Wicked Games
Literally out of nowhere, The Weeknd dropped his new project and became a huge success what seemed liked overnight. With a cosign from Drake and a killer mixtape to his name (and two more supposedly coming this year), The Weeknd is one of the top singers right now.
The Party & The After Party

11: Tech N9NE – All 6’s and 7’s
Released: June 7th
Features: Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf, Lil Wayne, B.o.B, T-Pain, Twista, Snoop Dogg
Standouts: Worldwide Choppers, Am I a Psycho?, F**k Food, I Love Music
The number one selling independent artist of all time continued that trend when his twelfth studio album debuted at number four on the billboard charts. There are some serious guest appearances on this LP and Tech N9NE uses them to perfection. Also it has been confirmed, B.o.B absolutely murders his verse.
Am I a Psycho? (feat. Hopsin & B.o.B)

10: Schoolboy Q – Setbacks
Released: January 11th
Features: Kendrick Lamar, CurT@in$, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, BJ The Chicago Kid, Jhene Aiko, Murs, Black Hippy
Standouts: Kamikaze, iBETIGOTSUMWEED, To the Beat, Birds & The Beez
The second Black Hippy member to make an appearance on this list, Schoolboy Q is the member probably most in the background. With the release of Setbacks, Schoolboy Q really showed how versatile he is an emcee and has finally stepped into the spotlight and out from behind the shadow of the other members.
Birds & The Beez (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

9: Chiddy Bang – Peanut Butter & Swelly
Released: May 27th
Features: Mac Miller, Train, Casey Veggies, Trae, Gordon Voidwell, eLDee The Don
Standouts: Cameras, All Over, Heatwave, I Can’t Stop
It has been a big first half of the year for Chiddy Bang, as Chiddy broke the Guinness record for the longest freestyle at 9 hours and then they dropped a new mixtape a month later. The mixtape solidifies them as one of the best up and coming groups in the game. The real star of the mixtape though is Xaphoon Jones, as his production is some of the best of the entire year.
I Can’t Stop

8: Big Sean – Finally Famous
Released: June 28th
Features: Chris Brown, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, Roscoe Dash, Pharrell, John Legend, The-Dream, Wiz Khalifa, Chiddy Bang, Dwele, Rick Ross, Pusha T
Standouts: Don’t Tell Me That You Love Me, High, Don’t Wait for Me, 100 Keys
The G.O.O.D. Music freshman’s album was a good representation of what is to come from the Detroit emcee. It had its low points (mainly Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay), but it showed the potential that he posses. Also with a mixtape on the way, Big Sean is in for a big year.
What U Doin? (Bull$#@ing)

7: Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
Released: March 4th
Features: Sarah Green, Skylar Grey, MDMA, Sway, Eric Turner, John Legend, Trey Songz
Standouts: Till I Get There, Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways), Coming Up, The Show Goes On, Words I Never Said
After a million delays, arguments and a petition later, Lasers finally saw the light of day. But it wasn’t what the fans actually wanted. Lupe Fiasco has stated several times he hates this album. While the album has its terrible songs, there are glimpses of the true Lupe Fiasco.
Till I Get There

6: Mac Miller – Best Day Ever
Released: March 11th
Features: Wiz Khalifa, Phonte
Standouts: Best Day Ever, Donald Trump, I’ll Be There, Wake Up, Life Ain’t Easy
The tape titled Best Day Ever just happened to be released on the same day as the whole Japan disaster, but that didn’t stop Mac Miller from releasing a dope mixtape. From the club hit Donald Trump to the heartfelt I’ll Be There to the feel good Life Ain’t Easy, the tape had it all.
Best Day Ever

5: Pac Div – Mania!
Released: March 7th
Features: Casey Veggies, Sir Michael Rocks, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ty$
Standouts: The Mirror, Anti-Freeze, Take Me High, Fallin’, Nobody’s Perfect
Rounding out the top five, in my opinion is the most underrated tape of the year. Up and coming trio Pac Div (composed of Like, Mibbs and Be-Young) are putting the west coast back on the map. Mainia! has everything from bangers to smooth, soulful cuts. The sample on Take Me High is absolutely bananas!

