2010 was filled with blockbuster releases from the likes of Eminem and Kanye West, two albums from Lil Wayne, and the hot-selling debuts of Young Money’s Drake and Nicki Minaj. But 2011 is shaping up to be even bigger. This year will see the return of pop juggernauts Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, the teaming of rap kings Kanye and Jay-Z, Lil Wayne’s eagerly-awaited Tha Carter IV, and an album a decade in the making, Dr. Dre’s Detox. But don’t forget about the rookies. The stage is set for Roc Nation’s Willow Smith and J. Cole to take over with their much-buzzed-about debuts. Rap-Up.com spotlights 10 albums that have us excited for 2011.
Kanye West x Jay-Z – Watch the Throne
Yeezy and Hov on the same track isn’t anything new, but the promise of a joint album has hip-hop heads salivating. Leave it to two of rap’s brightest stars to put egos aside and join forces for what is poised to be one of the biggest releases of the year. After appearing together on a handful of tracks as part of ‘Ye’s G.O.O.D. Friday series, the dynamic duo capped 2010 with the first leak from their collaborative LP—“That’s My Bitch” featuring La Roux’s Elly Jackson—proving that not only is Watch the Throne on the way, but that they’ve got some serious heat in the vault.
Beyoncé – TBD
How can Beyoncé top 2008’s ambitious double disc I Am… Sasha Fierce? According to the 29-year-old, she’s outdoing herself by creating her own genre for her as-yet-untitled fourth album. Incorporating more live instruments into the mix, B has teamed back up with frequent collaborator Ne-Yo, who shares that “nobody will be in Beyoncé’s lane after this album,” and “Sweet Dreams” producer Jim Jonsin, who wants to explore an ’80s electro sound. 2011 is slated to set the bar even higher for the unstoppable singer.
Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV
Fresh off doing his bid, Lil Wayne has kept a low profile after becoming a free man in November. But after breaking his silence with the dizzying Bangladesh-produced “6 Foot 7 Foot” featuring Cory Gunz, Weezy proved that his time out of the booth wasn’t spent idly. Though originally due upon his release from Rikers, the highly-anticipated offering was pushed into the new year, with producer Dow Jones of Tha Bizness telling Rap-Up TV that it will flip the game on its head. “Carter IV gonna change your life,” he said. “It’s something that you ain’t never seen before. We thought Carter III was incredible and he took it a couple steps up.”
Willow Smith – TBD
The 10-year-old starlet busted onto the scene in 2010 with her catchy single “Whip My Hair,” and it didn’t stop there. Will and Jada Pinkett’s talented tyke became a cultural phenom following the track’s release, earning her a deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and co-signs from artists including Rihanna, Rick Ross, and B.o.B. Her debut is set for a tentative March release, giving her plenty of time to nab a hopeful guest appearance from pop’s biggest star. “[Somebody] I would really want to work with on a song would be Lady Gaga,” she previously revealed. “She is amazing! She’s just so amazing, she’s a free person. She’s a free girl, baby.”
Chris Brown – F.A.M.E.
Whatever troubles Chris Brown faced in 2009, he tried to overcome with his undeniable talent. The 21-year-old not only performed a moving tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards, but he linked up with Tyga for one of the hottest mixtapes of the year, Fan of a Fan. The tape spawned the chart-topping hit “Deuces,” which was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Grammys. Breezy is building off the momentum by putting in work on his fourth album F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies), led by the singles “Yeah 3X” and “Look at Me Now” featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne. With a planned collabo with Bruno Mars and production from Boi-1da, the set promises to be a F.A.M.E. monster.
Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
Included on Rap-Up.com’s most anticipated albums last year, Lupe Fiasco hit a snag settling on a solid release date for his third album Lasers. Fans went to war with his label Atlantic Records for balking on its release, putting pressure on the imprint to set the album free by staging a protest outside its New York City headquarters. The conglomerate buckled, putting the ball into motion on the oft-delayed LP. Now, the Chi-town native is in the thick of promotion for the album ahead of its March 8 release, delivering the video for the lead single “The Show Goes On” on Christmas Day.
Drake – Take Care
Coming off of his smash breakout mixtape So Far Gone, Drake delivered on the hype with the release of his well-received studio debut Thank Me Later. Soon after its release, the Young Money rapper revealed that he’d already began work on his sophomore project Take Care. Drizzy previously told Rap-Up.com that he’s put in studio time with staple producers Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da, as well as soul sampler 9th Wonder, and shared with GQ that he’s going with a less-is-more approach this time around. “For Take Care, I’m trying to find a way to make my raps shorter but catchier. I’m trying to condense my thoughts down to 16 bars. And it’s coming out more potent,” he said.
J. Cole – TBD
Roc Nation’s flagship MC was supposed to release his much-anticipated debut in 2010, but the LP failed to materialize in time. Instead, the North Carolina native tided fans over with his Friday Night Lights mixtape and debut single “Who Dat,” showing that though his album has yet to surface, his skills haven’t gotten rusty. J. Cole told Rap-Up.com that the album will feature production from No I.D., Brian Kidd, and a Grammy contender from Danjahandz, and that while he didn’t have it on lock, he was hoping that his boss Jay-Z would lay a verse for the project. Jigga feature or not, 2011 is shaping up to be “Villematic.”
Lady Gaga – Born This Way
Pop’s reigning queen ruled 2010 with cuts from her Fame Monster mini-album, gaining even more exposure by rocking zany outfits including a dress made of meat at the MTV Video Music Awards. Spending most of ’10 on the road, the eccentric star finished off the year by announcing a May 23 release date for her new album Born This Way, preceded by the first single’s debut on February 13, the same day as the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. After conquering the world, can Gaga do it all over again?
Dr. Dre – Detox
Dr. Dre’s third opus has reached mythical proportions since the producer-rapper announced its existence over a decade ago. After a few unfinished songs found their way online in 2010, Dre shocked the industry by dropping an actual single from the album and confirming its 2011 release. The Good Doctor ignited the project with “Kush” featuring Snoop Dogg and Akon, followed by the Joseph Kahn-directed video in December. Though it’s unclear who from the extensive roster of artists he’s worked with will make the final cut, Detox is ready to go from fiction to fact.
Now that you’ve seen our list, which albums are you most looking forward to this year?