They're the moments we talk about all day in the barbershop, on the block and on Twitter. From Odd Future's mainstream introduction to Rick Ross compiling his team, there was always something to talk about this year. Here, XXL, lists the 10 Biggest Moments of 2011. —XXL Staff
A$AP Rocky and his Harlem collective made a splash online by way of the rapper’s audacious “Purple Swag” video featuring a Becky mouthing the N-word like Paris Hilton on a private tape. The video has racked up nearly 2.5 million YouTube hits since its release on July 5 and the follow up track, “Peso,” is slowly becoming a staple on New York’s Hot 97. Rocky is also on the road opening for Drake. Not bad for half a year’s work. But what really made ripples was when it was announced Polo Grounds Music signed the entire crew to a reported $3 million-dollar deal, which includes a solo deal for Rocky and rights to an imprint so that the entire A$AP Mob can eat. Everything is purple.
Weezy and Hov have been lobbing subliminals at each other the past few years (call them Nadal and Federer), but the pair upped the ante this year through a pair of records. Jay-Z sent the first volley via his and Kanye’s “H.A.M” with a not-so-subtle dig at the Young Money coach. “Niggas fantasize about the shit that I do daily/ Like these rappers rap about all the shit that I do really/ I'm like really half a billion nigga, really you got baby money/ Keep it real with niggas, niggas ain't got my lady's money.” Ouch. Weezy, however, didn’t wilt and instead fired back at the Brooklyn Boy with head, and tapped Queen B in the process. “Talkin ’bout baby money?/ I got your baby money/Kidnap your bitch, get that "how-much-you-love-your-lady" money.” Oooh. The two Carters haven’t had this much static since 2006, when Mixtape Weezy was breaking out as Jay-Z was un-retiring. Can’t we all just get along?
Brandy’s brother earned himself a permanent place in the “You Played Yourself Hall of Fame” when the singer, while rolling with 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather (AKA the Money Team!), ran up on Fabolous and tried to start beef over a Twitter dis. Loso tweeted about Ray J’s performance in Floyd’s living room broadcast an HBO 24/7 special where it appeared the singing was solely serenading Mayweather and his homie. RJ wasn’t feeling it and his inner Deebo came out. A camera phone video of their spat soon made its way online and fans could see a baffled Fab and and enraged Fay J tangle; Fab shades fell off, but the clip was inconclusive about what really happened. The aftermath, though, provided more quotables than an old Lloyd Banks mixtape. In radio interviews, they both chimed in about what happened--”I touched that nigga,” Ray exclaimed; “That niggas was on that Whitney last night,” Loso cracked.” Not on the money.
Eminem has always represented elite lyricism and he put his money where his mouth is by inking Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf to his label to kickoff the Shady 2.0 era. Although they released “Shady 2.0 Boys” and graced the cover of this magazine, the collective left an ink-stain like mark on the game during the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards during their cypher. They eschewed the house beat and instead payed homage to Detroit by way of East Flatbush Project’s “Tried By 12”. Over the Spencer Bellamy-produced number, they all took turns assaulting the beat like it stole something from them. Yela, Joell Ortiz, Crooked I and Joe Budden proved their acumen as MCs. But longtime friends Royce da 5’9” and Em put on a show. Em was humour and mischievous as the ringleader of this ragtag bunch of rappers, but he was all biz when it came time to spit: “I’d be a horrible magician cause I’d fuck a trick up.” Royce, however, was the most memorable with his Rih Rih come on, “Hi Rihanna,” which was reciprocated the next by the Barbados beauty on Twitter, “ Hi @Royceda59.” Shady's back.
Without a proper single, without radio rotation and with a scant presence on BET and MTV, Rostrum Records’ Mac Miller managed to make history in 2011 by becoming the first artist, in any genre, in 16 years to debut atop the Billboard 200 album chart with a number one album, his Blue Slide Park. The last album to achieve that feat? Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food. Here, though, the Pittsburgh rapper and the Rostrum team showcased themselves as a future power players by utilizing Social Media and fan engagement through touring to build an impressive fan base who dug deep in their pockets to support him. Mac really is on his Donald Trump shit.
A boss is only as good as his employees and realizing this creed, Rick Ross set out to build an empire in 2011. The Miami rapper made an ove
Although Nicki released her debut, Pink Friday, last year, it wasn’t until this year that the Young Money MC established her bona fides—outselling Kanye West, being the fourth most searched person on Google in 2011 and the envy of every young actress in Hollywood (see YouTube). Ye’s prediction that the Queens MC could be the second biggest rapper ever, only behind Eminem, seemed like it was absurd hyperbole at the time, but the fiery MC has made progress faster than many could have imagined. Through her outfits, lingo and outrageous hairstyles, she’s become an icon to kids and women alike. And in the booth, she continues to match wits with the best of them. With her recent announcement that her sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, is on the way, it’s looking like only a matter of time before Yeezy’s words manifest. She’s a star, Sherrif’s badge.
Odd Future may have built their buzz the new-school way, through Tumblr, among other Social Media tools, but their breakout occurred the old-fashioned way: TV. Tyler, the Creator, along with Hodgy Beats, joined the Roots crew for a performance that would launch the L.A. set into the mainstream. Masked MCs, garden gnomes and a zombie pacing the stage were the flourishes, but it was Tyler’s manic energy (and Mos Def’s, too) that resulted in a standing ovation inside the studio and a trending topic on Twitter. SWAG!
As a rule of thumb: if it’s a hot hip-hop album, it’s gonna leak. Even if it’s wack, it’s gonna leak. The only unknown is when? But for Jay-Z and Kanye West and their heavily-anticipated project, a leak wasn’t an option. The two went to great lengths to avoid a drip, from recording in hotel rooms to hiring their own engineers to striking deals to release the album digitally on a specified day. No leaks became their mantra. And also the end result, a first for rap in the digital era. Though some would argue if The Throne played by the rules (with a digital release a week before the physical copy) or if it even mattered (Birdman), it become a topic of conversation, spurned a number of articles on the subject (even in our pages) and ultimately resulted in most people listening to the album collectively for the first time, rather than a stilted effort. Ball so hard.
“Black and Yellow,” with its paeans to Pittsburgh, became the unofficial anthem of the Steelers during their run to the Superbowl. But as the track grew from local hit to chart topper, the team officially adopted the track as their own. Wiz, then, was asked to perform the number on national TV before the team played in a crucial game to determine if they would go onto the play in the Big Game. The Taylor Gang star obliged and with girlfriend, Amber Rose in tow, the gangley MC provided the soundtrack for Big Ben and company to soar past the Jets. You know what it is.