4: Bad Meets Evil – Hell: The Sequel
Released: June 14th
Features: Slaughterhouse, Bruno Mars, Mike Epps
Standouts: Welcome 2 Hell, The Reunion, Loud Noises, Echo
The duo of Eminem and Royce da 5’9″ are on the top of their game and this tape is a perfect example of that fact. It will appeal to everyone with the radio hit Lighters and classic Em in The Reunion and the posse cut in Loud Noises. It’s also good to see Royce starting to get some recognition after being in the game for almost fifteen years.
Echo (feat. Liz Rodriguez)

3: XV – Zero Heroes
Released: April 15th
Features: Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar, CyHi Da Prynce, Vado, Donnis, Patrick Stump, Erin Christine, J. Cole
Standouts: Wichita, SmallVille, That’s Just Me, Awesome, Pictures On My Wall, Textbook Stuff, All for Me
Zero Heroes is absolutely stacked from front to back with killer guest appearances and production. From the J. Cole produced SmallVille to the ode to his homwtown Wichita to the feel good Awesome, it will be up there for one of the best projects of the year when it’s all said and done.
Textbook Stuff (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

2: Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4eva
Released: March 28th
Features: David Banner, Big Sant, Chamillionaire, Raheem DeVaughn, Ludacris, Bun B
Standouts: Dreamin’, My Sub, American Rapstar, The Vent, Country S**t Remix, Sookie Now, Another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism
The emcee from Mississippi is one of my favorite artists currently making music and his new album just backs up that point. It bleeds southern rap with guest appearances from dirty south legends and with Big K.R.I.T. on the top of his game lyrically, I can’t state enough how badly you need to download and listen to this tape.
American Rapstar

1: The Dean’s List – The Drive In
Released: February 25th
Features: OnCue, Jordan Brown, Dani Ummel
Standouts:The Dream, The People, Dear Professor, Troy, Mainstream, Burn It All, #K2YL
The absolute best mixtape of the year and one of my favorite projects ever. It is stacked from front to back as Sonny Shotz really showcases his ability behind the mic and DJ Mendoza and Mik beats cook up monster beats one after another. Nothing more needs to be said, except for you need to listen to The Drive In.

  1. lolzroyce says:

    Childish Gambino should at least be in the top ten!

  2. […] from front to back. I just wish I had listened to it sooner because it would have probably made my Top 25 Albums of 2011 (So Far) list. I will expect great things to come out of the virtual band off of J. Cole’s […]

  3. […] is a solid debut from the LA up and comer and it even managed to crack the Top 10 of my Top 25 Albums of the Year (So Far). The tape definitely had it lows, but it also showed how high the ceiling is for Q as he has many […]

  4. […] the success of The Original Dom Kennedy tape which clocked in at number 20 on my Top 25 Albums of the Year (So Far) list and the acclaim of From Westside With Love mixtape, which dropped in 2010 and was one of the […]

  5. […] His next project Prep Time was stacked from front to back and clocked in at number seventeen on my Top 25 Albums of the Year. There are so many great tracks on the tape, almost too many to mention. The first standouts come […]

  6. […] of H.O.P.E. That name may sound familiar and that’s because this project was number 14 on my Top 25 Albums of the Year. Recently this album has been on serious rotation and if I could have re-done that list I’d […]

  7. […] Mac still released one of my favorite projects of the entire year as it came in at number six on my Top 25 Albums of the Year (So Far). I have watched Mac come up ever since the release of The Jukebox and it is amazing to see him blow […]

  8. […] I mean just check out his song iBETiGOTSUMWEED. With that being said, his album Setbacks was one of my favorite albums of the year. Q brings the laid back, chill vibe to the group. But don’t be mistaken, he can still drop […]

  9. […] projects of the year so far, despite being just a short EP. It also came in at number eighteen on my Top 25 Albums of the Year (So Far). If you haven’t gotten familiar yet with Childish Gambino, he is actually Donald Glover. The […]

  10. […] even crash his own website. If Thursday has the same kind of success that House of Balloons had (one of the best projects of the entire year), then it could propel The Weeknd into stardom and solidify him as one of the most talented […]

  11. […] projects of the year so far, despite being just a short EP. It also came in at number eighteen on my Top 25 Albums of the Year (So Far). If you haven’t gotten familiar yet with Childish Gambino, he is actually Donald Glover. The […]

  12. […] I mean just check out his song iBETiGOTSUMWEED. With that being said, his album Setbacks was one of my favorite albums of the year. Q brings the laid back, chill vibe to the group. But don’t be mistaken, he can still drop […]

  13. […] Mac still released one of my favorite projects of the entire year as it came in at number six on my Top 25 Albums of the Year (So Far). I have followed Mac come up ever since the release of The Jukebox and it is amazing to see him […]

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